29th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator J. J. Webster) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 195 citizens of Australia.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That inflation in Australia, currently at a level of 20 per cent, is eroding the wages of every citizen and affecting especially those on lower and fixed incomes.
That the present number of strikes are crippling the economy of this country and jeopardising the jobs of many thousands.
That trade unions do not represent their members when the views of those members cannot be expressed without fear of retribution.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Lower personal income tax giving the working man more money in his pocket and the trade unions less reason for high wage demands.
Abolish sales tax on those goods that are essential to the well-being and livelihood of the people of Australia.
Introduce secret ballots for trade unions so that each member can express his or her view honestly without the fear of retribution or victimisation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 9 citizens of the Commonwealth:
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 $ 1 50,
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 an approved school or college,
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present 3 petitions, identical in wording and from 1 88, 303 and 636 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 undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully 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.
Petitions received and the first petition read.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation.
To the President and Members of the Senate: The petition of the undersigned residents of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
The divorce laws of Australia are out of touch with the needs and wishes of most of our people. They are too complicated, too expensive and humiliating to those citizens whose marriages have broken down.
Your petitioners pray that the Senate will speedily pass the Family Law Bill with its provisions for irretrievable breakdown based on one year’s separation as the only ground for divorce. by Senator Gietzelt.
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 they support the Family Law Bill 1 974 which provides for:
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Senate will pass the Family Law Bill without delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Gietzelt. Petition received.
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 since the Family unit is the basis of our Australian society; that a fulfilling and fruitful union of husband and wife is required as the foundation for a strong and mature Australian people, then it should be the task and indeed privilege of the Australian Parliament to take all possible steps to assist people to enter into and deepen a relationship in marriage that is satisfying both to them and their children.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will make provision within the Family Law bill
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Drake-Brockman and Senator Missen.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to corporations and the securities industry.
– May I intervene, Mr Deputy President, to indicate that Senator Willesee is absent today and I will receive the questions which normally are directed to him.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform the Senate how the granting of low cost accommodation to a highly paid government employee who could well alford private accommodation would ‘advance the implementation of government policy in the important field of human rights’?
– As the question obviously refers to the former assistant to Mr Grassby who has been involved in this area of community relations, I would indicate that, contrary to what appeared in the afternoon Press, she was not provided with accommodation. The next point is that had she continued in that position, I think the provision of such accommodation would have made a significant contribution in that a person who was working closely with Mr Grassby and who needed to be here should be provided with accommodation. Perhaps I should indicate further that Mr Bryant, whose Department handles these matters, has said that there is some policy whereby a Minister is entitled to nominate one person on his staff and such a person is given priority. He requested that I send a letter supporting the application by the assistant, and I did so.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I preface it by reminding the Minister that a Colin James Bennett, barrister, former Labor alderman, former Labor MLA and former member of the Australian Labor Party, is now the National Party candidate for the seat of Kurilpa in the forthcoming Queensland State election. He allegedly nominated because he said in a public statement that he was opposed to the progressive views on social matters of the Labor candidate. Is the Minister aware that C. J. Bennett was apparently induced to nominate as a National Party candidate with the promise of a possible appointment, after the election, as.a District Court judge?
– I rise on a point of order. This has been a long harangue in which no indication of a matter of Commonwealth interest, of a matter for which any Minister in this place has any responsibility, has been raised. We know that an election is pending in Queensland. We know the general character and the tactics which the honourable senator pursues from time to time when there are elections in Queensland. I submit that it is quite apparent right from the outset that this is just another electoral gambit. It is not related to a matter of public affairs.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I will hear the remainder of the question being asked by Senator Keeffe.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Bar is watching this development with very grave interest as what originally appeared to be a serious rumour has now been virtually confirmed by three different sources? Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether it is right that the independence of the judiciary should be dissipated in this way and whether there is any way in which he can take action to ensure that the Premier of Queensland causes an immediate announcement to be made that a District Court judgeship will not be used as a political reward?
– I am not aware of any of the facts to which the honourable senator refers and in any event they are not matters within the competence of this Parliament or my Ministry. I would think they were entirely matters for the State of Queensland and the people of Queensland.
-I ask the
Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it true to say that the traditional optimism amongst Australian industrialists and businessmen and even the man in the street has been jolted by a sharp downturn in the economy? Is it also true that this calls for expressions of encouragement rather than discouragement by the Government of the day? Why then do the Prime Minister and other Ministers make the deliberate point that inflation and unemployment are problems throughout the Western world and are incapable of solution? How can the people respond to a call for increased national effort if at the same time the Government preaches propaganda that breeds defeatism? Would not Australia’s interests be better served by the Government inviting the people to accept the challenge to prove to the the rest of the world that inflation can be beaten?
-I think there is some sense in what the honourable senator is putting forward. It is true that we should not be defeatist, lt is true that the Government should give encouragement, and it is giving encouragement. One of the ways in which it is giving encouragement is by indicating to the people that there is a problem to be faced, that there is worldwide inflation and that it should be understood what it is we are facing and that this difficulty is not one for Australia alone, that it means that we must co-operate with other people and we must not get panicky about the difficulties arising out of inflation which is occurring all round the world. I thank the honourable senator if he is indicating an end to attacks by his Party upon the Government when it is calling for encouragement. I hope only that his Liberal colleagues will also join with the Government in encouraging industry and the people of Australia to work with the Government to solve the problems and that they will remember that even if we are undergoing difficulties, and we are, judged by world standards we are doing extremely well. Australia is a very prosperous country and we have a wonderful future ahead of us, a future which is assured under a continuing Labor government.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise. I note that he is also representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this place. In that context I ask: Notwithstanding the efforts of the Minister and his officers to combat the illegal export of fauna, will the Minister endeavour to prevail on the Dutch Government to take counter action in big cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam which are regarded as the headquarters of this illegal smuggling ring?
-We all are aware of the honourable senator’s interest in the preservation of the wildlife in Australia and elsewhere. I can assure the Senate that in addition to the measures which resulted in the seizures I announced last week the Government is doing all it can in the direction to which the honourable senator has referred. There is a lot of discussion going on with other governments and with conservation and law enforcement authorities. Indeed the whole world is concerned about this problem. An indication of this concern was demonstrated by the Endangered Species Convention which was held last year in the United States. Discussions have been continuing between the various members of this Government and other governments in the direction indicated by the honourable senator.
-My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I seek clarification on the role which the Federal Government is playing or is proposing to play in respect of the union ban on the construction of the power station at Newport in Victoria. Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed, since his answer to me on this subject last Thursday, renewed Press statements that his Department is examining the question at the instance of the groups who are sponsoring or supporting the ban? Will he make a statement to the Senate as to the part his Department is playing? Will he also, as the nation’s AttorneyGeneral, forthrightly condemn the unconstitutional and improper means by which the authority of the Victorian Parliament and the Victorian Government is being undermined?
– I will consider whether it is appropriate to make a statement. The honourable senator suggests that unconstitutional, and we may assume, illegal action is being taken against the Victorian Government. He suggests that this is some usurpation of the Victorian Government’s authority. If all of that is correct no doubt the Victorian Government is armed with the legal weapons to do something about it. If it is not so armed then it has a State Parliament which can pass laws which will enable it to do what it thinks fit. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others opposite often criticise this Government for having a disposition to interfere unduly in what is regarded as the affairs of a State. It may well be that this is an occasion when the State of Victoria might be left to attend to its own problems.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Attorney-General. I ask, as I indicated in my previous question, what role is his Department playing in this? Are the Press statements as to a role by his Department correct or incorrect?
– I indicated that I would consider whether a formal statement should be made to the Senate in response to that very question from the honourable senator and I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the tabling yesterday in the Senate by the Postmaster-General of information relating to 23 telegrams which purportedly came from Aboriginal reserve council chairmen in Queensland expressing concern for their future wellbeing. I know that the Minister has already given the Senate some of his views on this matter, but I ask him whether he has had the opportunity to study the material tabled by Senator Bishop. If so, has he any further comment to make?
– Yes, I have seen the documents tabled by Senator Bishop. I think they were tabled as a result of a request I made when speaking on the adjournment debate last Thursday. Those documents show clearly that all the telegrams were charged to telephones under the control of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland.
– That is the State Department.
– Yes, the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. The documents show that telegrams were received by the chairmen of the councils asking them to consent to the forwarding of a telegram in their name. The telegrams received by the chairmen of the councils commenced, as I read out during the adjournment debate the other night, with the words ‘Several council chairmen have indicated their desire to send messages to-‘ and certain people were named. Of course at the time these telegrams were sent out together no chairmen had indicated such a desire. One will recall that the Premier of Queensland had saidthis was a direct use of the Premier’s advice for the purpose of achieving the trickery -
– What about those telegrams you got today?
– If the honourable senator asks a question on the telegrams I received today I shall give him an answer. I say definitely that I can give the answer. This shows the trickery operating in Queensland. On false premises the Premier said that some council chairmen had agreed, but at that stage no council had been consulted. There is a false accusation that the Commonwealth wants to stop Aborigines from having the right to say who goes on their reserves. Of course there is no intention on the pan of the Commonwealth to do such a thing. If we give reserves to the Aborigines on those reserves as an entitlement to land rights the Aborigines have the same right as has any owner of private property to say who goes on or off their reserves. This is indicated by what is going on in Queensland, as was vividly shown up on ‘This Day Tonight’ last evening.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. I refer to reports that personnel belonging to Film Australia are now travelling through South America on an assignment and are apparently having some difficulty without the necessary letters of introduction. I ask particularly whether the Minister can give details of the assignment in relation to the numbers of people involved, the cost of the venture and how long the unit has been stationed in South America? What use is proposed for the film or films that are being produced? What financial returns are expected?
-The film relates to the Australian expedition that went to Paraguay in the 1890s. One member of that expedition, as the honourable senator will recall, was the late Dame Mary Gilmore. The idea for a film on the early Australian expedition to Paraguay first came to me from the Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union, Mr Barry Egan, who has a very keen interest in the history of Australia. Because of my great interest in early Australian history I referred the matter of the feasibility and desirability of producing such a film to my Department for its consideration. The matter was referred to Film Australia, which conducted some research and eventually found in the southwestern portion of New South Wales a descendant of the early migrants. Film Australia then conducted negotiations with a commercial television network in Australia which expressed very great interest in the production of the film. It indicated that it would be keen to have the film produced, that it would be keen to contribute to the production of the film and that it would become one of the station’s early documentaries at the time of the introduction of colour television.
At the moment, I think, 4 people are involved in the production of the film in South America. The estimated total cost of the production is $60,000 and that, of course, will be offset by returns that will be received from commercial interests such as the television network to which I have referred. The film certainly will be distributed in all South American countries and, I hope, in this country. 1 believe that it will be of tremendous significance and historical importance to Australia. I do not want the honourable senator to be concerned for one moment that because the suggestion was made to me by Mr Barry Egan, the Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union, the film might in some way or other be a propaganda film. Just recently I had discussions with Sir Reginald Ansett about Film Australia’s making a film on the demise of the Sunderland flying boat service and that, too, has proved a useful documentary.
I think that they are all the answers to the question that has been asked by the honourable senator. As to when the film crew went to South America, it left, I think, in about the middle of last month, I can tell the honourable senator that there are some industrial problems occurring between the Theatrical and Amusement Employees Association, on the one hand, and my Department, the Public Service Board, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Treasury on the other hand, concerning insurance cover of the crew for the time that it is in South America.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I draw his attention to the practice exercised by Gordon and Gotch (Australasia) Ltd, in Western Australia at least and probably in other States as well, whereby it compels newsagents to accept magazines and paperback books which are not ordered and a number of which are definitely pornographic. I also draw his attention to the intimidatory tactics now being used by this same firm with the threatened withholding or non-processing of returns, and cancellation of agencies. As the State Unsolicited Goods and Services Act affords inadequate protection for newsagents subjected to this treatment, will the Attorney-General assure the Senate that the Trade Practices Commission is alerted to, and will take immediate action on, this and other trade practices which are direct contraventions of at least sections 45 and 47 of the Trade Practices Act?
-I will refer the matter to the Trade Practices Commission. I think it is undesirable, in view of the reference to the particular firm and the sections of the Act, that I say any more than that I will have the matters investigated by the Trade Practices Commission or my Department.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of an evasive answer given by the Premier of South Australia in response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition. Dr Eastick, in the State Assembly last week concerning the availability of Australian Grants Commission funds for South Australia? Is he aware also that on the same day the Chief Secretary, Mr Kneebone, told the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council that about $5m is available in an emergency situation to the State from the Grants Commission? In view of the confusion that exists in South Australia as a result of these answers, can the Minister inform the Senate of the current position relating to the availability of Australian Grants Commission funds to South Australia?
Has the State Government made any application for an emergency grant?
-No, I have not seen the reference to the question asked by Mr Eastick of the South Australian Premier. I am not conversant with the precise position in respect of Australian Grants Commission payments to that State; so I will have to obtain an answer from the Treasurer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. Because of his extensive knowledge of the building industry and the conditions under which many Australians live in the tropical regions of Australia because of the climate in those regions, can the Minister advise whether the Government has in train any schemes which could result in more appropriate housing, accommodation and workshops being provided for people living and working in the north?
– My alleged extensive interest in the building industry is not sufficient to solve all the problems created by different climatic conditions. Both when I was the Minister for Works and I think now as the Minister in this chamber representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, I have given great consideration to the problem of making life easier for residents living in desert areas and under hot climatic conditions, and likewise under cold climatic conditions. At the present time I can report that the Darwin branch of the Department of Housing and Construction has a department of technology and sociology conferring on this question with the Tropical Research Unit of the University of Queensland to see whether they can make living conditions more pleasant in the Northern Territory. There are some areas in which the installation of water coolers has an effect and others in which, because of the humidity, it does not. The tendency is to have open louvres and for air to be blown through the premises with a fan. Those bodies are working on the project to see whether they can assist in some way to make the conditions more pleasant.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the Government’s painstaking attempts to convince the people that Australia’s persisting high levels of inflation and unemployment are the result of the world economic situation and that both are imported. I refer also to the Prime Minister’s statement last weekend that it was garbage to say that the tariff cuts had caused unemployment. In view of the conflicting statements coming from spokesmen for the Government, I ask: Has the Prime Minister requested his economic advisers to prepare a paper on these matters? If not, will he do so?
– The honourable senator seems to be pursuing the notion that there is not world-wide inflation. Am I to understand, after the encouraging remarks which were just made by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Senator Drake-Brockman, that we now have one of the members of that Party saying that really there is no world-wide inflation?
– I did not say that. I said that spokesmen for the Government have said that there is.
-Spokesmen for the Government have said that there is world-wide inflation. They are saying what everybody who is able to follow the news of the world understands. No doubt the Prime Minister will consult his economic advisers and the incoming Treasurer from time to time and they will be issuing statements on the state of the economy and also making the encouraging statements which were requested by Senator Drake-Brockman. It is clear that the Parliament ought to be encouraging the Government in its efforts and that it ought to be encouraging industry and the public. I ask of the honourable senator when he goes back to Queensland to raise his voice in line with what his own Leader has said in this chamber and help to encourage the people of Australia to have faith, hope and confidence in the Government showing them the path to prosperity.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It follows the question asked of him by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Greenwood. I ask: Is it not a fact that whilst the trade unions have played an important role in their quest to protect the environment and general quality of life in the working class area of Newport in Victoria, these same unions are simply spearheading a campaign on behalf of numerous environmental groups and people living in the immediate and surrounding area of the district in which the Victorian Government is insisting that a new power station be built?
-I am not aware of all the details of this Newport matter but I do know that many questions have been raised about the environment there, as they have about many other places. Curiously, the trade union movement has been in the forefront of the campaign in various cities to save the environment, especially in relation to projects like the Clutha project in New South Wales. I understand that some trade unions have complained that this should not have to be their role and that initiatives ought to have been taken in these areas long ago by governments. The Federal Government is, of course, moving strongly into the area. Bills on the environment are at present coming through this Parliament. The State governments have been laggardly in this respect. 1 think it is reasonable to expect that those governments- I am speaking particularly of the governments of the political colour of the Opposition- ought to be catching up with the world-wide movement directed towards preserving and improving our environment.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to a recent article in the ‘Peking Review’, the wellestablished mouthpiece of the Chinese Government, which refers to Soviet control of the Baltic States ‘ as ruthless suppression and a policy of arbitrary assimilation of the national minorities’. As the Prime Minister has referred to Australia’s relations with China as most closely representing Australia’s new aspirations and in view of the Government’s de jure recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic States in the Soviet Union, does the Minister agree with the statement of China ‘s opposition to the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States?
– It is nice to see that senators opposite are starting to read and agree with some of the statements that are being made around the world by powers that they once accused of being almost in league with the devil. At one time the fact that anything was said by Russia or China was automatically sufficient indication of the error of the statement. Now Senator Sim seems to be starting to use China as an authority. Soon no doubt we will have him using Cuba and what Castro says as an authority for some statement. The real issue is: What is the right thing to do? What attitude should Australia take? It is nice to know that our views may be shared on occasions by other countries. Sometimes our views might be opposed. There might be differences, but at least under this Government Australia is taking an independent attitude and assessing for itself what its foreign policy should be, free of the subservience that characterised it under the previous Government.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, follows upon a question that was asked of the Minister yesterday by Senator Devitt in relation to poison gas tes.s on World War II troops. Is the Minister aware that by way of reply he is reported as having said that repatriation benefits may not be available to World War I or World War II veterans who may become incapacitated as a result of poison gas experiments? I would like the Minister to tell the Senate whether this report is correct. If it is not, what is the true position regarding these veterans who have been incapacitated by poison gas experiments?
– I do not think I referred to World War I veterans, but the reports, as I saw them in the Press, were correct. I think in answer to a question yesterday I said something to the effect that normally repatriation benefits were not available to veterans unless the incapacity was occasioned in a theatre of war. I have been informed subsequently by my Department that in fact these benefits would be available if the incapacity of the veteran arose out of or was attributable to his service. To revert to the matter that has been under discussion, which is the question that has been raised by a Mr Soper who apparently has written a book concerning mustard gas experiments that were carried on during World War II in Australia: There is still no evidence available to me or to my Department that any such experiments did take place. That is not to say that they did not take place, but certainly no claims have been received from any person arising out of any such disability or alleged disability. As I think I said yesterday, Mr Soper has been a quite frequent correspondent with me, as he was with my predecessors, both of the Labor Party and I think other political parties. He has raised a number of matters but not hitherto this matter. I repeat what I said yesterday with regard to this question. If there is any exserviceman who does claim that he has been incapacitated or in any way harmed as a result of taking part in these experiments, he should address his claim to the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in the State in which he lives and it will be immediately attended to.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the current industrial disturbance in the mailing section of the Post Office, what are the prospects for Christmas mails being handled expeditiously?
– The present position is that the Australian Postal Workers Union, in protest against the decision of Mr Taylor, has decided to carry on a number of stoppages. There is also currently a threat to impose an overtime ban at the Redfern Mail Exchange. The information I have is that some stoppages are occurring and some are listed. I am not sure yet whether the stoppages listed will take place. Even if they do the effect on Christmas mail will not be as great as stated by a number of observers. We have been fortunate in the Post Office that in the last 6 months we have had almost no industrial trouble. I think this is mainly due to better communications. One of my ministerial assistants is in constant touch with the unions. I have asked him to tell the unions that in my opinion the decision of Mr Taylor is such as to warrant the Australian Postal Workers Union Federal Executive considering taking action other than that currently being taken, lt seems to me that there are other avenues that the Union could canvass to settle its grievances, including recourse to arbitration. I have asked Mr Hancock to put that position to the unions concerned, including the Federal Secretary of the APWU. I hope that as a result of those representations other action might be contemplated.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs been drawn to an article in today’s ‘Courier Mail’ headlined ‘The Shame of Wilcannia’? The article goes on to level some rather strong criticism at the Minister and his Department for lack of interest in the appalling conditions under which Aborigines are forced to live in that town. Will the Minister cause an immediate investigation to be made into the conditions under which Aborigines are living at Wilcannia with the aim of having something done immediately in their favour?
-The position at Wilcannia has received publicity from many newspapers and there have been a lot of false reports. I know that the living conditions are bad. According to my brief gastro-enteritis is likely to occur under such living conditions at any time but there are no indications of an outbreak of gastro-enteritis at Wilcannia at present. The Press did not say so. I will give honourable senators the whole report. Five Aboriginal children were admitted to the Broken Hill Hospital last week but the doctor said that the pathology tests showed that they had measles. It was disclosed that one kiddie who died had pneumonia. As for disease and the living conditions of Aborigines, we have had representations from New South Wales doctors who have said that medical science is hopeless unless we can improve housing conditions and the nutrition of people in Aboriginal communities. This we are trying to do. The matter is causing my Department much concern.
As a result of flooding earlier this year the people from Wilcannia moved across the river to the Mallee area and are sharing the already poor facilities available there. There were 7 toilets and S water taps in the area. Under an Australian Government grant to the States the New South Wales directorate authorised the Wilcannia Council to install 4 additional toilets and 20 garbage cans to keep the area as clean as possible. This work is being carried out at present. The Australian Government is also paying for 2 new portable ablution blocks which will be in use by the end of the month. In addition, the New South Wales Health Commission has been helping to establish a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for the people. There is a need for 50 to 60 houses at Wilcannia and to date 6 houses have been built through the State program and financed by the Australian Government. Money has now been made available for the construction or purchase of 14 more houses. However, it is unlikely that money is the solution to the problem because of the inability in that area to get qualified tradesmen to build the houses. To try to overcome the problem we have had departmental officers there trying to get the people to incorporate a housing organisation which would enable them to build their own houses. In May of this year a request for funds was received but the Department could not meet it because the request did not come from an incorporated body. A housing society was eventually formed and we granted $6,500 for the services of an architect and a carpenter whom the Aboriginal Housing Panel desired to employ. I believe that the architect and the carpenter were not satisfactory to the society and it dismissed them. We then contacted the New South Wales Director of Aboriginal Affairs, who agreed to retain an architect and other persons to go to the area. An officer of the
Department will be visiting the area late this week to try to do something for the people.
– Is Wilcannia under State or Federal control?
– It comes under the State of New South Wales, but nevertheless the Australian Government does accept some responsibility. To solve the problem of the poor conditions in Aboriginal communities, including those in Queensland, we must solve the housing problem.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement at the Premiers Conference last June that the Government would restrain its own spending as a means of containing inflation, I ask: Has the Government honoured this undertaking? If so, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate request the Prime Minister to prepare and table a list of expenditure cuts or deferments since that time?
– I shall refer the question to the Prime Minister. The honourable senator suggests that there should be a list of cuts in order to show that there has been restraint. As I recall it, the Prime Minister’s statement was made before the Budget was introduced. It is not so much a matter of what was cut out of the Budget; one might say it is a matter of what was not put in to it. In my own administration there was one very important matter with which I wanted to proceed but which I did not propose. Senator Wheeldon informs me of one matter of significance relating to ex-soldiers with which, on the same principle, he did not proceed. No doubt running through the Government there are a number of proposals which were not put forward for the Budget because of the decision which had then been made.
– The Minister for the Media will recall my interest, evinced in previous questions, in the provision of adequate television services for north-eastern Victoria. I now ask the Minister whether a decision has been reached regarding a television service for the people of Corryong in Victoria and the people of Khancoban in New South Wales? If he has decided on the provision of a service, when can the people in these areas expect it to commence?
-The Senate will recall that earlier this year, I think it was, Senator Poyser raised with me the question of improved television services for the people of north-eastern Victoria, as well as other areas of Victoria. I told him that I would refer the matter to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It was in about April of this year that I received a recommendation from the Control Board, which I approved, for the establishment of a translator station in the Corryong-Khancoban area. As a result of my approval being given to that installation the work was taken in hand by Senator Bishop’s Department- the PostmasterGeneral’s Department- and the Australian Post Office has now informed the Broadcasting Control Board that the station to serve the CorryongKhancoban area will be completed in about 9 days time and is scheduled to go to air by 13 December. It will be a national station and it will relay the programs from ABAV, Upper Murray, and will operate on Channel 9. I can tell the honourable senator that this station is the 23rd national station to come into operation in the 2 years that the Labor Government has been in office.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory: Was Miss Morosi allocated a government one-bedroom flat? If so, what is the reason for her being given priority over applicants who have waited 6 years and would-be applicants who cannot get on the list? What real hardships does she suffer compared with the less well paid sections of our community?
– I have already answered the first part of the honourable senator’s question. The fact is that the former assistant to Mr Grassby in community relations -
– Yes. She did not receive government accommodation. I would assume that had she stayed in that position she probably would have been entitled to such accommodation.
– She signed the lease, though, did she not?
-Mr Bryant spoke to me and as far as I know she has not been allocated a flat. So presumably the answer to what the honourable senator is putting is no. Mr Bryant has informed me that it has been a long established practice since the inauguration of the national capital for key personnel in government positions to be accorded priority housing, that this practice has subsisted through all Administrations, and that the previous Government had no hesitation in approving many priority allocations of housing. Mr Bryant said that he had laid down a series of limitations, however, to the former practice and that all priority allocations at the request of Ministers must now receive his personal approval. The application which had been made by Miss Morosi lapsed, as she is leaving the relevant position.
– Was it refused?
– No. I am indicating that the application lapsed. An application was made by her to Mr Bryant. Mr Bryant requested me to write a letter supporting the application. I might inform the Senate that he asked me to send a friendly letter and not one of those dull and desiccated letters which he receives from all his Ministerial colleagues. In future it might be easier, if letters between one Minister and another are to be leaked to the Press by someone in the Department, if one wrote, even to Mr Bryant, in a dull and desiccated fashion. The fact is that the application has lapsed and has not been granted. Otherwise this is a matter for Mr Bryant.
– My question which is directed to the Attorney-General relates to the refusal of the Secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australia, Mr E. V. Elliott, to supply documents to Mr Justice Sweeney, the royal commissioner conducting an investigation into alleged payments to maritime unions. As the refusal was reported to have been made because the Federal Government had not made a decision on whether the union would be able to get or was to be granted legal aid, can the Attorney-General now say whether a decision has been made on this matter?
– I have received a communication from Mr Lionel Bowen and I have with me a copy of the advice sent to the parties concerned. Mr Bowen informed me in regard to the communication I had sent him for decision that because royal commissions come under the Special Minister of State he did not consider that legal assistance granted in the case of the ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission established a precedent for meeting the request of the 2 unions. He went on to give some explanation about it being accorded to individuals in that case and said that he had written to the 2 unions advising them that whilst the Government does grant legal aid to individuals it does not do so in respect of organisations appearing before royal commissions and that, therefore, the cost of legal counsel to be retained by the unions would not be provided.
I have indicated earlier to the Senate that a request had been made to me by Mr Elliott of the Seamen’s Union and that I had granted what was described as emergency legal aid. That will continue. Mr Elliott was required to produce certain documents and, briefly, said that he was not prepared to carry on before the Commission and do various things without legal counsel being provided. The offer of legal aid was made and counsel or a solicitor was ready at the hearing to appear for him in respect of that matter and some associated matter which concerned him. I do not want to go into the issues before the Commission but there were certain matters in respect of which it seemed appropriate that legal aid should be made available to him and that will continue. The provision of legal aid to organisations is within Mr Bowen ‘s sphere and his decision is that it is not to be granted.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As a preface I invite his attention to the fact that it is reported, not with dissent, that the Tasmanian Government’s revenue funds by the end of this month will be depleted to a mere $2m. That represents the total of funds in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Trust Fund and the Loan Fund whereas the Trust Fund alone at this time of the year, it is alleged, should be approximately $12m. The situation apparently is so serious that teachers will not be able to receive their holiday pay in one sum before they commence their holidays but will have to be paid over the holiday period. In view of the fact that an extreme shortage of liquidity appears to exist in the Tasmanian Government will the Minister request the Treasurer to consider going into the situation with the Tasmanian Treasury with a view to determining whether it is possible to expedite Australian Government payments to Tasmania which have been approved during the current financial year- in other words, payments properly approved which may not be due for actual payment until, let us say, the middle of February- in order to relieve what appears to be a chronic liquidity shortage?
-I have seen the reports referred to by Senator Everett. It is customary for the Premier of any State which has a problem of this nature to advise the Prime Minister. I am not aware whether any such advice has been received by the Prime Minister from the Tasmanian Premier. Nevertheless I shall forward the suggestion of Senator Everett on to the Treasurer for his consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, refers to the answer he gave earlier this afternoon to Senator Laucke regarding the present industrial troubles in the Post Office. In view of the fact that the Vernon Commission identified the industrial situation at the Redfern Mail Exchange as the major source of trouble and of mail delays in the Post Office and also because it again appears that the Exchange is the one which is leading the present industrial trouble and threatening to continue work bans and so on, I ask: What steps have been or will be taken by the Government to eliminate this source of disruption at the Redfern Mail Exchange?
– I mentioned in reply to Senator Laucke that the Post Office has enjoyed a strike free period of almost 6 months. There is no doubt about that. May 1 mention that this coincided with my becoming PostmasterGeneral. When I became Postmaster-General I delegated one of my staff who is experienced in industrial matters to talk to the unions and also to the people at the Redfern Mail Exchange. It is fair to say that there has not been in the past 6 months activities such as we had formerly but there is currently certain action taking place. So the industrial trouble at the Redfern Mail Exchange as observed by the Vernon Commission has to some extent been mitigated by the arrangements we have been able to make. I am sorry that this sort of trouble is occurring just before the Christmas period. I do not want to come into this and say certain things about the Arbitrator. Perhaps Senator Durack should read his decision. It would seem to me that the postal workers expected an increase of $9 and because they did not get it and other classifications in the Public Service were awarded an increase and also retrospectivity, the postal workers feel aggrieved and consequently they are taking 24-hour stoppage action which in my opinion is not the sort of action they should take. I said to Senator Laucke that I told Mr Hancock to tell them on my behalf that I believe they should contemplate taking action other than industrial action to air their grievance.
As to the Redfern Mail Exchange itself, I have already mentioned the strike free period of 6 months which to me is very satisfactory. It may not be well known that although the area of mau and postal services is a very sensitive one, the incidence of industrial disputes in the Post Office is relatively low compared with other fields in the community. There is one other factor about mail exchanges which has not been given the significance that it should have received. It is partly a constructional one and partly an environmental one. No doubt Senator Cotton understands this. When the Government he supported built the Redfern Mail Exchange it thought that was the sort of structure which should be erected. I am quite satisfied now that that was a mistake and the concentration of so many personnel in a place which is not at all natural in terms of the environment is one of the hazards facing this industry. In future any Postmaster-General or relevant commission ought to consider the separation of the types of employment in such an organisation, and more consideration should be given to the working situations from an environmental point of view. I hope that my representations to the unions will result in some second thoughts been adopted about the action that is now being taken.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration refers to the address by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, to the Canberra Press Club on 20 June 1974 and his response to the question ‘What would you like the WhitlamCairns years remembered for most?’, his response being ‘I think the ability to be able to deal with an inflationary situation without causing unemployment’. In view of the abject failure of the Whitlam-Cairns duo to contain either inflation or unemployment, I ask: What are the latest figures of unemployment available to the Government? Is unemployment continuing to rise by at least 1,000 a day? Is this trend likely to continue and grow worse in the next 2 months? How many people are at present in receipt of unemployment benefits? Is there an accurate figure available to the Government of unemployed school leavers?
-The last figures which were revealed were for November. I understand that the Department of Labor and Immigration is making an investigation into the aspects which the honourable senator has raised. The investigation is being made not only in respect to school leavers but also, in collaboration with the Minister for Social Security, in respect of the real incidence of unemployment of people who are now registered for unemployment benefits. What Dr Cairns said in June of this year, it seems to me, was a statement of his own views. Mr Cameron’s Department has given to him accurate forecasts of unemployment, as honourable senators know. As stated by me in this place and by Mr Cameron elsewhere, the Department has forecast fairly accurately the developments in unemployment which have occurred and which we, as a Government, say are characteristic of the mixed western economy that we have.
Only yesterday the Minister for Labor and Immigration forecast that towards the middle of next year the trend in employment will improve. I can only be guided by the fact that the figures given to the Minister for Labor and Immigration by his Department- at the time people thought they were extravagant- seem to have been proved to be correct. This is perhaps because of the Department’s very ready access to industry. The Minister’s forecast yesterday was that the unemployment position would improve in about June. The best thing I can do, because I accept that these things ought to be seriously surveyed and forecast, is to ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to see whether he can get a quick reply to the matters raised by Senator Carrick.
-Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform the Senate on how many occasions, besides the case of Miss Junie Morosie he has supported the requests of employees for special consideration of priority for Government accommodation?
– As far as I can recall, not at all. I do not know whether that would extend back into the period when I was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. For most of these purposes I think the Leader of the Opposition is treated on the same basis as a Minister in regard to staff. I cannot recall any other cases and Mr Bryant could not recall any either. His indication to me was that I had never used this category at all. I understand there are a number of categories and each Minister is allowed one. So far as I can recall there was never any earlier application and no support that I can recall. Of course, as I have indicated, this one has lapsed because of the person concerned moving from one position into another.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster) Order! The time has expired (or questions but the Leader of the Government has indicated that he will allow the 2 senators who have indicated they wish to ask questions to ask them concisely. I hope the answers will be the same.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy President, and also the Leader of the Government. I ask the Leader of the Government: Does the Government agree with Mr Hawke that the pay rises granted to Commonwealth public servants last Monday are not inflationary? Are those rises consistent with the Government’s stated view that wage restraint is a necessary ingredient of an anti-inflationary and antiunemployment policy?
– It is a difficult question to answer. It is largely a matter of definition and semantics. Wages need to be increased because of inflation to enable people to keep up with the cost of living and have the real value of what they had before. One could hardly say it is inflationary to enable people to keep pace with inflation and yet, on the other hand, one might say in a sense that every time there is a cost increase or a wage increase there is some element of inflation. I think it probably would be fair to say that most wage increases are compensating for inflation which has certainly been initiated by things outside the wage spiral. Logically, I suppose, or according to one’s definition one can say that even if what one does is fair and just to employees, that constitutes some element or part of the inflation. One cannot, I suppose, deny that. It is a question really of whether it is properly compensating people for the loss in value of their wages, and I think that that is the way in which Mr Hawke was expressing it.
– I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for his courtesy in extending question time. My question seeks information for war veterans which I think may be helpful. I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: Now that under the Administrative Arrangements Order made on 12 June 1974 the provisions of the insurance of homes under the Defence Service Homes Act 1918-1973 will be administered by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation, will he inform the Senate whether in future inquiries concerning insurance of homes, payment of insurance premiums and of claims will be made through his Department or through the Department of Housing and Construction to which monthly loan repayments are made?
– I also am glad that the Leader of the Government in the Senate agreed to extend question time because I did have notice from Senator Marriott that he was going to ask this question and I have been on tenter-hooks for the last hour waiting for it to come. The facts put by Senator Marriott are correct. In an effort to consolidate the insurance activities of the Australian Government, the responsibility for defence service homes insurance has been transferred from the Department of Housing and Construction to the Department of Repatriation and Compensation. So I am now the Minister responsible for defence service homes insurance, whereas the Minister for Housing and Construction was previously.
In order to complete the administrative arrangements, an amendment to the Defence Service Homes Act is required, and in view of the large amount of legislation which we have had before both Houses of the Parliament during this sessional period it has not been practicable to introduce such an amendment to the Defence Service Homes Act. So although I am now the Minister responsible for defence service homes insurance, the Director of Defence Service Homes is still the public servant who is responsible for the whole of the previous functions of the Defence Service Homes Act, including defence service homes insurance. In view of that, if anybody has any application or request to make regarding defence service homes insurance it should be addressed, as it was in the past, to the Assistant Director, Defence Service Homes, care of the Department of Housing and Construction in each of the State capitals or, if the veteran who is concerned is within the Australian Capital Territory, to the regional office of the Defence Service Homes Division in Canberra.
-On Tuesday, 26 November 1974, in answer to a question from Senator Guilfoyle I promised to provide the Senate with details of action taken by the Department of Customs and Excise in regard to dumping in the last 1 2 months and to confirm my statement that no difficulty is being caused by a shortage of staff. I can now assure the Senate that the investigating staff of the Department overseas is quite adequate to deal with any dumping investigations which may become necessary and that where dumping action becomes necessary it will be taken promptly. I have here details of action taken in relation to dumping in the last 12 months. I seek leave to incorporate the list in Hansard-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
In addition an Industries Assistance Commission report on injection moulding machines recommended no antidumping action but that these goods be kept under review. As a result of this review anti-dumping action has recently been taken to protect the local industry.
A constant review of normal values is carried out on all commodities subject to anti-dumping action.
Dumping Complaints Received Since 1.12.73
Thirty-eight (38) dumping complaints have been received in the period. Of these twenty-two (22) have been resolved without anti-dumping action being necessary.
The remaining sixteen ( 16) are still under examination and of these it would appear six (6) will require antidumping action to be taken.
– I present to the Senate papers relating to the tabling of the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 100 on equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value, adopted at Geneva on 29 June 1951.
– I present to the Senate a paper, in the nature of a Green Paper, on International Women’s Year 1975.
– I present a report entitled ‘The Status of the Technology- Coal Gasification Oil from Coal’ and the ninth annual report of the National Coal Research Advisory Committee covering the period from December 1972 to November 1973.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present the following papers: Notes of the ninth meeting of the Australian and State Labor Ministers held on Friday, 22 February 1974; notes of the tenth meeting of Australian and State Labor Ministers held on Friday, 30 August 1974; and the report of the Interim Committee of the Australian Council for Trade Union Training 1 973-74.
– Pursuant to section 50b (3) of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918-1 973, 1 present the annual report of the Director of Defence Service Homes for the year ended 30 June 1974, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements. The interim version of the report was tabled in the Senate on 1 9 September 1974.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the first annual report of the Australian Government Department of Housing and Construction 1973-74.
– Pursuant to section 33 (3) of the Criminology Research Act 1971, 1 present the second annual report of the operations of the Australian Institute of Criminology, together with financial statements for the period ended 30 June 1974. Pursuant to section 43 (5) of the aforementioned Act, I present the second annual report of the Criminology Research Council for the period ended 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the AngloAustralian Telescope Agreement Act 1 970- 1 97 1 , I present the annual report of the Australian Telescope Board for the year ended 30 June 1974. Due to the limited number of copies available at this time reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report on yarns, knitted fabrics and towelling, dated 10 November 1974, prepared by the Textiles Authority within the Industries Assistance Commission.
– I present a discussion paper entitled International Women’s Year- Priorities and Considerations’.
-Mr Deputy President, as Chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, I present the 151st and 152nd reports of the Public Accounts Committee.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
- Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to have a short statement incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The 15 1st report of the Public Accounts Committee is concerned with the Committee ‘s inquiry into delays in the payment of accounts by Australian Government departments. The inquiry arose as a result of the Committee’s surveillance of a Treasury circular relating to the prompt payment of accounts. In its inquiry the Committee took evidence from the Department of the Treasury, the Department of the Capital Territory, the Department of the Media, the Department of the Northern Territory, the PostmasterGeneral ‘s Department and the Department of Supply.
The evidence presented to the Committee, and the most recent observations made by the Auditor-General, show that a number of departments have been responsible for excessive delays in the payment of accounts, both to departmental and private creditors. It seems to the Committee that at present departments charging other departments for services are required to allocate a disproportionate amount of their staff resources to following up unpaid accounts which, if paying departments were to meet their financial obligations on time, could be greatly reduced. The Committee has suggested that departments should make an effort to reduce the delays in the payment of accounts by reviewing their procedures and by increasing the degree of supervision exercised in the payment of accounts area. The Committee intends to maintain a close watch on the position and will conduct further inquiries into this matter, if required.
The Committee has, for many years, conducted combined inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund but has tabled separate reports on both aspects of these inquiries. The 152nd report relates specifically to evidence taken by the Committee in connection with expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer in 1973-74. As honourable senators are aware, after the close of each financial year the Treasurer submits to the Parliament for its consideration and approval a statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer showing allocations to heads of expenditure made by him from the advance under section 36a of the Audit Act. The Committee carries out the parliamentary scrutiny of this past expenditure by obtaining explanations from departments for each item of expenditure charged to the advance and selecting the more notable of these for public inquiry.
In chapter 1 of the report the Committee has stated that, in examining expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, it has sought to ascertain whether or not expenditure from the advance has been confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the original and additional estimates. The Committee has also sought to ascertain whether or not the departments concerned in the inquiry have maintained efficient administration in the expenditure of funds under the items selected for public inquiry. As the report shows, there were cases where expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Appropriation Acts. In other cases, however, there was evidence of clerical errors, inefficient estimating procedures, and delays which caused expenditure to be charged to the advance when provision should properly have been made in the additional estimates. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have been discovered.
As in several previous inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, the Committee has found evidence of amounts being charged to the Advance without warrant authority, in contravention of Treasury regulation 90 ( 1 ). All of these overcharges arose from clerical errors. The Committee had cause to comment adversely on the brevity of some departmental explanations and the fact that some withnesses appearing before the Committee were inadequately briefed. I commend the reports to honourable senators.
Third Report of Fifty-sixth Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Webster)- Order! I bring up a report from the Standing Orders Committee proposing certain changes in procedure. Copies of the report will be distributed to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)–
By arrangement with the Minister for Foreign Affairs I am introducing this Bill and a Bill dealing with Judges’ pensions together, so that the two may be considered at the same time. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-1974 to enable Australia to transfer to Papua New Guinea responsibility for those matters which at present remain reserved to Australia, as soon as their transfer is requested by the Papua New Guinea Government. This is in line with Australia’s policy of ensuring that Papua New Guinea exercises final responsibility in all matters of government before assuming full independence.
Clause 3 of the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) amends section 5 (1a) of the Papua New Guinea Act. That section deals with reserved matters. The matters presently reserved to Australia are defence, foreign relations and certain matters specified by proclamation under the
Papua New Guinea Act (No. 2) 1973. The matters so specified are: the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea and all other courts established by Papua New Guinea enactment; authority in relation to legal aid; responsibility for instituting prosecutions; House of Assembly and electoral policy matters. Honourable senators will recall that authority over those matters was reserved to Australia at self-government at the specific request of the Papua New Guinea Government. Clause 3 of the Bill provides for the omission of paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section 5 ( 1a) of the Papua New Guinea Act. These paragraphs reserve to Australia the matters of defence and foreign relations. When Papua New Guinea requests the transfer of authority over these two matters the repeal of those paragraphs will in effect be proclaimed. The reservation of the remaining matters can also be brought to an end by proclamation on request by Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea has already introduced its defence legislation in the House of Assembly and when this has been enacted Australian defence legislation will need to be amended to enable the completion of the transfer of authority. The exercise of responsibility by the Government of Papua New Guinea in the areas of defence and foreign relations until formal independence must be subject to Australia’s treaty obligations and responsibilities in international law and to the United Nations under the Charter and the Trusteeship Agreement. However the transfer of final control to Papua New Guinea within this framework will allow Papua New Guinea to give effect to its own policies and priorities in these matters, policies and priorities which in fact it is already formulating. As I have said, Australian policy is to enable Papua New Guinea to exercise authority in all matters of government before the formal step to independence, and these amendments are designed to give effect to this.
Clauses 4 to 9 of the Bill relate to Part VI of the Papua New Guinea Act- the judicial system. Part VI of the Act is amended by the Bill to provide for the functions now assigned to and powers held by the Governor-General under sections 58 to 61 of the Act to be conferred on and exercised by the High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea. The High Commissioner will have responsibility for the appointment of the Chief Justice and such other judges and acting judges as are required and for other matters relating to the qualifications of judges and to the tenure of judges’ appointments. In line with these amendments the Governor-General ‘s instructions to the High Commissioner will require him to act on the advice of the Papua New Guinea Government in exercising his functions under Part VI of the Act.
Sub-section 62a (6) of the Papua New Guinea Act at present authorises the Governor-General to disallow rules of court. The Bill by Clause 8 amends the Act to make provision for such rules of court in future to be laid before the House of Assembly within 1 5 sitting days after their making. Disallowance, if considered necessary, will be by resolution of the House of Assembly. The Papua New Guinea Government has requested that when the transfer of authority over judicial matters takes place section 64 of the Act should be repealed. Section 64 of the Act provides that the Australian High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, decrees, orders and sentences of a Full Court of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. Clause 9 of the Bill repeals section 64.
Clause 10 of the Bill amends section 73 (2) of the Act to empower the High Commissioner to grant pardon, remission, commutation or respite of sentence to an offender sentenced to death by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction in Papua New Guinea. Clause 1 1 of the Bill provides for transitional provisions made necessary by the other provisions of the Bill. Paragraph (1) reserves proposed laws passed but not assented to by the Governor-General before the commencement of Clause 3. The remaining paragraphs relate to judges of the Supreme Court; the preservation of proceedings commenced in that Court before transfer; preservation of rules of court; preservation of certain rights of appeal to the High Court and the preservation of warrants given by the Governor-General under Section 73 (2) in respect of persons sentenced to death. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968-1973 to provide for the payment of pensions to persons who are or have been judges of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea Judges) and to their dependants. The Bill has been prepared after consultation with the Papua New Guinea judges. I introduce this Bill at the same time as the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1974 so that honourable senators may, if they wish, consider the two Bills at the same time. Amendments of the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-1974 to be made by the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1974, that has just been introduced, will amongst other things transfer to the Papua New Guinea Government control over appointments of judges to the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.
The Supreme Court will continue to exist by virtue of Part VI of the Papua New Guinea Act, but appointments of judges made by the Governor-General under section 59 of that Act will cease to have effect on and after 1 December 1974. At present, pensions are payable to those judges and to former judges and their dependants by virtue of the Judges’ Pensions Act- formerly Ordinance- 1969 of Papua New Guinea. These pensions are in fact being paid by the Australian Government. The effect of the Bill will be to bring those of the present Judges who were appointed before 1 December 1973, the date on which Papua New Guinea achieved selfGovernment, under the Australian Judges’ Pensions Act, so that their pension rights are guaranteed by Australian legislation. Existing pensioners under the Papua New Guinea Judges’ Pensions Act will also be brought under the Australian legislation.
Clause 4 provides that a Papua New Guinea judge appointed before 1 December 1973 who has attained the age of 55 years and who retires after serving as a judge for not less than 10 years will be entitled to a full pension at a rate equal to 60 per centum of the ‘appropriate current judicial salary’. Such a judge who not being otherwise entitled to a full pension, ceases to hold office as a judge because his services are no longer required by the Papua New Guinea Government will receive a full pension irrespective of his length of service. If a judge leaves voluntarily before completing the qualifying period of service, the judge will receive a pro-rata pension based on the total of the years that he has served as a judge and the period of leave due to the judge on his retirement. If special circumstances exist, the Governor-General may determine that a judge who would otherwise be entitled to a pro-rata pension is nevertheless to receive a full pension.
Clause 5 ensures that a judge will not receive two pensions in respect of the same periods of service. It brings the existing provision in the Judges’ Pensions Act up-to-date. Clause 6 is a parallel provision to the existing section 18. It applies the Bill to Papua New Guinea Judges who may have retired or died before the commencement of the clause, so that they or their dependants will receive pensions under the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the operation of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act 1972-1973 until 31 December 1975. The Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act was introduced by the previous Government in 1972 as an interim measure pending the preparation of comprehensive legislation for the control of foreign take-overs. The Act was to have expired on 31 December 1973 but its operation was extended to 31 December 1974 to provide further time for the development of proposals for comprehensive legislation.
The Government has completed its review of the existing foreign take-overs legislation. However, incorporation of the Government’s proposals into new legislation is a complex task. In view of the very heavy demands imposed by the
Government’s legislation program on available legal drafting services, it has not been possible to prepare the new legislation in time for introduction into the Parliament this year. It is therefore necessary to extend the operation of the existing foreign take-overs legislation for a further period. I have therefore introduced the companies (Foreign Take-overs) Bill 1974 to extend that legislation for a further period of 12 months.
I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I ask leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
This Bill is a machinery measure designed to meet legal and constitutional requirements associated with the Government’s financial transactions and accounting arrangements. Honourable senators will be aware that the Australian Government’s transactions are recorded in 3 separate funds- the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. Current estimates of the Government’s financial transactions indicate that expenditures in 1 974-75 on items which would normally be charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund would exceed receipts of that fund.
The normal procedure followed in the past to cover a prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund has been to charge some expenditures which would normally be met from that fund to another fund. This Bill is designed to permit such a procedure. The Bill authorises that borrowings be made for defence purposes so that, to the extent necessary, defence expenditures in the remaining months of the year can then be charged to the Loan Fund rather than the Consolidated Revenue Fund, thus avoiding a deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The
Bill does not, I should stress, seek to authorise any additional expenditures; its purpose is simply to reallocate part of expenditures on defence services specified in the Appropriation Acts for 1974-75 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Fund.
At this stage of the year, with a high proportion of the year’s receipts and expenditures still to be incurred, the size of the prospective Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit is particularly difficult to forecast. For this reason the Bill before the Senate does not specify a fixed amount of borrowings. Rather, it seeks authority to borrow amounts not in excess of what is considered necessary to avoid a deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Bills making a similar provision were passed by the Parliament in 1968, 1970 and 1971. To summarise: The proposed Act is a conventional machinery measure. It does not authorise any increase in expenditures; its essential purpose is to re-allocate expenditures approved by Parliament between the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Loan Fund. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The Bill before the Senate will give effect to the undertaking, announced in another place by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget Speech of 17 September 1974, by authorising the Government to enter into agreements with charitable and other non-profit organisations conducting nursing homes. Under such agreements the Australian Government will meet the financial deficits incurred by these organisations in operating the homes. The provisions contained in the Bill further indicate this Government’s concern for those in the community, particularly the aged, who are in need of specialised care and treatment.
A few weeks ago when announcing the second substantial increase, within the space of 3 months, in the levels of nursing home benefits payable under the National Health Act, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) reiterated the Government’s undertaking to introduce a system of deficit financing to meet the losses incurred by nursing homes operated by charitable or benevolent organisations as an alternative to the existing nursing home benefit arrangements. The establishment of a deficit financing system is the core of the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill 1974.
Charitable and benevolent organisations participate with vigour and dedication in the task of caring for the sick and the aged and indeed the care provided by these organisations has become an essential part of our overall system of health care. Their motivation stems from concern for their fellow man particularly the least affluent members of our society. This concern has resulted in many of the nursing homes incurring a deficit as a result of their operations notwithstanding the frequent generous increases in nursing home benefit rates. This has meant that the organisations have had to direct funds to meeting the deficit which otherwise may have been used to expand their accommodation facilities and the services they offer. The Government feels that by providing a means of meeting the losses incurred they will be encouraged to improve and expand the traditionally high standard of patient care that they provide. Not only will this encouragement be directed to religious and charitable organisations as such but it is hoped that local government authorities will be encouraged to provide nursing home accommodation on a local community level.
A further important ingredient of the proposal is that the Australian Government will meet the deficits incurred by eligible organisations, including local government authorities, not only in providing inpatient care in the nursing home, but also approved services when sought by the proprietor of the home for visiting patients. It is proposed that these services will include nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy for visiting patients- for example, those persons residing in an aged persons complex or in a particular local government area. The provision of these additional services will represent yet another step by the Government towards the establishment of complete and integrated services for the people of Australia. These arrangements will enable the aged to be kept in the community as long as possible with the knowledge that the nursing and associated services they need will be available. I would also mention that the extended services under the deficit financing arrangements will include the cost of transportation of patients to the clinics providing these services.
Before I outline the more important provisions of the Bill I wish to emphasise to honourable senators 2 points. First, the proposed system of deficit financing was developed in close consultation with representatives of the associations in each State representing organisations operating these nursing homes and these representatives are in agreement with the concept and the system of deficit financing to which the Bill gives effect. Second, participation in the deficit financing arrangements will be entirely at the option of an organisation. An eligible organisation, as defined in the Bill, will be completely free to take stock of its situation and decide whether or not it will enter into the deficit financing agreement with the Australian Government covering all the nursing homes it operates or for any particular nursing home. If it decides there would be no advantage for a particular nursing home it is free to remain outside the deficit financing arrangements and continue to receive the Australian Government nursing home benefits provided under the National Health Act.
Clause 12 of the Bill is a key provision. It provides for the Minister for Social Security to approve a common form of agreement. An organisation wishing to participate in the deficit financing arrangements will enter into a common form of agreement with the Australian Government in respect of each nursing home to which it wishes the new arrangements to apply. The Bill provides that the common form of agreement will be approved by the Minister only after consultation with the associations representing eligible organisations- for example, in New South Wales the association will be the Voluntary Geriatric Association. Similarly, where the common form of agreement is varied, the associations will be consulted prior to variation of the agreement. It is proposed that the associations to which I have just referred will be prescribed in the regulations to the Bill.
For the information of honourable senators, I would like to briefly outline the more important provisions to be included in an agreement. First, the proprietor of a nursing home will submit a budget which will be examined for reasonableness having regard to the costs of operating other nursing homes participating in the deficit financing arrangements and the nursing home’s own past costs. The budget may be reviewed and updated during the year to provide for unforeseen cost increases. Second, under the arrangements the Australian Government will make advances to the nursing home to meet the deficit as it is being incurred. This will relieve the cash flow problems confronting a number of these nursing homes at the present time. Third, when the actual deficit has been determined at the end of a financial year, the final settlement will be made by the Government.
The amount a patient will be expected to pay for nursing home care has been given particular attention in the Bill. At the present time a patient is expected to meet the fee charged by a nursing home proprietor and these fees rise with increases in costs involving the patient in increased liability. This can result in the patient experiencing financial hardship or in the home having to waive a portion of the fee. This weakness will be overcome under the new deficit financing arrangements and the Bill provides for specific fees to be charged patients in the home. Most patients will contribute $32 a week. This will ensure that a pensioner receiving the standard rate single pension and supplementary assistance will be left with $4 a week for personal spending. This will be varied by regulation having regard to changes in the rate of pension. However, there is a provision for waiver or reduction of this contribution should a patient have an entitlement to free nursing home treatment under the Repatriation system, or if, because of particular circumstances the patient would not be able to meet a fee of $32 a week, the fee may be reduced.
In relation to workers compensation and third party cases, pending introduction of the national compensation program, the Government considers that where a person is entitled to receive compensation towards the cost of his care under the law of the State or the Territory, it is reasonable that the home should be able to recover from the insurer at least part of the cost that it would otherwise have to meet. For this reason provision has been made for a higher fee to be charged in compensation cases. This fee will be prescribed by regulation but it is visualised that it will be equal to the amount that would usually be charged a patient in a nursing home which was not participating in the deficit financing arrangements. lt has been appreciated that an organisation will need to give full consideration to all the factors involved before entering into a deficit financing agreement. Clause 15 enables any organisation which enters into an agreement at any time prior to 30 April 1975 to elect to have the agreement take effect from any time on or after 1 January 1975. Should there be any dispute over the amounts detailed in the budget submitted by the proprietor or the final deficit settlement which will be met by the Australian Government, the Bill provides for a nursing home proprietor to seek a review by the Minister. A Nursing Homes Advisory Committee will be established in each State to examine and report on these matters and in giving his decision the Minister shall consider the report of the Committee. The Committee shall comprise 3 members appointed by the Minister. I have in mind that the membership will consist of a representative of the State association representing eligible organisations, a representative of either the Australian Society of Accountants or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and an officer from the Department of Social Security.
The Bill also contains machinery provisions similar to those in the National Health Act for approval of nursing homes under the new legislation. In commending this Bill to honourable senators I wish to emphasize that since coming to office the Government has not only increased the pension rates by $ 1 1 a week but has also increased nursing home benefits on 2 occasions so that in the current year it will be paying 67 per cent more by way of benefits than in 1972-73. It has also improved the flow of nursing home benefits to nursing homes to improve their liquidity position, and it has doubled the amount met under the Aged Persons Homes Act for the construction or acquisition of nursing homes from $2-for-$ 1 to $4-for-$l. The proposals contained in this Bill are a further indication of the Government’s concern for the welfare of nursing home patients. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
Honourable senators will be well aware of the emphasis placed by the present Australian Government on all aspects of social welfare, especially those involving the more socially disadvantaged people in our society. Accordingly, on 26 February 1973, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) established a working party to examine and report on the problems of homeless men and women in Australia. At their first meeting he reminded members of the working party that the problems of homelessness permeated many age groups and areas of the Australian community. Millions of dollars are spent on the enforcement of archaic laws against these casualties of society but very little government money has been spent on providing facilities for rest, nutrition, treatment, counselling and rehabilitation which would ease the burden on the law enforcement agencies and provide a reasonable standard of support for the homeless. When the Minister for Social Security released the report of the working party on 17 July 1973, he sought public comment on the recommendations which had been made. There has been an enthusiastic response to this report.
The Government’s decision to adopt the major recommendations of the working party was first announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his election policy speech on 29 April 1974. On the occasion he said that the Government had decided to introduce a program to help meet the material needs and raise the dignity of homeless men and women. He went on to indicate that capital grants would be made available over a 3 year period to organisations for projects such as night shelters, hostels, flats, day centres and specialised clinics and centres for homeless people. The Prime Minister said:
This is a program devised in response to a much neglected need: It will be of benefit to the young as well as the old. It will be of benefit to any person in immediate need: To the permanently homeless, to the deserted or disturbed woman and her children, to the Aboriginal or teenager in want or distress, to the battered woman or the battered child, to the single parent- in short, to anyone without support or an income.
In delivering the Government’s welfare policy speech on 1 May 1974, the Minister for Social Security gave further details of the policy the Government had endorsed. He said then that this was an area of need to which the social conscience of the Government was being directed, the basic aim of the program is to assist, by the provision of funds, counselling and resource expertise, organisations undertaking special programs on behalf of homeless people. The homeless men and women to be assisted are in poverty in the sense that they have few independent resources and lack a conventional home with most of the social or economic supports a home normally provides.
The purpose of this Bill is to assist eligible organisations engaged in providing temporary accommodation and personal services for homeless men and women and, in one-parent family situations, their children. It proposes a program of assistance for people who find themselves without what is accepted in Australia as a normal home, through social factors such as alcoholism, inadequacy, domestic conflict or similar reasons. It is not proposed to provide emergency housing for people experiencing financial or similar problems in finding suitable housing. Nor is it proposed by this Bill to intrude into the fields of child care which traditionally are the responsibility of the States.
The Bill offers eligible organisations an opportunity to receive financial assistance to improve and upgrade existing hostels, day attendance centres and detoxification clinics; or to replace them or to establish new facilities. This particular form of assistance will be available for 3 years. These grants may be made to meet the cost of purchasing a building for use as a homeless persons assistance centre or purchasing land and having a centre built. Alternatively, the grant may be made to cover the cost of rent of premises used as a centre. Grants will also be available to improve premises, whether owned or rented, to upgrade the services offered to homeless persons. The purchase of fixtures, furniture, furnishings and equipment used in the operation of a homeless persons assistance centre may also qualify for a grant under these provisions of the Bill. Grants may be up to 100 per cent of the cost of the project. Provision has been made for expenditure of up to $ 1.45m for the remainder of the year 1974-75. These provisions should result in a significant improvement in the standard of accommodation in homeless persons centres.
To protect the Government funds which may be granted for these projects, participating organisations may be required to enter into agreements. These agreements would provide that, in the event of the closing of the centre, the Australian Government’s contribution, based on the proportion of the subsidy paid to the cost of the project, would be recovered. This is similar to provisions in other legislation administered by the Department of Social Security and corresponds with an equivalent provision in the Handicapped Persons Assistance Bill 1974. There will also be subsidies towards other expenses, generally those of a recurrent nature. The 3 year time period mentioned previously in relation to subsidies of a capital nature will not apply to these subsidies for operating expenses.
The Bill offers a subsidy of up to 50 per cent of the salary of a suitably qualified or experienced social welfare worker employed at a homeless persons centre. The term ‘social welfare worker’ includes a social worker, welfare officer, psychologist, occupational therapist or other person providing a service or treatment for homeless people. In special circumstances this subsidy may be paid for more than one staff member at a centre. Provision has been made for expenditure of up to $250,000 for these purposes for the remainder of the year 1974-75. Funds were allocated in Appropriation Act No. 2 for making capital grants and paying salary subsidies. Further amounts will be sought by appropriation as required.
The Bill provides for further subsidies for organisations providing food or accommodation or food only for homeless people, the amounts payable to be fixed by regulation. In accordance with the recommendations of the working party’s report, it is proposed that eligible organisations offering food and accommodation may qualify for a subsidy of up to 75c a day per person accommodated. Similarly, it is proposed that centres providing food only may quality for a subsidy of up to 20c per meal served or meal ticket issued. The rates of these subsidies will be reviewed from time to time in the light of experience and as part of the on-going evaluation of the program. The funds for these subsidies will be provided from the National Welfare Fund and provision has been made for expenditure of up to $550,000 for the remainder of the year 1974-75. As I have just indicated the whole program of assistance will be subject to a thorough and continuous review. The scope, value and standards of the services provided will be monitored and an assessment of the total program will be made prior to the expiration of the first 3 years of its operation.
Earlier announcements regarding the Government’s intention to introduce this worthwhile program, an initiative in a completely new field as far as the Australian Government is concerned, mentioned that statutory authorities would be able to participate. We are mindful of the fact that the main burden in this area has hitherto been carried by voluntary organisations, and their experience and dedication has been long and well established. In view of the interest which the voluntary sector has displayed since the Government’s intentions were made known, and the constraints imposed upon us by the finance available, it seems desirable that in the first instance priority in relation to eligibility for assistance be extended to the voluntary sector. Assistance for voluntary bodies will enable them not only to continue their existing work in this area but also to extend and further develop their activities, including innovative projects. Many of the agencies have been anxious to initiate new approaches but have been hamstrung because of financial limitations.
Accordingly, resources available under the program will, in the first instance, be concentrated on voluntary organisations and local governing bodies. As the scheme develops, and as its operations are assessed and evaluated, its scope may be widened in the light of experience to extend eligibility also to State departments and authorities. Many of the men and women who will benefit from the improved services for the homeless are now receiving income security benefits at rates and under conditions which, in accordance with the Government’s enlightened and progressive policy, have been liberalised dramatically since the end of 1972. They could, therefore, be expected to contribute towards the cost of these services. Eligible organisations receiving grants and subsidies will be able to make an appropriate charge for services provided to the homeless.
Through this program, the Government hopes to achieve a steady improvement in the services available to homeless people. We hope that the improved facilities for temporary accommodation and for rest, nutrition, counselling and treatment, will allow may of the homeless to be given the choice and opportunity of returning to what might be regarded as a normal life. The Government’s belief in social justice, which has been demonstrated by massive inputs to our social welfare program, opens up the possibility of programs such as this leading to a diminution of the problem through the rehabilitation of this group of the socially disadvantaged. This Bill is designed to provide both a reasonable standard of support and increased opportunities for homeless people, enabling them to obtain a place of dignity in the fabric of Australian society.
The Bill provides for the establishment of advisory committees to help develop a coordinated program of assistance. It is hoped to establish these committees as quickly as possible, ensuring that all involved in the welfare of the homeless participate in the work of the committees. The Bill is an expression of this Government’s social conscience and its commitment to assist in a tangible and practical way, people who have become casualties within our competitive society. The measures proposed within the Bill are based on a compassionate understanding of the needs and very real problems and homeless men and women and of their alienation, their loneliness and their despair. Our Government is determined to end such areas of neglect. This Bill is one expression of that determination. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted for the Minister to incorporate his second reading speech? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The Bill before the Senate contains provisions relating to a number of the Government’s activities regarding health insurance and benefits authorised by the National Health Act. Following the election of this Government to office at the end of 1972, we embarked on a diversified legislative program directed to various aspects of our health insurance initiatives. They were twopronged. Our main effort, of course, was directed to the Government’s own health insurance program- culminating with the passing of the Health Insurance Act and the Health Insurance Commission Act. This main effort was supplemented by investigations as to the manner in which the legislation authorising the present voluntary health insurance arrangements could be improved. Proposals directed to improvements to the legislation authorising the present health insurance arrangements were placed before the Government recently. We were then faced with a decision as to whether they should be proceeded with, in view of the imminence of our own health insurance program- scheduled for introduction on 1 July 1 975. On balance it was decided that we should proceed with proposals to improve the legislative controls directed to the present voluntary insurance arrangements so that the improvements to the legislation could apply for the remainder of the life of those arrangements.
The existing private health insurance scheme authorised by the National Health Act, in fact, is a system supported by extremely generous direct and indirect subsidy from the Australian Government and State governments. The health benefit organisations could not have grown to their present significance nor could they continue to operate, except for the very generous support that comes from Government sources, directly and indirectly. For instance, on average over 60 per cent of the cost of medical services covered by medical ‘ insurance is met by direct subsidy from the Australian Government through the health insurance scheme and by indirect subsidy from the same source through tax concessions, which are a cost borne by the Government. In the case of private ward treatment in a public hospital, for instance in New South Wales the fee charged to the patient is currently $39 per day. However, the average bed-day cost of a public hospital bed in that State is estimated to be at least $60 a day. Clearly there is an explicit direct subsidy here, and similarly from Australian Government sources there is a $2 bed-day subsidy paid directly to insured patients, special account subsidies which average approximately $4.50 a day over all patients, plus an indirect subsidy available through the taxation system when hospital fund contributions and net fees are claimed as a concessional deduction.
The overall effect is that Governments, that is Australian and State governments, are meeting in excess of 60 per cent of the average private ward treatment of a patient in a public hospital in New South Wales. Therefore it is clearly in the interests of the people of Australia that the system of a private health insurance scheme should be properly supervised by the Australian Government and it is the clear responsibility of the Government to exercise this supervision. The most important provisions in the Bill are designed to enable the responsible Minister to exercise more effectively this supervision of the operations of the health benefits organisations registered under the National Health Act in a way that will enable the Government of the day to achieve its objectives. The present Government recognises, as have previous Governments, the need for additional measures in this regard. There was established the Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, the Nimmo Committee, which presented its report during 1969, and the Senate also set up its own Committee to enquire into medical and hospital costs. At that time a matter of major concern was the financial policies followed by some of the health benefits organisations. Another matter of concern was that hospital and medical benefits should be more closely related to the fees being charged for hospital and medical services.
Following consideration of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, amendments to the National Health Act were introduced by the previous Government aimed at rectifying some of the unsatisfactory aspects of the health insurance scheme including the two I have already mentioned. The previous Government also announced they would be sponsoring additional measures of the nature of those included in this Bill. The then Minister for Health, the Hon. A. J. Forbes, in his address to the House of Representatives dated 4 March 1970, made the following statement:
In addition to the new measures which I have just mentioned, the Government is considering the introduction of legislation providing for penalties to be imposed on funds’ officers for serious neglect of their responsibilities, and enabling the replacement of funds’ officers by appointed managers in certain circumstances, as proposed in the Nimmo Committee’s recommendation 37.
Recommendation 37 of the Nimmo Committee to which Dr Forbes referred reads as follows:
That organisations and their officers be subject to penalties for any failures to comply with the conditions imposed by and under the National Health Act.
The relevant paragraphs of the Nimmo Committee Report are 14.15 to 14.18 and I would refer all honourable senators to those findings of the Nimmo Committee.
It was recognised by the previous Government, and it has caused concern to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), that where an organisation does not comply with the Act, or actions taken under the Act, ultimately the only course of action available is to cancel the registration of the organisation. This is a most unsatisfactory punitive measure as the penalty falls on the contributor, who is deprived of Australian Government benefits. Furthermore, deregistration would effectively end any control the Australian Government could exercise over reserves. This could, in certain circumstances, be a most unhappy situation for contributors whose money has, in fact, been accumulated in reserves if, for instance, a deregistered fund no longer required to responsibly administer its affairs in the interest of contributors at the direction of the Australian Government, could direct that reserve money into some other commitment which bore no benefit for contributors and over which they had no influence or in which they held no equity. It should be borne in mind, however, that deregistration is the least preferred option. The trouble at the moment is that there are no other options and in an extreme case of a private fund flouting the reasonable directions of Government, nothing but this extremely punitive and unsatisfactory measure is really available to Government, if it wishes to ensure that funds properly discharge their responsibilities to contributors. Following careful consideration of this situation, the Government has framed provisions similar to those in the Insurance Act to protect the interests of contributors which are compatible with the intentions of the previous Government as made clear in the statement by the then Minister for Health. This Government also believes these to be proper measures which should be included in Federal legislation relating to aspects of private insurance to ensure that the administration of such insurance arrangements can be adequately supervised in the interests of contributors.
The Bill includes provisions to enable the Minister, where he believes it to be in the contributor’s interests, to request an organisation to show cause why it should not be investigated in relation to specified matters. Where the organisation fails to satisfy the Minister, and he believes it to be in the contributor’s interests, he may appoint an inspector to conduct an investigation into specified matters relating to the affairs of the organisation. The Bill further provides that after he has considered the report of the inspector, the Minister may take such action consistent with the Act as he considers appropriate. This may include making an application to the Australian Industrial Court for the appointment by the Court of a judicial manager to manage the affairs of the fund or for the fund to be wound-up by the Court.
Provision is included in the Bill to require a judicial manager, appointed by the Court, to conduct the affairs of the fund with the greatest economy consistent with efficiency and to report to the Court, as soon as possible, as to the course of action to be taken in. relation to the fund. This could include recommendations to return the fund to its former management; to transfer all or part of its affairs to another organisation with the consent of the other organisation; or that the fund be wound-up. The Bill provides for funds to be wound-up under the supervision of the Court upon an application and in accordance with a scheme submitted by the Minister, the judicial manager or the organisation conducting the fund. All schemes for winding-up are to be subject to confirmation by the Court which may vary the schemes. The Court is required where practicable to effect the transfer of contributors to a fund to be wound-up to a fund conducted by another registered organisation.
As I stated earlier the arrangements I have outlined are along the lines of arrangements provided for in the Insurance Act and I believe all honourable senators will welcome their enactment as a positive step forward in the protection of the interests of contributors to health benefits funds. The Bill also contains provisions to provide greater flexibility as to the manner in which reserves of medical and hospital funds may be utilised. There has been considerable controversy recently regarding the reserves of funds and it will be to the general advantage of both the funds and the Government if the rigidity at present contained in the Act regarding the reserves is removed. The rigidity arises mainly from sections 67 and 68 of the present Act which provide that the reserves must remain in the fund which has accumulated them and cannot be used for any other purpose, not even to support some other fund of the organisation that is also registered under the National Health Act. To quote an actual example, the reserves of the hospital fund of a leading organisation in Victoria stand at the equivalent of 6.4 months contribution income, whereas the reserves of the medical fund of the same organisation stand at a deficit equivalent to 2.4 months contribution income. Surely it would be a sensible approach to follow if the excess reserves in the hospital fund could be transferred to remove the deficit balance in the medical fund. The BUI provides therefore that an organisation will be permitted to apply to the Minister for the transfer of reserves from one registered fund to another registered fund. It also provides that the Minister may direct the transfer of reserves in this way where the Registration
Committee- the expert committee established under the National Health Act- so recommends.
There is an allied provision that concerns the special accounts operated within medical and hospital funds by registered organisations. These special accounts which are authorised by Part VI, Division 2 of the National Health Act, ensure that contributors continue to receive medical and hospital fund benefits which otherwise they would be denied by the pre-existing, chronic or maximum benefit rules of the organisations restricting the payment of fund benefits. The Government has been very concerned at the tremendous rate of escalation of the cost of these special accounts. For medical and hospital funds combined, Government expenditure on them has risen from $22m in 1970-71 to $55m in 1973-74. The estimated expenditure on special accounts in the current financial year is $77m and this must be revised upwards due to substantial increases in hospital charges. This escalation in Government spending arising from underwriting the activities of health benefits funds through the special account mechanism has occurred at the time when there were extremely large reserves accumulated by the funds. It has now reached the stage where overall 20 per cent of hospital fund benefits are met by the Government through the special account and to quote an example, Government expenditure is now almost one third of the expenditure of one of the major funds on hospital fund benefits.
The special accounts machinery provides a hidden subsidy to medical and hospital benefits funds and the structure of the legislation is such that the system can be manipulated to the advantage of organisations. Of course, most organisations do use the special account machinery in a responsible fashion, but I am concerned that not all approach it in this way. For example, the fund benefits paid from the special accounts for the medical and hospital funds operated by the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia in Queensland increased from $672,000 in the period July to September 1971 to $1,664,000 in the period April to June 1974. Further, the number of contributors transferred to the medical and hospital special accounts of that organisation increased from 277 and 2 1 8 respectively in the period July to September 1971 to 930 and 790 respectively during the period April to June 1 974. It must be realised that the special account system was designed by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government to prop up the health benefits funds. The transfer of contributors by an organisation to a special account it operates is entirely at the option of the organisation in accordance with its rules relating to contributors with pre-existing ailments, who exceed a maximum benefit level or who, in the case of the hospital special account, are chronically ill. The existing legislative provisions are loosely framed to permit the organisations to take advantage of the subsidy provided through the special account arrangements to a much greater extent than this Government believes is proper. There is not even power in the Act for the responsible Minister to withdraw the special account subsidies from an organisation.
The fairly wide margin of interpretation permitted organisations is particularly reflected in the statistics to which I have just referred for the Medical Benefits Fund, Queensland. These figures indicate that this organisation has, since 1971, availed itself more and more of the special account subsidies. This Bill does not propose any revolutionary change to the special account machinery but it does provide that, where it is proper for him to do so, and when he has received a recommendation of the Registration Committee that the moneys standing to the credit of a fund may properly be reduced, the Minister may direct that a portion of any excessive reserves held in a medical or hospital fund may be used to finance, in part, medical and hospital benefits for the long term and chronically ill members of the fund. The specific provision is contained in new section 74c and visualises portion of any excessive reserves being credited to the organisation’s special account for the purpose of providing benefits to high drawing members who, as I have just mentioned, are usually the long term and chronically ill. In any one year in which the Minister makes a direction under this new section, the amount to be transferred is limited to 25 per cent of the amount of the special account defict of the fund in the last completed financial year.
There are provisions in the Bill for directions of the Minister given under new section 74c to be the subject of review. It is intended that the reviews should be conducted by the general administrative appeals tribunal, legislation for which is being prepared by the AttorneyGeneral. However, if it is necessary for a review to be conducted in the interim period before the appeals tribunal is established the Bill provides for an independent tribunal to be established specifically for the purpose of reviewing directions by the Minister. It is intended that the tribunal which may be established by this Bill will comprise three members. One will represent the interests of health benefit organisations, another the interests of contributors to the organisations and that the third member would be a qualified accountant.
The Bill before the Senate also includes provisions relating to four matters associated with the administration and payment of nursing home benefits. The proposed new definition of Government nursing home’ in sub-clause 3 (i) and other clauses provide for public nursing homes in the Australian Territories to be exempted from nursing home admission and fees supervision under the National Health Act as are public nursing homes in the States at present. Clause 15 provides for a specific power to vary by regulation the rates of additional Australian Government nursing home benefits for pensioners with pensioner medical service entitlement and their dependants and the rates of nursing home fund benefits for insured patients.
Clauses 16 and 25 include provisions amending section 57b and 73c of the National Health Act to provide for an increase in the nursing home patient contribution from $2.55 a day to $4.55 a day. Sections 57b and 73c are machinery provisions which are invoked only where the approved fee for a nursing home patient is less than the aggregate of the nursing home benefits payable and the patient contribution. In this situation, the invoking of these provisions means that nursing home benefits are reduced with the effect that patients in all nursing homes pay the same patient contribution. This contribution will be $4.55 a day or $3 1.85 a week and is fixed so as to leave a patient in receipt of the standard rate single pension plus supplementary allowance with approximately $4 a week for personal spending. Clause 42 provides for the incorporation of the rates of additional nursing home benefit, as currently prescribed by regulation, into the Eighth Schedule of the National Health Act with effect from 15 October 1974. There are also a number of provisions in the Bill to effect machinery amendments to the National Health Act to delete provisions relating to the payment of handicapped children’s benefits, to clarify the provisions regarding directions by the Minister under section 73 b and to enable provisions in the National Health Act relating to the supervision of registered organisations to override State laws where the statutes are inconsistent.
I now turn to the two matters provided for in the Bill which fall within the portfolio of my colleague the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham). As announced in the Treasurer’s
Budget Speech, stoma appliances and home dialysis equipment and supplies will be made available free of charge to those who need them. This is yet further evidence of the Government’s determination to provide a high quality health care service and of its acceptance of its special responsibility to assist those members of the community who are sick or disabled.
The Bill will allow for the preservation of the existing hearing aid scheme provided for under the repealed section 9A. It also empowers the Minister for Health to arrange for the provision of such medical or surgical aids, appliances and equipment as are prescribed in Regulations under the Act on such conditions as the Minister thinks fit. It also provides for the making of modifications to a building, vehicle or equipment necessary for the treatment or rehabilitation of the sick or disabled. It is intended, once the necessary regulations have been made, to distribute stoma appliances free of charge through hospitals and stoma associations and home dialysis equipment through hospital dialysistransplantation centres. The Government is at present considering extending the range of aids, appliances and equipment to be made available and the Bill, as drafted, will permit the extension of the scheme from time to time as the needs of disabled groups in the community are assessed.
The second matter provided for in the Bill which comes within my colleague’s portfolio relates to pharmaceutical benefits dispensed through friendly societies’ dispensaries. The National Health Act now restricts in some respects the services that can be given to the general public by some dispensaries run by friendly societies. At present the number of friendly society dispensaries with full approval to dispense benefits to the public has been taken up in both Queensland and South Australia and there are currently 7 dispensaries in Queensland and 5 in South Australia which have only a limited approval to dispense benefits to members of the society, their wives and dependent children under the age of 16 years. The Bill provides that the number of dispensaries with full approvals in Queensland and South Australia be raised to permit dispensaries with limited approval in those States as at 1 November 1974 to be granted full approval. This amendment will have the effect of improving the pharmaceutical service in those States without increasing the number of pharmacies.
The Bill further provides that full-time student dependants of members, up to the maximum age provided for in the rules of the friendly societies concerned, be afforded the same benefits as parent members and children under the age of 1 6 years. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted to the Minister to incorporate his second reading speech? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s decision, as announced in the Budget Speech, to renew the scheme of assistance to the States for housing pensioners and to widen eligibility for accommodation provided with this assistance. Under the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensions) Act 1969 which expired on 30 June 1 974, non-repayable interestfree grants aggregating $25 million were made available to the States at the rate of $5m per year over the period from 1 July 1969 to 30 June 1974 for the provision of self-contained accommodation for single aged pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance. Building schemes were approved to provide a total of 3,325 units of accommodation, of which 3,012 had been completed by 30 June 1974. The new scheme will operate for the period of 3 years from 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1977. A 3 year period has been set because the Department of Housing and Construction has arranged with the Australian Bureau of Statistics for a survey of the housing situation of aged persons, the results of which should be available in the second half of 1975. Depending on the results of this survey, there may be a need to vary the conditions of the scheme and the suggested period of 3 years is designed to allow us to introduce whatever changes are necessary without undue delay.
The Bill widens the eligibility conditions to include, in addition to the single aged pensioners eligible under the previous scheme, the following classes of single pensioners without dependants who are eligible for supplementary assistance: invalid pensioners, service pensioners who are permanently unemployable or suffering from tuberculosis, and Class B widow pensioners. A Class B widow pension is payable to a widow at least 50 years of age without a child or to a widow at least 45 years of age whose Class A pension has stopped because she no longer has a dependant child.
The Bill provides for annual interest-free, nonrepayable grants to the States of $ 10m making a total of $30m over the 3 year period. This compares with annual grants of $5m under the previous scheme. The grants will be apportioned among the States in proportion to the numbers of single pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance in each State. The annual amount payable to each State will be:
The previous scheme did not specify the rents that should be charged for the accommodation provided and, in some States, weekly rents lower than the amount of supplementary assistance are being charged in some instances. As supplementary assistance is paid for the purpose of helping pensioners to meet their rents, the Bill provides that the rent payable for a unit shall not be less than the amount of supplementary assistance. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 December on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In opening my remarks on this Bill last night I drew attention to the fundamental fact that the Commonwealth Constitution provides no power to a Commonwealth Government to legislate directly with regard to urban and regional affairs. That power lies directly and wholly with the States. I pointed out that therefore any attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to move in this direction must be done under section 96 of the Constitution by arrangements with the States. In fact, the nature of this Bill is to seek to make such arrangements. I went on to point out that the first initiative, the genesis of action at the Commonwealth level in urban and regional affairs, was that taken by the McMahon Liberal-Country Party Government in September 1972 when it was foreshadowed, and subsequently put into legislation in the following month, that the Government would :et up what became NURDA- the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. That Authority was set up with the objective of cooperating with the States in all matters relating to urban and regional development. It had as its Chairman Sir John Overall, and the first task given to it was to work out a 5-year plan and to table that plan by June 1973. That was done. The Government changed, NURDA became the Cities Commission, and the Cities Commission tabled that report, which was the basis for subsequent action.
I should also indicate that in late 1972 the McMahon Government foreshadowed a series of major financial undertakings in the urban and regional spheres. For example, there was initiated the proposal that some $80m a year be made available for land acquisition and other matters. In addition, some $330m would be made available over a period for the improvement of public transport, some $95m would be made available in loans and grants to upgrade interstate and intrastate railways, and provision was made to complete vital links through Australia, including Alice Springs, by the standard gauge railway. So a very great deal of programmed work was foreshadowed in late 1972.
I start on the basis that all governments and indeed all sections of the community are as one in desiring to improve the urban environment and to improve what is now known as the quality of life. The real argument, the real test, is not the goal but the methodology of reaching the goal. This Bill sets out a particular methodology, and it is in examination of that methodology that I wish to speak on behalf of the Opposition. When the McMahon Government announced its major intervention in urban and regional affairs it laid down 2 main principles. It said that Commonwealth Government intervention would be one of full co-operation with the States, it would be one of recognition of the essential and primary sovereignty of the States, and it would be one in which the Commonwealth, in denning the principles and reaching agreement with the States, would allow the States to carry out the programs without any oppressive conditions- and that is fundamental to any such program. But under the McMahon Government the Commonwealth went one step further and said this: It is no use developing all sorts of grandiose schemes for growth centres or satellite cities or any other high sounding projects unless the government of the day can guarantee the economic viability of the community which would be established. Quite clearly, it would be a dreadful thing to entice people into a new growth area, to entice them away from their existing jobs and existing communities and then shatter their families .because of the decline in economic structure. Indeed, this became the major principle. In other words, it was clear to the government of the day that the first test of any program should be to develop a national strategy, a national policy, an overall plan, and that that plan must, quite apart from taking into account the attractive qualities of a particular area, look to that area as one which would sustain families economically over the years. This in fact was done, and it was done by that Government in the maintenance in particular of manufacturing policies which provided continuous full employment. The Government of the day recognised that in a country where the major wealth producing industries- agriculture and minerals- were not labour intensive it was the prime duty of government to sustain and to protect industries so that we could have full gainful employment. This was done.
This Bill should be examined against these principles. It should be examined against the fact that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in another place said that the Bill has three main objectives. The first is to approve programs of urban and regional development as between the Commonwealth Minister and the State Minister or Ministers. The second is to provide that the Commonwealth Government can make an agreement with the State governments upon the nature of the financial assistance. The third objective is to provide that the agreements, when made, should be tabled in this Parliament. The speech of the Minister read admirably. The theme advanced by the Minister was that this was a venture in pure cooperative federalism. If indeed the actions of the Commonwealth Government of the past 2 years had demonstrated co-operative federalism I would certainly be the very first to applaud what has happened. The very reverse is true.
But basically, in any case, the stated policies of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Government are fundamentally opposed to entering into co-operative federalism. The Prime Minister has made it clear officially on behalf of his Government that he is determined to produce a centralised government in Australia and not one in which there are State governments and local governments with their sovereignties. That is beyond doubt. In document after document he has spelt that out. He has gone to municipal and shire authorities and told them that he believes that 900 bodies should not exist, that they should be amalgamated into some 40 bodies. He has said in his Fabian lectures that there should be only one parliament, and that the lower House, that all the rest should disappear and that there should be a series of some 40 or 50 regions. The Prime Minister has laid this down. As late as the second half of 1972- almost on the brink of the election in which he was made Prime Ministerthe Prime Minister in his Fabian lecture said these things:
I want you to think about this proposition: Any function of our society which can be hitched to the star of the Commonwealth grows in quality and affluence. Any function or activity which is financially limited to the States will grow slowly or even decline. Further, a function will be fairly financed to the extent that the Commonwealth finds the money for it. A function will be unfairly and inadequately financed if the whole burden falls upon the States.
He said this, of course, in the context of what he had written in his book entitled ‘Labor and the Constitution’. I quote:
Much can be achieved by Labor members of the State parliaments in effectuating Labor’s aims of more effective powers for the national parliament and for local government. Their role is to bring about their own dissolution.
Quite clearly the Prime Minister has laid it on the line that he will not be associated with cooperative federalism, that he will take his Cabinet and his Government into the total centralisation of power. Putting aside words, the essential fact is that his actions have backed this up. In the 2 years that Labor has been the Government there has been a major percentage decline in the amounts of money which have gone to the States by way of direct reimbursement grants, and there has been a major percentage increase in the amount of money which has gone to the States by way of tied grants. The percentage of tied grants, when compared with the total percentage, has risen very significantly. The percentage of untied reimbursement grants has fallen very significantly. That is utterly demonstrable.
Equally we had the quite extraordinary situation of the Prime Minister going to the Premiers Conference which was held before this recent Federal Budget was introduced and calling upon and demanding of the Premiers that they should cut their spending. He said that there must be a cut in State spending because this was absolutely necessary to overcome inflation. He went on to say, incidentally, that the Premiers had asked for more money for loan funds and they had based their request upon the fact that inflation- this was in June- July- was running at 1 3 per cent and they would need more money because of that. They based it on the assumption that inflation would increase. The Prime Minister rejected the premise that inflation would increase, although in fact it has almost doubled since then. He insisted on the States cutting back their spending but, of course, in his own Budget he increased Commonwealth spending by 33 per cent. That is the situation in which we face this so-called cooperative federalism.
The States themselves have been confronted by the impact of the Government’s policies in this way: Every local council- I had something to say in the Senate a few days ago on thisconfronted with inflation, confronted with a credit squeeze and the worsening economic conditions, is now in a state of severe financial crisis. This morning I heard on a news broadcast that the Gunning Shire Council is cutting its work program, is sacking its people, because of its reduction in spending power as a result of reduced revenue from rates. No doubt it has had difficulty in borrowing money because of the credit squeeze and is therefore faced with limited funds. If this is the Commonwealth Government’s program to widen urban and regional development, then of course it should be one that will progressively move into the shires and municipalities in order to assist them. The simple fact is that despite the noise being made about local government bodies receiving money through the Grants Commission, these grants represent petty cash in the present situation. They simply help to lessen the deficit that has resulted from inflation. The failure of their borrowing programs is such that these grants would represent only a fiddling amount of finance which could be used in an attempt to offset these deficits. Every local government body that I visited had the same tale. They said: ‘We are asked to fill in forms; we are asked to make phone calls; we are subjected to questionnaires; we are subjected to duplicated visits by Commonwealth officers; we are incurring enormous time and enormous expense in filling in forms, and out of it we get nothing at all’. Let me express this sort of feeling in the words of a member of the State Premiers. I invited the various Premiers to comment upon the nature of this Bill. The Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, wrote to me by telex as follows:
Our Government’s experience of co-operative federalism is that it is not working. We would welcome the opportunity of being invited to consult as equals with the Commonwealth Government:
In the formation of policy within which States and local government are expected to perform:
In the creation of ground rules for the introduction of various programs.
There is an urgent need for the Commonwealth Government to recognise our traditional constitutional responsibilities and act accordingly to ensure that the resource of people and material is not wasted as at present.
Briefly there is:
A lack of co-operative federalism: Inadequate consultation through poor recognition of the part to be played by the State and local councils: Duplication of effort: Overlapping of functions:
Because of the lack of real consultation, clear guidelines are not available and programs are not integrated.
The Western Australian Premier goes on in much longer terms to point out the difficulties, the arguments and the frustrations that have been experienced through the various programs. The Leader of the Opposition in South Australia, Dr Eastick, had this to say:
We … are concerned at strictures placed by Commonwealth direction on States which might conflict with their own priorities. States ought not to be tied to future substantialrepayments of interest and principal on loan moneys without having largest say in deciding programs being thus financed.
The Treasurer of the Queensland State Government, Sir Gordon Chalk, in a long letter of response pointed out all these things that Sir Charles Court had said and added: ‘Why could not the Australian Government give the States the money by way of reimbursement grants and let the States do these things?’. He went on to point out that the method at this moment involved enormous delays, with promised money for programs coming forward half a year or more later, and therefore added nothing to the attempt to rehabilitate the community in this present situation of growing unemployment. His letter echoed that of Sir Charles Court.
The Minister for State Development and Decentralisation in Victoria, Mr Murray Byrne, reiterated these points. He said:
The State Government must establish its own priorities in its Budget. The legislation could well be used by the Commonwealth to establish a different order of priorities. With the power of approval given the Commonwealth Minister by sections 4 and 7, it could well prove that the ‘approval of programs’ vested in him could result in an imposition of Commonwealth priorities.
He went on to point out that delays in making money available make planning extremely difficult and said:
Despite all the assurances given by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, money made available for land purchases in the Albury-Wodonga region has now all been spent and the States have had to cease land purchases. It is essential that the Commonwealth honour promises made by them in connection with Albury-Wodonga and lift from the two States the unnecessary burdens placed on them by the dilatoriness of the Commonwealth.
For most of the 1973-74 financial year, moneys allocated to the rural city of Wodonga by the Commonwealth were not available and additional works had to be paid for by either bank overdraft or moneys made available from the State to ensure contractors were paid.
He then added, in relation to expensive duplication, the following statement:
The administrative cost associated with pursuing this course appears to be a matter of no consequence to the present Commonwealth regime.
This duplication of resources and effort is a matter to be deplored and it is without doubt that the States and municipal administration machinery which has been built up and perfected over an extraordinarily long period of time could be used by the Commonwealth to a greater extent than it currently is and would without doubt, be far more economical to the people of Australia.
The Minister for Local Government and Planning in Victoria, Mr Allan Hunt, has said exactly the same things. He has drawn attention to the fact that although the Bill and the Minister suggest that this is co-operation it is in fact coercion. I pause there to say that when I refer to clause 7 of the Bill I am referring to the clause 7 which was in the Bill in another place.
– It was deleted.
– I acknowledge the fact that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development when approached agreed to the deletion of that clause and I thank him through Senator Cavanagh. Clause 7 therefore is not pertinent now. However it does point out that in agreements which are to be made with the States coercive provisions are made and are likely to be made. The main criticism- and I do not want to be a carping critic- of this Bill and of the Government’s action is that the Commonwealth seeks to intrude its tentacles right through to the grass roots of the community. It does not seek merely to create, initiate or help form a good idea. It does not seek merely to provide the finance from its coffers as the main tax raiser. It does not seek simply to confer, to consult and to co-operate with State governments, municipalities or shires. The very reverse is true. It demands of them a massive series of impositions. It enforces certain inelastic lines of action, the effect of which is that the Commonwealth more and more is dictating a predominant part of the activities of a State. If the Commonwealth prescribes and enforces the marginal operations of a State Budget and what the State does with its own flexible amounts, it is imposing its will on the whole State because it takes that flexibility away from the State.
The real grouch and the real criticism by the States and local government is not with the goal or concept. That is shared by governments and people alike. The idea of improving our cities, the idea of giving better breathing lungs to our growth areas, the idea of giving people an opportunity to decentralise are first class objectives. It is the methodology that is criticised. The argument is that the States are being forced into being merely puppets of the Commonwealth. The local municipalities and shires have been forced into regions. They were told they would have direct access to the Grants Commission but, of course, they did not. They had to form regions and approach the Minister cap in hand and ask for permission, and the money will go through the regions. The variety of different activities within the regions, the duplication of functions and the expenditure of money are such that they are extravagant, wasteful and extremely irritating. They can be done better by those people who are elected by the people of Australia to do these very things.
For example, when I go into an area, a municipality or shire, I seek to find out what is happening in terms of area improvement grants, Australian assistance grants, sewerage, water supply, sporting and recreation, and all I am told is an enormous story of forms that have to be filled in and of telephone calls that have to be made while nothing is done. That is the general picture. It is the picture of a government which was criticised by visiting experts from overseas who were invited to come here and look at the national urban and regional programs. Those experts pointed out that the fundamental error of the programs was that there was no national strategy and no national policy. They pointed out the need to ensure the viability of these areas.
I conclude with this question: If the Government is sincere, and I think it is, in wanting a better way of life for people, particularly for the underprivileged, why does it not do these things by consultation? Why does it seek by so much oppressive demand to make almost inelastic the activities of the States? We heard in this Senate yesterday the incredible story of one State saying that in the preparation of the documents necessary to justify its road grant it spent $700,000. The magnitude of that defies the mind. I was told that one stack of submissions on the road grants by one State stood nearly 3 feet tall. I received yesterday from a shire in Victoria a pile of submissions it has made. It stands on my desk and is some 2 inches or 3 inches thick. It has, of course, attracted no response. We will follow that up. But what an extraordinary situation it is. If we measure success by the amount of paper work done we must compliment these people. But why does not the Government simply say to the States or local governments: ‘You are the people who are nearest to the people; you are nearest to the problem. We want an agreement from you that you will carry out these things. In the particularities with which you carry them out use your own initiative, use your own imagination’. Why should the Government get involved in this? We hear about municipalities and shires being short of funds. We heard a report on the news this morning of a municipality or a shire that is desperately short of funds because its roads grants were cut back by $100,000. What use is it to a shire if on the one hand it gets a few thousand dollars in local government grants if its road grants are cut back by $ 100,000? Where is the sense in this kind of thing? One cannot measure success of government policies by the business of intrusion. It must be measured by the result. Therefore we have before us not a program of co-operative federalism, but a program specified by the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. It is a program designed to destroy the States and to amalgamate local government. That statement cannot be argued because the Prime Minister has said it is so. Does anyone say that the Leader of the Government is not speaking authoritatively or is not putting the policy of the Party?
– So did the committee appointed by the New South Wales Government.
-Senator Gietzelt acknowledges that it is the policy of his Party. I am grateful for his intervention. I am merely saying that the assertion in the speech of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, that this is a Bill for co-operative federalism is not so. It is a Bill for the centralisation of power and indeed the destruction of the other tiers of government. The Bill seeks to put into future Appropriation Bills what are now single line entries in the back of this Bill. I do not criticise the amounts or the items as such. But an item such as Urban expansion and re-development, $124,750,000’ as a single line item ought to be spelt out so that this Parliament can investigate it. There is no doubt that if we seek information on any one of these items we can get it.
There is provision in the Bill for the tabling of agreements between the States and the Commonwealth. I commend that. I would hope that this Senate would have the opportunity and the facilities made available to it to debate such agreements because they are important. This Bill is really an umbrella piece of legislation. In the past the Department has sought to do by individual pieces of legislation what it now seeks to do under an umbrella piece of legislation. Having secured the deletion of clause 7 from the Bill the Opposition does not oppose the Bill as it now stands. It does, however, urge the Government in reaching agreements with the States to be less coercive and to be more co-operative and to give the States the opportunity to function according to the principles employed in carrying out their jobs in the way they know. The Opposition urges the Government to stop the nonsense of this paper war, to cut out the gross and lavish expenditure on form filling that is going on, to stop the irritation caused by the little men with forms and questionnaires tearing all over Australia and to get on with the job of achieving true co-operative federalism. On that basis and in the spirit that the former Liberal Government set out the guidelines and set out some major policies running into hundreds of millions of dollars for this purpose, I support the Bill and give it a speedy passage through the Senate.
– The Senate and the Australian people have been subjected to another long tirade of misrepresentation about the objectives of the Government by Senator Carrick. He has again, in accepting the Government’s legislation, developed a line of argument which has been common to him since the change of government took place in 1 972. At the end of 1 974 we can say that the Australian Government has scored something like 430 good runs for the Australian people. The Opposition has been well and truly trounced as this Bill has been passed through the House of Representatives and in many cases adopted by this Senate in the spirit that characterised Senator Carrick in the debate this afternoon. The Opposition Parties, of course, tried to come back in May 1974 but they misjudged and mistimed their attack and were well and truly run out as indeed they will be when the Australian people have a real opportunity and an objective opportunity to examine the legislative program of this Government.
Senator Carrick talked about the submissions he has received from State governments and local government. He did not, of course, tell the Senate that prior to 1972 submissions on this subject received no consideration at all from Liberal-Country Party governments. The plain facts are that Liberal-Country Party governments refused for 22 lA years to concern themselves with matters associated with urban and regional development. Let me quote what the late Prime Minister Harold Holt said in October 1966. He said:
In an economy where home building is overwhelmingly the function of private enterprise, the Commonwealth, although it may indirectly influence the level of home building, is not in a position to make overall plans to ensure that they will be carried out. It still remains our firm view that the task of forecasting housing demands and performance over a period of years is not one for the Government to undertake.
And of course it was Prime Minister McMahon who said, speaking at a local government function in a town in Victoria in March 1972, that there were some people in the Parliament who had an obsession about urban affairs. We have been again treated to another Liberal lament from Liberals who have missed the bus in respect of the urban scene and who have failed to perceive the great changes that have taken place in the post-war years in Australia. To blame this Government, as I have heard Opposition speakers do time and time again, for the high cost of land and accommodation is to ignore the fact that the Australian Government when in the hands of the Opposition refused consistently to accept any responsibility for this area. It left it entirely to the State governments to provide serviced land for the developing nation. It was the Australian Labor Party that first recognised the need to become involved in the urban scene. I want to quote from our 1969 conference. We said that we would:
In this very Bill we say that the Australian Government believes that this situation of housing shortage has come about because of inadequate public capital investment in the processes of land acquisition and development has made those processes inefficient over the years. In this very Bill, the Government has shown its ability to negotiate with the States. In the acquisition program that is set out New South Wales is to acquire 500 hectares of land, Victoria is to spend $3. 5m to acquire open space on the Mornington Peninsula and is to purchase another 850 hectares of land for urban residential development in Melbourne.
South Australia is to acquire 2,500 hectares. Negotiations are still proceeding in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. Of course this will take a time to achieve. After all, the Australian Government has been obstructed for the years that it has been in office by the Opposition and by the intransigent position of State governments where Liberal and Country Parties are in the majority. This Bill sets out to provide $258m for land acquisitions and $110m for sewerage, which Senator Carrick completely ignores in his contribution. This Government inherited, as a result of the neglect of honourable senators opposite, the situation that one and a half million people in the capital cities of Australia are living in non-sewered areas. In this Bill the Government is providing, for the second time in the 2 years it has been in office, $ 1 10m to make up the backlog and to overcome the ludicrous position whereby something in excess of every dollar that is collected by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and by the Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board goes out in capital and interest repayments on loans for services rendered in years past, nullifying the efforts of the construction authorities to keep abreast of development.
Honourable senators opposite say nothing about the $5. 75m a year set aside for the National Estate. That area was completely forgotten and not recognised by the previous Government. Instead of the Government’s getting some credit for this we are subjected time and time again to a tirade of abuse and misrepresentation of the Government’s objectives which were clearly set out by the present Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, when he was Leader of the Opposition. He pointed out that the Australian Labor Government would accept its social, political and economic responsibilities in respect of town planning and solving the problems of urban blight and regional development. What have we done? Is it conceded by the Opposition that we have reached agreement with the New South Wales Government in respect of the Bathurst-Orange growth centre and the AlburyWodonga growth centre? Is it conceded by the Opposition that we are now discussing with the New South Wales Government the proposition of Gosford- Wyong being a growth centre? Is it said by the Opposition speakers that there is no agreement with the Victorian Liberal Government for the development of Geelong as a growth centre? One could go on and on defending the objectives of the Government against this sort of onslaught and tirade of abuse to which we have been subjected, particularly by Senator Carrick.
Government members are at a disadvantage because we recognise that if we match speaker with speaker, argument with argument and logic with logic we will never complete our program. Therefore it is not possible to answer all of the questions that have been raised by Senator Carrick. All I can say is that the Bill appropriates moneys as a result of discussions and agreements reached with the State governments. Surely it is logical for the Commonwealth to set aside the amounts of money it is now making available to the States. In 1973 we made in direct payments to the States for the purposes of education, health, urban affairs, culture, recreation and housing, $2,449m. In this year’s Budget- and this is the subject of this Bm- $3,790m is to be made available. This is an increase of 55 per cent on the previous year. In the year about which Senator Carrick speaks the Bill concerning the National Urban and Regional Development Authority was regarded as an interim piece of legislation and was introduced some 6 weeks before the Parliament was dissolved for the purpose of fighting the 1972 general election. Members of the Opposition missed the bus; they have not as yet caught up with the contemporary needs and with the needs of the community. They spend so much of the time in the Senate endeavouring to divert the attention of the Senate and of the Australian people from the positive programs of the Government, programs which clearly will take years before the full effects will be understood by the Australian people, but programs which will radically alter the growth patterns in our cities as we set out consciously to divert the population from the urban areas into the regional centres on which agreement has already been reached with the State governments.
Of course we know that the Government, from time to time, has indicated its preparedness to consider Townsville as a growth centre and its preparedness to accept the South Australian Government’s proposition about Monarto. We know of the sour grapes that have come from the Liberals in South Australia because they do not agree with the proposition that Monarto should be a growth centre. Because the Australian Government accepts this, it is regarded by Senator Carrick and his friends as being not part of co-operative federalism. One has to agree completely with the philosophy, the concept and the inadequacies of the last 20-odd years if one is to accept that this Government is not carrying out its responsibilities. The 400-odd Bills that have been through this Parliament have all been designed to create a more equal society and to ensure that people, whether they live in Kuringgai and enjoy much better urban standards than do the people in Mount Druitt and some other parts ofthe new suburbs of Sydney, will have adequate community facilities. This is just another one of the milestones that the Government has placed before the Parliament for its consideration.
I wish that some day we will have from the Opposition some acknowledgment of the motivation of the Government as it seeks to catch up on the years of neglect by the previous administration. No one can say that the present urban scene was something that just descended as at I December 1 972. It was something that was apparent even in 1 949. The debates in the Parliament at that time indicate the warnings of Labor speakers that unless Commonwealth responsibility for finance, planning and other aspects was accepted in this area we would finally reach a point where we would suffer in our environment and in our quality of life. Yet on every Bill that the Government presents to this Parliament for the purpose of catching up on those years when this matter was not considered to be part of Commonwealth responsibility we have been subjected to the sort of debating skills for which Senator Carrick is now notorious in this chamber. I urge the adoption of the Bill because I believe it is a very important step forward in improving the life style ofthe Australian people.
– in reply- I am grateful to the Opposition for its support of this Bill and, despite what possibly may have been unnecessary delay in speaking to it for a reasonably speedy passage. I thank Senator Carrick for his statements about what the BUI seeks to do and about the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who is responsible for the Bill. Nowhere have we seen or heard any complaint about the Bill. I think we all realise that Senator Carrick is quite a brilliant orator and very persuasive. He even persuaded me. I do not think anyone can claim that a pile of papers 3 feet high is needed for the purpose of getting a loan from the Government. It may have been an exaggeration for the purpose of demonstrating a point. Much less voluminous paper work should be necessary. Of course all this has no relation to the Bill.
The Bill, as Senator Carrick pointed out, seeks to do 3 things. Two of these are consultation with the States and agreement with the States. The third is to ensure that when the agreement is reached it is filed here. Because this is the type of action that Senator Carrick wants of this Government he condemned the Government’s action in other aspects because we are not doing the same thing. He went on to refer to the philosophy of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)- what he said in a Fabian lecture and what he said in his book on Labor and the Constitution in which he says that there must be more control. I think thatSenator Gietzelt replied to this when he said that we have introduced a lot of legislation for the purpose of improving the standard of living of the Australian community. At times when it has been found that there have been many mistakes and faults in areas under State control we have had to come in and impose conditions on the States. This Bill does not do that. As Senator Carrick said, even if the Minister desired to do that he has not got the power to do so. Therefore, there is no disagreement about this Bill at all.
The only opposition to this Bill related to clause 7(3), and the Opposition in the other place sought to amend the clause. The clause required the States to provide to the Minister the information that he desired in relation to programs. As I said, the Opposition in the other place objected to this clause. I think that the Minister would have been justified in keeping it in the Bill- at least he had the power to do so- but graciously he said that in this matter there will be full co-operation with the States and he agreed to the Opposition’s request to take that provision out of the Bill. He demonstrated his cooperation. I believe that the Opposition in the other place agreed that the Minister should have the information which he required submitted to him.
The only other point I make- I do not want to make politics out of this- is that it grieves Senator Carrick to think that a Bill with which he wholeheartedly agrees, which he propagates and which he says should be followed by other Bills, is the product of this Government. He tries to detract from that somewhat by saying: ‘We thought of it. We planned it in 1972. The McMahon Government set up DURD and it turned into the Cities Commission’. That was possibly so, and I do not want to take away any credit that may be due to the McMahon Government. But the Liberal-Country Party Government had 23 years in which to set up this department and it did so only in 1972.
We have seen the concentration of population in the cities and the creation of sub-standard living conditions. This Government is acting and it is determined to act to deal with this problem. It has introduced this Bill which provides for complete co-operation with the States. We are prepared to back it up financially for the purpose of developing this program. At least give us credit for that. Although, by agreeing to this Bill, it could be suggested that the Opposition is giving some credit to this Government, the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. I thank the Opposition for its assistance in getting the Bill through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 3 December. Clause 5.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I did not participate in this debate yesterday afternoon but I was aware of the developments which were taking place. The Bill passed through the House of Representatives and was accepted at its second reading stage by the Opposition in this place. Now that we are in Committee and are considering clause 5, we recognise that the Government is proposing an amendment. It is the nature of that amendment which has aroused some concern from the Opposition. When progress was reported last night Senator Missen had indicated his concern about the language of the amendment proposed by the Government and what might be its possible consequences. There have been discussions in the intervening period.
I address myself to some of the problems which this Bill has raised and, in particular, which this clause and the Government’s proposed amendment highlight. It is recognised that the foreign exchange control regulations have in many respects not been observed. The fact that those regulations have not been observed has given rise to this Bill. The Bill has 2 aspects. The first is that it is designed to improve the regulations under which exchange is controlled by the Reserve Bank. I would have thought that everyone would welcome the proposed changes and would accept that it is proper that we have efficient regulations which are clearly worded and which give adequate powers to achieve the purposes of exchange control.
The second aspect, however, is a vastly greater question. It is concerned with the validation of acts which have taken place in the past and giving to the agreements and arrangements which have been made by individuals and companies a lawfulness which, without validation, they may not have. This, of course, is retrospective legislation. I have a very strong antipathy to any form of retrospective legislation. One recognises that retrospective legislation may be necessary from time to time to cure defects which arise as a result of unintended effects flowing from an unexpected court decision. From time to time problems of that character necessitate action. On other occasions, a situation is seen to exist where it is felt that people are taking advantage in a wrongful way of what is a right under existing law. When retrospective legislation is introduced to cure that situation, it ought to be looked at very carefully. I think we all have had experience of the difficulties of saying that under no circumstances and with no exceptions can we agree to retrospective legislation. But I would hope that the general tenor of the approach of all parties in Australia is against retrospective legislation. For my part, I dislike it intensely and I regret that the Government has seen fit to introduce clause S into this legislation.
I believe that if people have established their rights in a pre-existing situation and if some people have taken advantage of provisions which it was not anticipated they would take advantage of, that is the way the lot should fall. I appreciate that some unmeritorious actions can be taken in those circumstances. But that is what is involved in legislation which is not faithfully observed and where one party is possibly less astute than it should be, or one party takes advantage of a situation when it was not intended or expected by the other party that that advantage would be taken. That is one aspect of this whole situation.
What the Government has sought to do by the original Bill is to validate all acts done or transactions entered into before the commencement of the legislation. The Bill says that the validity of such acts and transactions shall not be called into question in any proceedings on the ground that a provision of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations has not been complied with, but it keeps open any question of criminal prosecution. The Government’s proposed amendment seeks to alter that type of qualification and to say that no act or thing done and no contract or other transaction entered into before the commencement of this Act shall be deemed to be or ever to have been invalid or unenforceable by reason only that a provision of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations has not been complied with. It seems to me that all the amendment has effectually sought to do is to say that if proceedings have been entered into, those proceedings may be continued because the exception to the proposed amendment is that the deeming ofthe validity shall not apply to any act, thing, contract or other transaction the validity of which has before 3 December 1974 been called into question for that reason in any proceedings. So if there are court proceedings at the moment those proceedings may be pursued to completion on the basis that if there was a non-compliance with the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations that right is able to be preserved.
Is that a better position than the existing position? I can see some advantages. I can see many disadvantages. I feel that this is part of the problem of what must occur once one starts to engage in retrospective legislation. I would welcome the opportunity of being able to give further consideration to this matter. I do not know whether the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) is prepared to consider standing this matter over for further consideration until, I would hope, tomorrow- I appreciate that it should not be stood over for a period longer than that- to enable these matters to be looked at. I must say that there are several matters to which my attention has been drawn since this developed as a matter of some interest.
I am wondering to what extent the general rules of private international law have been taken account of in relation to the provisions of the Bill and the amendment which is proposed to them. If, for example, an Australian creditor and a foreign debtor have a contract and the contract is guaranteed by an Australian resident, that Australian resident could be put in a most embarrassing position. In Australia, as a result of this amendment being carried, the guarantor can be required to pay the amount which he has guaranteed because the prime liability has been validated by this amendment. But if a guarantor who is required to pay, because clearly an obligation is now to be established by this validating provision, seeks overseas to recover from his principal debtor he will find that he is unable to recover because the validating provision in Australia will not apply overseas. My attention has been drawn to, and I have looked at, the Schedule to the International Monetary Agreements Act of 1947 in which quite specifically it is stated:
Exchange contracts which involve the currency of any member and which are contrary to the exchange control regulations of that member, maintained or imposed consistently with the Agreement, shall be unenforceable in the Territories of any member.
They shall be unenforceable therefore in the United States of America. It is immaterial whether we have some procedural or deeming provision in this country which seeks to overcome the effects of that provision of what is popularly known as the Bretton Woods Agreement. Nothing was said about this matter by the Minister in his second reading speech. Nothing has been said about it in the debate. I wish the Government would explain how it is going to overcome that particular problem. Is hardship not going to be caused to some people? Are questions not likely to be asked in the future if someone, in a way that is not now anticipated, finds himself caught in a deadlock which arises as a result of this validating provision? What of the situation in which a person sues upon a debt in Australia and is able to recover a judgment in Australia by virtue of his reliance upon the provision which is being inserted in this Bill and then seeks to enforce the judgment overseas and is met by the provision of the International Monetary Agreement that one cannot enforce a judgment of that character overseas? That is an unintended result- a hardship- which is neither referred to in the Bill nor explained in anything which I have read by way of explanation of the purposes of the measure.
There are a number of other problems which I think have not really been touched on or considered either by the original provision or the proposed amendment to it. If there are several guarantors of a liability or there are several parties which may be liable in respect of a particular debt, and if some are resident within Australia and some are resident outside Australia, how are the provisions to operate in respect of those people? Are those in Australia to find themselves liable and those outside Australia not to be liable? What is the right of contribution amongst the parties? People might say that these are problems which a court can resolve in due course. I am sure that a court could, but it could work out in a way that some person bears the whole loss, being made to pay in this country and not being able to recover outside of this country. It may be that the Minister may provide an answer which is satisfying to the matters to which I am referring. If so, I will be more than satisfied. But I have not seen one in any of the material which has been put forward. For that reason, and to permit some discussion to take place in these areas, I ask the Minister, in an area in which there is no disagreement with the broad principles of the Bill, to stand over further consideration of the Bill until tomorrow. 1 would appreciate some response from him.
– Order! Senator Wriedt, it has been suggested that it might assist the purposes of the Committee if you were to indicate the nature of the amendment you propose to move, if you propose to move one, so that other honourable senators will be aware of what is involved.
– At the moment I would prefer to comment on Senator Greenwood’s remarks. Senator Greenwood is in fact seeking a further deferment of the consideration of this legislation. We discussed this Bill in this chamber yesterday and the Government agreed then to defer further consideration of it until today on the basis of the objections that were raised by Senator Missen. I indicated then that, in view of the contentious nature of the proposed amendments and the legalities involved, I would agree to a deferral of the consideration of the Bill to enable further consideration to be given to the matter by both the Government and the Opposition. That has been done. I do not believe that further deferment of consideration of the legislation is warranted.
It is true that there are certain loopholes in the present Act. The whole purpose of the provisions contained in the Bill and the amendments is to tighten them and to ensure that the regulations which are imposed are properly observed. I know that it is not the desire of the Government to effect any legislation which might prejudice the rights of any person who may have contrac.tural obligations along the lines Senator Greenwood has indicated, but it is necessary to have these regulations clearly defined. That, of course, is the whole intention of the Government. The proposed amendment by the Government to clause 5 would have the effect of deeming acts or transactions which lack the appropriate exchange control authority not to be invalid. This provision is similar to the provision that has already been passed by the Committee in clause 3 (6). There are large numbers of contracts and collateral contracts between residents of Australia and non-residents that may need to be enforceable in the courts of other countries, and this amendment, by validating such acts or transactions, would assist enforcement of such contracts in overseas courts. The amendment in no way limits the Treasurer’s powers to approve criminal proceedings under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations against persons who have not obtained the appropriate exchange control authority. Consequently, on behalf of the Government I move:
The Government will proceed with that amendment. I understand that Senator Missen will proceed with his amendment to clause 5 (1) (a). I believe that is the course that the Committee should now follow.
-It is not my understanding of what was to happen. I understood that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) had prepared a slightly changed form of my amendment and had added it at the end of clause 5 ( 1 ) (a) which he showed me a few minutes ago. I understood that the Government was to move an amendment including the draft which Senator Murphy had.
– I think the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) did intend that the further amendment that was originally proposed by Senator Missen would be added to clause 5 ( 1 ) (a). The words sought to be added after the word ‘date’ are: except proceedings in which the court holds that it is just and equitable that the act, thing, contract or other transaction should be treated as being valid.
I understand that that is the original intent of Senator Missen ‘s amendment, but it is tighter and tidier wording. I seek leave to amend my previous amendment to include those words.
– Is leave granted?
– Could I see a copy of the words as they will appear? One does not wish to be obstructive but this is a very difficult area. My only inquiry is whether I could have a copy of the amendment as it will appear. We are here moving into an area in which the validity or invalidity of actions involving millions of dollars can mean an enormous amount to individuals, to companies, to shareholders and to creditors of companies. That is just one aspect of the problem. I think that before we make any decision we should be able to see what is being proposed.
– The request by Senator Greenwood is undoubtedly a reasonable one. Unfortunately because of the change in the amendment it had not been possible previously to get the amendment printed. Copies are now ready, and Senator Greenwood has a copy. I would hope that would be sufficient clarification for him.
-Perhaps I should indicate that it will be my intention not to proceed with the amendment that was originally circulated in my name, upon the passing of this amendment.
– The question is that leave be granted to Senator Wriedt to amend his amendment. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I rise again because I feel that answers to questions that I have been asking for are not being given. It may be that the answers will not be forthcoming, but let that be the record if the answers are not forthcoming. I want to know, firstly, why we are engaging in validation. Why must we validate situations which have existed in the past in which certain persons have secured certain rights? Secondly, if we are engaging in this validation for good and proper reason why does the validity apply only to existing proceedings? I understand that there are people who have relied upon their rights under the old banking exchange regulations and who have secured judgments or have had judgments entered against them. No alteration is being made to that position. There are persons who may be contemplating, because they are in a position to contemplate, what action they may take but who on 3 December had not instituted proceedings. They would find that their rights are taken away.
Thirdly, we have the position in which proceedings have been taken and, providing the proceedings are on foot at 3 December of this year, those proceedings may be completed and rights will be determined on the basis of the preexisting law- on the basis of what people did or did not do under the earlier banking exchange regulations. Fourthly, as a result of the amendment that has now been brought in the Government is giving a discretion to a court to say that some of those proceedings may be regarded as able to be completed and judgment entered for a successful plaintiff, and other proceedings may not be completed because it will be left to the court to decide what is just and equitable.
This concept of what is just and equitable by and large is opposed by lawyers. We certainly find that judges do not like exercising powers of this character because out of the blue, as it were, they have to decide what is a just and worthy case and what is not. Without guidelines, discretion and criteria to govern the situation one finds that some injustices can arise. One judge may find, on a particular set of facts, that the action is just and equitable but another judge, on the same set of facts, may find precisely the opposite.
I regret very much the way in which this matter is developing. I regret very much that the Government has not been forthcoming with any explanation and I regret very much the way in which retrospectivity is being applied in a manner which can work injustice. Again I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer to explain how it is that these international ramifications are to be overcome. This amendment does not deal with those international questions. It merely accentuates some of the problems which will arise where, as I have said, there is a guarantor who will be made liable in Australia as a result of this amendment and has no redress available to him when he seeks to recover his principal debt overseas. Is that fair? I ask the Minister to give some explanation.
– It should be acknowledged that it would be impossible to enact legislation which would bring about the water tight position that Senator Greenwood seems to seek. Obviously courts will vary in their findings. Individual lawyers and judges will vary in their interpretation of what is just and equitable. But the Government has a prime responsibility, as I mentioned earlier, to ensure that the legislation is as effective as it can possibly be. We have the option of taking no action. I do not think the Government could be expected to do that simply because of the possibility of various findings by a court or judges. That is my understanding of the position.
Under the present legislation, in the absence of the proper exchange control authority, not only could a transaction between a resident of Australia and an overseas resident be illegal and subject to penalty under the Banking Act; it could also be null and void. In most cases where proper exchange control authority is not obtained the persons involved would be unaware of the need to obtain approval, and in many cases the absence of exchange control approval would not present a problem to the parties concerned. The fact that such contracts could be invalid could lead to people using the alleged invalidity of such transactions to renege on their debts for other obligations. Clearly this would be undesirable. Clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill were designed to validate transactions already entered into without exchange control approval. It is really a matter of the Government going virtually as far as it possibly can in providing the security of the legislation. Despite the fact that there could be some areas as indicated by Senator Greenwood where difficulties could arise in the future I do not believe it would be possible, and it certainly would not be desirable, for this Parliament to reject the legislation and therefore reject the Government’s intention to make it as practical and as effective as possible.
– I will not enter into the debate as to the matters which Senator Greenwood has raised and which perhaps ought to be covered in view of the various problems which obviously exist in this area. I want to say in regard to that part of the amendment which the Government has accepted, and which basically is similar to the one I moved last night, that it deals with an exception. It deals with a situation where some cases have commenced before 3 December and the defence of illegality has been raised. I understand from inquiry that only a relatively few cases would be involved in that particular exception. Thus the just and equitable situation will have to be determined by courts in a relatively few number of cases. It is not as though we are creating something which will provide for many years a difficulty in which a long line of cases will have to be developed. I suggest that the relatively few current litigations is a factor that ought to be taken into account in considering the amendment.
– Is the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wreidt) able to say whether what Senator Missen said is correct? Are there a number of cases? Who are the persons involved in the cases? Why should these cases be singled out? One hears all sorts of stories and I do not give public credence to any of them but I think that this is one of those areas where enormous difficulties can arise simply because it is thought that someone has been favoured as a result of this action being taken and that someone has been prejudiced. This is the sort of situation which arises once you start picking and choosing as to whose actions in the past are to be regarded as validated and whose are not.
I view this whole exercise with the greatest abhorrence. It is not helped by the fact that the Minister- I say nothing against him personally because I appreciate his position- has said that he does not see how it is possible to overcome some of these problems which may arise. The fact is that the Minister recognises that it is undesirable for people to renege on their obligations. Everyone agrees with that statement. Nothing which I say is to be taken as otherwise. But if people can renege, and do renege, on their obligations, someone will suffer. It may be the party with whom they have directly dealt or it may be some insurance company or some guarantor of the person with whom they have directly dealt who has to pay out in circumstances where he, or the company, has quite honourably taken on an obligation. A guarantor, an insurance company, in those circumstances may well feel that it has adequate redress in the case of a foreign resident or a foreign company by a right of action in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, or some European or Asian country; but if as a result of the Bretton/Woods agreement- the International Monetary Agreements Act- that person cannot enforce his rights in those countries, what we are doing by way of legislation here will prejudice a guarantor, an insurance company, in that position. I understand that there is at least the prospect of one very major situation arising in that area. I am sure that if I am right the facts would be known to the Minister and his advisers. I do not think it is an adequate response to say that nothing could be done about that situation. I do not want to be unduly critical but I think the Government is not playing fair in that situation when with a little more effort a form of words could be devised which would help out these people.
– In his final words Senator Greenwood said ‘a little more effort’. A great deal of effort has been put into the preparation of this legislation over a period of months. It was designed to bring the legislation to as near a state of perfection as is possible at any time. There will always be some imperfections in legislation. A number of cases are involved but I could not say how many there are. They are marginal compared with the total number of contracts entered into. I can only say, as I indicated earlier, that the Government, in conjunction with its parliamentary advisers, is bringing down legislation which makes the regulations as effective as possible, taking into account the factors raised by Senator Greenwood. There is nothing more I can add at this stage but 1 believe that every precaution has been taken to make this legislation as fair and equitable as possible.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
– I simply ask that my personal dissent to that particular insertion is recorded.
Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 November on motion by Senator Wriedt:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is debating the Income Tax Bill 1974. The Bill itself is very much like the curate’s egg. It is good, but very bad in patches. It seeks somewhat belatedly to draw together some of the provisions of the Budget of 17 September and then those of the frantic mini-Budget of 12 November.
- Senator, do you wish to debate these Bills cognately?
-I suggest we take this Bill separately and then the other 5 Bills in cognate debate. The Bill seeks to provide belatedly and reluctantly for a reduction in income tax. It provides for a very minor reduction in company tax. It then imposes a quite iniquitous surcharge on what it describes as unearned income, and it reduces the special rebate for aged persons. I want to say at the outset that at the end of the second reading debate I will be moving a motion, copies of which are available. I will move by way of addition to the second reading motion:
At end of motion, add- but the Senate is ofthe opinion that the provisions of the Bill which impose a surcharge on unearned income are inequitable, anti-social, damaging to community incentive and economically incorrect in a period of costinflation and that the Bill specifically:
imposes additional burdens on Australian pensioners by decreasing the special rebate for aged persons, and
provides a seriously incomplete response to the downturn in private investment by reducing public company tax rates to 45 per cent ‘.
Perhaps this amendment ought to be debated against 2 statements, one by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the other by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), made in the mid-year period when the Budget was being prepared. The Treasurer made his statement against the background that he was saying that the Opposition policies for anti-inflation and full employment were wrong. He said:
But the Opposition’s policies would all fan the inflationary flames. A massive taxation cut, opening the flood doors to overseas funds and foreign domination of our resources, together with some enormous unjustifiable increases in Government expenditure, would be disastrous for the economy.
This Bill makes a taxation cut, as the Opposition urged. The Government of the day has, in its own words, opened the flood doors to overseas funds. As to foreign domination, nothing loath, the Treasurer-to-be, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), has invited the Chinese Government in to take over the Leyland plant. As to there being something enormously unjustifiable in increases in Government expenditure, the Budget of course increased expenditure by some 33 per cent and the Government has been busy justifying it. That is the background against which this Bill should be measured. But let me cite again the Prime Minister, because he had something to say very publicly with regard to the nature of the Budget-to-be. In mid-year he said:
In a bid to beat inflation, a Labor Government would:
Produce a balanced or surplus Budget this year. Maintain restraints on the domestic money supply. Retain the requirement that one-third of cash borrowed overseas must be deposited with the Reserve Bank as a means of preventing a renewed flood of foreign money.
The Government claims that this year its Budget deficit will be a record $ 1,350m. All those who have any knowledge of what has happened put the deficit at at least $ 1,850m, without any extra involvement in regard to wool. It is safe to say that the deficit will be an enormous one- of the order of $2,000m- one that will inflate inflation to a level of something like 30 per cent. So much for the Prime Minister saying that the Labor Government would produce a balanced or surplus Budget. He went on to say that the Government would maintain the reserve of 33 per cent against imported overseas capital, because of course that was alleged to be wicked. Everybody knows now that that has been virtually wiped out.
It is against the craziness of statements made before the Budget, read in terms of the Budget, that I make these comments. The Government had said that it was sheer economic vandalism for the Opposition to advocate tax cuts of $ 1,000m. The Government is now making tax cuts of $890m and trying to assume virtue for itself. But those tax cuts are too late. The Government is claiming that it is reducing inflation, but even with these tax cuts the total volume of personal income tax taken from the people of Australia will be 70 per cent greater over these 2 years. So it is in fact increasing taxation very markedly for each individual.
We had urged, as an Opposition, that there should be relief to companies in Australia because they are the organisations which provide some three-quarters of total employment for the people of Australia. It is true that until recently it was a popular sport for the Government to be company knockers or company bashers, particularly the multinationals. It is true that in recent days the Government’s popular sport has changed to union bashing, but generally over the 2 years the Government saw profit as being a hateful thing and set out to show the people of Australia that it was going to put companies in their place. It has done so in an enormous fashion by an inflation running today at something like 20-odd per cent, by a tariff cut across the board of some 25 per cent. It has virtually destroyed manufacturing industry in Australia. Anyone who thinks that you can pick up and put down manufacturing industry fails to understand its very nature. In the very nature of Australia, we are a nation of small enterprises. Something like 85 per cent of enterprises in Australia have 50 employees or fewer. These are the enterprises which employ the Australian people.
But let it be on record that the person who now aspires to be Treasurer, Dr J. F. Cairns, is the man who said that tariffs should be cut 25 per cent across the board. He is the man who, in his position as Minister for Overseas Trade, a position which he still holds, by that action which he fully supported created chaotic unemployment in the textile industries, the clothing industries, the footwear industries, the furniture-making industries, the automotive industries and the electronic industries. He is the man who until several months ago said that he believed that we should not do anything about the tariff cuts, that we should maintain them. This is the instrument which in fact created the tremendous unemployment in Australia. It is unemployment which will grow. It is one of the instruments which destroyed confidence.
Another instrument, of course, was the credit squeeze which in fact put companies out of business. Week by week literally hundreds of Australian companies are going out of business. Their crime is not mismanagement; they were good managers. But when they have gone to their bank in the ordinary way to get the ordinary credit facilities upon which they have been dependent over 10, 20 or 30 years, the Government has said: ‘No, you cannot go to your bank; we are going to cut off your credit’. So literally thousands of small enterprises which are being denied the ability to pay their people, to pay their bills, are going out of business. Hundreds of building firms, in a time when housing is at its lowest ebb, are closing down and will close down over Christmas because they have been squeezed, because they have been under pressure. This policy has been described in one newspaper as ‘forward in full steam reverse’. All I can say is that it recalled to me the most famous circus performer of all time, the immortal Grock It seems to me that he is now deposed and we now have in Australia a Grock Whitlam. Indeed, nobody, including the immortal Grock. could perform so many interminable back somersaults as has the Prime Minister.
This is the context in which the Bill is before us. It is a Bill in which the Government has the nerve to lower company tax by a couple of per cent. Here is a country in which inflation is running at, say, 20-odd per cent and interest rates at 15 per cent, 18 per cent and 19 per cent. It is virtually impossible to get investment capital. People cannot be employed in our industries unless there is investment capital. The best way of getting investment capital is to allow the companies to turn in and use their own profits. They should be allowed to turn in and retain more of their profits so that they can be put to use, because they do not have to pay on their profits this iniquitous record interest rate created deliberately by the Government. One way, therefore, in which we could have had a major stimulus back to re-employment would have been to lower company tax. It was done, but only by a miserly couple of per cent which will, of course, have no real impact at all. It will be of no real consequence in its impact upon Australia.
Let me move to the next situation. The Government has come forward and said that it proposes to put a surcharge on property income. What it says is that it is going to tax so-called unearned incomes. After enormous pressure was exerted by the Opposition in another place, and because of public pressure, it has now limited that surcharge to incomes of $5,000 and above. But let us all clearly understand what this Government is doing. It is attacking the very provident people of Australia, the vulnerable people of Australia- the retired, the sick, the invalids, and the handicapped. What a nerve it has to call this property income unearned income. Basically this income is the hard earned income of people over a provident lifetime. These people have invested a few thousand dollars a year to save themselves from relying on a pension, to enable themselves to live in dignity in their retirement, and to save themselves from having the Government keep them. These are the people who are being attacked by the imposition of this surcharge on so-called unearned income. It is fundamentally an attack upon the savings of the people. Why should people save if they are going to have placed on their income from savings a loading of 10 per cent?
We are at a time in our history when never more have we so much wanted a ploughing back of savings. Never more have we wanted people to put back their money in the banks so that the banks can have liquidity and can lend out to housing, to enterprise, to manufacturing, to commerce. Yet here we have a government which, because it hates profit- it cannot stand profit except, no doubt, for itself- is reaching out and saying: ‘If you save, if you earn money, from providence, we will put a surcharge upon you’. Let me be quite unqualified in what I say. I am empowered to say that the Federal Opposition, the Liberal and Country Parties, upon return to government would abolish such a tax, without any qualification at all. To think that this is the Government which goes to the people and says: We are the people who look to the little people, the helpless, the poor, the old, the retired. We are the people who have humanity in our hearts’. Nothing could be more inhumane, nothing could be more grasping, than this kind of attack, and I reject it absolutely as something that is bad.
Let me take one other aspect of this Bill. The Bill proposes in clause 9 that the rebate of tax allowed to aged persons is to be reduced from $156 to $130 where the taxpayer’s taxable income is $3,224 or less, reducing by 25c for each dollar of income over this amount. It is a minor oversight on the part of the Government that it fails to apologise to the people of Australia in presenting this backward step for a major breach of policy promise. This Government said that it would abolish the means test step by step over a period of 3 years. One of those years is the one in which we are now operating. It is to the Government’s eternal disgrace that it has for this year abandoned the abolition ofthe means test. It had last year applied taxation to the pension as earnings. That might make sense if there had been a total abolition of the means test, but a person receiving the pension had to pay tax as an ordinary citizen on the agglomerate of his whole earnings and his pension. But you must put this in perspective, Mr Deputy President. This Bill conies to you with a major breach of promise by the Government. It has failed this year to take that step in abolishing the means test. It has said this year: ‘No, we will not proceed to remove the means test for this year’. So pensioners get hit in 2 ways. They get hit by the rebate of tax allowed being reduced, and they get hit because the Government has not proceeded with the abolition of the means test.
The Bill itself, of course, is part of the fiscal policy of the Government. One of the matters put forward by the Government was that it was depending in the whole of its Budget upon wage indexation. But I am bound to say that it has now come forward with a scheme for wage indexation. The scheme contains characteristics which are objectionable to this Opposition and, I think I can say emphatically, thoroughly objectionable to the trade union movement. The aim of the Government is flat rate indexation. Flat rate indexation is the destruction of skill. Flat rate indexation destroys the margin for skill. No Government with any responsibility to create productivity in this community, to try to develop skills, to encourage people to give of their best and get adequate reward, could advocate a flat ra te indexation. But, of course, this Government is doing that and we oppose that emphatically. That is the basis of this Bill.
I do not wish to delay the Senate. The Opposition will not oppose the passage of the Bill but I move:
At end of motion, add- but the Senate is of the opinion that the provisions of the Bill which impose a surcharge on unearned income are inequitable, anti-social, damaging to community incentive and economically incorrect in a period of costinflation and that the Bill specifically:
imposes additional burdens on Australian pensioners by decreasing the special rebate for aged persons, and
provides a seriously incomplete response to the downturn in private investment by reducing public company tax rates to 45 per cent ‘.
The Government has attempted another major somersault. The facts are these: It became clear during the making of the Budget that the Treasurer, Mr Crean, and Treasury were not being taken notice of. The then Minister for Overseas Trade and the future Treasurer, Dr Cairns, claimed that the Budget was of his making and that he was responsible for it. Now the Budget has turned out badly, as the Opposition predicted. So what is the Government doing in Alice in Wonderland fashion? It is sacking the man who is not responsible for the Budget and blaming him for it and is putting into Treasury the man who was responsible for a Budget which failed completely. It is putting into Treasury a man who is responsible for the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut, a man who is responsible by his actions for wrecking Austraiian manufacturing industry and a man who has done more than anyone else to create major unemployment in this country. Suddenly, the Government believes that it can change course over night and put on some import control or some kind of stopper to close the flood gates.
Only an hour or so ago in this chamber I was speaking on the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Bill. I look towards Albury-Wodonga and I see a very great Australian industry like Borg- Warner Australia Ltd. I see it as one of the main features of the growth centre of Albury. I learn day by day of how it has had to sack hundreds of its workers and is under threat of its existence in Australia because tariff cuts have destroyed its position in the automotive industry. Does the Government really believe that by some magical device it calls restructuring the automotive industry it can recreate the jobs of the past? Surely it must know that in any restructure 10,000 or 20,000 decent Australians will be out of work. Surely it must know that the people of those country towns affected- the textile workers of Wangaratta, the automotive workers of Albury-Wodonga- are likely to have some state of chronic unemployment. What an extraordinary situation it is for a Government, which used to claim that it believed in making wholly Australian products by Australians in Australia, to offer Leyland Motor Corporation of Australia Ltd to the Chinese Government and then to the Japanese and then to announce: ‘We will water down the whole show now and make less bits of a car in Australia’. What kind of se-, curity is it for Australia that we have the capacity with 13 million highly educated, highly skilled people to make only a bit of a car, that we have to be dependent in troubled times, in a world which has never faced more potential peril than is threatening by the energy crisis and turbulence, on the oceans of the world, as we were in 1939? What kind of thinking is it that we are happy to go abroad and buy instead of creating jobs for Australian workers?
I said at the beginning that this was a very bad curate’s egg. There was a little bit of good, a bit of a tax reduction, a snippet of a company tax reduction, but a great deal of bad. The principles that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister laid down for the construction of the Budget were departed from- the idea of a balanced or surplus Budget, the idea of putting controls on foreign investment from abroad, and Mr Crean ‘s statement that he was not going to allow an upsurge in the Public Service or allow investment from abroad and that tax cuts were bad. The public of Australia must understand in the months immediately ahead when unemployment rises to 250,000 or 300,000 or more and when the 200,000-odd school leavers cannot get a job and when the Government is bereft of any solution which will enable them to get a job, when inflation continues to rise so that investment capital is not available in this country, that it is the Government that is to blame. It is this kind of bungling, this creation of a Budget out of kilter by $2,000m, that an inflation rate inherent in the Budget- written into it- of something like 20 per cent in September will be 30 per cent in the months ahead. Let us have none of this nonsense about imported inflation. Almost none of the articles in the consumer price index which registers our inflation is imported. In the index of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Australia had one of the highest, if not the highest, inflation rates in the world. Many countries which are massively affected by oil prices at the moment have a lower inflation rate than we have. It is this kind of Bill, this kind of muddled thinking and these kinds of punitive measures and disincentives that are creating the conditions we are experiencing today.
-I second the amendment. I realise that, figuratively speaking, bags are being packed and it is either home for Christmas or to Europe in a Boeing 707. I suppose one could be accused of speaking at the wrong time but I speak because I believe that certain things I am going to say should go on the record. Under a normal government, a government of efficiency and sincerity, a government that works with and not against its own Public Service, we would have had plenty of opportunity as an upper House to debate these taxation measures without hurry. What I am going to say could be said of all the taxation measures arising from the Budget and miniBudgets that have been brought into this Parliament since 17 September. What has happened in respect of the Budgets, the finances and the economy of this country has proved the ineptitude of the Government. It has to my way of thinking, shown that as a government the Australian Government is lazy and in its presentation or in its delay of presentation of legislation to the Parliament it is attempting to be cunning.
Yesterday there was a lot of reporting of the celebrations marking the second year of Labor in government. It was the second year, the third Budget and the second Treasurer. What a recommendation. What an indication of how much at sea this Government is in respect of both Australia and itself. Nobody could deny that the outgoing Treasurer, Mr Crean, is one of the gentlemen of the Parliament. I would be sure that he would not have a critic or an enemy in this Parliament unless it were in the inner Cabinet. Yet, he is being ditched, sent down, because of the state of the economy. Soon after his removal from the office of Treasurer was announced the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was attacking Treasury officials because he implied that they were either late in providing or kept from him important information regarding the economy. If there was any truth in that the Prime Minister had plenty of time to make inquiries about the state of the economy because throughout the election campaign before 18 May he was continually told about the need to reduce taxation and that the fight was about inflation, but he would not listen. He now finds that the economy is in a mess prior to his leaving us on an overseas trip for 5 weeks without having to face the music from the many unemployed in this country. There is not one newspaper or commentator in this land who has not impressed publicly upon the Prime Minister that his duty at this time is to stay in Australia and not leave it to a new Treasurer, an acting Prime Minister and a Cabinet that does not know where it is going.
Under normal circumstances- things were not normal this year- we would have had the Budget brought down in August and up to mid-October we would have debated Budget legislation and subsequent social legislation. This year, because of the double dissolution- that was the excuse which was given- the Budget was not brought down until 17 September. Instead of the Senate getting in October the real Budget legislation such as taxation measures we have for discussion legislation at a time which many think is the eve of the break-up for the Christmas recess and we are meant to hurry through the legislation. This demonstrates the Government’s cunning. It wants us to be silenced. All I will say about this is that I will not be silenced when I believe it is my duty to speak up in criticism ofthe way this country is being run. I hope that the electors of Queensland will- only they will be able to show this on Saturday by their vote; they can speak for the people of Australia; it is a big and healthy State and can speak for the rest of this land- give a hint to the Government that it should either improve its ways or get out and make way for the return of a Liberal government.
I remind the people who sling off at the 23 years of Liberal government that in the last 10 or 12 years of that period the accepted slogan throughout this land by unbiassed people and by unbiassed commentators was that we lived in a happy developing country which the world, our neighbours and friends knew as ‘Australia unlimited’. Now it is Australia limited by the fears and worries that beset us. This year will go down in history as the one in which Australia economically has gone down in strength and brought more worries to more people than any year since the great Depression of the 1930s. When the election campaign was on it was interesting to note the 2 themes adopted by the Labor Party in its advertisements, and this was particularly noticeable in Tasmania. One theme was that ‘only Snedden will cause unemployment*. Now, unfortunately, it has been shown that the Whitlam Government has been the cause in many respects- this was illustrated by Senator Carrick who preceded me in this debate- of the unemployment situation.
In today’s newspapers we read that some time next year interest on housing loans for young people may be reduced 2 per cent or 3 per cent. This is a very long delayed fulfilment of a promise on which hundreds of dollars was spent in advertising that only Labor, only Whitlam, would reduce- not ‘could’- housing loan interest for young people. These people have waited and waited and they are now told, before we go home for Christmas, that with interest rates higher than they have ever been before in this country they will have to wait until next year when this Parliament will have before it legislation to reduce interest rates perhaps by 2 per cent or 3 per cent which will still leave the rate of interest for home buyers at a rate higher than it was when this Government came into office 2 years ago.
I want to explain why, in my view, the Opposition is going to allow this legislation to pass. I believe it has been a right decision to say that when the Government’s Budget is introduced, its fiscal policy is either accepted or thrown out. I do not believe an Opposition is right to pick and choose as regards what part of a fiscal policy it will let through and what part it will endeavour to block if it can get the numbers. In my view a Budget in the national Parliament either should get through or be thrown out, and it was decided, obviously after much thought, that the Budget should go through. In my view, when the Government realised that it purposely delayed legislation until the close of this session in the hope that we would not show up the criticism that we have and which we know the people feel is right in respect of the history and the misdoings of this Government. I second the amendment to the motion because I believe it puts succinctly what we feel and what the people will show they realise is correct when next they have the opportunity to cast their vote.
-This legislation has a very serious aspect about it wherein it proposes to tax the earnings from investments of people who have been thrifty and saved and who have invested their money in various areas. This 10 per cent surcharge has found opposition among a considerable range of people. I have always felt that governments would like people who are thrifty and who savethey are the people who have been cautious and who have guarded themselves and made provision for their future. But this Government seems to be desirous of penalising these people. It is very easy to say that people have money invested so they should be taxed. But much of this investment goes into avenues which give encouragement to others and offer certain opportunities to people. No doubt a good deal of this money from people who have saved has gone into such things as flats and units. The people who are renting those units and flats from the people who invested their money pay a rent to give the investor a reasonable return. But what is happening in this instance is that because of this surcharge the rents will go up. The Government, under pressure from its own back benchers, decided to lift the minimum income upon which this taxation would be based. That sounds very nice. But it still does not protect the wage earner or the salary earner who is renting a flat. It does not protect people who are in the higher bracket of income. If people are to be taxed extra on their earnings from these properties it is human nature that they will pass that tax on to the people who rent the flats and homes from them. Honourable senators should not tell me that this is not being done. I know of girls and women working in offices who are renting flats and homes and the increases have already been passed on to them. Those people are paying -
– The tax does not apply yet, so how do you reconcile that?
– The honourable senator does not know much about human nature, apparently. He is a bit behind the times so far as human nature is concerned.
– How many flats do you have?
– I do not have any flats. Any money I have will be given away. I will not be one of these avaricious people. Some people have already raised rents in anticipation of this tax. The people whom I know of who are paying these increased rents are girls and women who are not receiving the minimum that is allowed in this legislation. They are ordinary wage and salary earners. The increased tax is being passed on to them. The Government should not kid the people that, by lifting the minimum amount upon which taxes on income earned in this way are paid, it is doing such a great thing. The people who own these flats will pass this tax on.
It amazes me that a government should look at this sort of tax in order to finance some of its grandiose schemes. This Government has received a bonus in increased tax from the inflationary wages that have been received by people. One would have thought that, with the bonus being so high, the Government would not have been bothered annoying and more or less terrorising people in this way. It goes to show that behind the Government’s mind is the thought that it should tax anybody who has been thrifty and owns something. The socialist government looks upon those people as being little capitalists. We well remember the statement of a Labor Minister some years ago that people who had their own homes were little capitalists. Does that type of thinking still dominate this Labor Government? Surely to goodness a government that is worth its salt would recognise that the type of people who are really worthy citizens are those who are thrifty and those who will save and try to do things in the way that many of these people have done with their investments.
To receive this discouragement by the Government is a shocking state of affairs. It does not say much for the Government’s view of people who are thrifty and people who are good citizens of this nation. I look around at the extravagance of this Government and at the things it is doing. It is throwing money here, there and everywhere, not just a few thousand dollars but many thousands of dollars. It makes one wonder just what the Government is trying to do. The Government is squeezing this type of citizen in order to help finance its fanciful objectives. Goodness gracious me, we read about the man who said he is the greatest and now says he is the best, I refer to the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. He is off on a jaunt overseas which will cost some half a million dollars. He says it is because every country wants to see him. The true story would be that those countries would not worry if no Australian Prime Minister ever visited them.
– What about ‘Blue Poles’?
– My friend, Senator Townley, reminds me of the extravagance of purchasing ‘Blue Poles’. It cost $US2m. The Government has purchased ‘Woman V and so on. The fact that some art critic says that the purchase is a good one does not indicate it is good expenditure.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Deputy President, before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was speaking to the Income Tax Bill 1 974. 1 was particularly interested in and expressed myself in relation to that section of the Bill under which people now are to be taxed on their unearned income from investments. In many cases these thrifty people have made these investments in order to provide possibly for their old age or retirement or to ensure that they have sufficient income so as not to be a burden upon the Government. But unfortunately they are not to be rewarded by this Government for their thriftiness. The Government proposes to tax them on their unearned income. I think that this is an indication of a lack of appreciation of these people by the Government. The Government should appreciate these people for what they have done.
As I have pointed out, it is not just their unearned income that is to be taxed. Increases in rents will be passed on to people who are receiving much lesser income than the people whom the Government exempted from the payment of additional tax on unearned income. Whilst the Government might put on the front that it is exempting people below a certain income from the payment of additional tax on unearned income, other people will be caught in the net.
With the bonanza which the Government has reaped through taxation from the Australian people because of the effect of inflation on wages, it amazes me that the Government should resort to this paltry extraction of money from thrifty people. One thinks of the way in which the Government has thrown money away, how it has wasted it on all the different things that it has done. It has spent millions of dollars here and millions of dollars there. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has been trooping around the world like a glorified tourist at great expense to the Australian people. His next trip alone is to cost $500,000.
– Will not the unearned income tax involve people who receive income from property in increasing the rents to other people?
– That is exactly what I stated earlier. These people will naturally pass on their increased taxation to people on much lower income who are renting their properties. The Government is able to throw money around. One thinks of the way in which it has spent money on so-called works of art and on the glorified trips that the Prime Minister is undertaking. As a matter of fact, after 2 years as Prime Minister he must be now the world ‘s greatest traveller. In addition, he has a trip to Bermuda coming up, and he is talking about another trip to the Middle East, and so on. Really, he will be known as the world ‘s greatest traveller.
– In what way do you mean the word ‘greatest’?
-He said that he was the greatest. Now he says that he is the best. There is a competition between the 2 leaders. Now they both say that they are the best. I do not know who is the best. I deplore this type of legislation which imposes upon thrifty people additional taxation which, as Senator Greenwood has pointed out, can be passed on to girls, women and young men who are renting flats from people who will have to pay this additional tax. I have noted the amendment moved by the Opposition to this Bill. I am disappointed that the Opposition has not taken a stronger stand in this matter. I believe that the people resent this type of legislation. I believe that they resent this legislation which imposes additional taxation on unearned income, the legislation which introduces the capital gains tax and the legislation which reduces from $400 the taxation allowance for education expenses. Instead of trying to amend this Bill by the amendment which we have moved we should have taken the bull by the horns, should have thrown out this legislation and should have let the people see that we really mean business. It has been stated that we oppose this type of taxation and that when we get back into office we will change the legislation. Of course, that is an airy fairy statement or promise. How do we know when we are going to be back in office? How do we know how long it will be? In the meantime these people will be prejudiced by this taxation. Therefore I think that the strongest and most effective way in which the Opposition could have handled this legislation would have been to throw it out.
I am of the opinion that people like a government or an opposition that is strong; they like a Prime Minister or a leader whoever he might be to be strong. People will always rally to strength. They will not follow weakness. For instance, I come from an area in north Queensland where we occasionally get cyclones. I am sure that nobody in that area would shelter behind a rickety building in a cyclone. They would want to be in a strong building to make sure that they were safe. So it is with the electors of the Commonwealth and the States. They like strong people and strong parties. I think the Liberal-Country Party Opposition would appear to be more effective in the minds of the people if it showed strength and said to the Government: ‘We will throw this out’.
I know that there are limits on the Senate in altering money Bills. But there is another Bill which could be altered and that is the one which seeks to reduce the taxation allowance for education expenses. The remedy for this Bill is to throw it out completely, and I am sorry that the Opposition has not taken that stand. As I have said, strength gets support from the people. If we show the people that we really mean business by throwing this legislation out, we would get their support. We have a striking example of strength in my own State of Queensland. We have possibly the strongest leader of any government in Australia in the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Because of his strength he gathers support behind him. He is a strong man and he leads a strong government. I believe that because of that when the election in that State takes place on Saturday the people will give the answer to show that they like strength in leadership and government and I hope that it will also be the answer to this Government.
– What about your own leader, Sir Gordon Chalk? Tell us what you think of him.
-Sir Gordon Chalk is also a very strong leader and would also make a very good Premier.
– Why do you not talk about the gerrymander?
– I am talking about the status quo. I hope that the result of Saturday’s election will be an indication to this Government that the people of Queensland have shown in no uncertain terms what they think about the legislative program and enactments of this Government. This Government has shown itself for what it is in this taxation measure. Mr Whitlam, as the leader of this Government, has shown himself to be the greatest somersaulter in the history of this nation; so much so that I would not be a bit surprised if he joined the Russian gymnastic troupe that is coming to Australia. I think that he would make a wonderful somersaulter in that Russian gymnastic troupe. I have put forward my views on this matter. I think that this legislation, particularly as it relates to the aspect with which I have dealt, is very bad. It does not encourage people to be thrifty. It prejudices people who have been thrifty. I think that it is extremely bad legislation. I am sorry that the Opposition has not been stronger and thrown out the legislation.
- Mr Deputy President, I have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks made by Senator Wood because it would be delightful to honourable senators on this side of the chamber to throw out this legislation which I believe prejudices greatly the future development of Australia. However, any thoughts in that direction must be cut short because of the particularly bad judgment which was shown by the Opposition in forcing an election in May of this year. That undercut any future action that might be taken in a time of crisis. The decision taken prior to May was completely unjustified insofar as any excuse was used to justify the use of numbers in this House as they were then used. There was not then a national crisis. Over many months, as Senator Greenwood knows, the desire was expressed to regain power at all costs, but there was no consideration of the issues before the Federal Parliament of the state of the nation. I, of course, have a great deal of sympathy with the idea put forward by Senator Wood that the better course of action to adopt would be to throw out this legislation, but the very fact that he joined earlier this year with other members of the Opposition in forcing a double dissolution in this Parliament which could not be justified on any sensible grounds has quite prejudiced any future action on that account.
I regret the introduction of this legislation. It in fact seeks to increase taxation which ought to be decreased. The tax on savings, which the 10 per cent surcharge on unearned income represents, hits directly at industry in Australia, hits directly at employment opportunities in Australia and hits directly at the acccumulation of savings, which is badly needed in this country. The Government is in fact saying that it believes that saving is bad and that it is not good to save, and to accumulate capital and to invest it. If one does so one will be penalised. One will have added to an already exhorbitant rate of tax an additional surcharge which will inhibit future savings. It would be very unusual if there was one honourable senator in this House who had not heard someone say in the last few weeks that he is not going to save any further, that he believes it is simply not worth the effort and that no recognition is given to and there is very little reward for thrift. The type of action which is deliberately encouraged by the Government is the opposite to what is needed for national development. Australia which has been renowned in the past among comparable countries for its savings, for its accumulation on a per capita basis, will begin to fall from that favourable position because it is the Government’s policy to discourage such savings. Legislation is very bad if it works against the basis of development. As much as people may preach that development has been harmful it is only now in the last 1 decades that the public is beginning to become aware that it is development which provides employment and it is employment which is needed by those who are now suffering from the diminishing opportunities in this country.
These tax rates are directly inflationary. There is nothing more inflationary at the moment than the heavy and high demand for increased salaries and wages, which in part is very largely encouraged by the high rate of marginal taxation. If one looks at the Schedule attached to the Income Tax Assessment Act one will find’ that the marginal tax on the early rate has, by today’s inflationary values, become almost a tax of confiscation. One will see by studying the rates- I need not enumerate them to the Senate as they are in every honourable senator’s file- that there is a level at a very early stage of today’s values at which taxation diminishes the incentive to earn additional sums to such a degree that we will find a retreat from the area of further endeavour and a retreat from the area of savings.
I was amused to see in yesterday’s newspapers a report of Mr Hawke ‘s remarks that the recent salary increase to public servants will not be inflationary and that it will have no direct effect on prices. What a fatuous, inaccurate and misleading statement it is to make to the Australian public to say that any sector of it- any large sector such as this- can demand and obtain a huge increase in salaries that will have no effect on prices in this community. The theory as enunciated by the President of the Australian Labor Party is that the Public Service is somehow insulated from the general price structure in Australia. That is patently untrue. The taxes which will continue to be tolerated on the progressive tax scale that we have in Australia will of course be almost as much inflationary as any other factor in this community.
Action will have to be taken by the Government and by this Parliament really to attack the pro blem of inflation or else we will see year by year the introduction of a further series of Bills aimed at taking more from the private sector and funnelling it through to the public sector. Unless we are to see that year by year we must see in its place a real attack on inflation in this community. It does not require much reading of the works of economists in Australia to know where the fault lies at the moment. In almost every work of economists that one reads one finds a call for restraint. It is usually at the tail end and most often in one sentence because the problem is too hard politically for these people really to spell it out, but they say that we must also have restraint from the union movement. I have not read one report on this subject by an economist in recent months who has not said that somewhere in his recommendations. Of course, we do not have it. The call of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the unions of Australia to respond in support of indexation on the basis that they are going to be offered a benefit of about $6 a week at the maximum in taxation deductions is also fatuous. How does that compare with the recent application for an increase of $ 1 8 a week that is to go before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission within a few weeks. By comparison that $6 is nothing. It is chicken feed compared with what has been obtained by direct industrial confrontation. My forecast is that the Government’s request of the union movement has already failed.
There is only one factor which will come to grips with inflation and that is statutory control of salaries and wages. The justification for that is quite clear. It is interesting to go back to the referendums of May when two of the major proposals were the transfer of power to the Federal
Government to control prices and the companion and parallel move to control wages and salaries. It was very interesting to find that the Liberal Party of Australia mounted a very vehement, effective and successful attack on both propositions. The basic premise of the Liberal Party’s attack, which I agreed with at the time- I will be quite fair; I do not in hindsight criticise; I was parallel with it in my thoughts- was to prevent the imposition of price control on industry. That was the major effort of liberalism in Australia. It is paradoxical that since both those salient points were defeated at that referendum the Government has acquired, through the Prices Justification Tribunal, effective price control over industry.
-Give me one instance of any major industry in Australia which will buck the Prices Justification Tribunal. I give honourable senators the instance of the motor car industry. Which vehicle manufacturer in Australia will have the temerity to buck the Prices Justification Tribunal? Not one. Why? Because he knows he is completely in the hands of Government policy which can be most simply evidenced by the control of tariffs by the Federal Government. I predict that not one major industry will buck the recommendations of the Prices Justification Tribunal. What can be easily deduced from that is that the Federal Government, through the Prices Justification Tribunal, has effectively instituted price control in Australia. The one area which is not controlled is wages and salaries. I wonder about the red faces- I include my own in them- on the liberal side of politics who fought so successfully to defeat both proposals in the referendum but who were successful in relation to only one of them.
– Now you are sorry.
-Of course we have to be sorry because we have price control without the essential parallel control which is needed, that is, of wages and salaries. Whilst it is politically impossible at the moment, there ought to be a new referendum in Australia asking the Australian people to give to the Australian Government the power to fix wages and salaries according to the measure of productivity in this country. I say very carefully that it must be matched to productivity. If that could be asked of the Australian people and if both parties would support it there would be a massive and overwhelming approval of it, such is the concern in the general community on this question.
Despite the ramblings and interjections of Labor senators who are trying to interject- particularly Senator McLaren who appears to be opposing what he was supporting earlier this year- I would say that the initiative rests now with the Opposition. If the Opposition in the Austraiian Parliament said to the Australian Government: ‘We urge you to go to the Australian people by way of referendum to obtain the power to fix wages and salaries as a measure directly indexed to the level of productivity, we will in return ensure that you go your full term of office without displacement by the Senate, the Labor Government would have every incentive to take that action. If Senator McLaren, who is trying to interject, will stop he might hear some argument on this question which might further his knowledge. In return for some sensible management of the community to tackle the problem of inflation the Opposition must give something. I think it is not too much for the Opposition to say to the Government: ‘We will guarantee your tenure of office for your full term ‘.
– Hear, hear.
-Before Senator Wheeldon runs away with that proposition I add if you will take effective action, which may be unpopular with your supporters in the . first few months, to match what is undoubtedly a crisis in the Australian community. ‘ It will not occur now because it is not politically possible. The Government, because of its industrial base, is unable to do so. It would be torn to pieces by its base if it said: ‘We want to index wages to productivity’. The Opposition is too concerned with wrestling power from this Government to be concerned with the intricacies of inflation. A referendum will not occur at this stage because of the political situation, but I make the prediction that within 6 months many people who are sitting in this place, and others, will wish that they had taken some such action. Without it the rate of inflation in Australia will be 30 per cent in 6 months time and we will see what the leaders of Australia do in reaction to an obvious crisis situation of that nature.
What do we find in this Bill? We find an increase in taxation. We find inhibition on the very factors that are needed to get us out of our economic problems. I agree that this Bill has no place here and should not be passed. Obviously there is no base on which it can be refused passage by the Senate because already this year there has been a defeat of the Government on measures that should never have been used for the purpose of paving the way for a double dissolution. It is not possible to consider rejection of the Bill at this time. It is with a great deal of regret that I must sit here with the Opposition and do as it does, which is to accept in silence the passage of a Bill that will greatly harm the future of Australia.
– I had not intended originally to speak on this Bill, but I was tempted to enter the debate after hearing a repeat, a regurgitation, from several Opposition senators of the old myths and shibboleths that they have been displaying and spewing out again around the countryside ever since the major provisions of the 1974 Budget were made known. As I listened to members of the Opposition talk about the proposed taxation surcharge on income from property and as I heard them weep and wail for the poor savers of wages who were to have the income from their savings bank accounts and their building society accounts taxed at a penalty rate, I thought that the only people who have wealth in this country must be those who have saved wages. If one is to take seriously the arguments of members of the Opposition there is no such thing as inherited wealth or windfall gains. If we take seriously the arguments of members of the Opposition the only people in this country who have wealth are the hard working, frugal souls who have saved their wages.
Another point that the Opposition seems to have overlooked is that a tax of this nature in fact applied in Australia from the time when Federal income tax was introduced in 1915 until 1952. If the proposed tax will have the disastrous consequences that members of the Opposition have suggested tonight and this afternoon it will have, why did it not have such disastrous consequences in the 37 years that a tax of a similar nature applied in this country? It has been acknowledged tacitly by Senator Wood, although I do not think he quantified it, that the proposed taxation surcharge on income accruing from property excludes the majority of Australian taxpayers. In fact estimates from the Treasury have shown that 10 out of 1 1 Australians, or perhaps 1 1 out of 12 Australians, are totally exempt from the imposition of this tax. From the Opposition’s strenuous opposition to and trenchant criticism of the tax and the idea behind it- given the fact that 10 out of 1 1 Australians will be exempt from its provisions- one can deduce for whom the Opposition speaks. It speaks for one out of 1 1 of the people of this country.
Having tacitly acknowledged that the majority of Australians, in fact 10 out of 11, will be exempt from the provisions of this tax, Senator
Wood tried to escape from the only rational conclusion that can be drawn from the fact by saying that the poor people will still be paying for it. Senator Wood said: ‘Rents have already increased because of this tax which does not apply yet’. This is a type of logic that is more befitting his Country Party colleagues. Apparently the type of logic that prevails in the Country Party has spilled over and infected the Liberal Party. Disregarding the fact that Senator Wood has said that this tax, which does not yet apply, has already increased rents, and making the nonsensical assumption that Senator Wood’s claim is valid, it raises some interesting implications. Senator Wood has said that if any measure whatsoever decreases the effective net income that is received by landlords rents will increase to the full extent of the reduction in the effective level of landlords’ income. One of the implications of that statement is that landlords have unlimited power to set whatever prices they like for rent. If that is so it seems to me that the validity of Senator Hall’s assertion that it is high time that governments in this country had and exercised power to control prices is emphasised.
If we are to follow Senator Wood’s line of reasoning and landlords have unlimited power to increase rents to any level that they choose, surely it is time that this Government had and exercised power to stop landlords from behaving in that predatory way. There is one alternative explanation to Senator Woods’ line of argument, although he did not spell it out. If income received from rents were to be subjected to a penalty rate of tax- to a tax surcharge- and that tax applied to home building only, or to landlords only, it could be argued that this would induce a flight of capital out of home building for residential or rental purposes. In the long term there would be some validity in that argument if it were directed against landlords of residential dwellings. But, of course, this tax applies to all forms of property income. It cannot be argued that a potential investor will decline to invest in one specific area of the economy because he is going to pay a penalty rate of taxation in that area and therefore will invest somewhere else because in this instance there is no escape. It applies to property income no matter where that property income is derived. Consequently there is no danger and there is no way in which there could be a flight of capital from any particular sector of the economy.
That brings me to the third argument implied in the points that the Opposition has raised. The Opposition implied that if there is to be a surcharge on taxation for income derived from property people will become less thrifty. Opposition members went on to argue that a high marginal rate of income tax with or without a property surcharge discourages thrift and therefore it will adversely affect capital formation. If Opposition members had done any reading on this subject minus their ideological blinkers they would have known that the evidence from the real world about this theory is far from decisive. In fact some of the evidence available from countries like Scandinavia, where marginal taxation rates are very high and the distribution of income is fairly equal- by world standards extremely equal- indicates that the rate of capital formation is also extraordinarily high. On the other hand in countries where the distribution of income is grossly unequal and the maximum marginal rates of taxation are quite low- this applies throughout most of South East Asia and the Arabian countries generally- the rate of domestic capital formation is quite low. So the ramifications of having high marginal rates of taxation on the rate of domestic capital formation is far from clear cut, as the Opposition would have us believe, and in fact some empirical evidence from the real world suggests that one has very little to do with the other.
I would like to refer for a moment to Senator Hall’s call to the Opposition, to the Liberal Party in particular, to reconsider its very short sighted attitude towards the referendum to control prices and incomes. Incidentally, it was held last December, not May as Senator Hall inadvertently stated. That referendum was defeated, due in no small measure to the vociferous opposition of members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party. It is most timely that Senator Hall chose this occasion to raise the matter in this chamber and to make a statement to the Press yesterday or today. It is time the Liberal Party and the Country Party reconsidered their attitude to this matter. I repeat that if Senator Woods’ assertion is to be taken on face value, namely, that landlords have total and unlimited power to set rents at any levels they choose, this emphasises that it is absolutely vital that the troglodytes in the Liberal Party and the Country Party review their attitude to this vital question.
-I rise to speak in this debate on the Income Tax Bill because there is one matter to which some attention has been given in recent times but which has not been adverted to in this Senate, and that is the attitude being adopted by the Commissioner of Taxation to donations being made to the John Curtin House Appeal. What is the John Curtin House Appeal? It is an appeal designed to establish a headquarters for the Australian Labor Party in Canberra. I understand it is an appeal which seeks to raise some millions of dollars because the Labor Party desires to have the most expensive, the most ambitious and the most extravagant building in Canberra. It will not only be a headquarters for the Labor Party in the sense that it incorporates its offices and houses its office bearers; it will be a building which also will provide a revenue because the greater part of it will be let to government departments. The rental paid by government departments will augment the income of the Australian Labor Party. In short, this is a very attractive device whereby the Australian Labor Party will be able to get some money from Consolidated Revenue, from the taxpayers funds, which will help Labor’s purposes.
If we in the Senate are becoming accustomed to this misuse of public moneys to advantage the Australian Labor Party, I think we ought to use every opportunity to inform the Australian people of the way in which this is being done. The John Curtin House appeal is an Australian Labor Party appeal. It has been supported by a number of business men and publicity has been given by the organs of the media which support the Australian Labor Party of the fact that business men are supporting the appeal. It has been suggested in some places that the business men supporting this appeal have been pressured in various ways by the Australian Labor Party because it is in government. The most striking indication of how the position of power is being used to help the appeal for John Curtin House is illustrated by a letter written by the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation to the Secretary of the John Curtin House appeal. That letter indicates that if certain contributions are readily made they are a tax deduction and in those circumstances the donors will be able to regard them as a deduction from their taxable incomes.
This concept that people may make contributions to a desirable appeal and be able to claim them as a deduction from their income tax is well established in this country. We know that if people make a contribution to a charitable appeal, whether it be $2, $4 or $10, they are allowed to put it in their income tax returns as a deduction. If a business makes a contribution of $ 100, $500 or $ 1000 to a desirable appeal it is allowed to claim that sum as a deduction. This is a tactic which all governments will adopt in order to promote desirable appeals. In section 78 of the Income Tax Act, a section running into some 4 pages, there is a list of all the appeals which are regarded as proper appeals for which contributions made are allowed as a tax deduction. That is proper, because everyone knows what the objectives of the contributions are and it is all clear and above board. But the name of the Australian Labor Party does not appear in this list.
– I rise on a point of order. I draw to the attention of the Senate standing order No. 419, which is quite clear in its intent. The matters being discussed by Senator Greenwood are not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill and I seek your ruling on that, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- The honourable senator is discussing a matter relating to income tax and, as I see it, he is not relating his remarks directly to the Bill before the Senate. I would ask him to connect his remarks to that Bill.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President. The rate of income tax must surely relate to the purposes for which the revenue which is collected by the income tax is going to be expended, and that aspect bears upon what are the deductions which may be allowed. That is the way I am seeking to put what I am now arguing. When one looks at the objectives for which contributions may be made and for which deductions from assessable income of those contributions may be allowed, one does not find either the John Curtin House Appeal or the Australian Labor Party or any political party or any political party’s objective as one of the allowable deductions. Therefore, why is it that in this particular case the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation is indicating that in regard to contributions to the John Curtin House Appeal donations made by large business organisations will virtually automatically be allowed as a deduction.
I have here a letter from Mr J. W. Curtin, the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation- who coincidentally I understand is related to the late John Curtin- addressed to Mr T. Kavanagh, Secretary of the John Curtin House Appeal, Civic Square, Canberra City. It is headed ‘Income Tax: John Curtin House Appeal’. The second paragraph of the letter reads:
Under the provisions of section 5 1 of the Income Assessment Act, deductions are allowed for outgoings incurred in producing assessable income or which are necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for that purpose, except to the extent to which the outgoings are of a capital, private or domestic nature. The question whether a gift made to the Appeal would qualify for deduction under this provision is a matter which can be determined only in the light ofthe facts of each particular case. It is accordingly not practicable to indicate in advance any ruling which would be capable of general application.
To any person who is versed in the intricacies of income tax law or income tax practice, the enormity of what is being offered in the next paragraph, which is the significant one, becomes readily apparent. It states:
It is recognised, of course, that large business organisations often make donations as a form of advertising and, in this situation, deductions would ordinarily be allowable in terms of section 51.
I stop there. If firms such as Myers or Broken Hill Pty Co. or Dunlop or Hamersley or anyone of the big companies in this country were to make a donation to a heart disease appeal or to a public benevolent institution or to flood relief in Queensland or to any other ideal objective which was regarded as proper under section 78, that organisation could claim as a deduction from its income tax the money which was donated. That is well recognised and it is justified by the Commissioner of Taxation because it is said that if Myers, for example, is shown publicly to have made a donation to a worthy cause then in the public mind that helps Myers and that, in very real measure, is why a view of the Commissioner of Taxation, the connection is readily established, and so it is with any large organisation making an appeal.
Having said that, let me go on to the next paragraph of the First Assistant Commissioner’s letter to the Secretary of the John Curtin House Appeal. It states:
In view ofthe widespread publicity which it is proposed to give to donors, it is thought that taxpayers carrying on business operations would have little difficulty in establishing that the gifts were made solely for business purposes and would qualify as allowable income tax deductions.
Why would a taxpayer making a donation to the John Curtin House Appeal have little difficulty in establishing that the gift was for business purposes? Why? Is it to be said that if anyone makes a donation to a Labor Party appeal, in the estimation of the public that has the same character as a donation made to a desirable public objective. Is that what the First Assistant Commissioner is saying? We are not told, and I believe that what is contained in this letter as a statement of the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation warrants the closest scrutiny, the closest investigation, because I believe that implicit in the letter, if it is carried out, is a dereliction of duty on the part of the Commissioner of Taxation, and I will assert that proposition both inside and outside that chamber.
– Why did you not assert it a few years ago? You overlooked it then.
– I simply say that no such letter or no such attitude, as I am informed, was adopted with regard to any other appeal which was instituted in the past. I know that the Liberal Party has a humble building- it is a nice building, but it is a humble building- here in Canberra which was constructed from donations tediously and painfully and over a long period extracted from generous people throughout this country, and they did not get a cent in tax deduction for the moneys which they put in, and the Labor Party is prepared to -
– What about the handouts your Government gave to big business.
– Have you seen their assessment? You never saw it.
– Taxpayers’ money is going to subsidise big pastoral companies.
-Mr Deputy President, is it a fact that I have touched members of the Labor Party on the raw? Is that the reason why Senator Gietzelt is getting red in the face and is interjecting so furiously? Does he recognise the force of the argument I am raising? Is there any reason why Senator Milliner is getting up and Senator McLaren is shrieking.
– You are not answering in relation to the Taxation Office.
– Where are all the Liberals? You have driven the Liberal Party out of the Senate.
- Senator Wheeldon seems to have been upset. Mr Deputy President, the noise is incessant. Is there a guilty conscience amongst the Labor senators because they recognise the force of the arguments which are being raised?
– No guilty conscience at all.
– I simply ask these questions and maybe if the indignation of the Labor senators can subside they might attempt to give an intelligent answer. It is very interesting to see the indignation of the Labor senators. (Government senators interjecting)
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I find it quite impossible to hear what Senator Greenwood has to say because of the disorderly interjections of the Government senators and I ask that you pay regard to that.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The point of order is upheld. I would ask honourable senators to give the speaker, Senator Greenwood, silence.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy President. I simply say: How can a contribution to a political party- to any political party- be regarded as a tax deduction simply because it is said to be incurred necessarily for the purposes of acquiring income.
– You tell us.
-But that is the real point. Is it to be said by the Labor Party that by donating to the Labor Party appeals a person will help his position in the community? Is it to be said by the Labor Party: ‘If you help us we will help you”? If that is the argument which the Labor Party is raising, it is corruption of the very worst character. How can it be said in any way that giving a donation to a Labor Party appeal is to be regarded as producing assessable income? Is this in some way an indication that the Labor Party helps those who are prepared to give donations to it? How can it be said in any shape or form that a donation to the Labor Party is necessarily incurred in carrying on a business? Section 5 1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, under which business expenses are allowable, is in these terms:
All losses and outgoings to the extent to which they are incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income, or are necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of gaining or producing such income, shall be allowable deductions except to the extent to which they are losses or outgoings of capital, or of a capital, private or domestic nature, or are incurred in relation to the gaining or production of exempt income.
So either the Labor Party is claiming that it is necessary in the production of assessable income or necessary for the incurring of income to make this donation to the Labor Party, or the Commissioner is interpreting that provision in a way that facilitates the Labor Party’s purposes. A donation can only be said to be incurred in producing assessable income or in carrying on the business if such donation to the Labor Party is said to be necessary for that purpose. It is absolutely scandalous if it is put in that way. The Australian Labor Party has used its powers and its patronage in a host of areas, such as the way in which Mr Clyde Cameron, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration, dispenses 6 months previous average weekly earnings to some people who are put out of work, in the way in which it can be used through the Australian Assistance Plan -
– I am rising on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. This tirade of Senator Greenwood’s is now departing completely from the Bill which is before the Senate. The matter he is raising now has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to an Income Tax Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The matter to which Senator Greenwood is speaking is related to income tax. In debates on tax matters in this chamber the range of subjects covered is generally fairly wide. Senator Greenwood is speaking directly to an income tax matter.
– I was saying that the use by this Labor Government of the power of patronage is well known in the area of activities of the Minister for Labor and Immigration; it is known in the area of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden); and it is known in the area of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). In the areas of these Ministers money is used for purposes which the Labor Party regards as desirable and it is hoped thereby to buy votes. This is just another example in a slightly different vein of the way in which the income tax power is apparently being used by the Taxation Commissioner to facilitate donations to the Labor Party headquarters appeal in this city. He has made a statement that deductions will be allowed simply because donors will have no difficulty in establishing that it is a business expense. It is that aspect, that they will have no difficulty in establishing that it is a business expense, which to me warrants the closest scrutiny.
I believe that the statement contained in the letter of the First Assistant Commissioner is an indication that the Commissioner is not prepared to carry out the discretion which is conferred upon him under the legislation. It is the Commissioner’s duty to assess whether or not an expense, a deduction claimed by a taxpayer is or is not a business expense. If he is prepared to say in advance, as he does say, that it is thought that taxpayers carrying on business operations would have little difficulty in establishing that the gifts were made solely for business purposes and would qualify as allowable income tax deduction, it is to say in advance that the discretion conferred upon him is not going to be exercised. He is not saying that it applies to taxpayers carrying on a business; he is simply saying that it is taxpayers, and a taxpayer could be an individual who simply has a large income and pays money because he derives his income from shares, dividends or earnings which are not related to the carrying on of a business. If the First Assistant Commissioner claims that those sorts of taxpayers will have no difficulty in establishing that the gifts were made solely for business purposes just because they were so made, I believe he is not having regard to section 5 1 of the Act.
If the Parliament is not the place in which these allegations can be raised when a letter of this character comes to public light, then where can the people be protected from abuse of power? I believe that what the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has said and what other people have failed to say demonstrates the real problems which this situation is creating. The Commissioner cannot be doing his duty if he is taking an attitude which is so wide and which is so misleading. How can he say in advance that people are going to have little difficulty in establishing that it is a deduction which is a business expense and therefore allowable? Surely every particular case must be examined in the light of whether or not it is a proper deduction, and I think it is high time that the people of this country became aware ofthe shabby sort of government we have got and the way in which its own attitudes and dictrines and its own corruption extends to the officers for whom it is responsible. This is a letter which I believe any taxation commissioner could not sustain if it was sought to be justified publicly.
– I was particularly interested in the last words of Senator Greenwood in which he said that the corruption of the Government had extended to its officers. Senator Greenwood has said tonight that the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation is corrupt. He said that he will repeat his statements outside the Parliament. He has made that offer, and I here and now ask Senator Greenwood to go outside the Senate and say outside the Senate what he has said tonight, that the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation is corrupt. I know that he will not do it. I know that he is relying on the protection of Parliament. I know that he said it because these proceedings are being broadcast. I know that this braggadocio about what he will say outside Parliament will not be lived up to. I guarantee here and now to anybody who was listening to Senator Greenwood that he will not have the courage, that he will not have the honesty, that he will not have the calibre of a man to step outside this Senate and repeat what he just said about a responsible officer of the Taxation Office of this country, a man who was appointed by the previous Government. We know that he will not. Let us judge him tomorrow. Let us question him tomorrow about what he has done when he has sat in his cowardice and made this accusation against a man who is unable to defend himself. I do not intend to engage in the tedious -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I will not have you reflect on another senator in any way. I ask you to withdraw that remark.
- Mr Deputy President, if you are asking me to withdraw, I do withdraw, but in doing so I would remind you that we have just been accused by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of being corrupt. No requirement to withdraw was made then.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There is a difference in this place between a party being said to be corrupt or a group being suggested as being corrupt and saying directly to a member of the Parliament that he may be cowardly or some other such matter. Thank you for withdrawing.
– I will withdraw, but I will not engage in the tedious repetition of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition whose paranoia seems to increase with the number of Liberal senators who vacate the benches when he speaks. It is interesting to note that he no sooner gets to his feet than the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) and the Opposition Whip find it necessary to leave the chamber. One can have full sympathy with them for doing so.
But what is it that he said tonight? He said that there was a corrupt operation engaged in by the Government or its agent- in this case, the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, Mr Curtin. Senator Greenwood, in order to prove the dishonesty of the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, has established for our benefit that he was related to the former Prime Minister, Mr John Curtin. This no doubt is part of his corrupt motive, according to the mind of Senator Greenwoodthe man, if he is related to John Curtin, must of necessity be corrupt. I take it that is the point he is making to us tonight. He said that the corrupt First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation under the direction of a corrupt government has made some arrangement whereby donations can be made to the John Curtin House Appeal. It is interesting that he makes these allegations while Parliament is being broadcast and it is interesting that he makes them while he is under privilege and without casting any moral aspersions. I once again repeat that it will be interesting to see whether he carries out his promise and repeats his allegation of corruption against the First Assistant Commissioner outside this chamber. He need not fear that we shall forget that he has made this allegation.
What is it that he said? He said that a corrupt arrangement was made by the corrupt First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation under the direction of a corrupt government. This question was put yesterday in the House of Representatives by his friend Mr Fraser, the man who wanted to become the Leader of the Opposition and take over that good permanent job from Mr Snedden. That same allegation was made by way of a question asked yesterday of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). The Treasurer answered the question admirably. He answered the question completely and, in fact, the arrangement which the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation specified in his letter to the secretary of the John Curtin House Appeal was precisely in the same terms as the arrangement which was made when the appeal was made for John McEwen House on behalf of the Australian Country Party. It is exactly the same arrangement which occurred under the previous Government- exactly the same arrangement. Yet Senator Greenwood comes along tonight and says that we are corrupt when precisely the same arrangement was made for the benefit of the Country Party under the previous Government. The question has been answered already in the House of Representatives; already it has been dealt with.
I have grave doubts that any of the Press will be carrying Senator Greenwood’s story. I think the Press has lost interest in him except out of some sort of curiosity. The Australian Labor Party can certainly stand up to anything that Senator Greenwood has to offer but I think it is a disgraceful situation that a public servant should have made against him an allegation of the nature that Senator Greenwood has made tonight. I believe that this shows the level of Senator Greenwood. I must say in fairness to them that I do not think what has been said reflects, generally speaking, the views of members of the Liberal Party. I doubt whether the allegations of corruption will be repeated by other members of the Liberal Party. It is interesting that Senator Greenwood’s own leader and his Party’s Whip chose quite ostentatiously to leave the chamber as soon as he started to speak. I think the people of Australia will be able to judge how much reliance they can place on Senator Greenwood ‘s evidence, how much reliance they can place on Senator Greenwood’s integrity, and how much reliance they can place on Senator Greenwood’s word when they see whether outside this Senate he repeats all that he has said tonight, as he promised to do while he was speaking.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I call Senator Bishop.
- Mr Deputy President -
– I rise on a point of order. Just for my own edification, Mr Deputy President, I wonder whether you would assist me and possibly other honourable senators with an explanation. You asked Senator Wheeldon to withdraw because he referred to Senator Greenwood as being corrupt.
– Cowardly. You, Mr Deputy President, said in your ruling that certain action can be taken when one senator refers to another but that it is a different circumstance when a senator refers to a party or government. Standing order 4 1 8 states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall bc considered highly disorderly.
So that we will know how to behave in the future, do you still claim that a senator can reflect on the corruption of a Party or government, and that that is allowable in this chamber, but may not reflect on the honesty of another senator? Do you rule, as you did in the case of Senator Wheeldon, that where it is a matter between a senator and another senator the point of order is upheld but that if the senator makes the same accusation against a Party, government or a House of Parliament it is allowable? Is that regarded in your opinion as being fair comment? 1 am not trying to be difficult; I am looking to the future in seeking your guidance based upon your experience in the chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Senator McAuliffe has asked a question of me. I think reference to Hansard tomorrow will indicate that he has used a variety of words to test the answer that I gave. He has used the word ‘government’; he has used the word group’; he has used the word ‘Party’;, and I think he used the words in relation to a political Party? I will take advice from the Clerk on the matter. My understanding is that standing order 4 1 8, as Senator McAuliffe has read it, states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against cither House of Parliament. . . .
I believe that no offensive words were used against either House of Parliament. Then it says: . . or any Member of such House . . .
I believe that in respect of the words used by Senator Wheeldon it was my duty to construe those as offensive words to me used against a member of this House and I would do the same were a Labor member or any member of this Senate said to be cowardly. I would see it as my obligation to immediately take that as an offensive word whether an honourable senator raised the point or not. Standing order 418 goes on to say:
Or of any House of a State Parliament . . .
I think Senator McAuliffe would agree with me that from some sides of the House in this place I have heard words used on many occasions against State Houses of Parliament. Standing order 418 goes on to say ‘against a member of a State House ‘. However, that was not the case on this occasion. Standing order 4 1 8 then goes on to say: or against any Statute . . .
That does not come into question- unless for the purpose or moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
It would be my own ruling that I have ruled correctly. I will seek the advice of the Clerk. I ask the Senate to hold to order for a moment. (The Deputy President having consulted the Clerk)-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Clerk advises me that he finds nothing to disagree with in my ruling.
– I refer to standing order 410 to claim the right -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I will hear Senator McAuliffe.
– Thank you for that ruling, Mr Deputy President. If Hansard tomorrow or the proofs, if we could see them this evening, show that Senator Greenwood charged the Government with corruption in this matter of tax deductions, and it is recorded that way in Hansard, can I presume that you will ask for a withdrawal from Senator Greenwood- that is, if he has made that statement? I feel that he has but I am speaking from memory. If the proofs of Hansard, if we could see them, show this- and I honestly feel that Senator Greenwood did reflect on the Government by saying that it was corrupt in this matter and also on an officer in the Taxation Office- can I presume that you will subsequently ask Senator Greenwood to withdraw?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have been through the standing order and I find nothing in it which states that a senator or member cannot refer to a government. I think Senator McAuliffe would agree with me that it would be improper if a government were to be relieved from all responsibility of any charge and that must stand in my view. If Hansard does show tomorrow that a charge of corruption was made against a government I would find no reason to vary my own attitude.
– I rise under standing order 4 1 0 which states:
A Senator who has spoken to a Question may again be heard, to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood -
It goes on but I do not quote the balance of it. I rise because I certainly did say in a -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I believe the appropriate time to rise on this matter is when the senator who is on his feet, who is in actual fact Senator Bishop, has completed his statement.
-Mr Deputy President -
- Mr Deputy President, I understood Senator Bishop had not said a word. I was choosing to use the opportunity at this stage whilst the memory of what Senator Wheeldon had said was -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Clerk advises me that Senator Greenwood should have an opportunity to speak.
– Mr Deputy President -
– I raise a point of order. Standing order 410 clearly says that no senator who wishes to make an explanation shall interrupt any senator in possession of the Chair. Senator Bishop was in possession of the Chair.
– He was called.
– Yes, and Senator McAuliffe raised a point of order. Senator McAuliffe can interrupt the proceedings on a point of order. But under standing order 410 Senator Greenwood cannot interrupt the proceedings, nor can he take the Chair away from Senator Bishop, and so it ought to be ruled.
- Senator Bishop does not have the Chair.
– He did have the Chair.
– He has the call.
– That is what it means. Why do you not understand the Standing Orders?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I think the Senate may assist me to regain order in this place. I had called Senator Bishop. Senator Bishop yielded, on my request, to Senator McAuliffe. Senator Bishop was not in control of the Chair at that stage. I am advised, and I believe correctly, that Senator Greenwood should be heard at this moment.
– I rise only because of what Senator Wheeldon said and I believe that I have been misquoted or misunderstood. I certainly accused the Government- and I do not retract from the accusation I made- of corruption, and my recollection is that I said that that corruption or the taint of it had extended to its officers. Senator Wheeldon has said I therefore accused the First Assistant Commissioner -
– I rise to a point of order. I understood that Senator Greenwood was going to make a personal explanation. He has not suggested that he was going to do so. If he is not making a personal explanation he is having a second crack of the whip in the debate that is now before the House.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Greenwood has the call on this matter. I believe he is making an explanation.
- Senator Wheeldon in the course of his interpretation of my remarks accused me of saying that Mr Curtin, the First Assistant Commissioner, was corrupt. I make no such allegation.
Government supporters- Oh!
– It does seem to me that the noise on this issue is a noise which indicates that they have been touched on the raw on the whole question. I certainly did not intend to make any such accusation. I withdraw any suggestion that my remarks carried that implication and all I say is that I thoroughly disagree with the ruling. I do not think it is a proper exercise of the discretion of the Commissioner. That I am prepared to say inside or outside this place. But to suggest- and I do not suggest it- or to imply that I am saying that the First Assistant Commissioner was in some way corrupt or motivated by money, I do not allege nor did I intend to allege and I do not believe that what I said fairly raised that suggestion. But I think it is a quite erroneous ruling, not justified by the Act and I think it does favour the Labor Party and that Labor Party Government, I do not hesitate in saying, is a corrupt government.
– I raise a point of order. Standing Order 410, as you know, Mr Deputy President, gives a senator an opportunity to make an explanation where he has been misquoted or misunderstood. Senator Greenwood is now introducing debatable matter and extending the debate beyond that, surely, and therefore should not be able to go beyond explaining how he had been misunderstood or misquoted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- 1 believe there is a firm basis to your comment, Senator Grimes. I believe Senator Greenwood has completed his remarks. I call Senator Bishop.
– On a point of order, I rise to make a request to you, Mr Deputy President, that in view of Senator Greenwood’s denial that he alleged corruption against the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, may an arrangement be made whereby the tape of Senator Greenwood’s speech can be played to yourself, Senator Greenwood and myself so that we can verify the veracity of what Senator Greenwood was said by me to have said before the pinks of the Hansard debate are tampered with by anybody?
- Mr Deputy President, may I–
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call Senator Bishop.
– The rulings that have been requested from you, Mr Deputy President, I suggest to the Senate, show clearly that this Senate is reaching a stage in this debate and also in debates held at times when the proceedings are broadcast- I refer to last Wednesday- when the people of Australia may question whether the parliamentary system is working as it should do and whether the Opposition is using its role as it should in constructive criticism of a government and the way it should perform that constructive criticism. What has been demonstrated here tonight, particularly in regard to the comments of Senator Greenwood, is that he has completely misrepresented a very honourable Treasurer. In my time in the Parliament I have never heard anybody personally attack the Treasurer, Frank Crean, who is known to be personally an honest man and when he gives a decision or gives an answer to a question everybody in the countryside recognises that Crean is giving an honest deal, an honest answer to the questions which are raised.
On 3 occasions this week- this is not the firstthis question of Curtin House has been raised. What is the position about Curtin House? The first thing I want to say is this: I have been in the Parliament for some years and I do not wonder why Australians now wonder whether the Parliament can perform its duties. I say it is a discredit to the Opposition when proceedings of the Senate are broadcast to use that time not to debate the Bills before the chamber but to attack the Government when it is not warranted because last Wednesday we had the same situation, when every member of the Parliament -
– We debated the Family Law Bill.
– Of course it is very usual for you, Senator Greenwood. You are used to this tactic. In this Parliament when everybody is trying to complete the work of the Government and of the Parliament -
– Straighten your halo. You have a very short memory.
– I will refer to your halo, Senator. You came along here last week and alleged that an arbitration inspector had attended a union meeting–
– Last week we debated the Family Law Bill and you know it.
– I am replying to this interruption. Talking about halos he came along here and said something about an arbitration inspector. Everybody thought the man had attended a union meeting outside his duties. It happened to be a union member- a member of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. The honourable senator attacked the member. He got Press publicity, and that was the situation. He never had the guts to get up in the Parliament and say: ‘Look, that member is a member of the union’. Senator Greenwood comes along here tonight. He has read the Hansard. He has read the document from the First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. He knows what the history is. The history is clearly demonstrated by Mr Crean. Let me quote what he said yesterday in answer to a question asked by Mr Collard. The question reads:
My question is addressed to the Treasurer. While 1 appreciate that even if he is in a position to do so he would never disclose the names of any companies concerned, could he nevertheless tell the House whether or not some companies did apply for and in fact were actually granted tax deductions on moneys donated towards the building of McEwen House?
Mr Crean replied. This is the Mr Crean who a little while ago you were all so very sympathetic towards because he is going to be the Minister for Overseas Trade. He is an honest man. We all know he is an honest man. Frank Crean said this:
The answer to the honourable gentleman ‘s question is yes.
Today, for the third occasion Mr Sinclair raised the same question. No doubt Senator Greenwood has read the Hansard copy. Senator Greenwood is using the arena here publicly to broadcast to the people of Australia matters which are not relevant The Government is trying to get Bills passed. Because we are, in fact, trying to do the work and not intervening in debates to the extent that we should, Senator
Greenwood raises these extraneous questions, not only about Mr Crean and the Taxation Office and McEwen House but also about what Mr Cameron is doing in patronising. I refer to Mr Crean ‘s reply to Mr Sinclair:
No individual, 1 emphasise, may receive a deduction for contributions, to Curtin House, McEwen House or even Menzies House. I am not drawing any distinctions.
Mr Crean went on to refer to related matters. Senator Greenwood is using this forum to get his story out to Australia.
– Quite properly, because no one else will get it out.
– No, everybody knows you did it last Wednesday. We were then discussing Bills and a number of senators, including Senator Greenwood, used the first reading stage of the Bills to expand on their political analyses of the Australian economy. The Government will rise or fall on its own record. Honourable senators opposite do not have to use the occasions when the Senate is being broadcast to exploit such situations. The Government is bound not to continue the debate and we on this side of the House are containing ourselves to make sure that the Senate rises at a reasonable time. I refer again to what Mr Crean said to Mr Sinclair:
I am simply stating as a fact that some deductions were allowed in respect of McEwen House. No deductions have yet been allowed for Curtin House and whether they are allowed in terms of section 5 1 will be for the Commissioner of Taxation to decide.
That is the clear announced policy of the Treasurer. It is as clear as day. Opposition senators allege corruption on the Government’s part. The very shady tenor of Senator Greenwood ‘s statement was clearly that he intended a personal attack on an official of the Department. We have never done this. It is a pretty poor thing for an opposition or a government to complain about the people that they control. It is improper and it should not be done. I think it is quite unfair. I am not surprised because every now and again Senator Greenwood does those things. He should use this occasion, in my opinion, to apologise for the comments he has made. They are not political comments at all. In fact, in my opinion, they misrepresent the situation. It is clear, if we look at Mr Crean’s answer, that companies contributed to McEwen House. Everbody on our side who knew that favours were being bestowed in those days said: ‘Why can’t we do something for the Labor Party?’ In this case some very important people are involved. Are honourable senators opposite saying that people like Sir Richard Kirby and Sir Thomas Playford who are members of the Committee which is trying to get donations for Curtin House as recognition of the work -
– The Government was very indulgent to Sir Richard Kirby when he retired.
– The honourable senator, who was once Attorney-General, had many matters to deal with in connection with the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Tonight, in respect of a taxation commissioner he makes a number of assertions, influences or reflections which are not proper. I have never heard one of our members make such assertions. It is improper. Honourable senators opposite are alleging that in society today there are no men of principle. I say that Sir Richard Kirby and Sir Thomas Playford are men of principle who believe that the leader of a great political party ought to be commemorated. Consequently Sir Richard Kirby and Sir Thomas Playford are in that group of people who are trying to raise funds.
Finally let me refer, of course, to the principal position. What has been happening in the Senate for several weeks now? I do not contest the right of the Opposition- it is its job- to try to criticise constructively the performance of the Government. We have made mistakes; of course we have. But we have done great things. The great things we have done are now alleged to be patronage. The improvements we have made in the industrial field are said to be things we have done because we want to get votes. Senator Cavanagh has been criticised for patronage because he is improving the lot of the Aborigines. Mr Beazley has been criticised about education matters. Senator Greenwood talks about the patronage of Mr Cameron. I have said this time and time again: This the first time in Australia than any government has ever established a manpower policy–
– In peace time.
– Yes, in peace time. It has also set about to assist not only trade unions but also management. I have repeated the sorts of things which Mr Cameron has tried to do. He has tried to provide subsidies for management where managers need to be trained and to train people in production to ensure productivity and better management. We are doing all these things. In turn we are giving subsidies to the trade union movement for education. In relation to economic matters the Government proposals are well known. We have unemployment. We forecast it. Mr Cameron says that next year it will decline. In answer to Senator Greenwood I say that the record ofthe Department of Labor has been outstanding. Where we have had dislocations we have readily made remedies. That was not the case with the previous Government. When I was a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions years ago many waterside workers were to be displaced at sugar ports. It took us many months to get the sort of relocation allowances which the Government has now readily brought about in a few months.
It is to sad to think that in the last stages of this Parliament Opposition speakers have tried to misrepresent the interpretations of a very responsible Minister. I hope that it will not continue. After all, the Opposition and the Government have to make the Parliament work. If honourable senators opposite behave in the fashion in which they are behaving we will see a situation in Australia where Parliament is completely discredited. There has to be some code of principle and honour. Let all of us try to keep it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I think the Senate will agree that in the discussion of this Bill I have allowed the debate to roam fairly wide of the mark of taxation. It is traditional and quite in order for the Senate to do that. In the interests of progress I think honourable senators should restrict their remarks to the Bill.
-I wish to use standing order 408 to claim that I have been misrepresented. I have not spoken before in this debate. I ask the Senate ‘s indulgence to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I make this personal explanation as a result of an interjection I made after being provoked by the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) who alleged that the Opposition used the time when the Senate was being broadcast to make political capital. I merely suggested to the Minister that he has a short memory. This tactic was used in the 23 years prior to this Government’s coming to office. In answer to my interjection the Minister referred to a question that I had asked in the Senate last week relating to an arbitration officer who attended an ACOA meeting in Adelaide not long ago and suggested strike action. Certainly he accused me of being dishonest, I think. I forget the term that he used, but if I am wrong in that -
– Yes. I was aware of the fact that this person was a member of the union, and a question was raised in the minds of other trade unionists at that meeting concerning the ethics of an arbitration officer suggesting strike action. It seemed to me to be incompatible with that position. It seemed to those union members to be incompatible with his position in the department. I meant no disrespect at all. I remind the Minister that the duties of an arbitration inspector are, among other things, to carry out inspections, inquiries and interviews and to ensure the provisions ofthe Conciliation and Arbitration Act- are you shaking your head, Senator Bishop?
– No. I was going to say that the officer was a member of a union. I have never complained about Liberal members or DLP members. Your question was posed in a way which would reflect -
– I am merely responding to what you did. I asked you why you did not respond to my question this morning. You chose to use this medium -
– I rise to a point of order. I understood that Senator Jessop sought to make a personal explanation in relation to something that was said in this debate. He is now going back to what happened in question time this afternoon in an endeavour to try to get himself out of a corner in which he finds himself. What he is explaning has nothing to do with the expressions that were made in this debate this evening. He is exercising a right that does not exist for any senator in this chamber in relation to a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator, I acknowledge your point of order, that you can see no relevance in what Senator Jessop is saying, but Senator Jessop has leave. I call him.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I am referring to what the Minister has said, and I am doing this by way of a personal explanation. I will be very brief. I suggest that with respect to what the Minister has said, the duties of” this arbitration officer are to carry out inspections, inquiries and interviews and to ensure that the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and Commonwealth awards are being observed. My question was whether this action on the part of this arbitration officer was ethical. I believe that it was not, and so do the other members of the trade union movement who were present at that meeting.
-Mr Deputy President, I rise to take part in this debate having heard Senator Greenwood in my room where I was behaving as I once thought a senator should behave. I recall the words of the monument in Westminster Abbey to James Vernon who was described as being in the Senate, disinterested, vigilant and steady. That was what I was trying to be. Senator Guilfoyle who saw me earlier this evening well knows that that was what I was trying to do. I was provoked to enter this chamber having heard Senator Greenwood for the second Wednesday in succession occupying a very large portion of broadcasting time which is available to the Senate and wondering why I did not take more interest in the Broadcasting and Television Bill which was before the Senate a day or two ago. If we did have freedom to move amendments in this Senate, one would certainly move one to control the amount of broadcasting time which is occupied by one individual in this chamber, as it was last Wednesday and as it has been again this Wednesday.
The Bill which we are discussing is a taxation Bill concerned with the high purposes of the Government which is now in office. It is appropriating money for the purposes of that Government, and it has been used as a vehicle for attacking all sorts of rather petty incidents which Senator Greenwood seems to see as some form of moral corruption. Again tonight we have been treated to this sort of plaintive whine about little incidents in which the Government is allegedly involved, but nothing of substance about the essential issues with which this appropriation of money is concerned, with which the Government is concerned, and with which apparently the Liberal Party is not concerned in any major way.
I draw attention to this point in 2 ways. In the last few weeks in this chamber as we have come up to the Christmas period we have been attacked as a Government in 2 main areas. The 2 things which in essence have been said by the Opposition are that there is no confidence in this community, and that if there is any confidence we tell you you are wrong’. May I use a good illustration of this by referring to a statement made quite recently by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the other place (Mr Anthony) when there was a farmer’s demonstration outside this building. Honourable senators will recall that Mr Anthony played a considerable part in encouraging that demonstration to take place. When it failed Mr Anthony issued this statement:
The Government would be unwise to see today’s farmers’ demonstration ‘fizzer’ as a true indication of farmers’ feelings throughout Australia.
Today’s attempt to demonstrate rural concern seems to have ignored several basic requirements, which all farmers should understand: The need for proper preparation, cultivation, watering, fertilising.
The point I make about that statement is that having participated in trying to organise a demonstration which failed Mr Anthony, as the Leader of the Country Party, went on to complain, firstly, that the demonstration had not been properly organised and, secondly, that farmers whom he purports to represent do not understand what they are aggrieved about and what they ought to demonstrate about, and because they do not understand these things he set out in this document to tell them what they ought to be upset about. He said it all at great length. It is an insult to the people whom the Country Party claims to represent. It is an insult to the intelligence of every farmer in Australia.
It is typical of the attitude of the Opposition parties in this chamber; consistently they go out of their way to encourage dissent in this community on all sorts of phony issues and to manufacture phony issues. When they do not succeed in that they tell the people that they do not understand what they really ought to be complaining about. Not only is it true of the Country Party in relation to the rural sector of the economy; it is equally true of the Liberal Party in relation to the business community and that Party’s attempts to undermine the confidence of the business community, as it has been doing in this place over a long time. What I put to honourable senators is that the Senate in considering legislation must not be concerned with that negative attitude to Government and that as a House of review we should try to understand the changes which are taking place in this community and changes which are being made by this Government.
I will illustrate some of the points that I regard as important in that connection. It is important that the Senate should recognise some of the fundamental changes initiated by this Government and should attempt to understand them in a constructive sort of way. I will look at a few of the points.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I rise with some reluctance to take this point of order on Senator Button who is, as usual, lifting the debate to a high plane, but I wonder whether his remarks are very relevant to the Bill that is before us. I refer to standing order 419 and I wonder whether, in view of the lecture which Senator Bishop gave us- I had some sympathy for his lecture- the debate could be returned to the Bill and Senator Button could be asked to confine his remarks to the taxation measure which is before us.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Your point of order is noted, Senator Chaney. In view of the pattern that was laid down from the Chair previously, I shall not uphold the point of order.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. As Senator Chaney was so attentively following me, perhaps he can pick up the point which I was just making when he interrupted. It is simply this: We are concerned about spending money on the purposes of this Government, and we are concerned- and of course a lot of people are concerned- about what the alternative government, if there is such a thing, might do about the sorts of matters with which we are dealing. I was talking about some of the new initiatives which this Government has taken and which involve the spending of money. I wanted to speak first of all about the charge which is made against this Government that it is centralised and that centralism is some sort of evil force in the Australian community which must be resisted as some sort of bogey which cannot be tolerated.
The very fact of the matter is that for the first time in Australia ‘s history a national government is spending money- in a centralist sense, if you like- in a way which is opening up all sorts of new participatory grass root endeavours in this community. Let me refer first of all to the Australian Assistance Plan and to the debate that we had on it in the Senate. When we talked about it in the Senate we had Senator Greenwood going off again about some trade union official involved in the Australian Assistance Plan in Altona and worrying about all the things which worried him when he was a Minister in the previous government and which will still be worrying him in 25 years time, however irrelevant they might be. That was the level of the debate that we had from the Opposition about the Australian Assistance Plan. For the first time citizens in our community are being asked to participate and are participating in social welfare endeavours at a grass roots level. That is because of the activities of a centralist government. It is not because of the initatives and activities of the much vaunted State governments about which we hear so much; it is because of the initiatives and activities of a centralist government.
For the same sort of reason this Government has made money available to the starved area of Australian government, to the starved tier of the hierarchy- that is, local government- for those purposes. Again it involves the participation of people as a result of central government initiatives. Thirdly I refer to the area of open government in the terms in which this Government has acted in the production of numerous reports on all sorts of issues which for the first time have been freely published and which have let the people of Australia know the sort of information upon which policy decisions, right or wrong, are being based. All these matters are new initiatives in Australian society. The level of discussion and criticism of them by the Opposition Parties in the Senate has been totally appalling and suggests that they just do not understand them. Let me give some more examples. There is whole new lists of words in the political lexicon as a result of this Government’s initiatives. For the first time, if one flips through the Liberal Party’s new platform, one finds all sorts of notions which just did not exist in the last book.
– Inflation and unemployment?
-I say to Senator Chaney that we all know about inflation and employment. They are important issues. As a matter of fact, there is nothing about them in the Liberal Party’s book. Let us look at the headings into which this book has been divided. They are all new words to the Liberal Party. There is a section dealing with the environment, which is something of which it had never really, heard 18 months ago. There is a section dealing with conservation, which really did not emerge much in Liberal Party philosophy 18 months ago. There are all sorts of things, including a section on urban and regional development, which are just new concepts in the political lexicon introduced by this Government and copied in this rather insipid, pale way in the new platform which I was reading so avidly in my room when I was interrupted by Senator Greenwood and was forced to come into this chamber to say a few words.
There are all sorts of initiatives which a central government can take that are not only initiatives of spending money and encouraging new endeavours but also initiatives of example. Once again I refer to new things in our society which just did not exist previously and which are examples to the Australian community of what can be done. We can do things in Australia without being the sort of derivative society that we were under the Liberal-Country Party Government that borrowed all its ideas from the United States of America or the United Kingdom. Let us look at the concept of new cities in Australia. The development of Monarto, the development of Albury-Wodonga, the appropriation of the Glebe lands for redevelopment in an imaginative way, the proposed appropriation of 90 acres of land at Woolloomooloo for new development in an imaginative way, the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate, which for the first time has established criteria about the essential heritage of this nation and the sort of things of which, when the petty issues of today are gone, Australian children of the future can be proud, including the vital heritage of the environment, the landscape and the buildings which are so important in the building of a national tradition. Those are all new concepts which the Opposition has shown a little reluctance to support, except in a rather half-hearted way.
We are told that these are the actions of a dangerous centralist government and we are given little lectures about morality and the importance of the Federal structure. So we find in chapter 2 of the Liberal Party’s platform a section which is rather pompously headed Federalism- the responsible exercise of power’. That is a very fine sounding thing, but let us look at how it works. What the Liberal Party says in this place and everywhere else is that there is something sacred about the notion of States in the Australian Constitution and that State governments are per se possessed of some particular virtue which we on this side of the chamber do not seem to understand. The important thing about government is, surely, that it should operate effectively and efficiently in the interests of the people. There is still the quaint notion in the Liberal Party’s platform that somehow the State governments- like the Queensland Government, for example- are the safeguards of civil liberties in the community.
– Now, now.
- Senator Bonner says Now, now’. He should know very well about that. The Queensland Government is no doubt a fine example in his eyes. In the section on the responsible exercise of power we are told about the distribution of power and responsibility between the Commonwealth and State governments and local authorities to ensure the maximum participation of the individual citizen in the decisionmaking processes and as an essential safeguard against authoritarianism.
– Hear, hear!
-I await the day when, instead of bleating ‘Hear, hear’, a Liberal Party senator gets up in this place and tells us how the State governments in this country are at the moment safeguarding the individual liberty of the citizen and are bulwarks against authoritarianism, as has been claimed, because if one looks for authoritarianism in this country one does not find it in the national government- one finds it in the activities of the various State governments- and if one looks for efficiency one does not find it in the State governments.
Let us look at the Government of my own State as an example. Let us look at the Government of Victoria- the brightest jewel in the crown of liberalism, as Sir Henry Bolte once described it, the great ‘Hamer makes it happen’ Government. That Government cannot even spend more than but 24 per cent of the money which is allocated to it for education in a financial year. It cannot do so because its Public Service has not been geared to carry out that sort of imaginative program. The Liberal Government in Victoria has never really seen the needs which exist for the children of that State in education, particularly the needs of disadvantaged children. Everybody in Victoria knows that. The Victorian Government cannot spend the money it has been allocated because it does not have a sufficiently imaginative approach to do so. Let us look at the much vaunted Environmental Protection Authority which was established by the Liberal Government in the State of Victoria. It has now been emasculated and is subject to further review. It was another great State enterprise which was going to show the way but which, as I have already said, has been emasculated.
Let us look at the transport mess in the State of Victoria. Nothing has really been done in Melbourne. No policy has been developed on freeways. Freeways just end in the middle of a surburb and nothing further happens because there is no real design and plan for what is going to happen in relation to freeways in that State. Let us look at the proposed Newport power station fiasco, which has been raised again and again in this chamber. The establishment of such a power station is the responsibility of the Victorian Government, but its minions in this chamber have raised it in the hope of gaining some sort of assistance from this chamber to get it out of its difficulties. In dealing with the question of federalism as the responsible exercise of power, I refer to that sort of issue as showing something of the ill conceived nature of the view that State governments are somehow efficient in the interests of Australian people and are somehow the bulwarks of freedom and the individual against authoritarianism.
– You want to do away with State governments.
-I did not say that I would want to do away with State governments, if you want to know the answer to that suggestion.
– You are here under false pretences in that case.
– I am not here under false pretences.
– You were elected by the State to represent it.
– I am quite aware of that, Senator Bonner. I am able to work that out for myself. I am grateful for the honourable senator’s assistance, but I do happen to know that. There may be something else that he can tell me that I do not know- I am sure he can- but that is not one of the things. Before I was so rudely interrupted by my colleague Senator Bonner I was making the point that the much vaunted State governments need very close examination as a viable political structure. We must examine the question: What ensures the liberty of the individual in Australia? What is the bulwark against authoritarianism? What is the most efficient and productive form of government that involves the citizens? I put it to the Senate that the imaginative centralist initiatives of the Government have involved for the first time the citizens of our community in all sorts of new participatory endeavours, but the much vaunted State governments have done nothing over the years, and are doing nothing now, to secure those liberties or to secure the involvement of citizens in all sorts of endeavours of that kind. Senator Bonner is trying to interject, but if I were he I would not boast too much about Queensland. His Premier must be unique throughout the world when one talks about authoritarianism, lack of imagination and so on.
– You will know about it on 7 December.
-Senator Bonner will know something on 7 December. 1 am sure that we will all know something on 7 December. I still do not think that any Australian who is travelling overseas would describe Queensland as the brightest jewel in the democratic structure of Australia and as the most shining example of progressive State governments. If that is what the honourable senator stands for he ought to say that Mr Bjelke-Petersen is his boy. If the honourable senator subscribes to the values of Mr
Bjelke-Petersen in terms of individualism and the rights of the individual in terms of new developments in government, he should say so so that everybody in this chamber and everybody listening know where he really stands.
– What is wrong with those values? They are good individualist values on which this country has prospered.
-Senator Greenwood can talk about their being individualist values. We all know that Mussolini made the trains run on time. I am told that Hitler was an. individualist and that Franco is too. Maybe Mr Bjelke-Petersen is a good individualist. In fact from listening to Senator Greenwood speak in this chamber I would say that his performances were uniquely individual.
– I take a point of order. I draw attention to the fact that the senator has not addressed himself at all in the last 10 minutes to the Bill, which is the Income Tax Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Senator Carrick, I appreciate your inviting my attention to that matter. You did not cite the standing order. I explained in response to a point of order that was taken previously by Senator Chaney that I would not accept the point of order. I took as my giude the ruling of the person who had occupied the chair before me- a senator of great experience in the chair. Far be it for me to rule contrary to the way he had previously ruled. He set the pattern for this debate. I know that senators have wandered from the text of the Bill before the Senate but that was the pattern allowed by the person who occupied the chair before me. He has greater experience than I have. I will follow the lines that he set here this evening. The point of order is not upheld.
-I was talking about the money that the Government was appropriating for taxation purposes and under provocation from Senator Bonner and Senator Greenwood contrasting the approach that our Government adopts to appropriating money for the purposes of the Government with the way that the Queensland Government appropriates its money.
– And spends some.
– And spends some, I am reminded. I was making the point that the national government has created all sorts of new openings and initiatives for citizens in this community by its imagination, by the way in which it spends money and by the examples that it has set. 1 will illustrate my point by talking about the section of the federal platform of the Liberal Party that deals with local government, which is a matter for which the Liberal Party, if it were in office, would no doubt appropriate a little money. Part of the document states:
Local government is increasingly called upon to promote and foster public involvement . . .
There is nothing very much new about that, but the burden of local government finance should not be borne from rates alone. The platform continues:
The Commonwealth must recognise and accept a responsibility to assist local government, through the States, to fulfil its increasingly important role.
– Again what is wrong with that?
-I am about to tell the honourable senator what is wrong with that, if he would wait a minute. It is simply this. It goes back to the point that I was making a moment ago. Everywhere the sacrosanct words ‘through the States’ must be included in this platform. Even when we debated last week the Family Law Bill, it had to be done through the States. It is stated in the platform of the Liberal Party that we do it through the States because they are somehow the guardians of individual liberty and because they save us from the threat of central government authoritarianism and so on. We must examine these concepts to see what they really mean. The Opposition in this chamber is full of reactionary huff and puff. This is a high sounding document that means nothing when one examines it. One must ask what the Opposition really stands for on these issues. It seems to me that it stands for the notion that the States will somehow be their saviours in every political situation. When we put forward a referendum at the May elections to enable the national Government to provide money directly for local government, it was opposed by the Liberal Party.
– The people knocked it out; we did not.
-I know that the people knocked it out. I am saying that it was opposed by the Liberal Party on the same old lines that somehow if one does it through the States, the guardians of individual liberties, they will do it better than if the money is paid directly to local government. The Opposition is afraid of direct participation by the people of Australia in their own affairs; it is afraid of direct participation by the people in local government and in all the areas covered by the Australian Assistance Plan.
When we look at the money that must be appropriated under this Bill we look at the national endeavours that this Government is making. We look at it in contrast to the rather shabby Opposition that really has done nothing but try to undermine the confidence of the Australian people and has put nothing forward other than these rather empty slogans to which I have referred in the much vaunted new federal platform of the Liberal Party.
– I wish to address a few comments to the Income Tax Bill 1974 and particularly -
- Senator Missen should have been given the call.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Senator Bonner, I have given the call to Senator Devitt. The practice in this chamber has been that the Whips usually give to the Chair the names of the speakers to be called. Whilst it is not binding on the Chair it has always been used as a guide to the Chair. Senator Missen ‘s name is not on the list. You interjected to suggest that I should not have given the call to Senator Devitt. Senator Devitt ‘s name is on the list supplied and Senator Missen ‘s name is not. I am following the practice established in this chamber for some time. Senator Devitt has been correctly called.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, the Bill before us is the Income Tax Bill 1974. 1 want to address my comments to a point made at some length by Senator Greenwood. I want to speak about it because the subject he raised has a particular relevance to the whole of the Australian community. I suggest it has a particular relevance to the members of the Australian Labor Party who now sit in government on this side of the chamber. We would be displaying a dereliction of duty to the name and honour of a very great man if we remained silent without answering things said here tonight. I feel a deep sense of obligation to that great Australian, John Curtin, whose name was raised tonight in connection with the proposal of the nation, not necessarily the proposal of the Australian Labor Party or the government of the day but the people of Australia, to erect a suitable memorial to him.
It will be remembered, Mr Acting Deputy President, that he was the war time leader of this country. He was not the only war time leader but he was the war time leader who had to assume the awful responsibility, that great and crushing responsibility, of conducting this country through a war after his predecessor in office failed, when the defence system of this country was in such a shambles that it had to be revived, resurrected, re-made, so that we could mount the defence of this country. He was the man who saw this country through the most critical period in its history, its darkest hours, in the dark loneliness of the high office of Prime Minister of Australia. It was the first time in the history of this nation that it had come under actual physical attack from its enemies. I think it is significant to remember that he was the man who guided the destinies of this country through that critical period in our history when our own shores were assaulted, when people died on our soil, when we were physically attacked and had to fight back. We needed, if ever we needed it before, the sort of leadership that was provided for this country by that very great Australian, John Curtin.
As I said, the office of Prime Minister was a lonely one but he assumed it and accepted great responsibility after the former Prime Minister and Cabinet of the day failed adequately to discharge their responsibilities to this country. He was the man who stood out against that very great British war time leader, Winston Churchill, and ordered the return to Australia of Australian troops who might otherwise have been engaged in some other part of the world and thereafter the history of this country might have taken a very different turn indeed.
Have we forgotten so soon the man who sent out that impassioned cry across the world to the United States of America- ‘in the name of God and humanity send us aid’? That was the clarion call sent out by this very great man to the nation and to the rest of the world. I want you, Mr Acting Deputy President, and the people listening to me, to remember that this great Australian, John Curtin, like the sailors, soldiers and airmen who marched side by side through that war, many of whom died, also gave his life for his country. He died in the service of this country just as surely as some of our soldiers, sailors and airmen died. I think it is fitting that not only we of the Labor Party should sponsor the erection of a memorial, a monument, a perpetual reminder to this country of one of its greatest sons but also that the people of Australia should join us. That is what is happening. Not only is the sponsorship of this memorial coming from our ranks; it is being supported by every section of the Australian community, all elements of it, just as the community did in the case of the erection of McEwen House which stands as a memorial to another very great Australian, John McEwen.
Why should we not honour this very great Australian by erecting a fitting and lasting memorial? Not only should Australia at large honour him, as Australians have done in many ways throughout the country; we of the Labor Party have a double reason for honouring him. He brought honour and lustre to the name of the Australian Labor Party and to the ranks of the Australian Labor movement. Not only Labor people but little people and significant figures in the land are joined with us to provide a fitting memorial to honour and perpetuate the name of a very great Austraiian. He served his country and he died for it. Surely greater love hath no man than this. Therefore it is beneath contempt to introduce this atmosphere into the present debate. I hope that we forget this whole sorry affair as quickly as possible so that we may appropriately honour the name of a very great Australian. I am sorry that Senator Greenwood is not in the chamber now. We had to cop it from him earlier in the evening. I would very much like to stand in front of him now and say that John Curtin was a man who served his country and gave his life for it. Let no man impugn the name of that very great Australian.
– I did not intend to take part in this debate originally but I was induced by the very notable tribute Senator Button paid tonight to the new platform of the Liberal Party of Australia. However, before turning to that point, Senator Devitt was wrong in construing that anything said tonight was said in derogation of John Curtin. Everybody recognises his role as a Prime Minister. But his name is being given to a building which is to be, after all, a political building and it will be used for political purposes. Giving to that building the name of a former Prime Minister, whom I think we all respect, does not mean that we cannot criticise the way in which the money for it is being raised. We have rightly criticised these matters tonight.
I propose to remind the Senate of what Senator Button said. When I gave him a copy of the Federal platform of the Liberal Party I hoped it might be a case of casting upon the waters and bringing forth something of value. Undoubtedly that action has brought something forth tonight. We are extremely proud of the matters contained in that platform and we believe it will be the road towards victory and success for the Liberal Party in. the coming elections. We recognise that although Senator Button purports to criticise it he has recognised that in that platform we have nailed down the real issues which are before the Australian people.
Senator Button was very careful tonight not to speak of the Labor Party’s platform, this document which I have here, and I think that was very understandable. If he had referred to his Party’s platform he would have had to be careful because he would rapidly have come across the socialisation planks of that platform which remain in it in pristine beauty. Obviously socialisation is the intention of his Party if it ever obtains full power in both Houses of Parliament. Perhaps he would not like to read out the clause in that policy about abolition of the Senate. After all, that still remains the policy and platform of the Labor Party although attempts have been made to remove it. The honourable senator also would not like to be reminded of the low interest nature of the Labor Party which must now be just an unhappy memory in the minds of members of the Labor Party. Instead, the honourable senator chose to highlight what we highlight in the Liberal Party platform and which is of concern when one considers money Bills and the raising of money by this Parliament- namely, that federalism is the basis of this community and should remain so; that there is safety in the multitude of counsellors; that in fact the liberties of our people are very much bound up in the fact that in this community we have not one government dictating the community’s needs but a number of governments. This requires that governments work together, that they give and take, and therefore we have some safety in the system.
It is not good enough for Mr Uren to fly over the Dandenongs and pronounce to the people of Melbourne what he is going to do with the Dandenongs. It is not good enough for the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) to tell the people of Australia that he knows what should be done with the roads in Melbourne and Sydney or to produce a model train which must be accepted by all the States in the country. No. We in this country know that that sort of” nonsense can be disregarded because there are States still with substantial power, and when the Liberal Party comes back to office then that power will be greater. We recognise that when money is raised by this Parliament there is a sense among the Labor Party members that they are raising their own money, but of course we know that it is the people’s money. It is no good telling the people of Australia: ‘You people in the State governments cannot deal with this particular money. You have not had the money to do it. You have not done it as well as we would like you to do it. We have kept you poor. We have kept down the amounts you pay because we have said that this year you have got to cut back on the amounts. You have got to cut back on your expenditure because we require that in the interests of keeping down inflation. But we are not prepared to cut down. We are going to have a 32 per cent increase in the moneys we are going to spend and we are insisting on one principle for us and another principle for you ‘.
It follows from that argument, of course, that what the Government does when it raises money in this way and doles it out in small lumps to the States is that it says: ‘This is our money. We are entitled to tell you in detail how you are going to spend it’, forgetting all the time that what it is in fact saying is: ‘Although this is the people’s money we are taking unto ourselves a right which we do not possess, namely, a right to dictate as though it were our money and we were entitled to do that’.
Senator Button tonight drew attention; he thought it was unfavourable attention; to the prominence which the Liberal Party places on federalism and the need to change that federalism so that the States have the reality of financial power. Nothing in this Bill and nothing in the financial Bills which the Government puts forward indicates any acceptance of that principle, and it will obviously not be before another government is elected that that principle will be accepted. I want to thank Senator Button for drawing attention to the new initiatives that the Liberal Party and its colleague, the Country Party, have expressed in relation to policy in the documents that emanated from our parties. I say this, that we will expand those documents. They will lead to policies which will lead to a LiberalCountry Party government in this country and in that way financial measures will do fair justice to the States in the future and will not be a matter of dole and charity. On those points I wished to enter this debate, Mr Deputy President.
– Listening to this debate, one would not believe that this Bill was originally designed to deal with specific matters. As has been ruled on more than one occasion tonight, it is customary for a Presiding Officer to allow the debate to range over a fairly wide number of issues. But unfortunately the debate, irrespective of what one thought of the contributions that were made, was at a reasonable level until Senator Greenwood entered into it and dragged it down to the lowest level of debate that we have seen in this Senate chamber for a long time. This seems to have become the hallmark of his contributions to the Senate, that every time he gets on his feet he must make a personal attack on somebody. On this occasion it was a personal attack on a senior public servant. I will not go over that matter again because it was adequately dealt with by Senator Wheeldon and later by Senator Button. It is sufficient to reiterate that the taxation laws have not been altered one iota from the days of the construction of the Liberal Party headquarters and of John McEwen House, and any of the benefits that may accrue to any person making a contribution today towards John Curtin House applied equally to the headquarters of both the Liberal Party and the Country Party.
The main thrust of the debate came from Senator Carrick, who led the debate for the Opposition, and I want to deal mainly with the points that he raised. It has become a practice in the Senate, I am afraid, for Senator Carrick to denigrate Dr Cairns, the Deputy Prime Minister. He does this at every opportunity, and on this occasion he was criticising the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had seen fit to alter recently the tenure of the portfolios of Overseas Trade and Treasury in this Government. It is not a laugh when the Opposition, which was in power for so many years, itself had Prime Ministers who were excellent at changing their Ministers whenever it suited them. We had no fewer than 4 different Treasurers in the last 5 years of Liberal-Country Party Government. We had so many Ministers for the Navy who were sunk so quickly by the gunfire of their own leaders that we could not keep up with it. This is the sort of thing that went on in their term of office.
– They had 2 Prime Ministers in 2 years.
-Exactly. It was very difficult to keep up with it, and one would assume that the Liberal-Country Party Opposition would not take it upon itself to criticise changes which take place under this Government. Of course, it is all the more ironic when only a week ago members of the same political party- the Liberal Party- were fighting amongst themselves about who was going to be their leader. Senator Wood made the comment that people like strong leaders, and there are a lot of people in the Liberal Party today who know they have not got a strong leader, and they are looking for one. We have not heard the end of that issue by a long throw.
Senator Carrick spoke of a deficit in the Budget of $2,000m. I would refer him to the Budget Speech in which the Treasurer (Mr Crean) specifically stated that the deficit in the Budget was $570m. This is supposed to be an enormous deficit, according to Senator Carrick, an enormous deficit of $570m in a Budget of $16,000m, in a gross domestic product this year of about $56,000m. It was a Budget designed for the times and the fact that decisions have been taken since then by the Government is nothing new in Australian politics, something done dozens of times before by previous governments, where it becomes necessary to alter the policies which have been laid down in the Budget. Was it not the very Treasurer whom we have now, Mr Crean, who said on so many occasions that the Budget document is not sacrosanct. Why cannot a government at any time that suits it effect other measures which are necessary as it sees fit?
We are criticised because we are also cutting taxation; we have been told that the Liberal Party has been advocating this for months. The Liberal Party was advocating tax concessions when demand was still on the increase, when the very measures the Government was taking were designed to dampen down that demand, and it would have only exacerbated the position had those tax cuts been made at the time the Liberal Party wanted them made. We are in fact making those tax cuts when demand has been steadied, and this is the important point that has obviously been missed by the honourable senator. He went on then to say that this Government is a government of company bashers, we do not provide any incentives to private enterprise, we are out to damage or kill the private sector in some way. This has become a favourite theme of the last few weeks and the last few months, that this Government is doing nothing to help private industry and that all the resources are being transferred into the public sector. On examination, of course, that does not stand up. Have Senator Carrick and his colleagues not heard of the creation by this Government of the Overseas Trading Corporation, designed specifically to help private exporters develop new markets in overseas countries. Was he not in the chamber last week when we put through the legislation dealing with the Export Finance Insurance Corporation, a development of the old Export Payments Insurance Corporation? Was it not this Government that put the Export Bank clause into that legislation in order to provide export bank facilities to private industry in this country to put it on competitive terms with overseas exports? Why was this not done by our predecessors if they are now so concerned about the development of the private sector? What about the market development grants that we are making now to private industry- up to $ 100,000- to help it develop its markets in overseas countries? Was Senator Carrick not here when we tried to put through the Australian Industries Development Corporation legislation, legislation which, with the National Investment Fund, was designed to ensure that industry in this country, Australian industry, is supported by government? Yet we have seen the LiberalCountry Party Opposition on 2 occasions rejecting that legislation when everybody in this country knows full well that an expanded and a stronger AIDC is essential to development of the industries of this country.
If in fact we are as anti-industry as we are led to believe, why was it that only 3 weeks ago the Government decided to work in conjunction with private enterprise for the development of the uranium deposits in the Northern Territory? We could have gone ahead and done it ourselves. That is what the Opposition said we were going to do. It said that we were going to push all the private initiative out and we were going to do the whole lot ourselves. In fact we are doing it in conjunction with the private companies.
But probably one of the most astonishing things that was said during the debate, again by the honourable senator who led for the Opposition, was when he called the reduction in company tax from 471^ per cent to 45 per cent a miserly reduction. It is only 4 years ago that his Party, when it was in government, increased company tax from 45 per cent to 47Vi per cent. It is all right if his Party increases company tax, but if we reduce it it is called miserly. This Government is prepared to forgo in this financial year by that action $128m of revenue and in a full year $ 1 40m of revenue. The reduction in company tax is made retrospective to income earned in the 1973-74 year.
What a contradiction. Where is the argument to support the suggestion that this Government is not fully mindful of the need for a private sector in the Australian economy. Demand inflation was unquestionably a great problem to us in the latter part of 1 973 and early 1 974. It was brought on, of course, because of the mismanagement of the money flow in this economy in the last year of Liberal-Country Party rule, when that Government allowed a massive increase in the amount of money coming into this country without any restrictions. We were caught and we had to take certain action, such as revaluing the Australian dollar and taking some control over the importation of overseas capital. This action should have been taken months before we came to office. We inherited all these difficulties.
Although he is not in the chamber at the moment, I want to support the point which I believe was made by Senator Hall- it is critically importantwhen he referred to the prices and incomes power. This Government sought power over prices and incomes 12 months ago, and at the national level this was an essential ingredient to holding down inflation. We put that referendum to the people and it was opposed by the Liberal and Country Parties because they knew that they would be keeping from us this important weapon to hold down the rate of inflation. Unfortunately the same situation applies at the present time. But I have no doubt that if this Government was again to seek those powers which must be held at the Federal level- they are not effective through the States- again the Opposition would oppose us and it would do exactly the sorts of things that it did on the last occasion. It would put the fear of old Nick into the people and say: ‘Centralist power! They are going to take everything from you and put it all in Canberra.’ But the majority of Australians, I believe, are now realising that the Government was right last year when it sought those Federal powers over prices and incomes. Unfortunately that opportunity was lost, and it was lost by the deliberate action of the Liberal-Country Party Opposition making sure that the Government’s task would be made as difficult as it could possibly make it.
Other statements were made by Senator Carrick about interest rates. He said that people were paying 15 per cent, 18 per cent and 19 per cent in interest rates under the present economic position. If he was to observe the financial pages of the Press he would find that many reputable companies- I will name a few of them such as Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd, Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd, Containers Ltd, Grace Brothers Pty Ltd, Mayne Nickless Ltd, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, McPhersons Ltd and the Australian Estates Co. Ltdhave raised millions of dollars in investment money in recent weeks at rates less than 15 per cent. This is indicative of the fact that money is flowing to that sector.
Then again there was Senator Carrick ‘s criticism that hundreds of building companies will be closing down over Christmas. I do not know on what grounds he makes that statement because all the evidence is to the contrary. The liquidity position is easing and there has been a dramatic increase in the Reserve Bank figures, as he will see if he reads them. He will find that a dramatic increase is taking place in liquidity. The Government only recently announced that an extra $150m will be allocated to the savings banks for housing purposes.
I now come to the last 2 specific points to which I wish to refer. Reference was made to the little people. I think that is what Senator Carrick called them. He said that the property income surcharge would be an attack on the little people. To begin with, I want to go back to the time when Senator Carrick made his maiden speech in this Parliament. It was a very good maiden speech. His homework was well done. I did not agree with the content but it was well researched and well presented. But I well recall him saying at the time- I think this was in 1 970- that $8,000 a year was not a big income. An income of $8,000 a year at that time would be about $13,000 a year today. I mention this because it indicates the thinking of the Opposition. Because of the background of honourable senators opposite they do not understand what it means for an ordinary little man, a real little man, to battle along not on $13,000 a year but on $5,000 a year. I think it is lamentable that Opposition senators should presume to understand what it means to the real little people of this countrythe pensioners- for whom this Government has done more than any Government ever did in the 23 years before we were elected to office. The ordinary wage earners, who represent 60 per cent of adult males who earn less than average weekly earnings, are the little people and they are the people whom we are protecting and whom this legislation protects.
The surcharge will not apply when taxable income is $5,000 or less. Those people who receive higher imcomes from property are considered to have a greater capacity to pay than persons in that income bracket. I will give an example of how the surcharge could operate. In the case of a person with a taxable income of $10,000, one-quarter of which is from property, it will add only $69.50 to the ordinary tax of $2,780. That is less than 3 per cent. Despite the surcharge, this person will pay less tax in 1974-75 than he would have paid under the previous rates which applied in 1973-74. So in fact we see a smokescreen being put across the debate solely to confuse, because the legislation is not aimed at the real little man. I think that grammatically it is not correct to say ‘the real little man’, but I think everyone knows what I mean. I think the Government has ensured that the legislation does in fact protect the little man.
I come now to the matter of the aged persons rebate. The rebate was introduced as a transitional measure to ensure that the great majority of aged persons would be better off under the package of measures introduced last year, including the commencement of the phasing out of the means test, increasing pensions and imposing taxation on pensions. Because of the further increase in pensions since last year’s Budget, the great majority of aged persons would now be better off even if the rebate were completely abolished. However, it was decided to phase out the rebate gradually rather than abolish it. Taken together with the reduced rates of personal tax, the reduced rebate will free from tax aged persons with incomes of up to $2,358. The rebate allowed last year, together with the rates of tax then applying, freed from tax incomes up to $ 1 ,92 1 .
I believe that this debate has given the Government an opportunity to highlight the reality of the position and the fairness of the policies that we are pursuing. I am sorry that the debate had to be dragged down to the level it was as a result of the comments made by Senator Greenwood. I attempted in the initial stages by taking a point of order to get the debate back on to the subject matter of the Bill. Unfortunately that point of order was not upheld. However, it it clear that the Government is fully aware of its responsibilities. It is bringing in this legislation fairly, not directed at people whom it is likely to hurt but at those who can afford to pay, which is consistent with the attitude taken by this Government all the time that it has been in office.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Carrick’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
(No. 2) 1974
Debate resumed from 26 November, on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest to the Senate that we take the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2), the Income Tax (Bearer Debentures) Bill 1974, the Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1974 and the Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1974 in a cognate debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– The main Bill of these four is the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2). I shall dispose of two of the Bills, the Income Tax (Bearer Debentures) Bill and the Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill in short time. The Opposition does not oppose the Income Tax (Bearer Debentures) Bill. It is a Bill which, as has been stated, sets out to increase the basic rate of tax payable by a company under section 126 of the Income Tax Assessment Act on interest paid on bearer debentures where the company does not disclose the names and addresses of the debenture holders to the Commissioner. It is an instrument to overcome tax avoidance and the Opposition will support that measure. The Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill is one that has two main aspects to it- a minor technical one which has been set out in the second reading speech and a substantial one which seeks to give the force of law to an agreement on double taxation with the Federal Republic of
Germany. I do not seek to add to the debate on what are self-evident measures.
As to the third Bill, which relates to estate duty assessment, the Opposition will move an amendment to add words to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. I give notice that at the end of this cognate debate I will move:
At end of motion, add- but the Senate is of the opinion that the provisions of the Bill do not provide adequate relief to the taxation of deceased estates in a period of unprecedented inflation. ‘
I will not delay the Senate on the question of estate duties. The Senate itself has had in its hands over a period of time- in fact almost a year- the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations which deliberated on the matter of death duties. The Opposition draws attention to the dissenting report by 3 Opposition senators- Senator Lawrie, Senator Cotton and Senator Guilfoyle. I quote from that report:
That is an extract from the minority report on death duties. This Bill itself seeks to provide for a deduction of up to $35,000 in the assessment of duty payable on an estate where an interest in the matrimonial home passes to a surviving spouse. Any study of such a proposal today must be made not only with regard to inflation but also the suggestion by the Government- indeed the announcement by the Government- that it proposes in the autumn session to introduce a capital gains tax. The combination of the continuation of an estate duty and a capital gains tax could be thoroughly destructive of the property, however modest, of the overwhelming number of people in the community and to that extent the Opposition has decided that it will move as an addition the amendment that I have read out. There has been debate on estate duty in this Senate and therefore I will not speak at length on the subject other than to say that once again we have the example of a tax which is striking at the ordinary family in Australia.
The main Bill in this debate and a Bill to which I propose to move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time is the
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1974. That Bill is a complicated one. It provides for increased tax liabilities for the mining industry, the imposition of taxation on certain forms of fringe benefits, specific allowance of deductions for depreciation on child care facilities, a reduction of the limit on deductions for educational expenses, the deductibility of mortgage interest payments, a reduced level of the special deduction allowable to life assurance companies, a rebate of dependants’ allowances for low income families, technical amendments of the principal Act with respect to dividends payable from Papua New Guinea and the relief for taxpayers in cases of hardship arising out of provisional tax for 1974-75.
So that my comments on each of those matters are put in perspective I give notice now that I intend on behalf of the Opposition to move to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time the following amendment:
At end of motion, add- but the Senate is of the opinion that the provisions of the Bill which reduce the limit on deductions for education expenses from $400 to $150 seriously restrict the freedom of choice which now exists in the Australian education system, are a contravention of the Government’s election undertakings and will impose unwarranted burdens on parents with children attending both public and private schools and, further, that the Bill specifically:
inadequately compensates home buyers for the massive rise in housing loan interest rates and takes no account of those persons unable to purchase a home;
jeopardises the bonuses of thousands of small investors by increasing the tax liabilities of Australian life assurance companies, and
further erodes the confidence of the Australian mineral industry by reducing vital incentives to investment.’
From the substance of that addendum the Senate will understand that the Opposition regards seriously the impact of a substantial number of the measures as ingredients in this Income Tax Assessment Bill. Indeed the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in another place has in respect of the first aspect I mentioned, that is, the reduction in the allowable deduction for education expenses from $400 to $ 1 50, made it clear that not only does the Opposition emphatically oppose that reduction but that when in government we will reverse that position. Quite emphatically we regard that as a very bad measure indeed, as we do the other matters to which we have drawn attention in our addendum. Putting this in perspective, this is another series of measures in the Government’s Budget proposals.
Let me advert to the remarks of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in his summary of the previous Bill in which he said that much of the woes that are this country are due to the lack of the power of the Commonwealth Government to control prices as well as wages. The Minister said that the Government did not have these powers. I want to say, because the Minister has said this tonight, that it is not true. The States have said to the Commonwealth Government: If you want a temporary transfer of those powers ask for them and we will give them to you’, but the Government has not sought to do so. Equally I say as a personal view that the corporation power as decided by the High Court some 2 years ago undoubtedly gives to the Commonwealth Government the power to control prices and indeed wages in regard to corporations and if I am right- I believe a search ofthe Attorney-General’s records will show that a former Solicitor-General has held that view- the Commonwealth Government has the power today to act on prices and wages in corporations and does not need any referendum and does not need any reference of power. In any case it can get a referendum of power from the States and it can buttress it if it wants to with the corporation power. I have not heard of any likelihood of challenge on this. So the failure of the Government to act in this matter -
– On one section.
-It is a matter of alibi. If the Minister suggests by interjection that it is only a power over corporations all that would be left out of it would be those prices and wages that are for services and not indeed produced by corporations. Indeed it would be an enormous part of the community. But if indeed the Minister seeks to get the power over services he can get it by reference to the States. I merely interpolate that because this was the alibi chosen tonight by the Minister. Day by day the alibi varies. One moment it is the wicked multi-nationals, the next moment it is the profiteers and the next moment we have imported inflation. The current alibi is: We would have controlled these things but you did not give us the powers. The Government can get those powers by reference if it asks for them. The Government in fact, in my view, has those powers.
But the popular sport of the Government over the years has been the pursuit of the public companies, whether multi-nationals or Australian, and the pursuit of them in terms of their profits. The Government undoubtedly held the view that profits were some dirty thing, although it was never loath in terms of company tax to draw enormously on profits and in terms of dividends to draw on personal income tax. Every $1 of profit made in this community by any company, whether multi-national or Australian, was returning to this Government and former governments some 75c to 80c in taxation. Indeed, no government in this community could run without a healthy profitability of companies. The idea of making profit a bogy is absolute nonsense. A substantial part of the Budget of $16 billion comes from company tax, and that company tax was 47c and will be 45c in every $ 1 of profit. The remainder of that $1 is taxed or the dividends are ploughed back as capital. If one analyses the profit one would find that every Australian has a vested interest in a company making a reasonable level of profit so that the profit can be ploughed back either in tax or capital for the company itself.
The whole hatred of free enterprise was tonight demonstrated by Senator Walsh. We had a generation of such vitriol, such bile, here tonight when Senator Walsh showed the doctrinaire socialist’s 19th century hatred of the ordinary enterprise of ordinary Australians, and of all those values that the Australian people have cherished and have used to build Australia. I refer to the small people of Australia, to those many thousands of companies to which I referred when I said that 80 per cent of all the enterprises in Australia employ 50 people or less -
– What about the other 20 per cent?
– The honourable senator says: ‘What about the other 20 per cent?’ I am quite proud to have big public companies in this country. If they are here any government with any sense of responsibility can lay down whatever controls it likes. If the public companies find disfavour in Senator McLaren’s eyes or in the eyes of any member of the Government, the Government itself has that total corporation power- that cannot be argued- so that if” there is a mote it is in the eyes of the Government. Suddenly the Government has found some merit in companies except, presumably, in mining companies. But in the last year or two, because of a need for election propaganda, there has been spilled out the bile, the hatred against the private or public company in Australia, especially the mining company and in particular the multinational.
One by one the shibboleths of 1972 are now disappearing. One by one the very things of which the Labor Party built its ship are now collapsing around it in a tidal wave of revulsion. All the values that the Labor Party ever announced are falling around it. Let me recite them. The Labor Party said: ‘ We are a Party of full employment’. It now has the greatest unemployment since the great depression of the 1930s. The Labor Party said: ‘We are a Party that believes in reducing inflation. We will reduce inflation below the 4.7 per cent of 1972’. It is now the Party which has created the greatest inflation ever in the history of this country. The Labor Party said: ‘We are the Party that believes in low interest rates. We believe in 2 per cent, 3 per cent or 4 per cent’. Now the Government is mouthing 15 per cent, 16 per cent and 19 per cent. The Labor Party said: ‘We are the Party that will stop strikes. You will have no strikes because we understand unions’. Now the Labor Party has the greatest strikes in history.
The Labor Party said: ‘We are the party that believes in full employment in the manufacturing industry with jobs for everyone. We are the Party to protect the industries’. This once great Labor Party was the great protectionist party of Australia. It is now Whelan the Wrecker. It is now the demolition expert in Australia. The traditionalists of the Labor Party, the Chifleys and the Evatts, would turn in their graves looking at the across-the-board tariff cuts. Members of the Labor Party are the people who have one by one demolished every value. The Labor Party has said: ‘We are going to have a surplus budget. We must, otherwise we would create inflation. We are not going to cut tax because that would be vandalism. We are going to keep a 33 per cent retention of overseas funds because we will not let in a flood of investment. We will reduce Government expenditure because a burst of public expenditure would be wrong’. Every single thing that the Labor Party stood upon in the last 2 years is now being demolished around it, except one thing: its hatred, a positive hatred, of companies and mining companies. The Labor Party went to the people of Australia and said: These mining companies are getting away with blue murder. They are making great profits and are not being taxed on them. We will, of course, go in and tax them.
– Tell us about their pollution record.
– The only pollution record that has been created is the pollution of noise by Senator Mulvihill and his colleagues.
– You are a stooge for the Shell oil company which polluted the Parramatta
River and your Government did nothing about it.
– The technique of diversion is an old and superficial one. Let us keep quite clearly to what the Bill is about. Primarily it is an attempt to weaken and even destroy the mining companies by attacking their profitability. Those who are trying to get great enterprises in South Australia should go to Western Australia and look at the great mining companies which have built an infrastructure for Australia worth thousands of millions of dollars. They have built the Port of Dampier, the towns of Mount Tom Price and Paraburdoo. They have built thousands of homes. They have built schools, roads, bridges and train lines. They have spent thousands of millions of dollars on assets for the people of Australia. These cannot be taken away. You cannot take away the towns of Mount Tom Price or Paraburdoo except by the destructive policies of the Labor Party. You cannot take away the port of Dampier or the 200-mile railway line except by the destructive efforts of the Labor Party. They are assets built out of the profits of mining companies, put there in perpetuity for the people of Australia.
I for one go on record as emphatically commending those companies for the job they have done. I have been amongst them. I have seen the first class conditions of pay and amenities that they create for their workers. I have seen the great wealth that they have turned for the people of Australia in terms of wages, in terms of taxation and in terms of assets. I for one reject entirely the continuous attacks by the Australian Labor Party on the mining companies. Let this be quite clear: If this country is to get back to full creation of wealth for all- and the creation of wealth rather than the distribution of wealth is the challenge for us- then 2 great industries will create that wealth. One is agriculture industry and the other is mining. The Minister said that the Opposition had wrongly pictured Mr Connor as wanting to nationalise mining and that he had shown in terms of uranium that he would go into partnership with free enterprise. The simple fact is that we misenterpreted nothing. We took the words that he said and we used them. The fact that he has been forced into a situation is a matter for him and not for us.
Questions on Notice
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster) 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 rise to detain the Senate for only a short time. The matter that I desire to raise is unanswered questions on notice. I do so knowing that little time remains before this sitting of the Senate will conclude. Therefore, little opportunity exists to raise a point which, although I have had some questions unanswered for a very long time, I have hitherto refrained from raising in the Senate. I have been waiting for more than 12 months for answers to 4 questions and for many months for answers to other questions. I invite the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy), to whom I gave some notice a short time ago that I would be raising this matter, to indicate to me why the questions have not been answered and when I may expect an answer.
I think it does not need elaboration as to the rights of senators to have their questions answered and how dependent members of Parliament are for the effective working of our parliamentary system upon being able to obtain information from Ministers in reply to questions on public affairs. I know, because I have looked up the records, that in 1970 Senator Murphy himself stressed the fact that questions had been unanswered for 4 months and that that was an ample period over which the answers should have been given. Many other members of the present Government when they were in Opposition made the same sort of plea. I do not think that anyone questions the desirability of answers being given a promptly as possible.
At the present time I have some 24 questions directed to the Attorney-General which remain unanswered. Of course, four of them are of 12 months’ duration, and my recollection is that none of them was asked during this month. So they were all asked in October 1974 or earlier. But four of the questions were first put on the notice paper in November 1973. When Parliament was prorogued they were placed again on the notice paper, and after the double dissolution they were again placed on the notice paper in July. In October of this year I asked 4 questions as to what was the delay in answering and when could I expect answers to be given, and I have not had any reply. I raise the matter for the Attorney-General’s attention and ask him when the questions will be answered and what is the reason for the delay. The questions all relate to events which took place in March and April 1973 and it would appear unreasonable, as I see it, that answers have not been forthcoming. I leave it to the Attorney-General and I would welcome an indication of an early response.
– There are on the notice paper a number of questions not answered. But I seem to recall looking at the House of Representatives notice paper and seeing that it was very thick with unanswered questions on notice, but here in the Senate we seem to be able to have a fairly thin notice paper. That may be a reflection either of the prompt answering by Ministers or of the fact that more questions on notice are asked in the other House. To be fair to the Government, I think we should say that a great number of questions are answered orally in this chamber every day. 1 have noticed that my colleagues in the House of Representatives have come across and have seen the pink proof copies of the questions which I have been asked and the answers which I have given, and sometimes they have come into the chamber, and they have been astonished at the number of questions that are answered.
I think that if one looks at the totality of the questions it is quite clear that the Ministers in this chamber answer far more questions than do the Ministers in the House of Representatives. I do not know that we ever really completely checked it out, but there was a period last year when after three or four months- I know it was a period like that- somebody worked out that I had been asked and had answered more questions than the whole of the other 26 Ministers put together. Yet soon after that I was receiving complaints about not answering questions on notice. I suppose that the only thing we can do is to look at the questions. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition ought to realise that there is a great deal to do in the ministries. Certainly, with the way things are moving now in Parliament, there is advice to be given by myself and my Department to other departments.
– There was the Family Law Bill.
-We have had various Bills such as the Family Law Bill and the Trade Practices Bill. The Estimates Committees have been sitting. There have been Cabinet meetings, Caucus meetings, committee meetings, constant conferences and other matters in a Government which is trying to get some things done, despite a certain amount of obstruction, when only so much time and attention can be given. I suppose it is a matter of priorities. It may conceivably be that those in Government, and particularly myself, think that there are matters of more importance than the residue of the questions which the honourable senator asked.
– You can answer them next week.
-As Senator Douglas McClelland, the Manager of Government Business in the Senate reminds me, because of the course of affairs in the Senate today there is little doubt that we will be meeting next week. I shall endeavour to have the matters looked into during the rest of this week so that perhaps we can give an answer to the honourable senator at some time next week. Mind you, I do not promise but I shall try to see whether we can answer some, if not most, of the questions which he has asked.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Senate adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 December 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19741204_senate_29_s62/>.