29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I have received through his Excellency the Administrator of the Government of Australia from the Lieutenant-Governor of the State of New South Wales a certificate certifying the choice of Cleaver Ernest Bunton as a senator to fill the vacancy in the representation of that State caused by the resignation of Senator Lionel Keith Murphy. Q.C.
The Clerk then laid on the table the certificate of election of Cleaver Ernest Bunton.
Senator Cleaver Ernest Bunton made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
-The following petition has been lodged for presentation:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfullysheweth:
That the National Compensation Bill 1974 and the proposals for a new superannuation scheme for Australian Government employees discriminate in the payment of reversionary benefits against the members of families which:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the National Compensation Bill 1974and the new superannuation scheme for Australian Government employees be amended to provide for the payment of reversionary benefits to dependent members of all families however constituted.
And your petitioners at in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Button.
– My question is directed to Senator Wriedt either as the Leader of the Government in the Senate or as the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the Government has information that a Sydney journalist, Mr Neil Sharman, has been held prisoner by the communist Pathet Lao in Laos since last September? Is it also a fact that the Pathet Lao will not release him or even confirm that he is held as a prisoner? Will the the Government, as an elementary exercise in protecting an Australian’s human rights, refuse to hold the projected talks with the Pathet Lao Minister for the Economy, who is about to visit Australia, until the Pathet Lao have given satisfactory assurances about the welfare and the future of Mr Sharman?
-I understand that the gentleman referred to by Senator Greenwood is believed to be held by the Pathet Lao. Inquiries have been made by the Australian Government to ascertain whether this is correct. We are unable to find definite information from the Pathet Lao as to whether he is held by them. Of course, the Government regrets this. But we have explored all avenues and taken all measures that we possibly can to find out just what the position is. So far as I know, there are no fresh avenues which can be explored at this stage. I would have to refer the second part of the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister for his consideration.
-I ask the Minister for the Media whether it is true that the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasting Stations has complained about material which the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s new young style outlet, radio station 2JJ, has used in its programs. Has there been any public concern about this material? If this is true, does the Minister intend to intervene?
-The Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasting Stations wrote to the Australian Broadcasting Commission about certain recordings that radio station 2JJ was using in its programming and provided me with a copy of the letter that it had sent to the ABC. However, I think it is quite fair to say that the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasting Stations did not seek my intervention in the matter but merely sent me a copy of its letter for my information. Of course, the honourable senator will know that it is the policy of the Government that the ABC in all of its programming arrangements shall be completely independent and that it is guaranteed policital and programming independence by this Government. The matter is completely one for the commissioners of the ABC who determine the policy of the Commission. While that position exists and while that is the policy of the Government, I do not intend to intervene.
-The Minister for Manufacturing Industry will have knowledge of representations made over several months to the Federal Government to assist Perth’s garment manufacturers who are in serious financial difficulties as a result of the Government’s tariff policies. Is the Minister aware that the companies, which sell as much as 80 per cent of their products on the eastern seaboard, chose to operate at considerable loss in the hope that the situation would improve and dismissals would not be necessary? Does he acknowledge that Western Australia’s isolation and lack of other employment opportunities give the Perth garment industry just claims to assistance under the structural adjustment program for non-metropolitan areas? If so, will he take the appropriate action without further delay?
– In reply to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, the scheme for assistance to nonmetropolitan areas by definition does not apply to metropolitan areas, and Perth is a metropolitan area. However, the Government has been examining the limitations of this scheme and has been considering whether it should be extended in certain instances to areas such as Perth or Hobart. On the general question of the plight of the textile industry, I would like to draw attention to the fact that yesterday a recommendation was considered from the Textiles Authority, an arm of the CIA- I should say the IAC, the Industries Assistance Commission. I now live in a world of acronyms and I cannot be expected always to remember which is the appropriate one. The recommendation of the Textiles Authority was considered by Cabinet and a decision was reached which will be announced today by the Special Minister of State. I think it will give a lot of comfort to all sections of the textile industry.
– Has the Minister for Agriculture seen a statement by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party to the effect that the Australian Meat Board is not marketing meat as well as it should? Does this statement imply belated recognition by the Country Party of this Government’s endeavours to make commodity boards more marketing orientated? Does Mr Sinclair’s statement that the Meat Board should have its feet in the marketplace rather than in the farmyard imply that the Country Party no longer sees any need for farmers to have a majority of members on commodity boards?
-To be brief, I would say that the answer to both questions is yes.
-I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he would be reminded, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs advised me on 12 February, that the United Nations first took up the general question of terrorism on an international basis following the Munich Olympics in 1972. The news of the present hijacking in the Middle East, forcing the release of prisoners, to me is an indication of lack of civilisation internationally.
– What is the question?
– Yes, Mr President. Is the Minister in possession of information that since that proposal was made to the United Nations in 1 972 no progress has really been made? What is the explanation for the United Nations dragging its feet on this matter when one would think that a convention between all civilised countries was instantly available to combat international terrorism?
– I am somewhat at a loss to answer the question because I would have thought that Senator Wright, who I understand has just spent 3 months at the United Nations in New York, would have been better qualified to answer the question than I am. I am not conversant with the details to which he has referred. He raised the matter when the Foreign Minister was here and I can only refer it to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral advise the Senate whether there have been any further developments regarding the use of battery powered vehicles for postal operations?
-A field trial was carried out recently in Melbourne using what is known as a Battronic electric van. The van was borrowed from the Australian Electric Vehicles Association at no cost to the Post Office and was used on various city deliveries and pick-ups. In addition it took bagged airmail between the Melbourne depot and Tullamarine Airport. The range of the vehicle before recharging varied between 35 and 50 miles, depending on the nature of the work. Although the design of this vehicle is not ideally suited for postal needs it certainly offers consideration as a vehicle of the future. I should think that within a couple of months the Post Office will be better able to assess whether such a vehicle might find its way into the Post Office’s stocks.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Is the Minister aware of a long-standing arrangement under which the Law Council of Australia received from the Australian Government 3 copies of each new Bill at the earliest possible stage that such Bills could be disclosed to the public? Was not the purpose of this arrangement to enable sub-committees of the Law Council to give close and early attention to all proposed Commonwealth legislation? Is the Minister aware that this arrangement has now broken down and that copies of the Bills are no longer being received by the Law Council? Will the Minister take steps to restore the arrangement on whatever financial basis he deems appropriate in the mutual interests of the Parliament and the Law Council?
– I was not aware of such an arrangement, but it strikes me as being a very good one. If it has broken down, I will do what I can to persuade the AttorneyGeneral that the practice should be renewed.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer the Minister to the stated policy of the Australian Government to allow, for humanitarian reasons, the migration to Australia of displaced people from Cyprus. I ask: Is the Minister in a position to say how many such applications for migration from Cyprus have been approved and how many such migrants have actually entered Australia?
– Since November there have been departmental representatives in Cyprus looking at the situation from a humanitarian point of view. Up to the beginning of February almost 800 Cypriots had been approved for migration and of that number almost 700 were displaced persons.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I ask: Is it a fact that the young Russian violinist Ermolenko, who some time ago appealed for asylum in Australia, is now returning to Australia and applying for Australian citizenship? If so, will the Government now grant citizenship to 2 Czechoslovakian seamen, Jaroslav Reinisch and Jan Janik, who appealed for asylum many months ago because they feared returning to their former country?
– I do not have the information that Senator Young has sought. I will ask Mr Cameron whether he can supply the information during the week.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in the ‘Victor Harbour Times’ of 30 January in which Senator Jessop claimed that the Australian Labor Government, through the Department of Urban and Regional Development, was deliberately setting out to destroy the State governments by the establishment of regional councils? Are not misleading and mischievous statements of this nature conclusive proof that members of the Opposition are set on a deliberate course to undermine the confidence of the people? Further, can the Minister inform the Senate of the many benefits and advantages that are now available to local government because of the regional development program?
– Unlike the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation I am not an avid reader of the ‘Victor Harbour Times’. My attention was drawn to the matter by the source from which the article originated, but having regard to the nature of the source I do not think anyone would give credence to the article. Notwithstanding that a senator from South Australia has to approach the ‘Victor Harbour Times’ to get his views published, there may be some sincerity on the part of the senator concerned and therefore there is some justification in replying. This Government has done more for local government than any previous government. For the first time in history local government is accepted as the third tier of government in Australia. This is contrary to previous arrangements where after the States had received a handout they would give local government what was left.
This Government gave local government bodies direct access to the Grants Commission. They can make their own claims for grants with no strings attached and thereby bring a greater equality of distribution of wealth to local government bodies. We have assisted them to overcome the neglect of 23 years of previous LiberalCountry Party government. We have assisted in such things as sewerage, urban and arterial roads and area improvement programs. It is incorrect to say that the regional councils will mean the destruction of local government bodies. Already 4 States have grouped their councils in regions in a similar way to which the Commonwealth has grouped councils. There is more co-ordination now that the Federal Parliament participates in local government activities and improves the position of local government authorities. I think the majority of local government authorities- I do not know about the Victor Harbour oneappreciate what this Government has done for the improvement of local government as a part of the system of government in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for the Media: Has the case involving Mr R. E. S. Edwards, a former employee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, been drawn to the Minister’s attention by the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association? Is it a fact that Mr Edwards has suffered a loss of money in his retirement due to a difference of 3 days between the pay periods for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Public Service? Would the position have been different if Mr Edwards had stayed with the Postmaster-General’s Department in that he would then have received a furlough adjustment consistent with his 49 years of service with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Public Service? Will the Minister undertake to examine this case and give whatever assistance is possible prior to the application which will be called for mention by the Public Service Arbitrator on 7 March?
-The matter has been drawn to my attention not, as I recollect, by the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association but by my colleague, the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Bryant. I discussed the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As I understand the circumstancesI have not the exact details in my head- Mr Edwards retired just prior to the date that a determination was brought down by the Public Service Arbitrator which, had he not retired, would have affected the payment of his furlough or long service leave. I understand the ABC Staff Association has again referred the matter for arbitral determination to the Public Service Arbitrator, and the hearing is shortly to take place. It has been suggested, as I understand it by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that the ABC Staff Association might lodge a log of claims with the Public Service Arbitrator suggesting that the date of the determination be brought forward by a day or two in order to see that Mr Edwards was covered. As I recollect the advice given to me by the ABC, the ABC Staff Association has not taken that course of action. However, the matter is going before the Public Service Arbitrator, and until such time as the Arbitrator gives a decision on it naturally I am unable to intervene.
-Will the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation tell the Senate what women’s rights are under the existing repatriation legislation? Is their status equal to that of men? If the answer is no, and if he has not already done so, will he take action to ensure that any discrimination against women is eliminated, particularly during International Women’s Year?
– I am sure that Senator Coleman and all other honourable senators will be delighted to learn that in fact there is no discrimination between women and men veterans of the Australian forces and that all are entitled to the same benefits in the same circumstances. Possibly it could be argued that there is some discrimination against men insofar as a male dependant of a deceased female veteran does not receive the same benefits, not as high benefits, as a female dependant of a deceased male veteran. Although this in a sense could be regarded as prejudice in favour of the women rather than the men, at the same time one would have to acknowledge that this is a result of the many years of inequality between men and women and the assumption that has always been made that the only breadwinner in a household is a man and not a woman.
– Do you know how the anomaly originally arose?
-Do I know how the anomaly originally arose? That is an extraordinary question. I am not quite sure what Senator Greenwood has in mind.
– Order! I think it would be better if you concentrated on Senator Coleman’s question.
– Yes. I am more puzzled by Senator Greenwood that I am by the question. Undoubtedly this matter is being considered at the present time by Mr Justice Toose who is involved in an inquiry into the whole repatriation system. I hope that no honourable senator on the Opposition side is reflecting on a member of the judiciary- something which seems to have become a habit of the Opposition lately. Doubtless Mr Justice Toose will deal with this matter when his report comes down. Apparently there were similar anomalies in the Canadian legislation regarding veteran matters and those have been corrected. I would hope that the Australian Government would be able to make the same corrections in Australia.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: If there is this discrimination, be it against men or against women, will he make recommendations for it to be removed, particularly during International Women ‘s Year?
– I appreciate the point of view that Senator Coleman is taking, but at present we are waiting on a report by Mr Justice Toose on the whole structure of the repatriation system. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to make recommendations of this type until His Honour’s report is in our possession, and I understand that that will happen very shortly. If that report does not deal with this matter I shall see that recommendations are made in time for next year’s Budget.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister will recall the crude public attacks made by 3 Ministers, Dr Cairns and Messrs Cameron and Uren, on the President and Government of the United States of America over the bombing of North Vietnam. Have any of those Ministers, or the Government of which they are members, protested to the Government of North Vietnam, the People’s Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam or the Khmer Rouge over the indiscriminate attacks on defenceless civilians in South Vietnam and Cambodia by artillery, rockets and mortars employed as instruments of terror? If not, will the Government make such a protest, even if only to maintain a pretence of even-handedness?
– This question, or a very similar question, has been asked on many occasions in the past, and I can recall the answer that was given on many occasions. Simply, this Government abhors and always rejects acts of terrorism, no matter by whom they are committed. We as a government deplore any actions that have been taken against civilians in any country. I would think that the record of this Government in that respect is a clean one, whereas there are those who would single out some acts of terrorism by some sides as being acceptable but not others. We should reject all those acts which are directed against civilians purely for the sake of terrorism. Statements to this effect have been made by the appropriate Ministers both here and in the House of Representatives.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Has the Government decided to allow 2 Japanese automotive corporations, Nissan and Toyota, to manufacture vehicles in Australia in competition with the existing 4 main manufacturers- General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Australia Limited and Leyland Motor Corporation of Australia Limited? Is the Government satisfied that there is room for additional car manufacturers without causing serious instability in the industry, the possible collapse of some existing manufacturers and a real threat to the employment of existing automotive workers? Has not past evidence before the Tariff Board and other investigating bodies indicated that any proliferation of automotive industries must produce a serious diseconomy of size, leading to inefficiency as the result of short production runs, and ultimately higher prices to the consumer?
-The Toyota company has recently announced in Tokyo a proposal to manufacture vehicles in Australia. The plan involves the manufacture of 140 000 cars a year by 1980, which would be about 15 per cent of the estimated market for new cars in that year. According to what I have read- and my information is based only on what I have read in the newspapers- the production would take place in Toyota’s own plant in Melbourne, possibly using some engine parts to be made jointly with other companies- Chrysler and Nissan- in Adelaide. There have also been Press reports of similar proposals by the Nissan motor company. Government policy is to encourage the entry of Nissan and /or Toyota into manufacture in Australia on the basis of some kind of joint venture which would preserve the employment base in the South Australian automotive industry and utilise surplus capacity in the Chrysler foundry and engine plant. Both
Nissan and Toyota have been investigating this possibility. In fact, Mr Zaitsu, a leading executive of the Nissan company, discussed the matter with me on 19 February. Mr Tamura, Toyota’s director of export and overseas operations, is visiting Australia this week and also has an appointment to see me. I assume that he probably wishes to discuss his company’s plans.
The announcement of tentative plans by both Toyota and Nissan to commence local production has raised questions as to how the small Australian market can be supplied economically with an increased rather than a reduced number of manufacturers. The entry of Japanese companies would be compatible with the Government’s objectives of product rationalisation and improved resource allocation, provided their operations involve the use of existing under-utilised facilities for the production of components, particularly engines. The Japanese companies are well aware that any proposals for entry into local manufacture will be carefully assessed against the Government’s objectives for the industry, including the desirability of some form of Australian Government participation. Recent Press speculation must therefore be treated with considerable caution as it is based only on tentative proposals that have not yet been fully discussed with the Australian Government.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. I refer to the March issue of the journal issued by the Australian Industries Development Association. I ask whether the Minister has seen the journal and whether he has noticed the leading article which is headed: ‘The Crisis in Manufacturing Industry’. Does he agree with the article, which says quite plainly that urgent action is necessary to ensure the survival of Australia’s manufacturing industry, that demand continues to deteriorate and investment to decline? Is it proposed to prevent the systematic replenishment of imported stocks in order to avoid what the journal describes as further retrenchments in industry?
-No. Even though I belong to a Party which reads the most obscure journals in Australia I have not had my attention directed to the particular article to which the honourable senator referred. However, I am well aware that there is a feeling in the country at the present time that manufacturing industry is in a bad state. I am aware also that of the large drop in employment throughout industry in 1974 by far the majority of persons unemployed- or may I say disemployed- were in the sphere of manufacturing industry. The Government is fully aware of this problem and has taken a series of steps, which I have detailed on several occasions, to stimulate the private sector of the economy, including manufacturing industry.
In answer to the question asked earlier by Senator Drake-Brockman concerning the textile industry. I indicate that an announcement will be made today of certain steps that have been taken to stimulate the textile industry. It is well known that a few months ago the Government took steps in relation to the motor car industry which are having the effect of rapidly clearing the stocks which were causing dire predictions about the future of the motor car industry. From reports I have had in recent days from the leaders of the automobile industry, I am able to say that the immediate prospect is good and stocks are being rapidly cleared. Even though of course, I would be taking an absurd position if I suggested that all was well with manufacturing industry, I am confident that the steps the Government has taken are bearing fruit and that we will rapidly see a revival in manufacturing industry. It is not true to say that it is a disaster area as seemed to be suggested in the article to which the honourable senator referred.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. I refer to the recent announcement by the Government to permit the export of kangaroo products from certain States of Australia but not from Western Australia. Is it a fact that the exclusion of Western Australia is said to be a result of the fact that the Agriculture Protection Board of Western Australia has the power to declare certain species of kangaroos as vermin and does declare several species as such? Is it not a fact that the decision to exclude Western Australia is self-defeating because, without the right commercial harvesting of kangaroos in accordance with the Western Australian management program, it is likely to be necessary to maintain that category, particularly in the pastoral areas of Western Australia? In the light of those circumstances will the Minister and the Government reconsider the decision to exclude Western Australia?
-We have our authorities on this side of the House on the kangaroo question, notably my colleague Senator Mulvihill. Also may I mention my colleague the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation who, in his spare time, has recently undertaken a postgraduate course in all problems affecting the kangaroo. However, I am attempting to find out a little more about the subject. If there has been any discrimination against Western Australia in this matter I will attempt to find the explanation thereof and will let the honourable senator have a reply as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. Do figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that approvals for new houses and flats in Australia sank in January to the lowest level for 8 years and that in New South Wales alone approvals for new dwellings fell 36 per cent when compared to December? Is this fall a result of deliberate Government policy as foreshadowed in the last Labor Budget or has it occurred in spite of Government attempts to prevent it?
– I have not seen the figures which have been released. I take the figures given by Senator Baume as correct. I thought there had been a tendency for approvals to increase. In New South Wales the Government’s present proposals and plans are to increase the rate of housing and to obtain better conditions for housing loans by making savings bank money available. We hope that any downturn will be reversed. In 1972 we had reached the stage where it was impossible to build a house through shortage of materials and skilled manpower. Costs had soared to such an extent that it was almost impossible for the ordinary person to build a house. The Government took remedial action to try to make labour and materials available. This action had some repercussions. It was intended to curtail housing activity until we got the necessary manpower and materials. There has been a reversal of policy. We have overcome the difficulties which we experienced when we took office by boosting the housing program. I shall discuss the matter with the responsible Minister. If he thinks it is necessary to add anything in reply to the question I shall convey that the honourable senator.
-Is the Minister for Agriculture aware of concern being expressed by growers of potatoes throughout Australia, particularly in Victoria, regarding the low contract price negotiated for potatoes destined for processing? Is the Minister aware that concern has been expressed because while local prices in this trade are depressed there are manufacturers who are processing only imported potatoes in areas where considerable volumes of the local product are available? Is the Minister alert to the fact that throughout the world monopolisation in this important industry by governments and international cartels is leading to the depression of returns to growers?
-The price of potatoes fluctuates wildly as I think most of us and, I am sure, housewives are aware. The price has certainly come down in recent months. But I remind the Senate that this is a matter which comes within the responsibility of the States and not of the Australian Government. The contract price entered into with the processor is entirely a matter between the processor and the grower. If a State government sees fit to intervene in relation to those prices, that is entirely a matter for the State government. In answer to the second part of the question it is true that last year the Government authorised the importation of some potatoes from New Zealand. If my memory serves me correctly it was 800 tons which was a minimal amount when compared with the total production of potatoes in Australia. They were imported because at that time the processors could not obtain the necessary supplies of potatoes due to the extremely tight market situation. Those potatoes were brought in only for the processing trade. This Government can do nothing about the price paid to producers. If this is a matter of considerable concern at the present time I suggest it should be taken up with the Victorian Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Has the Minister for Defence received assessments from overseas sources and/or his own strategic advisers causing him to revise his opinion that Australia will not face a threat to its security for 15 years? Has the Minister specifically asked his defence experts for a re-assessment in the light of increased Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean?
– As far as I am aware, there has been no change in the analysis or assessment which has been given to the Minister for Defence, even having regard to some of the things which Senator Maunsell remembers. I am advised that against the present agreed assessments of the global and regional situations the
Government considers that Australia retains adequate forces to meet foreseeable tasks and the limited contingencies which might arise in the future. Australia’s forces in being meanwhile constitute a basis for expansion at any time to meet such contingencies. If there is anything that Mr Barnard would like to add to my answer I will obtain it for the honourable senator.
Senator CHANEY Has the Minister for Manufacturing Industry seen the annual report of the Australian Chemical Industry Council for 1974 which points out that in 1975 reduced demand, renewed competition from imports and inflation have led to retrenchments and the likelihood of an increase in the rate of dismissals during the first half of 1975? If he has, does the Minister accept the facts set out in the report as being correct and what action does the Government propose to take to avoid further unemployment in the industry?
-My attention had not been drawn to the article in question until a moment ago; so I am unable to comment on its contents. If the honourable senator will give me a copy of the article to which he referred, I will inquire into its allegations and let him have an early reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Has he seen the ‘Financial Review’ article in which the Leader of the Austraiian Country Party in the House of Representatives asserted that there was no way in which the Senate Opposition would pass an appropriation Bill to fund Medibank? In view of this article, can the Leader of the minority Opposition party in the House of Representatives now be regarded as a pre-emptive spokesman for the joint Opposition parties and the self-proclaimed, allegedly selfdirected guardians of State interests who populate the Opposition benches in this allegedly independent House of review?
-Yes, I have read -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Under standing order 99 this matter does not appear to come within the area which is appropriate for questions. The question asks for an expression of opinion on a subject which in no way is related to the Minister’s administrative responsibilities.
– The Minister has been asked a question seeking information and I am sure he will keep his answer within the field of his own ministerial responsibility.
-Thank you, Mr President. I will refrain from commenting on the latter part of Senator Walsh’s question, which was something he himself added to the question. I do admit that it is very puzzling for those of us who are electors, in making up our minds about the next election, to find out precisely what the Opposition does say on important questions such as social security. I had thought that Mr Snedden was the Leader of the Opposition and that Mr Chipp was the Opposition spokesman on social security. I had understood from both of them that they expected that Medibank would be operating by whatever time the next election is held and that they were not going to oppose a supply Bill which included an appropriation for Medibank. We now learn from Mr Anthony that he is opposed to it. I share Senator Walsh’s puzzlement. I. am afraid that there is not much light I can throw on the disagreements between these gentlemen. They are so frequent and often so bitter that it would be difficult for any of us to unravel what is going on inside the Opposition parties. The only thing I would say is that if there is any part of Labor’s policy for which we clearly have a mandate, it is for our national health insurance scheme and. included within that, Medibank. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the Australian people support the Government in its proposal for Medibank.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, by stating that I speak as a descendant of the indigenous people of this nation who were and still are to a large degree regarded as ignorant savages. In view of the shocking episode that erupted in the House of Representatives last Thursday, 27 February 1975 and the ensuing act of the Leader of the Opposition being prevented by the brute force of numbers from bringing to the attention of the Privileges Committee the almost savage behaviour of some members of Parliament concerned, I ask: How far are members of Parliament protected under privilege should violence follow under like circumstances to the extent that a member could be seriously injured?
– Senator James McClelland, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, who represents the Attorney-General in the Senate, can answer this question as long as he does noi get involved in speaking on the proceedings in the other place.
- Mr President, I fake it that your ruling would not exclude a comment by me on my experience when there was a Joint Sitting of the Parliament because the only experiences that I have of the manners and mores of the other place are those which I picked up on the occasion when we were sitting together there last year. I must confess that I was a little shocked to find how much below the level of civilised behaviour that we have become accustomed to in this decorous place was the conduct that appeared to be the norm in the other place. But I must say that I detected that most of the larrikinism- indeed, it might almost have been called hooliganism- appeared to come from members of the Australian Country Party. I noticed that when I was giving my usual moderate, sensible and quiet contribution I was greeted by uninterrupted heckling. In fact, if 1 had not been a regular attender at a sporting game known to my colleague, Senator McAuliffe, where a person has to become used to protecting himself, I would have become quite alarmed for my physical safety. In fact, it would nol have surprised me at one stage if a beer can had been hurled from the other side of the chamber. I suggest to the honourable senator that most of the members in the other place have become accustomed over the years to knowing that they have to go there with their guard up and expect almost anything. They are probably well qualified to defend themselves.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs deliberately pursuing a policy of confrontation in Aboriginal affairs or have media reports of his actions in Alice Springs last weekend and immediately prior to his visit there misrepresented him? What action had been taken by him prior to last weekend to introduce the promised detoxification units in Alice Springs and elsewhere? When will they be available and in operation?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question about whether I am setting out on a policy of confrontation is no. I also answer no to his question about whether I was misrepresented prior to going to Alice Springs. The introduction of the detoxification units is the subject of a joint study by the Department of the Northern Territory, the Department of Health and my Department- the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. We are now waiting for a report on the investigations that has been made by Mr Miller of the Department of the Northern Territory which we expect this week or next week on when the detoxification centre will be commenced.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture: Is it a fact that under the recently passed Dairy Adjustment Act assistance will not be available to any producer who had leased a refrigerated vat prior to 23 July 1973? Should it not be possible under the Act for any producer who finds himself in this position to cancel his leasing arrangement, whenever that arrangement was made, and to decide to purchase the equipment with the benefit of the interest-free loans? As I understand it, many dairymen are in this position.
– Generally, the answer to the question is that such a producer would not qualify. When the program was drawn up the very issue of those who had entered into some contractual arrangement on vats was given very thorough consideration. The Government did not feel obliged to make the assistance retrospective beyond the date of the decision to commence the phase-out of the old dairy bounty. I think a line had to be drawn somewhere. If there were some extenuating circumstances which would warrant a departure from that rule I am quite sure that the State authorities, through whom the scheme is administered, would be prepared to consider the position. I would think thai broadly speaking the chances of the person concerned receiving assistance under the new scheme would be minimal.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Under the proposed Australian Telecommunications Commission will some of the engineering staff at present located in country areas be relocated in capital cities? If so, will the Minister say why such a change is necessary? If such a charge is not intended will he make this clear?
– I do not think there could be a specific answer to the question in the terms in which Senator Scott has asked it. I want to remind the honourable senator that, as he probably knows, one of the questions which the Vernon Commission canvassed was the proposed regional organisation in the future. The Commission received reports from consultants and made recommendations. The recommendations have been put to the Government. One of the recommendations raises the question of the future regional organisation not only of the Post Office but also of the Telecommunications Commission, The report of the Vernon Commission states at page 249:
The Commission therefore recommends that the boundaries of the regional administrations be determined on the basis of the business characteristics of the network and not on State boundaries; but that each region should satisfy the criteria that on the business transacted, a regional administration is justified, and that the region presents a reasonable management responsibility for a senior executive of the corporation.
What is happening in the Post Office is that in arranging to give effect to the recommendation to the Government, and in view of the probable passing of legislation, consideration has been given on the technical side to what might happen when the 2 commissions operate. I have been asked about some rumours of re-arrangements. I have been able to tell the Senate precisely that no program will affect particular cities or towns. Unless the honourable senator can nominate a particular area about which I can obtain some information, I would be unable to give him a general picture. I do not think the Post Office or anybody else is in a position to say precisely what will happen, but there will be a general re-arrangement. As the honourable senator understands, there must be re-arrangements because in some places the telecommunications administration must be shifted away from the Post Office, and vice versa. In other cases they will probably be joined. In some cases the country regional administration will be shifted, perhaps to different towns. If the honourable senator would like to tell me of any particular area about which he is concerned, I will see to what extent I can supply reasonable information to him. I do not think the complete picture will emerge until the legislation is passed. What will be done will not be clear until some months after that.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Is it a fact that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has not had a consultation with his State counterparts concerning the mining industry since he became Minister for Minerals and Energy?
– I am unable to answer that question. I will have to find out from the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that any further reduction in interest rates or even the retention of the new rates that are now emerging is heavily dependent upon a significant reduction in government spending? If so, will the Government prune its expenditure to alleviate the hardship, especially in housing, caused by the highest interest rates in Australia’s history? Is that not an inescapable obligation of a responsible government?
– The decision by one of the trading banks, as announced, I think, yesterday, to reduce its interest rates by half a per cent was taken in the current economic circumstances and at the current levels of government spending. It would not be true to say that interest rates can only come down in proportion to or as a result of a reduction in government spending. I do not think that there is any related factor. The interest rates at present are higher than the Government would wish to see them, but they are at that level because of the overall economic conditions that prevail at the present time. The Government is hopeful that we will see these rates eased in the months ahead.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has requested that a team of trained officers be sent with the initial task force to areas devastated by natural disasters? Is it a fact that the request has arisen from the rejection of an offer by the RSPCA to send such a team to Darwin on Boxing Day of last year? Does the Minister agree that, where practicable, trained personnel should be available in disaster areas to care for and control animals? If so, will he support the Society’s request?
– The request which Senator Drake-Brockman has put forward certainly seems to me to be a constructive one. I will request the Minister for Defence to ask the organisations concerned whether consideration should be given in the future in that connection.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Does the Minister know- if he does not will he cause inquiries to be made to ascertain whether it is correct- that there is now a sign in the casualty and outpatients department of the
Royal Hobart Hospital which says, inter alia, that hospital and medical staff have obligations as regards the giving of certain information to the Press and radio relating to patients? What are those obligations and why does the Government allow this invasion of privacy to occur now that the Tasmanian Labor Government has just agreed to nationalise the delivery of medical care in Tasmania? How can the Minister maintain that personal medical matters will remain private under a nationalised system when hospital staff have obligations to make such matters public?
-There are several things I can say about this matter. First of all, as far as Senator Rae’s talk about the nationalisation of medicine is concerned, 1 can assure him that that is only wishful thinking. It is far from nationalisation that is being proposed. It is merely a means of payment whereby the Government, as the representative of the whole of the people, takes over the liability for the payment of medical costs on behalf of the less affluent members of our community. I do not know about the notice in the Royal Hobart Hospital. I have not been treated there. I do not know who put up the notice in the Royal Hobart Hospital.- The Department of Social Security is not responsible for the administration of the Royal Hobert Hospital. I will pass the honourable senator’s question on to the Minister, but I should imagine that the answer would be that it is really none of his business what notices are put up inside the Royal Hobart Hospital. It would seem to be a matter for the management of the Royal Hobart Hospital itself. Whatever notices are put up there, I am afraid there seems to be very little that we can do about it. If the Royal Hobart Hospital says that its employees have some responsibilities in the manner in which they deal with journalists, or whatever it is, one may agree or disagree, but I am afraid there is not much the Minister can do about it. As the matter seems to be agitating Senator Rae’s mind, I will see that the Minister sees the question.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security aware that the British health scheme is in danger of bankruptcy and collapse unless the British Government pours multi-millions of pounds into the fund? Will this Government change its mind on the introduction of a nationalised health scheme in Australia, bearing in mind the facts of the British scheme and the attitudes of the Australian public which are opposed to any such nationalised scheme being introduced into Australia?
- Senator Young was not listening. I have already corrected Senator Rae when he referred to the scheme as a nationalised health scheme, which it is not. Certainly the national health scheme in Britain was introduced by a Labor government- the first Attlee Government. No subsequent government has tried to destroy that scheme. It is a settled part of the way of life in Britain, in the same manner as national health is part of the way of life of virtually all of the countries with which Australia can be compared: all of them have national health schemes. Senator Young says that there is a lot of opposition to a national health scheme in Australia. Yes, there is a lot. It was shown in the last election. But it was not enough to defeat the Labor Government. The overwhelming majority of the Australian people showed very clearly on 2 occasions that they are in favour of our national health scheme. We intend to proceed with our national health scheme in accordance with the wishes of the people who put us here to represent them.
– I present the 46th Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– I present the report of the Australian delegation to the 28th Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York from 1 8 September to 1 8 December 1973.
– I present the report of the Remuneration Tribunal in respect of remuneration payable to members of the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory of Australia.
– I present a statement of moneys received and expended during the year ended 30 June 1974 in the administration and development of the Australian Capital Territory.
– On 19 December 1974 the Senate resolved that the Remuneration Tribunal should report again, the Senate having disapproved the determinations contained in the 1974 review on 25 July last. Pursuant to the Senate’s resolution the Remuneration Tribunal decided to re-present the reports and determinations contained in the 1974 review, subject to adjustment of certain anomalies. I now table the report as re-presented.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a statement by the Minister for Defence, an exchange of letters and schedules relating to the transfer of defence power to Papua New Guinea.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development Financial Assistance Act 1974 1 present the agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to South Australia for urban and regional development for the financial year ending 30 June 1975.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969- 1 974, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Orchestral studio and music centre at Brisbane, Queensland;
Malak primary and pre-school at Darwin, Northern Territory.
-I bring up the final report, report No. 3, of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to move a motion for the Senate to take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Since report No. I was presented to the Senate in October 1 972 action has either been taken or foreshadowed in respect of 8 of the 9 recommendations made by the Committee. These were commented upon in report No. 2 presented to the Senate on 5 December 1974. The Committee also has noted recent significant statements of Australian Government policy which directly or indirectly affect the matters referred to it for inquiry. Due to the completely different situation now facing the Committee and in view of further changes which currently are being implemented by the Government, or which have been foreshadowed, the Committee considers it is no longer practicable to conduct a worthwhile inquiry along the lines originally envisaged by the Senate when the Committee was established. It may well be that the Senate will determine that an alternative method of inquiry into specific areas within the scope of the original terms of reference should be adopted. The Committee makes this final report to the Senate and recommends that its investigation into the foreign ownership and control of Australian commerce, land, industry and resources be terminated and the members discharged from further attendance. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Is notice of motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Douglas McClelland and relating to the times of meeting and business on Thursday formal or not formal?
– I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20 February on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this debate was adjourned I was exhorting the Opposition, in particular Senator Wright, to come up with sensible amendments to the legislation rather than try to veto it in its entirety. I think it is significant that during the weekend the Opposition spokesman on industrial affairs came out with a proposal to use the bludgeon of retaliatory legislation against trade unions which he regarded as acting in an argumentative manner. It is in that context that I want again to make an appeal to the Opposition.
If the Opposition is looking for a new deal in industrial relations, it cannot reject out of hand any concept of reform. If this legislation is rejected by the Opposition the real casualties will be unions in sectors of the industry that are virtually free of industrial stoppages. It will mean that the need in the modern state for better research facilities and one hundred and one other necessities of trade union operations will suffer. I say that with considerable feeling. I have in mind some of the high costs entailed by an organisation such as the Federated Storeman and Packers Union. It is obvious that that union, like a number of other unions, would be in a far better position if it merged with other unions.
Anyone who has examined the trade union balance sheets- I have in mind the strictures of Mr Malcolm Fraser, the Opposition spokesman on industrial affairs, about hidden bank accounts- would know only too well that there are no secret funds to meet union administrative costs. A union secretary experiences a certain amount of trepidation when he is trying to put a case for higher contributions. Quite frankly, outright opposition to any of the very mild reforms we are now seeking will only get the response from the rank and file that it is better to battle out arguments away from the jurisdiction of the courts because such battles produce no final dividends.
I have always made it a practice not to comment on a current dispute. I simply say to Opposition members, particularly to those whom I know have a fair knowledge of industrial affairs, that they would be aware that the situation in the New South Wales power industry is explosive. One of the great tragedies is that when people are being cajoled to retire from direct action and to use the courts they are assured that the wheels of conciliation will turn fairly smoothly. By and large that happens, but the plain fact of the matter is that industrial relations are one of the most complex exercises that can be undertaken on this planet. Even some of the larger disputes have started off with some small clash of wills at 6 a.m. or 7.30 a.m. when a shift signs on. I repeat that the idea that Jack is as good as his master is accepted universally now. Therefore the secretary at the top level of a trade union is not in a position where he can treat his members as though they are performing seals or marionettes. He cannot expect them to jump at his will. He has to convince them of particular reforms.
I know that most industrial registrars would echo all that I say about a supreme negative policy and the fear of the unknown. Nobody has ever said that any industrial system will be strikefree. Nobody has ever said that the responsibility for an industrial dispute is all on the one side. I know that Senator Wright is an historian on industrial relations. He will know that in the war years a poster used to go out to define the difference between a democratic society and that of the Axis powers- a dictatorship society. It depicted a Gestapo member standing at the elbow of the man working at the lathe and it said: ‘This is the sort of society you do not want’. That is why we get this resistance from the trade union movement when we talk about sanctions. When we talk about sanctions we are making people comply.
If honourable senators look at this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald’ they will remember that in sinful Sydney a royal commission investigated allegations of organised crime in New South Wales clubs and had a look at the people who make poker machines, and see that now ‘Mr Bally’ is going away on a 6 months cruise through the Pacific Islands. We cannot blame trade union officials for their actions when they see people such as the Bartons, the Glanvilles and all these seedy swindlers living it up with Cadillacs and concubines in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Those people can get away with embezzlement and they can do it in millions. But because there happens to be a conflict in relation to a dirt money claim we find editorials and quite a number of honourable senators opposite labelling the trade union movement as irresponsible. Whatever doubt the honourable senators opposite have in a specific case, that does not give them a mandate to come up with counter-claims as far as this legislation is concerned.
If we had said to the senator who has left this chamber and who was endeavouring to reform society as far as companies are concerned ‘There will not be any mergers of any companies’, what a howl there would have been; we would have been told that we were trespassing on the natural rights of private enterprise. Yet, on the other side of the coin, it seems that the rights of trade unions to amalgamate are regarded as leading to Domesday. As a matter of fact, I notice that earlier Senator Greenwood conceded that there was a case but seemed to feel that there was, what I might call, an industrial minefield or ambush -
– No, it is just the right of people to be consulted. Is not that important?.
– We are saying that as a result of the experience which has already taken place and as a result of all that has occurred there have been no violent convulsions. This is so in relation to the amalgamation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, although there were a few malcontents. But honourable senators know as well as I do that if the Federated Ironworkers Association, on being approached by a small union for amalgamation, had to bear the cost of a ballot it is obvious that as compared with the relatively small cost to the other union the FIA would face considerable expense.
In addition, what we fear is the expensive litigation which can be incurred by unions such as the Federated Storemen and Packers Union on venturing into this field. I think the nearest example is a case in which a local council takes on a big industrial firm because of a pollution matter. The case could go right through the gamut of the various courts and even to the Supreme Court. At that stage of the game the local council could have distinct fears as to whether it was worth going on because of the legal costs. The council would probably have to impose a surcharge or bump up the rates. In this context that is the fear which the trade union movement has. It is the very small unions which need amalgamation. They still believe that the legislation which has been expounded by Senator Bishop will remove the fears in relation to costs. I put out the hand of appeal to Senator Wright: With his extensive legal talents could he not come up with some amendments, rather than reject the Bill out of hand? In the recess when I go around to the trade unions they ask what we are doing in the Senate and whether it is a House of review. I say: Yes, we have our moments of glory’. They ask me: ‘What is happening when people such as Senator Wright and his colleagues reject legislation such as this out of hand?’ I leave the matter there.
– in reply- I commence by repeating what the Government has said before. We think it is scandalous for an Opposition to hold up legislation in relation to the amalgamation of unions- a principle which the Opposition has supported on many occasions. Mr Deputy President, as you will know this is the fourth time that this conciliation and arbitration legislation has been brought into the Parliament and rejected. At the same time, as everybody knows, understate governments, many of which are Liberal Party governments, amalgamations are achieved much more easily than is aimed for in this legislation. For example, in New South Wales an application may be made to the State Industrial Registrar. He has to hear and determine any application. In Queensland, unions in related callings may amalgamate on the passing of a resolution by a majority of members present at a general meeting or by other competent authority in the unions. Objections may be lodged to the amalgamation and these are heard by the Registrar. In South Australia where there is a Labor Government unions may amalgamate on the passing of a resolution to this effect and the lodging of it with the Registrar. In Western Australia, unions in related industries may amalgamate on the passing of a resolution by a majority of members present at a general meeting of each union and objections to the amalgamation may be heard.
After hearing all the fears expressed by Opposition senators I cannot understand why they should not reaffirm what some of their previous Ministers and members said. I refer briefly to what their leaders have said previously in order to put it on record again. For example, in March 1972 Mr Lynch said: lt is fair to say that provided the membership of industrial organisations does not lose effective control as a result of amalgamations, there are many advantages which can accrue from amalgamation. For instance, there are some 300 unions in Australia. Most of them are very small. It could facilitate the functioning of the arbitration system and relations generally between the employers and the unions if this number of unions decreased. I know of situations in which employers have sat across the table with no fewer than 15 unions in relation to one issue. Government departments have had this experience.
In 1970 Mr Macphee, who is now in the House of Representatives, had a number of comments to make about the same thing when he supported amalgamations. He said when speaking to the New South Wales Employers’ Federation 1970 Industrial Relations Conference:
One may therefore express the hope that individual executives and officers in both trade unions and employer organisations may soon realise how ephemeral empires really are and that there is far more satisfaction in subsuming individual desires for personal recognition in a cause which benefits the community generally. When this realisation eventually dawns a blow may really be struck for the peaceful welfare of Australian employees and the peaceful and rapid development of our national resources. Such an advance would be greatly aided by rational amalgamations of unions and a similar unifying of employer organisations.
– Was that said by a member of the Liberal Party?
– It was. It was said by Mr Macphee when he was Assistant Director of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales. Since that time he has entered the House of Representatives and during the debate on 19 February in the other place in a speech which was generally supporting the legislation, although he finally voted with the Opposition, he made a number of observations which I think I should put on record. At page 49 1 of Hansard he is reported as having said:
In conclusion I would like to refer to another matter raised by the honourable member for Burke. It is a matter on which I am in agreement with him and at some variance with my colleagues. The honourable member said that a 30 per cent vote is a good result for a trade union. It is a good result. It is a very good result for a registered employer organisation, too, I might say. I do not doubt that an employer organisation or a trade union is doing very well when it gets a 30 per cent return. As I have said, I know that this is at variance with the views of some of my colleagues, but I hope that they will respect my practical experience on these matters.
He went on to say that he supported amalgamations and saw the need for them. Obviously the situation now is as it was when this Bill was first introduced although then, of course, the provisions were in a comprehensive Bill. At the end of 1973 there were 294 separate unions in Australia, 226 of which had a membership of fewer than 5000 and of these 103 had fewer than 500 members. As the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) rightly said, this situation is not satisfactory industrially. It leads to leapfrogging. It leads to a struggle for identification from each of the unions, large or small. It leads to industrial conflicts which appear in the records of the country and about which employers too have often spoken. I would like to quote from the 1974 annual report of the amalgamated group now called the Chamber of Commerce and Industry S.A. Inc. As honourable senators know, the organisations which formed this body had the wisdom in recent years to come together. This organisation said in supporting the activities of its Industrial Matters Committee at page 20 of its report:
The number of industrial matters brought to the Committee continues to increase, both in number and complexity. The instances of strikes, demarcation issues and industrial cases handled by Chamber Officers have increased by approximately one-third compared with the previous year.
A great many of those cases are clearly demarcation cases. In fact they are cases which could be avoided under the sort of legislation which is proposed by the Government. The Minister made the point when the Bill was introduced on various occasions that a situation where we have this large number of unions only adds to the inflationary trend because each union competes with the other. If, as is the purpose of the legislation, a situation were to develop in Australia where unions in globo and employers in globo tended more to enter agreements perhaps once in two years it would lead to a stabilisation which we all want. Instead of that each union today is in competition and all of the resulting problems are reflected in the economy and in negotiations. It is this Government which for the first time has brought into being a comprehensive system for amalgamations which will satisfy all the aims of reasonable people.
asked: ‘How would the members know about the elections’?’ The member would know about elections in perhaps a better way than members of his Party knew about the Opposition’s attempt to decide the fate of its Leader. Senator Greenwood talked about crooked ballots and the desire for secret ballots but when the leadership contest was held, the Sydney Morning Herald’ said, and everybody knows that this Press report is right:
The first half-hour of the meeting, which Mr Snedden summoned from 9.30 a.m., was taken up by frequently bitter debate about whether there should be a secret or open ballot to decide whether the Liberal leadership post should be declared vacant.
Various newspapers nominated those who either supported a secret ballot or were against a secret ballot. In the Bill before us, and honourable senators can read it for themselves, proposed new section 158G states:
Each of the organizations shall cause a copy of the resolution of its committee of management and of the scheme proposed to be submitted to be published-
The Opposition has defended the legislation. But nowhere did that Act prescribe that the members had to elect their officials. As is well known, many of the Federal officials were elected by committees of management. Action was never taken to alter that situation. What we see in this Bill is an advanced form of legislation which the Senate ought to approve or, if it does not approve it precisely, it ought to bring into focus what relevant amendments should be considered. However, as we know, that is not possible because the Oppositions intends to vote against the Bill. 1 will deal with another 2 clauses which deal with the rights of members of trade unions. The rights of members are preserved by the requirement of the Bill that a ballot be conducted in the case of each organisation concerned in a proposed amalgamation. The ballot is to be conducted by the organisation itself or officially where its official conduct is sought by either the committee of management or by 250 members or 5 per cent of the members, whichever is the less. Where the ballot is conducted by the organisation, it is to be conducted in accordance with any rules of the organisation that are applicable so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with Part VIIIA. Where no rules are applicable, the ballot is to be conducted under arrangements approved by the Industrial Registrar. The rules of an organisation must be filed independently with the Registrar and must be such as to comply with the requirements of the Act. Regulations must otherwise not be contrary to law. The rights of members are further protected by proposed section 133 which requires that the rules of organisations be such as to ensure that every financial member of an organisation has a right to vote at any ballot taken for the purpose of submitting a matter to a vote of the members. The situation that we are aiming at is to make amalgamation of trade unions easier. There was a time when the Liberal Party decided to try to do that- in 1970 and 1971. But because of some late representations, the then Minister for Labour, Mr Lynch, the honourable member for Flinders in another place, backed off from that requirement.
Senator Greenwood also spoke about the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union amalgamation. 1 want to put on record some observations about this matter which reflect the proper position. It had been known since 1968 that the 3 unions concerned had been conducting negotiations on amalgamations. The proposals for amalgamation were initiated in 1966 and more seriously in 1968. The federal conferences of the 3 unions agreed to amalgamate in 1969 and early 1970. At all stages of the amalgamation proposals the 3 unions acted within the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the accompanying regulations. They consulted with the Industrial Registrar to ensure that each step in the amalgamation proposal was conducted in accordance with the Act.
In March 1971 the 2 unions proposing to reregister held ballots of members as required by the Act. The then Amalgamated Engineering Union, which was merely expanding its rules to accommodate members of other unions, also held a ballot of its members to see whether they approved of an amalgamation, even though it was not required to do so under the Act. The amalgamation proposals and the ballots to be held to obtain the members’ approval were publicised widely in the official journals of the unions which were distributed to all members. The ballots of the 3 unions showed that a majority of those voting in each of the 3 unions were in favour of amalgamation. The returns were as follows: For the Amalgamation Engineering Union, the yes vote, expressed as a percentage of votes cast, was 85.7 per cent and the no vote, expressed as a percentage of votes cast, was 12.7 per cent. ‘1 he yes vote, as a percentage of total membership, was 8.08 per cent and the no vote, as a percentage of the total membership, was 1.2 per cent. For the Boilermakers’ and Blacksmiths’ Society of Australia, the yes vote, expressed as a percentage of the votes cast, was 73.2 per cent and the no vote, expressed as a percentage of the votes cast, was 25.5 per cent. The yes vote, expressed as a percentage of the ballot papers issued, was 44.4 per cent and the no vote as a percentage of the ballot papers issued, was 15.5 per cent. For the Sheet Metal Workers Union, the yes vote, expressed as a percentage of the votes cast, was 69.9 per cent and the no vote, expressed as a percentage of votes cast, was 29.5 per cent. The yes vote, expressed as a percentage of ballot papers issued was 24.3 per cent and the no vote, expressed as a percentage of ballot papers issued, was 9.2 per cent.
– What were the total membership figures?
– 1 do not have them with me, but 1 will give them to the honourable senator. The facts are that that amalgamation has been achieved. Nobody will say that that amalgamation is not better for the industry.
– 1 would assert that the position -
– The honourable senator is talking about wider economic matters, but I refer the honourable senator to what was said by spokesmen on this subject on the other side of the Senate chamber. At the time of the amalgamation and since employers have gone on record as saying that they would rather deal with one group of unions than with a whole host of unions. In saying that, I am simply repeating what was also said by the honourable senator’s own Minister for Labour when the Opposition was in government. The Opposition has never changed its position in regard to this matter. 1 want to say this clearly: There were no amalgamations achieved under the Opposition’s proposals. Some proceedings were taking place but no amalgamations were achieved. In our case, we have proposed a situation which will reduce very rapidly the number of unions. For example, in the Australian Post Office 27 unions are involved. From the union point of view to elect a person as a commissioner on the new Interim Commission in the Post Office we have to go to the extent of holding many conferences and asking the unions to select a person to be nominated. There ought to be one organisation. In Germany. the United Kingdom and other countries the trend is to reduce the number of unions. In vital matters there ought to be fewer people to talk to because when there are fewer people to talk to it means that more frequently there are more constructive discussions. There is less contention.
Senator Greenwood went to some pains to attack the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Government and other people who are endeavouring to see that inflationary trends are minimised. I want to go on record to put the matter in its proper context. To do this, all I need do is quote from the transcript of the case so that people can evaluate it. I think that in these circumstances it is best to let the case proceed and then see what can be done after a determination has been made about the issues. I shall quote what appears at page 8 1 3 of the transcript of evidence. Mr Jolly, speaking on behalf of the ACTU, said:
If the Commission pleases, in view of the widespread press speculation as to what was contained in the ACTU executivedecision regarding the questions that have been raised by the Commission during this case to the ACTU, I think it is best that I clear the air and inform the Commission as to the contents of thai statement now. . . . These are my instructions. After consideration of the request made by members of the Bench during the National Wage case the ACTU executive makes the following statement: The trade union movement strongly believes the introduction of wage indexation to be a vital element in securing economic justice for the great bulk of the Australian community dependent directly or indirectly upon wages and salaries.
The ACTU has discussed the circumstances in which wage indexation could be reintroduced in Australia and possible trade union responses to that situation. To the extent that the Australian Government is initiating supplementary economic measures and has appointed a Committee of Inquiry into Taxation Indexation, we welcome the emergence of an environment within which wage indexation has the best chance of effective operation.
From the ACTU point of view the pursuit of wage justice has historically been a two-fold process- those major aspect* to which the ACTU itself has assumed collective responsibilities and those which have remained within the province of the individual unions. Within the new context of which we are speaking the position would remain the same. At the national level with cost of living movements covered by indexation the ACTU would continue to handle claims for wage increases based upon national productivity improvement. Within individual awards and determinations we would expect the claims of unions to reflect the economic context to which we refer. As it has been put, such claims will be based upon changes in work value and the relevant or special considerations.
We would regard ii as quite unreal Ibr us to give ;in exhaustive definition of work value or a complete catalogue of relevant or special considerations. The Commission and the Court before it have never in 70 years done so In general terms changes in technology and in the circumstances under which work is performed have always been acknowledged to bc significant and to be such as not to enable sensible enumeration.
We would indicate, however, that the relative failure in the past years of the tribunal to reflect in national cases by way of appropriate increases the fundamental fact of increasing prices and productivity has inevitably led to a proliferation of claims on other named grounds both inside and outside the tribunal.
Wc suggest it would be reasonable to have a reciprocal expectation should the tribunal move fully to take account of movements in prices and national productivity. Particularly in such circumstances we would say that the question of Mow-on into other awards of increases in one award given on other than these grounds would be clearly within the procedures of the Commission.
We also point out that if the Commission saw lit to accept indexation as proposed by the Government (that is. by the Australian Government), then should any union decide to make claims for increases in wages in excess of average weekly earnings for reason of price increases, it would bc a matter to be pursued by the union itself without involvement 01 the ACTU
Some of the above relates to the area of over-award payments, but in regard to that question we make these final observations. No more than in regard to individual award matters is the ACTU some dictatorial organisation instructing each affiliate as to what it shall do. However, it is clear that we expect wage and salary claims to reflect the economic realities of the environment within which they are made, and our affiliates are aware of that expectation. 11” the Commission pleases, that is the statement that was passed by the ACTU executive yesterday and it was endorsed unanimously.
- Dr Cairns criticised that pretty roundly.
– It is the subject of court proceedings now.
-The point that Senator Milliner has made is that it is no argument to take out of context something which the Australian Council of Trade Unions has said by resolution or what Mr Jolly might have said before the Commission. When the case is determined will be the time when a proper approach by the Government to the ACTU might be more satisfactory and a resumption of the conferences under the control of Mr Justice Moore more fruitful. It is true that the ACTU has complex problems because of the large number of unions that are members of the ACTU. That is one of the things that we are trying to cure.
– Why did not Dr Cairns make allowance for that yesterday? He was pretty critical of the ACTU yesterday.
– I cannot understand the honourable senator or his Party. In 1970 and 1 97 1 the present Opposition agreed that amalgamations were necessary. Many of the people in Senator Greenwood’s Party, including the giant employers, have always said: ‘We believe it is better to deal with fewer unions across the table. We know them better. It is better to deal with the ironworkers and it is better to deal with the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. Sometimes it is better to deal with the militant unions because they have stronger control over their members’. Employers said that to me when I was in the union movement. They have said it more recently to our counterparts who are presently in the trade union movement.
I point out that some of the industrial disputes which have occurred obviously have been related most closely to the inflationary problem. One of the cures is to provide the remedies that we are trying to provide. In addition, simply as a method of pointing out what we were saying in June and July, it appears from the evidence of the latest figures on industrial disputes that there was a drop in the number of working days lost in November. The figure was the lowest since October 1972, as honourable senators opposite might say it should have been, except for the months of December and January when the level of disputes is generally much lower than for other months. What has been happening in the economic world generally is that endeavours to catch up with rising prices and failure to take the remedies which the Government is proposing have resulted in too much industrial activity. The most pressing industrial need in that situation is the achievement of some moderation of inflationary wage claims. It would seem to me that what we are aiming at not only achieves that but also lays the basis for fewer unions.
That is a reply to Senator Scott who said that he wanted to see a new team spirit. He said that he wanted to see new life given to the former National Labour Advisory Council to enable it to work, as it did previously, with the ACTU and the national employers. How can one settle these general Australian problems if one must settle them in the complex situation of the number of unions to which 1 have referred? The cures are in the remedies which we have proposed. I think it is a shame that these pieces of legislation, which provide for the first time that it shall be mandatory for all unions to elect officials, some yearly and some 2-yearly, for the fourth time are to be denied to the Australian industrial scene.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20 February on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is now debating the second of the Government’s 2 conciliation and arbitration Bills. This Bill is, by its long title, a Bill to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration in relation to the certification of agreements and the operation and cancellation of certified agreements. It is a fairly technical Bill. It is also a Bill in which an approach has been expressed that is not the approach which the Opposition accepts or to which it will give its endorsement. It is a Bill which does not seek to effect massive changes, but it is the occasion for the expression of the fairly fundamental differences in the approaches to conciliation and arbitration. The Government’s attitude has been made clear on, I think, the 2 prior occasions when these provisions have been before the Parliament. The Opposition ‘s attitude to the same provisions also has been made clear on those occasions. While the numbers in the Senate are as is currently the position the Opposition’s view must prevail. We know that that is the result of having the numbers. But the fact that those numbers will prevail does not constitute intimidation nor is it obstruction. It represents simply the will of the majority of the members of the Senate.
The will of the majority of the members of the Senate is expressed by the majority vote which was accorded to senators in the Opposition ranks over the vote accorded to senators in the Government ranks at the election which was held in 1974. If one were able to divide the vote of the electorate at large in May 1974 into an intention it has been expressed fairly clearly that the intention was that in the House of Representatives the Government should be accorded to the Australian Labor Party but that the same Australian Labor Party should not have a majority in the Senate and that the Opposition is expected in those circumstances to exercise its numbers responsibly. We believe that we have been exercising our responsibilities in this chamber in a manner which accords with what the electorate intended. On this occasion we are expressing a view which we will justify and which we believe expresses the view that the people of Australiathe people who sent us here- would expect us to express.
– Did more people vote for your Parties than the Australian Labor Party at the election?
-We received more votes throughout the Commonwealth for the Senate than for the other place and, strangely, the Labor Party received less votes for its Senate candidates than it did for its House of Representatives candidates. I would only suggest to Government senators that they might take heed of that comparative lack of support, of popularity, amongst the people of Australia. The facts and the figures speak for themselves.
This Bill has been promoted by the Government for 2 reasons. Other legislation which has come before the Parliament in the last 2 weeks also has been promoted for the same 2 reasons. I refer, of course, to the other conciliation and arbitration Bill, the 2 Bills relating to the seas and submerged lands, the National Health Bill and the simultaneous elections referendum proposals, all of which have been before the Senate on numerous occasions in the past. The reasons why those measures have been put forward again are twofold. The first reason is to establish a propaganda picture of Senate rejection of Bills which can be described at some later stage, if not currently, as frustration or portrayed by the media as Senate obstructionism or the impeding of Government business. That is one reason why these measures have continued to be reintroduced although it has been made so clear on numerous occasions in the past what is the attitude of the Opposition Parties and what must be the fate of those Bills. The second reason, of course, is ancillary to the first reason. It is to build up a solid case for a double dissolution if the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) should ever want one and the ability, if a deadlock should prevail after any double dissolution, for a joint sitting to be able to enact those measures into law.
The Government cannot put forward this Bill as part of an industrial relations policy and expect its justification for the measure to be accepted. The Government’s so-called industrial relations policy is not a policy and never has been a policy. The remarks which were madethey were made in passing- in the 1972 policy speech were not an industrial policy; they were simply an indication that, as far as the Australian Labor Party was concerned, it would put more conciliation back into the industrial relations field and would have less government intervention. That, in essence, was all that it said. I must say that I have found difficulty in finding anything about an industrial relations policy in the 1974 policy speech. I find it quite instructive that the message that was attempted to be hammered home in 1972 and the years preceding it that a vote for Labor meant a vote for an intelligent industrial relations policy because Labor understood the workers has been proved, I think, to be wrong and as incorrect as any aspect of Labor’s whole program.
What were we told prior to 1972? What was the Australian Labor Party’s theme? We were told that the Australian Labor Party knows the unions better. We were told that the Australian Labor Party’s policies and attitudes were more understandable and more rational and that therefore there would be less industrial strife. We were told that there would be less Government intervention and that therefore there must be better industrial relations. We were told that more emphasis would be placed on meaningful negotiations and that therefore there must be more conciliation, there would be less arbitration and industrial peace would reign throughout the land. What have we seen? In 1973 and 1974 was an increasing crescendo of industrial disputation, with work days lost, wages lost, disruption to production and an increasing inability of business throughout the country to plan ahead. The combined effects of inflation and industrial disputation plus rising costs have created a lack of confidence in which the Government’s own inabilities in the industrial relations field have never been more evident.
I think it is worth repeating that the Labor Party’s industrial relations policy- whatever it be; whatever it was- is now in tatters. To suggest that in some way this Bill represents a part of the Government’s industrial relations policy is to stretch credulity beyond reasonable limits. I ask honourable senators to consider the results which we have seen. The Government and unions have never been in greater disarray. Constantly we read of disputes between the Government and Ministers on the one hand and the Australian Council of Trade Unions and individual unions on the other hand. We have a change from an initial situation of government subservience to almost every union demand and encouragement by the Minister for Labor and Immigration of many of the demands and requests made by the union movement to a situation where virtually there is now the complete reverse. In 1973 the Government urged a wages and prices referendum for permanent power to be granted to Canberra’s bureaucrats. This, of course, was vigorously rejected by the unions; so much for the argument that the Labor Party knew the unions better.
We have seen the conflict between the Government and the unions on the issue of indexation. When Mr Justice Moore called a conference in August of last year he had the expectation that with the support of the Government and the unions an agreed compromise could be hammered out. That was incapable of achievement. Notwithstanding the statement which the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration made in an earlier debate on what the ACTU’s precise pledge to the Commission was, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) yesterday condemned the ACTU for the inadequacy of its approach on indexation. He indicated that there was no prospect in his view of indexation being introduced whilst the ACTU took that view. What are the implications of that? The implications are that the Government’s last budgetary proposals lack validity because Mr Whitlam said in November of last year that he believed that wage indexation would be introduced and that when it was introduced there would be an opportunity for confidence to be restored and for the economy to turn the corner. Now, if indexation is not to be introduced, in the expectation of the Deputy Prime Minister, it means that another aspect of the Government’s policy is in tatters. We have heard in recent times government appeals for wage restraint. We have heard from individual unions equally determined responses that no body and no government will tell the unions what to do in the field of wage claims for their members. Once again we find the ACTU sitting on the fence and indicating that it is unable to speak with a united or forceful voice for the trade union movement. So it goes on, and I do not elaborate the scene. This is the present pattern.
I come now to the precise provisions of this Bill. It seems to me that the Bill attempts to do 2 things. First it seeks to ensure that a statutory procedure will be followed with regard to the certification by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of agreements which are made by a union and an employer. It also seeks to impose upon the member of the Commission who has the obligation of certifying the agreement the requirement that he be satisfied of certain things. It follows of course that if he is not satisfied the agreement is not to be certified. What that does in terms of the agreement which has been made between the parties is not clarified. That in itself represents, I think, an inability to think the matter through and to come up with a comprehensive proposal which takes account of eventualities which might arise if the member of the Commission exercises his obligation as the legislation contemplates he may.
A second provision which I think is significant says that if members of a union agree with their employer that as part of the settlement they will not, for the duration of the agreement, strike or engage in any work bans, that clause is not to be regarded as certifiable or part of the agreement by the Commissioner. That is an incredible provision. It means that if the parties agree that the employer will give the union members an extra clothing allowance or provide some other benefits the employer is not entitled to get in return a promise by the unions that for the duration of the agreement or a certain period union members will not engage in strike action and that they will instead enter into an agreement. To say that that sort of a concession by unions is not to be included or certified in an agreement to me is virtually inviting strike action. Why should there be a prohibition on such an agreement if the parties are prepared to make an agreement? It renders hollow the protestations of the Labor Party that it is genuinely interested in promoting conciliation.
Senator Bishop’s second reading speech, so different from the second reading speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration in the other place, attempted, and I recognise it, to give a reasoned exposition in support of this Bill. I say, with respect to the Minister, that the case which he made out ignores some of the real and vital aspects of what is in the Bill. One thing which the adoption of the Bill would mean is the weakening of the authority of the Commission. It would lead to its being bypassed. I know that the Minister will say that that is so much nonsense. I ask him to look at it in this way: If a provision states that the Commission could refuse to certify an agreement if the Commissioner feels that there is to be a major detriment to the public interest- he has to be satisfied that there has been complete or adequate consultation amongst the members of the union and that the union members have agreed to it- it is imposing an obligation upon the Commissioner. If the Commissioner, in the discharge of his obligation, says that he is not satisfied of all the things he has the further obligation to refuse to certify the agreement. No union will run the risk of having its agreement not certified and the tendency will be, if these matters have not been complied with, to bypass the Commission. The tendency will be to take the general attitude and say: ‘What does certification of the agreement matter? We can make our agreement with the employers. We will not bother about certifying it. It does mean that we will not be able to utilise the provisions of the Act if the employer breaks’ the agreement. If that be the case, we will make do in some other way. We have our own means to ensure that the employer honours the arrangement. ‘ The Commission will be bypassed simply because the provisions which the Act will impose or require will be too onerous to be observed.
The Opposition, of course, does not argue that all agreements must be channelled through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It would be absurd to argue that proposition and the Opposition has never put it forward. We do say there ought to be the facility for people to take their agreement to the Commission, to have it certified in the same way in which awards are made by an arbitrator and for the parties to have access to the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act so that if a breach occurs there is a ready made means of enforcing the provisions. If you have the position that the Commission must look behind the agreement not to the public interest but simply as to whether there has been consultation with the rank and file and the rank and file have approved the measures, then the union officials will not take their agreements to the Commission and they will simply tell the employers, no matter how much the employers organisation might wish to have the matter certified before the Commission, that it is just not on, and the union view will prevail.
I do not suggest, by the argument 1 put, that the rank and file members should not be consulted. Of course they should be consulted. But where agreements have to be negotiated between a union secretary, or some representative committee of the union, and the employer or employers organisation, you cannot have the 1000 or 10 000 members of a union meeting in consultation. There has to be some delegation to responsible people. It is effective, and I think highly appropriate, that the persons charged with the responsibility of carrying out the negotiations should be the committee of the union. The union committee knows that if it does not arrange an agreement which is satisfactory to the membership, as they view it, or which will not be satisfactory to the membership if there should be some challenge made to the negotiations which the committee has conducted, its position will be at stake. The committee will know that it will not be able to bring about an end to the disputation which it is endeavouring to achieve. I think it is unreal for the Minister to take the view that he must improve the arrangements under which the rank and file are consulted and in order to achieve that objective he must bring in the requirement that the commissioner must be satisfied of rank and file consultation and approval before certifying the agreement. It sounds attractive but plainly it is impracticable and unworkable. I suggest to the Government and to the Minister that if they really wish to improve rank and file consultation and rank and file view of union matters they should provide for compulsory secret ballots in the election of union officials and require that those elections of union officials should take place at regular periods, say every second or every third year.
– Or every 6 years, like the Senate.
– 1 think 6 years is too long a period. After all, half the Senate goes out every 3 years. All I say is that if persons are elected and they have the confidence of their members they ought to be allowed a period of time in which to carry out the jobs they have been given. Whether an appropriate time is one year, 2 years or 3 years can vary from union to union. All I say is that it is an alternative which I think has far more attraction to it than the proposal of the Minister.
If one were to look at the clause to see the matters about which the commissioner has to be satisfied, one would find that there are enormous problems created. After all, the Commissioner has to be satisfied, firstly, that there has been consultation with financial members of the organisation who are affected by the agreement. Now, the commissioner has to determine who are the people affected by the agreement. It may be that the commissioner’s view is different from the union’s secretary’s view, and some people whose relativities are adversely affected may well claim before the commission that they should have been consulted. The union secretary may have taken a different view. That opens the way to conflict and opens the- way to the agreement being set aside, and who knows what the outcome of that may be.
Another matter upon which the Commission has to be satisfied is that the terms are acceptable to a majority of the members. How can a member of the Commission really satisfy himself that a document which contains terms of an agreement which has been placed before him is acceptable to a majority of the members? He can make assumptions but if there is a union of 10 000 members and there are 3 union advocates putting the agreement before the Commission and saying: ‘We believe it is acceptable to the members because we have spoken with a group here and group there’, there is no way in which a commissioner looking at it in terms of the obligation imposed on him by the Act could really say that he is satisfied. That again leads to problems and how are they to be resolved?
There appears to be so many imponderables, uncertainties and difficulties involved in this legislation that it is more likely to lead to confrontation than to conciliation. I think it must cause immense friction. It is all very well to suggest that we should democratise the decision making process. I think that is a principle which would have whole hearted concurrence around this chamber. But if we so democratise it that we undermine the effective workings of unions we will create a chaotic situation just as we would do if instead of having the representative lawmaking establishment like the House of Representatives and the Senate we tried in some way to have a voice of the people on the occasion of every measure which came up for decision. Those sorts of things sound well but they are unreasonable and do not work out in practice.
The other point to which I think particular attention ought to be drawn is one I have mentioned already and it is the provision that an agreement not to engage in work bans or strikes, or any agreement which would hinder, prevent or discourage the performance of work, or the acceptance or the offering of work, is not to be certified. I invite the Minister to say how the Government justifies such a provision. If the parties want to agree in terms that the union will not go on strike or that the employer will not engage in some conduct which might otherwise be described as a lockout, why should the parties not be able to make that agreement? To say that a provision containing that agreement shall not be certifiable is totally unreal.
The Bill, as I said, is a technical one but I think that, in the judgment of the Opposition, the major matters which it comprehends are contained in the 2 areas I have canvassed. The Opposition takes the attitude that these 2 major provisions are not the approach which ought to govern our industrial relations. We have made this clear on numerous occasions in the past and we have suggested the way in which these measures can be changed. However it appears that this is one aea where the Government desires to persist, as it is now persisting for the third time, with these precise provisions and is not prepared to seek consultation or to engage in any other type of approach to a problem. The Opposition will reject it.
It is interesting to note that at the industrial peace conference held at the end of 1973 the members of that conference issued a Press statement in which they said that the agreements which had been made at the end of 1973 ought to be given a fair trial. They were amendments to the conciliation and Arbitration Act which the Opposition agreed with the Government were worth giving a try. The representatives of unions and employers agreed that they should be given a try. They said in the Press statement issued at the conclusion of that conference:
The Conference took note of the changes made in the recent legislation affecting the certification of agreements and their duration. The Conference felt that experience should be gained of the working of these provisions before considering any further changes.
Yet it was only a matter of months, not many months, before the Minister introduced these provisions. He did not give any reason why they had to be introduced in terms of the inadequacy of the changes which had been made in late 1973. We in the Opposition know and appreciate the reticence which governs the leading members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions as to what they say in this area- that there is no support in those areas for what the Minister is putting up in this Bill. We recognise the impracticabilities of what he is suggesting, just as I am informed the ACTU does, f he Opposition will vote against the second reading of this Bill.
– in reply- I again remind the Senate that this is the fourth occasion on which such legislation has been before the Senate. It first appeared in a comprehensive Bill, the intention of which was to assist employers and unions to get together to make agreements instead of settling their industrial differences by dispute. The legislation we are now discussing is designed to do that. Of course it contains some prohibitions, but the fact, as everybody knows, is that the trend internationally and within Australia is towards agreements. Of a total of 890-odd Federal awards made in Australia, 550 are wholly by agreement and many of the remainder incorporate agreed portions. Senator Greenwood knows that during the reign of the Government of which he was a member frequent consultations, organised through the Australian Council of Trade Unions and otherwise, were held between unions, a number of employers and Government departments to reach agreement about a wide range of matters such as wages, salaries and Public Service conditions.
The trend today is towards agreements. We want to ensure that that trend continues. We want to ensure that there is a continuing trend to define agreements, to define circumstances under which matters in the agreements can be arranged and certified and to define matters in which certification will not apply. Perhaps I should deal first with the issue about which Senator Greenwood talked, namely, the failure to certify in certain issues where bans and limitations clauses are applied. Of course a general bans clause to apply throughout, say, the metal trades industry cannot be inserted in an agreement which refers, for example, to a wage for a fitter and turner and perhaps the way to work a machine. The intention is to restrict the agreement to matters contained in the agreement. If the unions and employers want to set up a disputes procedure clause- something which is becoming very common now- and to place restrictions on bans they should do it only in respect of the matters which are in the agreement.
– Why can they not do it generally?
- Senator Geenwood docs not want wider responsibility in such matters. When speaking to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) (1975) he argued quite differently from the way he argued in speaking to this Bill. In this debate he argued that the committees of management should have sole responsibility for settling matters that arc the subject of an agreement and the rank and file should not necessarily be involved. We are saying that the trend is towards agreements. Overseas- for example, in America and Germany- if agreements are made on a yearly or 2-yearly basis in the motor vehicle industry or in the chemical industry every worker on the job knows about the agreement because he has a stake in it. With fewer unions and with a more direct relationship between the union and the worker on the job, the worker will be more involved in the settlement. So agreements not only will be more effective in satisfying matters that are the subject of dispute but also will be more likely to run their length of time and to be better.
In Australia, if the unions and the employers want to embark on a general restriction about matters in the industry they will have to do it on the basis of the relevant award and probably in concert with the national union body, the ACTU. That would surely flow. It must flow. Of the 890 awards in Australia, 590 were the subject of agreement. Ten years ago there would have been perhaps 200 agreements. The oil companies, the chemical companies and various other companies always had agreements. The ACTU always promoted agreements, and it still does. If we want to make agreements work and to tighten them up we have to involve the rank and file more and more. To me Senator Greenwood ‘s argument is just fatal and conflicts directly with the position.
– The trend towards agreements has developed without this Bill.
– It is growing regardless. For the first time we are trying to make a legislative provision for definitions so that agreements are encouraged, despite all the difficulties of inflation. Leaving aside the argument on which Senator Greenwood entered the debate, the basic argument ought to be that where we can provide a new legislative framework for employers and bosses to get together in a better and more involved union involving not only the man at the top but also the worker on the ground floor we ought to say: ‘Yes, we will consider it’. We should not hold it up in the way that the Opposition has.
Senator Greenwood said that the Government had no mandate to do these things. The Australian Labor Party’s platform is well known. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out in his policy speeches the sorts of remedies and reforms which would come about under a Labor government. The Opposition challenged many of the Government’s proposals, saying that they were too extravagant or too generous. For example, in most recent times reference has been made to equal pay for women and 4 weeks annual leave. We said that we would provide many things and we have provided most of them. The Opposition has said that we had no mandate to do so. We always had a mandate, and we introduced this legislation into this House and the other place 4 times. The approach of the Labor Party is quite different from that of the Opposition. When the Opposition was in government it never had a written policy. It has only now written its industrial policy, and all that it can promise the unions and the employers is that it will put enforcement clauses back in the legislation. We are saying that the trend towards agreements is growing and ought to be cemented.
Senator Greenwood advanced a very curious argument. It seemed to me that he was saying that regardless of who wins an election the Senate Opposition will please itself about the matters upon which the Government went to the electorate. Surely, under the form of parliamentary democracy we have, the Opposition, whether in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, ought to acknowledge that once a government assumes power, having put its programs to the people, those programs, having been properly identified, ought not to be resisted unless there are special circumstances. There are no special circumstances in this matter, because the Bill is a piece of industrial reform legislation. It is supported, as I have mentioned, by most reasonable thinkers. In the arbitration reports each year the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has said that there are more and more agreements, except in these inflationary times. Perhaps agreements are more necessary in inflationary times than in normal times. Perhaps we can stop the inflationary drive by getting agreements which will last for a longer period and stop the 300-odd unions every month of the year having to leapfrog and to negotiate new agreements because somebody else has moved up the scale.
In these days we ought to be able to advance the notion that there ought to be support by the Government, by the ACTU and even by the Opposition for a desire to have agreements which last longer. Why should we not have an annual agreement in most industries? Why should we not have a national agreement between the employer and the union? If we used the procedures contained in this legislation we would be moving towards that reality. To sum it up, it would seem to me that that is the real issue.
We have, of course, argued these matters before. Not many new aspects have been brought into this debate except perhaps today when Senator Greenwood, more than he has recently, talked about the purpose and the strength of the Opposition and what it might do. Secondly, he reversed the attitude he developed in the last debate when he indicated that committees of management or union executives ought to be the responsible groups which settled agreements. I think the reverse should be the case. I know from experience that the reverse is the case. The more rank and file people are involved the fewer will be the number of industrial disputes. There are, of course, presently some difficulties in some industries in Australia where the rank and file people are curiously unaware of the procedures. If one takes an industry where the agreements have run- year after year- for example, the oil industry, everybody knows what is involved. As everyone is aware the stevedoring industry in recent times has had the longest run of industrial peace for many years. There have been fewer industrial disputes than ever before. Why? It is because the trade union membership, the committee of management, the unions themselves and the stevedoring employers- certainly assisted by the officials of the Department of Labor and Immigration- have been able to secure agreements which ought to run.
I should just like to add this small comment: I have told the Post Office and the unions concerned that it is my desire that there be more agreements between management and the postal workers generally and that they should seek to settle disputes, as far as possible, across the table. I should like to say that, in the time I have administered my present portfolio, with some few exceptions we have been able to secure such a state of affairs. I conclude by saying that I am more than sorry that the Opposition again intends to frustrate what is a good piece of legislation. Senator Greenwood has been persistent in his attitude to this legislation. I hope that we will finally see the legislation on the statute book. I hope that perhaps some Opposition senators will reconsider the position when they vote on this Bill.
Senator GREENWOOD ( Victoria )-Under standing order 410 1 seek leave to make a personal explanation because I have been misrepresented or misunderstood. 1 am not making any accusation. I wish to refer to a matter about which I have already spoken.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objections, leave is granted.
– There is no inconsistency in the Opposition’s attitude between what it said when debating the previous Bill and what it said when debating this Bill. The point I made and the point I make now is simply that to intrude into this Bill as one of the matters which a commissioner has to be satisfied about the need to be satisfied whether an agreement is satisfactory to the rank and file majority is imposing an impossible standard. It is more likely to lead to a bypassing of the Commission and not an upholding of the Commission. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the committee of a union should be able to ignore the wishes of the rank and file. We would certainly say that the rank and file ought to be able to govern the committee in the way in which it conducts the affairs of the union, but to impose a requirement for the rank and file to be consulted in the way that this Bill does is not to uphold the authority of the Commission and is likely to create an unworkable situation. That was the theme of the Opposition’s approach.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) I seek leave to respond quickly to Senator Greenwood ‘s remarks.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I acknowledge the distinction made by Senator Greenwood. As he well knows because I am sure he has talked about it before, the Government- I think much aided by the experience of some of the Ministers and particularly the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), who has visited Europehas seen these processes at work, particularly in Sweden. I have seen them personally. I am satisfied that the more worker participation we have- that is not a new phrase; it is in the verbiage of the United Kingdom and the United States of America industrial organisations- and the more the workers are involved with the management the more they will be involved in settling disputes between employers and unions. We are trying to establish the framework with a piece of legislation which we think is consistent with this trend.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 25 February on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I presume it is the wish of the Government that order of the day No. 3, Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill 1974 [No. 2] (1975), and order of the day No. 4, National Investment Fund Bill 1974 [No. 2] ( 1975), be dealt with together?
– Is that in order?
– Yes. These Bills can be debated cognately, but of course, the questions will be put separately.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
-These 2 Bills have had a long and rather unsatisfactory history as far as the Senate is concerned. It will be remembered that Bills in much the same form were introduced into the Senate in the latter part of 1973. They were referred to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. When I say Bills in much the same form’ I mean that the Bill which amends the existing Australian Industry Development Corporation Act by extending its powers in various ways was a rather more extensive Bill than the one which now appears before us. However, the cognate Bill to establish the National Investment Fund was more or less along the same lines as the one we have before us today. When the original Bills were before us in 1 973 the Senate took the view that they were of considerable magnitude as far as the organisation of our capital markets was concerned and that they needed study in depth. That is why they were sent to the Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. That Committee was selected because the avowed purpose of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and of the National Investment Fund was to buy back, as it was called in those rather heady days of the new Labor Government, Australian resources which had found their way into foreign hands. That was the Committee which was dealing with the matter and it was thought to be the appropriate Committee to consider these Bills.
The attitude which the Opposition has taken ever since in relation to these Bills is the same. They should be studied fully by that Committee. The Senate should have the opportunity of studying a report from that Committee before these Bills are finally debated and disposed of. But unfortunately the Government has adopted a different viewpoint which I think is based upon a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Senate Committee. The misunderstanding was pointed out very clearly to the Government by Senator McAuliffe as Chairman of that Committee when he made a statement in the Senate on 26 September 1974. At the outset I shall refer to portion of that statement because, in the first place, I think it very clearly indicates the nature of the inquiry into this question which the Senate initiated by its reference to the Committee. Secondly, I refer to the statement because it reveals the depth of misunderstanding of the Government and, in particular, of Dr J. F. Cairns, the Treasurer and the Minister in charge of these Bills. Senator McAuliffe in his statement on 26 September 1974 indicated the depth of the inquiry. He stated:
In the conduct of its inquiry the Committee took as the broad basis for its inquiry 2 aspects of its terms of reference, namely:
the best method of mobilising Australian capital resources and attracting their commitment to national development.
the best method of reconciling the inflow of overseas capital for Australian development with the retention of Australian ownership and control.
At the same time the Committee recognised that the Bills raised issues of critical importance -
Of course that is the very point which the Opposition has always maintained and that is the reason why it made the reference- extending over a wide area which necessitated an examination of the Bills not only from the viewpoint of Australian ownership and control objectives but also from other aspects. These included possible Government involvement in the Australian capital market and industrial structure arising from the proposed additional powers, extended functions and privileges of the Australian Industry Development Corporation; the implications for other financial institutions in the money and capital market arising from the financing activities of the AIDC and the NIF; the consequent implications for resource use in the economy and the attainment of other economic and social objectives.
Senator McAuliffe very clearly sets out the great importance of the legislative proposals which we have before us and the nature of the inquiry by the Senate Committee. When all is said and done, the Committee was chaired by a Government senator. I do not say the Government had a majority on the Committee but its Chairman had control and the Committee saw the need for such a deep inquiry. I emphasise the implicationsthis worries the Opposition very much- for other financial institutions in the money and capital market arising from the financing activities of AIDC and NIF as proposed by this legislation. The statement goes on and sets out clearly a very full schedule of the key dates and the work of the inquiry. We know that a great deal of evidence was taken and that great study and thought were given to the matter by members of the Committee. But we also know that its efforts to conclude its inquiry and to report to the Senate have been frustrated by the attitudes of the Government. In the first place the Committee was interrupted and went out of existence in the middle of its inquiry as a result of the prorogation of Parliament early last year. It had only just been reconstituted in March and was getting under way again when the double dissolution occurred in April. It was early in the first session, following the double dissolution, that the Government insisted on bringing these Bills on again.
It is true, as I have indicated, that the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill is not in quite the same form as the Bill which was referred to the Committee. Certain changes were made by the Treasurer. A limitation of $500m was placed upon the size of the proposed National Investment Fund. Nevertheless the implications for the capital markets, which have been clearly set out in Senator McAuliffe “s statement, remain. The Opposition still believes that the proper course would have been for these Bills to be referred back to that Committee for it to complete its work. When he introduced these Bills last year in an effort to bulldoze them through the Parliament without that inquiry being completed and a report being made, Dr Cairns referred to an alleged remarkable record of delay that supposedly could be laid at the feet of the Committee and, by implication I suppose, of the Senate. That was a complete misrepresentation of the work of the Committee. Certainly it went further than a misunderstanding of it because the efforts made by the Committee, the frustrations it had suffered and so on were clearly documented. It was misrepresenting the position entirely to talk about this delay.
The answer to that allegation is set out by Senator McAuliffe in his statement where he points out that these allegations were not in accordance with the facts of the situation and, as well as being incorrect and misleading, reflected adversely on the Committee. He then listed the meeting dates of the Committee showing the work it had done. That is the situation we face again. The Bills were defeated in the Senate because the Opposition’s move to have them referred back to the Committee did not succeed as a result of the stand taken by the Government. Now the Government re-introduces the Bills in the same form as they were last July but obviously introducing them not by any means as soon as it could have. One would have expected, if the Government had been really concerned about the problem, that these Bills would have been reintroduced a good deal sooner than this point in time. There would have been ample time over this long period of delay, due to the Government’s inaction, to have the Bills dealt with by that Committee. If the Government had acceded to the Opposition’s request last July no doubt we would have had the benefit of the Committee ‘s report by now and full and proper consideration could have been given to these Bills, as was desired by the Opposition.
But what do we find now taking shape this session? We saw it with a number of Bills last week and are seeing it again. The Government is bringing forward as many Bills as it can to build up its storehouse of Bills for the purpose of some double dissolution of its own choosing. Quite clearly that is the reason that these Bills are brought back here now, not any genuine wish of the Government to get legislation of this kind through the Parliament. If the Government had been genuine about it, it would have proceeded with the Committee ‘s inquiry but it is endeavouring simply to create this storehouse of Bills for its own political purposes.
The Opposition’s attitude in these circumstances is that in relation to the Bill to amend the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act by extending the Corporation’s powers and functions in certain respects- I will deal with that in a moment, despite the fact that we have not had the advantage of the study of the Senate Committee- there could be some merit in these proposals. They are probably not the sort of extensions that the Opposition would make if it were in government but nevertheless we do. not propose to oppose these amendments, and the reasons for our taking that view I will deal with in a minute. However, in relation to the Bill creating a National Investment Fund, even though the Fund does have a borrowing limit of $500m placed upon it, the Opposition believes that this move by the Government would have such serious implications for the capital markets generally and without the full study of the matter which we believe is required we have no option but to oppose the Bill. So although we are dealing with these matters cognately, the Opposition will vote in favour of a second reading of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill but against a second reading of the National Investment Fund Bill.
Turning to the Bill dealing with the Australian Industry Development Corporation, it is important to note that this Bill does not set up that Corporation for the Corporation has been in existence for some years now. It is a Bill the object of which in many ways, and it certainly has reference to the National Investment Fund in many parts of it, was to be ancillary to the creation of the National Investment Fund and the opportunity was taken by it to extend some of the functions of the AIDC at the same time. The first proposed amendment to the Act is that the functions of the Corporation should be widened so that its activities cover a very wide economic spectrum. Reading from the Bill, the Corporation will have the function of facilitating and encouraging the establishment, development and advancement of Australian industries concerned with the manufacture, processing, treatment, transportation or distribution of goods or the development or use of natural resources, including the recovery of minerals. That is a very much wider function than its existing function which is confined to pursuing these purposes in relation to manufacturing or mining industries. This Bill takes the charter of the AIDC into other fields, particularly into that of the transportation and distribution of goods.
The Opposition has no basic objection in principle to the widening of the charter although it probably finds it difficult to see any particular purpose in doing it at present, particularly in view of the performance of the AIDC generally, which I will turn to shortly. The second extension of the activities of the AIDC is in relation to its powers and here perhaps we ought to register some greater concern at this proposal because it seeks to give the Corporation power to borrow moneys both within and outside Australia, in those broad terms. At the present moment the Corporation is limited in its borrowing activities within Australia. The object of its charter was and has been primarily to borrow money overseas and that distinction between borrowing overseas and borrowing within Australia is really being abolished in this Bill so that the Corporation may operate equally overseas and in Australia. Of course, we can see that there are some practical reasons why it would be advantageous for the Corporation. As I have said, we do not intend to stand in its way. Nevertheless, we should register some concern that the emphasis of the Corporation’s borrowing power is being moved from an overseas borrowing power to a sort of generalised borrowing power. Our support of the Australian Industry Development Corporation has been based largely on the fact that it would be able to tap overseas sources of funds and thereby add to the capital resources of Australia and really not be engaged in a reallocation of those resources within Australia.
The next increase in the powers of the AIDC is in relation to the establishment of a National Interest Division. Briefly, this is designed to extend the charter of the AIDC into what we might call the uneconomic area of activity. At present the Corporation is required to act on ordinary commercial principles in its dealings and to invest only in areas in which there is a proper economic justification to do so. But the Government wants to extend the Corporation’s charter in such a way that it may, by Government direction, engage in enterprises which cannot be justified on ordinary commercial principles. If it does that, guarantees may be required of the Government by the Corporation. Those guarantees will then be provided as a condition of engaging in this activity which would not be based on ordinary economic considerations. This is the area of the extension of powers of the AIDC that gives us on the Opposition side the greatest concern.
I think it is fair to say that the Opposition would not have been prepared to support this extension of activities provision if it were not for the fact that the provision in the Bill contains an inbuilt safeguard for the future in that it provides that the Minister shall not give any guarantees under this proposed section unless each House of the Parliament has passed a resolution approving the giving of the guarantee. So we see that there is an adequate control in the hands of the Parliament because before such uneconomic activity can be carried on by the AIDC both Houses of the Parliament have to approve. In future when there is such an alleged national interest which the Government proposes should be furthered by investment by the AIDC, the AIDC will have to justify to the Parliament the activity and the guarantee of public money in support of it in the same way as, but for this proposed section, the Government, if it wished to engage in some activity, would have to come to the Parliament with the necessary legislation and appropriation. The whole matter could then be publicily investigated and debated. So there is such provision in the Bill as it stands, although it is not done by way of a special Act of Parliament. It will enable both Houses of Parliament to investigate fully a proposal. If they are not satisfied with it, of course, they will be able to reject it. So, although the Opposition has very grave reservations about this extension of the powers of the AIDC, we are prepared to let the Bill pass because of the control which will be exercised on any activity of that kind by the Government and the AIDC through the Parliament.
The only other area of the Bill to which I need to refer is that which deals with reconstituting the board of the Corporation to some extent to bring on to it exofficio the secretaries of the Department of Manufacturing Industry and the Department of Minerals and Energy. The Opposition is in agreement with that. For those reasons, as I have said, the Opposition will not be opposing that Bill. I turn now to the National Investment Fund Bill which the Opposition is opposing.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was referring to the proposal to establish the National Investment Fund. The very clear object of this fund is the diversion of savings in the community from the various channels into which they go today into the fund.
It is proposed that it should be done in a number of ways. The first is the issuing of a series of investment bonds. Another way is to establish and maintain superannuation or retirement schemes and savings schemes, including schemes which contain a provision for the payment of moneys in the event of death. It will be seen therefore that the object of this fund is to be in direct competition with the traditional methods of saving in the community. In Australia we ought to be very proud of our performance as a saving nation. We have very sophisticated and varied methods for private saving; not only our savings banks but also our life insurance companies’ variety of savings schemes, building societies, superannuation schemes and so on. Into this existing very successful and highly sophisticated system it is proposed to intrude the National Investment Fund.
The fund has been one of Dr Cairns ‘s major plans since this Government came into power. He has stated that its object is to encourage people to contribute to buying back Australian resources so that the fund will then be available to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. That all sounds very interesting in theory but in fact the whole idea of being able to buy back resources is an economic illusion. The best that can be done in future is to encourage investment by Australians in new projects so that when the new projects are undertaken they will have a significant Australian content. If we start trying to divert already limited resources in Australiadespite the savings record of Australians generally we do have limited capital resources- and use those resources to pay fancy prices to buy back projects that have already been established, we will never have the opportunity of getting in on the ground floor of new projects.
I shall instance an example which I have used here previously, but I think it is highly relevant. The Government has set up the Petroleum and Minerals Authority which, as I understood it, was to become involved in direct exploration for and development of minerals. The Parliament appropriated $50m in the current year for that purpose. But what is it doing? It is not investing that $50m in exploration or the development of new projects. It is simply using that money to buy into already well established and well proven projects and to pay the market value of shares in those projects, which in many cases is to the advantage of overseas investors. The record of this Government in this exercise is totally discouraging. I think it only proves the point that the savings of the community in the future should not be directed into this buy-back proposal which has been beloved of this Government. The community should be encouraged to invest its savings in new projects at what I call the ground floor level. In the community there are already perfectly adequate institutions to channel the savings in that direction. It may be that government should establish new forms of incentives to encourage investment in particular directions and for particular purposes but there is no need whatsoever for the establishment of some new government fund which will be managed by a government corporation for this purpose. If the performance of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority is any indication of how the fund might be used, these savings will not be of direct advantage to Australian development.
There is a fundamental objection to this scheme on another score, which is that the savings of the community, the internal resources of the community, are finite. We have already very sophisticated and very successful institutions for this purpose and the National Investment Fund will not attract new sources of savings, lt will only divert savings from the existing institutions into the National Investment Fund if it is really successful in its purpose. So unlike the avowed purpose of AIDC originally, which is to acquire new capital resources overseas for Australian development, here we have simply the intrusion of a government sponsored savings program which will not be creating any new resources but will only be diverting savings into the fund and away from the existing institutions.
Further, there is the question of the proper management of the savings of the community. The sophisticated institutions in this area have been, on all accounts, very successful managers of the people’s savings. It is proposed that the management of these savings should be placed in the hands of the Australian Industry Development Corporation, albeit with a supervisory council. Can we say that the performance of AIDC to date would give any encouragement to believe that the savings of the community would be turned to a productive and economic account and would be more successful than the existing managers of the people’s savings? I believe that from the record of AIDC one could not have confidence that there would be that degree of management of savings which one would expect, certainly not the degree of management whereby, in addition to a guaranteed rate of interest on savings, there would be what I think at some stage Dr Cairns was calling a sweetener -some additional capital gain which the investor may hope to achieve from an investment in the National Investment Fund.
A look at the latest report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation reveals that its profit-making performance in the last 12 months has been rather discouraging. As we know, it has been provided by this Parliament with a capital of $50m. As a result of investments it has made or additions to that it now has a total capital of $55m. On that capital it managed to make a profit of only $813,000 in the last 12 months. A profit of less than 2 per cent on its capital has been achieved by the AIDC in the last 12 months. When we look at its performance insofar as the carrying out of its borrowing operations is concerned we find again that it is falling far short of its charter and its powers. Under the present legislation the AIDC, which has capital at present of $55m, could borrow up to $275m for the purpose of investment in projects for which it has been given a charter. Admittedly it has suffered from the impediment of having to borrow overseas- there are good reasons for that, as I have already said- but over the period of years in which it has been operating the AIDC has managed to borrow only $65m. That is its present rate of borrowing, despite the fact that it has the right to borrow up to $2 75 m. Its latest report indicates that its contribution to project developments has been an investment of $61m-odd.
I think that that general performance is a pretty discouraging one. It is not one which should lead us to believe that the AIDC is the proper vehicle for the exercise of diverting the savings of the community and reinvesting them in development projects. The view that 1 have expressed is a view that is reinforced when one looks at the performance of the Australian Resources Development Bank. Admittedly it was set up a little ahead of the AIDC; nevertheless it was set up as an institution within the private sector of the community to perform the same function, that is, to borrow- admittedly both within Australia and outside Australialarge sums of money for the purpose of project developments. Bearing in mind, as I have said, that the AIDC’s borrowings are, according to its latest report, only $65m, we find that the ARDB as at 31 December last had borrowed $333m- that was its total borrowings- and had invested a total of $4 13m in projects. Indeed, it has approved of investments in projects totalling no less than $777m. It has just had a very successful overseas borrowing in which it has raised without any difficulty whatsoever about $22m on the Eurodollar market. So the performance of one institution in the private sector which is in competition with the AIDC far outstrips the performance of the AIDC, as those figures readily indicate. I think that that clearly indicates that all the institutions within the private sector are far better geared as far as both the raising of money from the community and contributing to the development of projects which are so clearly required for the future development of Australia are concerned.
Our objections to the National Investment Fund are based on the numerous considerations that I have endeavoured to indicate in my remarks this evening. We believe, as I have said, that it is providing a diversion of resources from the private sector to a new public institution. The record of existing institutions in the public sector is not encouraging insofar as both that exercise and the management of people’s savings are concerned. I think that the last thing this country needs at this stage is any further build-up of resources in the public sector as against the private sector. That is clearly what the National Investment Fund would do, even though a limit of $500m has been placed on it. That is certainly a significant limit.
– Do you think that the Government might use it to fund the deficit?
– I do not think that the Government would be able to do that. But it is a quite unnecessary and uncalled for diversion of resources. We already have far too much of our resources being acquired and diverted into the public sector by the actions and policies of the Government. They are policies that the Government itself recognises are presenting it with very grave problems. This is certainly not the time to exacerbate that trend any further.
In conclusion, I would like to quote some very apposite remarks that have been made recently on this subject by a very high authority. I refer to no less a person that Dr Jim Cairns, the Treasurer and sponsor of the proposals we have before us this evening. On Monday of last week he said: . . we live in a system where the determinance, the things that happen in the system as a whole, are taking place in the private sector . . . if we’re to get activity going, if we ‘re to get production up, if we ‘re to keep people in work or get them back in work, we have to work on the private sector to get results there, so therefore before the Conference at Terrigal and at that Conference, and subsequently, I ‘ve been emphasising the importance of the private sector to the worker, to the trade union leader, to everybody.
I Ve already said that the Government is almost peripheral in this, and I do want to make that point clearly.
Dr Cairns said that the Government is peripheral to the exercise and he said it only a week ago. Of course, we know from his performance and that of other Ministers that he may have changed his mind in the last week, but I have not heard about it. But a week ago Dr Cairns said that the Government was peripheral to this exercise. He went on to say:
The decision-making, the powers, lie in the private sector. The Government can restrain, in periods of excessive inflation; it can stimulate, or assist, in period of recession, but the Government is not fundamental in this.
Those words could well be adopted as part of its policy by the Liberal Party of Australia and the Opposition. We are entirely in agreement with them. We are only surprised that it has taken Dr Cairns 2 years or more to realise the facts of life, particularly the facts of economic life, despite all his theoretical knowledge of the subject. So. those are the facts of life. I think they are also clearly indicated in the comparison of the performances of the AIDC and the ARDB which I have already quoted in this debate. For all those reasons the Opposition is totally and implacably opposed to the National Investment Fund Bill.
– I support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill. Both these Bills are before the Senate now for the fourth time. I do not think I need to remind honourable senators, because they will recall it, that on the 3 previous occasions these Bills were before the Senate the Opposition rejected the provisions contained in the Bills in their entirety. After fully debating these measures on 3 previous occasions I feel almost ashamed to stand in this chamber this evening because I have so little to offer which is worthy of attention. There is no new story to tell. I thought that the Liberal-Country Party senators would have worn themselves out by now in regard to this controversy and that they would have adduced new arguments to support the opinions that they have been advancing for the last 18 months. However, it is not to be. I know that everybody will realise that that is not the fault of Government senators. We cannot turn and twist and change our opinions and put forward new ones every full moon as the Opposition senators so adroitly do.
All our convictions and all our opinions on these 2 Bills remain what they have always been and the arguments with which we support the Bills are therefore the same. Our point of view is not changed and consequently there must of necessity be some monotony in this debate. One would call the speeches of Opposition senators monotonous repetition. Therefore I make no apology to the Senate this evening if once more in the most simple of language I attempt to place before the Senate the issues upon which the Senate has to decide. The first issue is simple and clear. Does the Senate think it necessary to develop the scope and power of the AIDC in developing Australia’s basic resources and strengthening Australia’s control over these resources? One of the specific platforms and policies on which this Government was elected and re-elected was that it would expand the activities of the AIDC and enable it more effectively to do the jobs that it was designed to do. That provision was in our platform when we went to the electors in December 1 972 and again when we were re-elected in May 1974.
I would have thought that by now it would have been perfectly clear to honourable senators that the great majority of Australian people had accepted this idea. Yet the Opposition continues to reject the measures every time we place them before this chamber. After 3 full dress debates and a referral to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control for consideration 1 believe that these Bills have had the most intensive and most lengthy consideration of any Bill that has ever come before the Parliament in this country.
– But we have not had the report, Senator.
– I am coming to that. As 1 said, 1 believe that these Bills have had the most intensive and most lengthy consideration that any Bill has had in the history of tills Parliament and now we heard this evening from Senator Durack, on behalf of the Opposition, saying that it is prepared to go halfway up the road and support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. At long last the Opposition will support the AIDC Bill, but it will not support the National Investment Fund Bill. After 1 8 months of continual debate in this chamber the Opposition is now saying that it will support the AIDC Bill, completely recognises the case that continually has been put forward by the Government since the Bills were first introduced. I ask honourable senators to consider that the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control had before it 28 submissions and called representatives of 12 organisations to give oral evidence at a series of public hearings. At those hearings it became quite obvious to me, from the outset, that witnesses who were representing the banks, the insurance companies and the finance houses displayed open hostility to the Bills without completely understanding them or trying to understand the measures contained in the Bills, lt appeared to me that those witnesses had made up their minds what they were going to do long before they even appeared before the Committee. There were claims of nationalisation through the back door.
The giving of evidence was preceded by alarmist stories in the newspapers that the Government wanted to nationalise financial institutions. The Senate inquiry into the Bills had turned into a public debate on socialism. I know that there have been many public debates on many public platforms on this issue but the debate that took place before the Senate Committee was a different sort of debate because those debating the issue of socialism were giving sworn evidence. Those of us who were privileged to have served on that Committee and those who may have been present at the hearing on a particular day will recall the young president of one of the manufacturing groups from Melbourne. He made a caustic attack in his submission upon the Government and stated that the 2 Bills were designed to introduce socialism by stealth or by the back door. The Chairman of the Committee, former Senator Hartley Cant, saw the witness and said that before he would allow him to appear before the Committee he would have to amend the portion of his submission where the charges of being corrupt and wanting to introduce socialism were mentioned. The witness agreed to amend his submission. But when he appeared before the Committee he could not resist attacking the Government and a most interesting debate took place. The experienced Senator Cant, the heavyweight in the affair, completely outwitted the preliminary boy from Melbourne on the question of socialism. I commend the transcript of that phase of the evidence of the Committee to honourable senators to read.
– An exercise in chairmanship being used to coerce evidence.
– lt was an exercise in experience and was not an exercise in coercion. It was placing the issues which the Committee had before it fairly and squarely in front of the witness. I heard witnesses give their evidence before the Committee and I could not help but form the opinion- there was no doubt in my mind whatever- that eventually the ideological differences between the Labor Party and the Opposition on these Bills would have made it impossible for the Committee to bring down a report. I believe that the best the Committee could have hoped for was a majority report and a minority report. 1 do not have to remind the Senate of the criticism that was levelled at Sir John Dunlop at the time by the Bank of New South Wales and the subsequent events that led to his retirement from the directorate of that company. We all know that Sir John Dunlop is one of Australia’s leading industrialists. He was a director of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and he stated publicly that the fears of the banks and the other financial institutions that the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill were attempts by the Australian Government to socialise were without foundation. He said publicly that in fact he wholeheartedly supported the proposed measures. It is serious enough that the companies should look at. the Bills through jaundiced eyes, as I have said; but the witnesses had all made up their minds before they appeared before the Committee. I believe that the most far-reaching implication is that in the future men with experience and knowledge will be reluctant to serve on Australian Government committees or corporations for fear of retaliation by their fellow directors. Surely this is not a healthy situation.
I have heard reference made to the poor track record of the AIDC. It was referred to by Senator Durack. He said that it made only $8 13,000. He could have told the Senate of many prestige companies in Australia- companies in the top rank of Australian industry- that have collapsed in recent years. I think his statement was a reflection on the men who constitute the board of the AIDC. In sharp contrast to his opinion of these men is the opinion of the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) of the directors.
– Which Treasurer?
– The Treasurer of Australia, Dr Cairns. He is reported at page 567 of Hansard for the House of Representatives of 20 February 1975 as having said:
Also, the AIDC is not run by a group of people with ideological concepts which are even similar to those of the Government. The AIDC has a board of directors who include some most distinguished directors. These are people with long and distinguished experience and achievement in private industry. Decsions made by them are made in the context of their own experience. As in every area, some decisions result in success, some decisions result in profits; others do not. The AIDC is no different from any other organisation in this respect.
So much for that point. In the other place the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) spent more than half of his speech on these Bills in that place in repeating a statement that I had made in this place on behalf of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. He seemed to think that that was the most powerful weapon with which to refute claims by the Government.
It is true that I put down a statement in this place in 26 September 1974, on behalf of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control, and it is true that in it, as previous speakers have said, I refuted a claim by the then Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, that the Government was being frustrated in the passage of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill by undue delays on the part of the Senate Committee in bringing in its report. I pointed out also at the time- these are the important points- that the prorogation of the Parliament, the double dissolution and the discharging and reconstituting of committees made it impossible for the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control to report on the scheduled date, 12 March 1974, or even at a much later date. That was the punchline in the whole of the Committee’s report at that time. I do not deny that I made that statement, but I think it is important for honourable senators who are present this evening to remember that the statement was put down in the context that it was a reply to charges that the Senate Committee was lazy in not reporting by 12 March 1974 or a date soon afterwards.
– Who made those charges?
– They were made by Dr Cairns and I replied to them. I was supported by the Senate Committee. I thought at the time that the Minister had reflected adversely on the Committee. I am still of that opinion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! The honourable senator must not reflect on a member of the other House.
– I will say that I felt that the Minister was wrong in blaming the Committee for any delay in presenting its report. I have no reason to alter that opinion. I am still of that opinion. In view of the second reading speech made by the Treasurer in the other place on 1 1 February, I believe that he now accepts that situation. If honourable senators care to read the second reading speech made by the Treasurer in the House of Representatives on 1 1 February, they will see that the Treasurer accepted the situation that the Committee had pointed out previously.
I remember the day on which I made that statement. Opposition senators were bobbing up and down like corks, trying to be flattering by saying that they congratulated me for having the courage to state the facts to the Senate. The thing in which they were rejoicing was that I appeared to have made an attack on a colleague in another place. I did not make an attack on any colleague; I placed before the Senate the position as it was correctly reported. I know that a lot of political manoeuvring went on that day in an endeavour to use that statement as an excuse and to say that it was not the Opposition that was responsible for the delays. Honourable senators opposite tried to use me to show or to prove that it was the Government that was responsible for the delays. They were getting away with it until Senator Steele Hall made his contribution. In his usual alert manner he was right on the ball. I quote from page 1449 of Hansard of 26 September 1974, where Senator Steele Hall is reported as saying:
I go back to my point that the delay was caused essentially by the action of the Opposition in causing a double dissolution. They therefore bear heavily on the reasons why the Bills were delayed. I do not agree with the general run for cover which is being taken by Opposition speakers who are using this report as a crutch for explaining why they should not have proceeded with the consideration of the Bills and as an excuse for not finding sufficient means to amend the Bills according to its desires. Opposition senators surely must have known what their representations were to the Committee. Having fully considered the matter, whether the Committee has so decided, according to them, or not, they surely must have known what their parties wanted to have done to those particular Bills.
Once again he was spot on. He devastated in one sweep the Opposition’s case of trying to use the statement that I had put down and of swinging it round to support its stance in regard to these Bills. Even though I tabled that report and stated the reasons why the Committee was unable to bring in its report by 12 March 1974, or some time soon after that, that was only half of the answer.
Let us try now to go to the bottom of the matter. I have no doubt whatsoever that the motion of referral to the Senate Committee on the second occasion was a delaying tactic which could not possibly have achieved anything. I think on that occasion I pointed out that the Senate wanted to refer it to the newly established Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control on which six out of the 8 members were new members.
When we were discussing the likelihood of the Bill coming back to us Senator Durack and the other 5 new senators said: ‘We cannot accept the submissions that were given to the other committee. We did not see the submissions. We should not be expected to read through the tedious manuscripts. We never saw the witnesses being examined. We do not know the climate or the mood in which the questions were asked and the answers were given.’ They left no doubt in my mind that they were not in a position to be able to consider any further the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill. That opinion, which was offered to me as the Chairman at the time, influenced me to bring down the statement I did on 26 September 1974.
Two of the most eloquent speakers for the referral motion again were 2 senators on the other side of long experience on the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. I must say that it is to their credit that while they served on that Committee they made valuable contributions. I refer to Senator Cotton and Senator Margaret Guilfoyle. They were two of the most valuable senators on that Committee. But in making an address supporting a motion for referral of the matter to this Committee for the second time, in reply to an interjection from me they said that they wanted the Bills referred to the Committee for further consideration because they had important further amendments to bring up. The amendments were so important to both of them that they did not think they were good enough even to remain as members of the Committee to see what the fate of the amendments would be. They did not allow themselves to go forward for re-election to the newly constituted Committee. They left the amendments to be handled by 6 men who said that they were inexperienced to handle them.
So much for the humbug of the second referral. There was some ground for the first one. I think the first referral achieved a lot because it educated the Committee on what the intent of the 2 Bills was. I think it educated the witnesses and I think the Minister learnt a lot out of it. He showed a keen desire and appreciation of the work of that first committee by taking 28 amendments on board. But that first referral has been dispensed with. We are now looking at the second referral, which was only a delaying tactic. It could not have achieved anything because the brains of the Committee were no longer on it. I refer to the senators who wanted to steer the amendments through and to be the architects of the new amendments if we were to get a useful report. They did not think it was important enough to offer themselves for re-election. So let us have no more of the humbug about delaying and claiming that the Government will not allow favourable or lengthy consideration to be given to the Bills.
I have heard it said repeatedly by honourable senators opposite that they like the principles in these 2 Bills but they do not trust the Government. I am glad of that, because the day I find them supporting us, in full agreement with us and saying that they are trusting us and we are doing the right thing, is the day we will want to have a hard look at ourselves because that is the day we will probably have made the wrong decision. Now for the National Investment Fund.
– We are supporting the AIDC. You had better reconsider your stand.
– You support the AIDC but only after you have emasculated the Bill. It is hardly recognisable. There are 28 amendments. The Opposition did not support the original measure. It has watered it down so much that one is hardly able to recognise it. Now for the National Investment Fund Bill, the second issue in this debate. We all know, and all honourable senators opposite agree, that the National Investment Fund is an important part of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. The Australian Industry Development Corporation must have access, as must have any other corporation which is attempting to play a role in the economy, to Australian funds. But when the AIDC was first designed it was deliberately excluded from access to Australian funds, not with the intention of making it more effective or giving it better resources, but quite the opposite. There were very few funds available in the Australian marketplace at the time. I think that situation is realised and appreciated by all honourable senators. Even the architect of the Australian Industry Development Corporation, Sir John McEwen, the champion of the Australian Country Party, felt that eventually there would have to be an expanded Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, as did everybody else who examined the Bill at the time that he introduced it. It was felt that AIDC should have access to Australian funds on something like a comparable basis with other organisations. That is what the Bill proposes to do.
We have heard it being examined under the microscope by Senator Durack. All the Bill wants to do is to allow AIDC to be able to compete with other comparable organisations in Australia. At no stage was it ever designed to give AIDC any advantage over anybody else. It simply provides for a national fund to which Australian citizens who want to help the development of their own country may freely contribute. We are proud that Australia has never repudiated a debt. I believe that Australia, if it is not the only country, is one of the very few countries in the world that has paid all its debts, including its war debts. The Australian coat of arms has been sufficient guarantee to Australian investors. An Australian government guaranteed investment is gilt edged. It is on that basis that the National Investment Fund will compete against other similar organisations in the market place.
Honourable senators will recall the run on the building societies towards the end of last year. They will recall the near crisis when the building societies were threatened with closure until the Treasurer of the day, Dr Cairns, and the Minister for Social Security, Mr Bill Hayden, went on television and assured the Australian public that the Australian Government would guarantee the building societies. The run stopped and the crisis was averted. Of course honourable senators opposite know as well as I do that the coat of arms of Australia is the best security for an investment they can get in any part of this country.
In conclusion let me say how ridiculous are the pretences of the Opposition. Honourable senators opposite continually reject these Bills, yet they profess to agree in principle to them. Everybody on the Committee that examined the Bills agreed in principle but nobody wanted to see a unanimous report giving the Bills the teeth for which they were looking. Can there be anything more absurd than these pretences? Can there be anything more absurd than the Opposition’s throwing out the Bills which it ackowledges to be good because it fears that at some time or other somebody will do something under the Bills which it expects to be bad? It is as ridiculous as a man who refused a $10 note that was offered to him because he suspected that his debtor would pay the second account with a forged cheque. A man would be a fool or lunatic who did anything of the sort. A sensible tradesman would take the money and wait for the forged cheque to be presented before he attempted to do anything with it.
The conclusion I come to is that the Opposition support for the principles contained in the 2 Bills is insincere. The Opposition does not want the 2 Bills to be married or put together or voted upon in that way because, by separating the Bills, it hopes to destroy both at the same time.
– I rise to support Senator Durack who led ibr our side of the House in this debate. I remind Senator McAuliffe that we are supporting the present Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill which is before this Parliament. It is not the Bill that was introduced originally. Senator McAuliffe, during his speech, referred mainly to the activities of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control and, more or less, to the history of these Bills before this chamber. I support what he said on that occasion when he introduced that report into this House. He said that Dr Cairns had not given the Senate Select Committee a fair go and that the Committee would have been able to report had the Minister given the Committee an opportunity to do so.
This is the crux of the whole matter. Had the Senate Select Committee been able to report this time last year or been given time to finish its report- it had only a short time to go- the Australian Industry Development Corporation, in the form in which it is presented to us this evening, would have been in operation and would have been carrying out the purposes for which it was designed. But for political reasons, I imagine, mainly because the Government is desperate to find election issues to save its own hide, the Government did not allow that Senate Committee to report but introduced the Bills again.
Senator McAuliffe referred to the various members of the community, particularly the trading banks and others who gave evidence before the Committee, who were fearful of the effect that provisions of the original Bill would have on the Australian community. I remind Senator McAuliffe that the submissions made by those people were in connection with the original Bill, not the Bill that has now been introduced and which incorporates 28 amendments which have more or less allayed the fears of the people to whom I have referred. Not only did those persons prove their point in the submissions they presented to that Committee but they also proved it to the then Minister for Overseas Trade. He has introduced a watered-down Bill which allays most of their fears. The fact that the Minister was prepared to make those amendments to the Bill justifies that statement. We all know that foreign ownership of our resources is a very sensitive area in the public arena.
– Do you believe in it?
– We have always believed in it. I will deal with Senator Keeffe later on. He can make his speech when I sit down. The fact of the matter is that the Government, in doing what it is doing now and throughout the history of these Bills has shown that it is not interested in whether the AIDC can fulfil its role and take over Australian equity in some of our resources. The Government is more concerned with the political aspects of it. The Government was aware that the original Bill caused irritation within the Australian community. It is a very sensitive area. The Government was prepared to delay the legislation for 12 months, and for 2 years if necessary, so that it could make a political point and store something away for a future election. This is one piece of legislation that the Government aimed to store away and perhaps use as the basis for a double dissolution.
As I said before, this is a sensitive area within the Australian community. If the Government had been fair dinkum it would have allowed the Senate Select Committee to bring down its report. I believe that had that been done last year we could have debated these Bills at this time last year, not now, and we would have come to some agreement as the differences between the Opposition and the Government in relation to the AIDC are very small.
– The Opposition would have still blocked the Bill.
-This is what the Government says. We are supporting it today because we believe that if we were to stand for what should be done, that is, that the Committee should bring down its report so that we can have a look at it, we would hold this Bill up for another 12 months. That would not be in the interests of the Australian community. I say that the Government was not sincere in wanting this Bill. The then Minister for Overseas Trade was not sincere in wanting this Bill last year. The Government was more concerned with putting something else on the stockpile for a future election. This Bill is -
– Do you know anything about it?
– I wish Senator Poyser had been on that Committee; he might have learnt a lot. As I said earlier, as far as this Bill is concerned there is very little difference between what the Opposition believes and the Government believes.
– Why is the Opposition opposing it?
– Of course, Senator Keeffe has not woken up to the fact that we are not opposing it.
– Just what are you talking about?
– I am talking about the AIDC and Senator Poyser is well aware of that. The interesting point is that the Government always talks about getting Australian equity in our resources. Originally the Government did not tell those industries which had overseas control that it would have a policy under which there would be only 50 per cent of overseas ownership and that it expected the industry, over a period of years, to divest itself of the other interests. The policy of the Government was to move into any industry, demand shares in it and take it over. That is contrary to Australian business principles. If the Government was so sensitive about Australian ownership of resources it could have legislated and provided that no company or enterprise could have more than 50 per cent, 60 per cent, or whatever it might be, overseas ownership. It could have provided that those companies which cannot operate unless they have extended overseas ownership, could appear before an appropriate board which would make a decision as to how it would operate. There are a lot of our great mining industries in which infrastructure has to be provided long before the venture is operating. It probably takes years and the investment of millions of dollars before even a return comes back. Honourable senators opposite know very well from our experience in Australia that Australians will very seldom invest in high risk ventures and ventures that do not show a profit for a number of years. This has been the experience for many years.
What the Government intended to do was to utilise funds, of which we are short, to take over companies. There are all sorts of ways in which the Australian Government could have encouraged the private investors and companies. It could have given them some guidelines as to what its policy was to be on overseas investment. If the Government had set out such guidelines I am quite sure that the companies would have fitted in with them. There are lots of enterprises, particularly in our resources field, in which at this stage we have to have a large percentage of overseas investment because we cannot raise the money locally through individual investment. To use public funds in a growing country such as Australia to any large extent deprives some other sector of finances.
– Are you for it or against it?
– I am stating that the AIDC, operating as it is now without the support of the National Investment Fund- I am talking of the watered-down Bill concerning the AIDCmeets our requirements. One of the most important provisions in this Bill when compared with the previous Bill is that the AIDC, once an enterprise becomes successful and operative and once we can find Australian equity that will take it over, has to divest itself of that interest. This is what the bank officers, the merchant banks, the chambers of commerce, indeed a whole variety of people, who appeared before the Select Committee were fearful of. Under the previous Bill the AIDC did not have to divest itself of any interests irrespective of what happened. That is the whole idea of public investment in Australian enterprises- that you are there to assist an enterprise to get on its feet, particularly a developmental enterprise, but the moment private money can be secured you sell your shares, get out and start another enterprise. That was the whole concept of the Australian Industry Development Corporation which we introduced. The present Government did not introduce it; we introduce it. The Government tried to turn it into an enterprise.
All the Government is trying to do is to use it as a vehicle to nationalise all industry in this country. That is why we are concerned. That is why the people who appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control were concerned. I give credit to the Minister for Overseas Trade because once having heard the evidence and having decided that there were fears in the community, he put in these 28 amendments and brought down this existing Bill. I will not carry on for too long because I know Senator Keeffe wants to talk on this Bill and give us some indication of his knowledge about investment and industry in this country. But I shall state why we are not supporting the National Investment Fund.
– This will be interesting.
-First of all, we do not need it at this stage. It will take years for the Australian Industry Development Corporation to be expanded to the extent the Government requires and as we agree. One does not go and invest everywhere overnight unless one is in a hurry to nationalise Australian industry. But if the Government is going to do this under the basis of the Australian Industry Development Corporation there will be plenty of time. With the resources made available to the AIDC the Government will be able to carry that out.
– From where?
– It can do the same as it has done before. The Government can go on the overseas market. Now it can go on the local market to secure finance for its scheme. The Government wanted to have the National Investment Fund to back up the AIDC. How is the Government going to raise money there? I am not suggesting that the AIDC should be a great profit making concern. I think that in 1 973-74 it made a profit of 1 % per cent on its capital. If an enterprise like that is making only 1 Vi per cent not many local people will invest in it. So the only way we can get the money is either by providing special consideration to people to invest in it as was envisaged in the National Investment Fund or you acquire those funds compulsorily. This is where I take umbrage at the Government. Once we get into this compulsory field anything could happen, particularly with this Government’s record in financial matters and in the business management of the affairs of this nation. We can look at the situation over the last 12 months. What would happen if the Government compulsorily acquired money from insurance companies and other people?
– Did not your Government do that?
-Hang on. The Government could compulsorily acquire money from people but do not forget that they lend money to local authorities. Where will local authorities get their money? Where will building societies get their money? It all comes out of this one pool. We have a government which would move in, take over these funds and tell the world: We can invest it a lot better than you can. We will invest it in resources. Never mind what local government associations in the country are doing. They can forget about funds. ‘ Where will local authorities get money for their bread and butter operations of the day? We can tell all the building societies that they do not build any more houses because the Government wants to get on with the job of developing our resources.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Senator Brown, were you reflecting on the Chair?
– No, I was just making an observation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Well, you see you do not. I call Senator Maunsell.
– We on this side of the House are very sceptical of the National Investment Fund. Maybe this is one of the reasons that the Senate Committee was not allowed to report. We had to report on the National Investment Fund as well as on the Australian Industry Development Corporation. I believe this opens up a field which is very dangerous for this country. Let us face it, as Senator Durack mentioned, we have this great minerals authority which is supposed to take over our resources. If it had been backed by the AIDC and by the NIF as originally envisaged by the Government I doubt whether there would be a place anywhere for any private company or for people in this country to own or operate any of our natural resources. I am always a supporter of private enterprise. I agree that there are limitations on our capital. We are a growing country. We have a terrific area to develop. We need a great deal of capital. We certainly need it from overseas. I agree that this has to be controlled within reason. I believe that this is done through legislation. We do not do this through the back door or through such organisations as the National Investment Fund. I support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill but I oppose the National Investment Fund Bill.
– It is pleasing to see that on this occasion the Opposition will support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill which will widen the ambit and operation of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. It is very fitting that it should do so on a day when a former Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, who took such a hand in forming the Corporation has announced that he will not be coming back to this Parliament after the next election. Mr Gorton deserves a great deal of credit for the initiative which he took in this matter. I am very pleased that the Senate has seen fit to extend the work of the AIDC in this way. There are many examples in Australia, particularly in a smaller fashion in the States’ sphere, which show the amount of help which can be given by statutory bodies to private industry in the community.
I trust that the additional authority given to the AIDC will help private industry in Australia at a time when it distinctly needs that help and when entrepreneurs are finding it extremely difficult to maintain a flow of capital to their enterprises. Any delays which have been caused have only delayed the effect of the legislation and have caused harm to a number of industries in Australia. Obviously only a needless delay has taken place since the vote was taken here last year.
For my pan, I do not want to expand the argument which was given then, nor do I want to speak for any length of time this evening. However, I cannot bring myself to vote for the National Investment Fund Bill. That is not because I see any antagonism to the establishment of that fund in the sense that it is perhaps something which the Government could use in a socialistic fashion. I am not going to say that my opposition to the National Investment Fund is because I do not trust the Government. However, I believe that if it is formed it will take the
AIDC away from its original and essential purpose which is to help Australian industry develop with overseas loan money as a replacement for overseas equity. I have not antagonism to the general flow of funds into Australia by way of capital if those funds cannot be replaced by capital gathered by Australians and if they come into this country in a minority shareholding. Obviously, unless we take some determined effort to make sure that we replace equity by loan funds we will not be doing enough to enhance the percentage of Australian ownership in Australian industries.
I believe that the AIDC should be made to concentrate in this area which is so valuable in ensuring that Australian industry in a greater fashion in the future more than in the past remains in Australian hands. The substance of Australian capital gathered through the National Investment Fund is a neat companion operation and perhaps idealistically goes hand in hand with the operations of the AIDC, but I believe that it does or it could divert the National Investment Fund from its original and essential purpose.
– Is the honourable senator objecting to the subscription of Australian capital? We direct finance to a variety of organisations in a particular way. Why should we not do it this way?
– I am objecting to it in this fashion for the reasons I have just given. There is now an enormous search in the Australian market for funds. The current interest rates will demonstrate to Senator Georges the intensity of that effort to collect funds in Australia. The AIDC clearly should maintain its search for funds essentially overseas to make sure that it operates in that very sensitive and essential area. With those remarks, I express my support for the major Bill; but, unfortunately and without prejudice, I am unable to support the Bill to establish a National Investment Fund.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I call Senator Guilfoyle. As she is not rising, I call Senator Cotton.
- Mr Deputy President, I apologise. I was under the impression that other people were going to get themselves wrapped up in this argument.
– You have said it so often before.
– Not really. This is the first real debate we have had on this subject.
– What happened last time? I suppose you just used your obstructionist methods and that was the end of it.
- Senator Cotton, would you like leave to continue your remarks later?
-No. I just thought it was great fun to see 2 debates running at the one time. Mr Deputy President, this is a cognate debate. As has been observed by my friend and colleague from Queensland whose main contribution in this place is noise and not light, the Opposition now will support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and oppose the National Investment Fund Bill. I think we ought to really -
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order because of the opening remarks of Senator Cotton. The list of speakers that has been prepared by the Whips- I know it is unofficial- indicated that Senator Guilfoyle was the next speaker and that Senator Brown was to follow her. I understand that Senator Guilfoyle was called but did not rise to her feet and that Senator Cotton rose instead. I think Senator Cotton owes an apology to Senator Brown at least for his intervention.
-Yes. I most certainly do, so far as my state of knowledge is concerned, because my knowledge was that Senator Brown would speak next and I would follow him. Senator Guilfoyle and I have exchanged places -
– You should apologise.
-I am sorry about that. Senator Poyser may rest assured that in no way would I wish to upset Senator Brown because on a very notable occasion he stopped me donging somebody in the Senate. I always remember him with affection for that. I think it is unlikely that I would have done so. Senator Brown can confer with Senator Poyser about that later, perhaps, and we can have a little discussion about what might have happened if that had occurred. The Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, as I think we have all agreed- some with various degrees of acrimony and others, such as myself, with great and modest restraint- has been a long time under examination. Without any doubt, the Bill has had a great number of changes made to it. The changes are the product of examination not only in this chamber through discussion and debate but also in the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control of which I was proud to be a part for a period. The Bill was subjected, as was the National Investment Fund Bill, to very detailed and very purposeful examination. Many of the changes made to the Bill without any doubt owe their origin to the discussions and the objections and matters raised in the Committee.
The Opposition now is in a position, but later than it would have liked, to agree to pass a Bill to expand the powers of the Corporation with the restraints that the Opposition believes are necessary, and always has believed were necessary. It considers now that the Bill is an acceptable piece of improved and enlarged legislation. The Senate can be sure that I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber are taking our positions on the AICD or NIF legislation not out of prejudice or obstinancy but only with a view to what we believe to be the interests of the people as we see them. It has been told to all here, perhaps ad nauseam, that the AIDC was established as an institution in the days of the previous Government.
– Under John Grey Gorton.
-I think it probably owed its origin principally to Sir John McEwen, but it was established with the approval of the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton. I believe that it can be an institution of use and value and that, with the changes that will now take place in it, it will be more, not less, useful. It is an organisation which needs to operate under scrutiny and under some degree of restraint. It ought to have capital limitations and I think that when those capital limitations have been taken up by sensible expansion and proven record the organisation is properly entitled to return to the Parliament for more capital. If its record and performance are satisfactory I do not see any reason why it should not get support in the Parliament.
I have said before that as the Corporation is handling public money it would be better if its accounts were subjected to examination by the Auditor-General, as would be the accounts of the proposed NIF. I have also stated publicly that I think the organisational table of the AIDC could stand improvement. Some of the areas of responsibility could stand some redefinition. In particular, I have never thought it a good idea for the chief executive officer of any company to be also its board chairman. That is a personal view and not in any way a view against people. I do not think it lends itself to the best form of division of responsibility and check. The AIDC legislation now will be passed by the Senate, I hope- as long as the Government votes for it- and we will see the Corporation as an expanded institution with more checks on it and able to take the place it believes it can take in the
Australian scene, in the Australian market place and in the Australian area of responsibility.
The Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control was one of the most useful committees that I have sat on in this Parliament. Senator McAuliffe was kind enough to refer to the good work of Senator Guilfoyle and myself. 1 for my part would like to reciprocate by referring in particular to the exceptionally good chairmanship of former Senator Cant, which I thought was very good indeed. We senators who sat on some of these inquiries for a period found ourselves able to work extremely well together, one with the other. We thought our work was effective; we thought it was useful. The matter of not being able to finalise our report and put it before the Senate has been referred to on many occasions. There is no need for me to elaborate on that, except once again to say that Senator McAuliffe- he can accept that this is my beliefbehaved in a highly senatorial fashion when he made the comments he made and he received support from many of us for making them. I felt it was a pity, for the interests of the AIDC, the Government and the people of Australia and some of those people who gave evidence, that the final work of the Committee was not able to be published. The work was good enough and valuable enough for that to have been done. It would equally have had a useful effect because there were some people who, having come to the Committee holding very strong views, found as a result of discussion rather than examination that their views were able to be modified and they went away feeling that the Committee had done a useful job. I think all of them felt that they had been treated courteously and properly and that they had gained something from the experience of being with the Committee, as the Committee itself certainly gained from their being with it.
There is no need to argue any more this question of overseas capital. On that Committee we all learned and recognised the fact that Australia needs overseas capital to a certain extent for development purposes. This has been acknowledged by people of all kinds of areas of political thought. People who used to say that we can live only unto ourselves and do not need anybody else’s money have since changed their views in the light of their experience and knowledge. Generally it is considered that Australia calls for about 10 per cent of its total investment program to be overseas investment to finance its living standards and normal growth patterns. Dr Cairns himself has accepted that and equally has demonstrated his belief that overseas capital is necessary, if one can take his observations in
New York to have been as they are stated to have been and if one can take note of reports that he is to leave this country to seek money in the Middle East and Arab countries. If they are true, it demonstrates that his conviction now is that there is a need for overseas capital to come into this country.
At the end of Senator McAuliffe ‘s speech he referred to the joining together of the AIDC and NIF legislation. I want to be extremely careful here because one cannot deal with a report which the Senate has before it but with which the Senate has not yet dealt. I must express here- I am entitled to do so- my doubts about the necessity for these 2 measures to be joined together on a constitutional basis. I do not think it is necessary. I do not think it is an argument that would stand up, but it is one of the questions that have not been able to be finalised. I am a believer that the Australian Industry Development Corporation should stand separately and should stand the tests of the situation in which it operates. It ought to meet the responsibilities of its charter and its opportunities. It should meet the test of the marketplace, the Government and those companies which it seeks to help and to serve.
This situation is one which I would call a classic duopoly. Really there are 2 principal organisations offering themselves in this assistance development finance field. There is the AIDC, a fully owned government arm and the Australian Resources Development Bank, a market economy owned arm. There is a great deal to be said in situations like this in modern society for the duopoly approach in which the government arm is operating and a private enterprise market economy arm is operating, as long as certain things are consistent. Both arms must have equal responsibilties, must meet the same tests and have equal opportunities. When there are differentiations, problems then arise of one arm not being fairly treated as against the other. This duopoly method of operating on a large scale in which government finance is involved in what might be called the market sector has a lot to recommend it provided it comes under the sensible checks of an alternative opportunity which is totally financed by the market sector.
Looking at this consideration of these 2 measures, we find an unholy alliance of the AIDC and the NIF joined together with a national interest situation floating around somewhere in mid-air between them and being extremely difficult to identify. But this has been resolved because of this long examination and discussion we have had about these measures.
That national interest section must be taken up only with parliamentary approval of both Houses of Parliament. That means that if money is required to engage in some work that may lose money, but is in the national interest, both Houses of Parliament must vote the money. Looking ahead to a case that may arise, if the Parliament decides that that is the wise and proper thing to do, I see no reason why that opportunity should not be offered to a market economy operator with the same kind of subsidies as obviously will be payable to the AIDC to undertake such work. Then this market is open to all those involved in it. There is no reason why a market operator like the Australian Resources Development Bank should not go to the Government and say that it wants to take over a job which is a proven loser on the understanding that it is prepared to take that position and have its losses funded in the same way as the losses of the AIDC would be refunded in a similar situation. I think that that would be a useful check on the position. Therefore, when one looks at these operations one needs to look at a couple of aspects of this AIDC and ARDB position. They are in direct counterpart doing the sort of things they are both trying to do for Australia.
What I have done in order to put the matter in a proper context is to strike out the exchange gains and losses from the accounts of the 2 organisations. Although this is not supported by many people, such as some modern accountants, I am a believer that exchange gains and losses should not appear in the profit and loss account. They ought to appear in the balance sheet. Senator Guilfoyle might not agree with me and some other accountants do not agree with me but I persist in my view. I would like honourable senators to look at the 2 sets of figures I have arrived at by striking out the exchange gains and losses from the accounts of the 2 organisations. The accounts of the AIDC- taken from its public figuresshow that it made a profit of $812,000 on its capital reserves, which equalled a return on its funds of 1.4 per cent. In the year ended 1973 it made 3 per cent on its funds. The total assets involved in 1974 rounded out to $ 123m. When we look at the position of the other operator, the ARDB which is fully f unded by the market economy, we find that it made a profit of $1,700,000 on its capital reserves of $835,100,000. In 1974 the Bank returned 18.5 per cent on its capital reserves as against 1 .4 per cent by the AIDC and in 1973 it made 22 per cent on its capital reserves as against a 3 per cent return in 1973 for the AIDC. The assets of the ARDB are almost 5 times the assets of the AIDC. So there is no relative position from which one can draw the conclusion that the ARDB is so small that it does not matter. That is not true. The relativity is here. Here is a government operation making 1 1½ per cent on its capital reserves and a market economy arm doing much the same sort of thing and making 1 8 per cent on its capital reserves. These are facts and they can be checked by anybody who wishes to do so. When one looks at another aspect of this, one is extremely interested -
– What is the point of that argument?
-I would have thought that if the Minister was listening carefully the point of the argument would not have eluded him. I was saying that it is not much fun putting government money into an operation which gives a return of only Vh per cent when another body using corporation money can obtain a return of 1 8 per cent.
– Would the honourable senator apply the same argument to TAA and Ansett?
-I thought that I did and I think that the Minister will find this to be so if he analyses the figures. I think that if the Minister had a good look at the position of TransAustralia Airlines he would find equal opportunity, equal responsibility and equal earning rates in reasonable approximation to those of Ansett Airlines of Australia with a differential depreciation. If the Minister has a moment to spare sometime he might carefully study that position. If honourable senators look at the position of the ARDB and the AIDC they will find that the ARDB made an offer for capital from overseas which it notified on 15 February that it was going to make. It had received its whole capital by 25 February; that is, in 10 days. Its interest rate was 9¥i per cent on an 8-year term. The AIDC has been advertising for money in newspapers for quite a long time. It has been advertising a rate of interest of 1 1.6 per cent, the term of the loan being for 4 years. I have seen no statements, nor has anybody that I know, that this loan has been fully subscribed. It is offering higher rates of interest on a shorter term. This does not argue to me that the marketplace as such places much of a value on the AIDC Of a concern in which it is good to invest. Perhaps that is incorrect but the figures seem to demonstrate to me that that is about where the position lies. Of course, I should be extremely pleased to learn in due course that the AIDC requirements of capital have been totally taken up.
That deals with the Opposition’s attitude in regard to the AIDC. I have mentioned that we accept it. We regard the changes as being changes we helped to bring about. Enough honourable senators have dealt with the time cycle that has been involved. This could have been done earlier had changes been made earlier but governments govern and not Oppositions. We look at the position and say to ourselves: Okay; the Corporation is entitled to its fair opportunity’. I believe that I have set the record accurately in regard to the Corporation ‘s current rate of profitability, its assets and its capital position for subscription compared to the alternative that can be used, that is, the ARDB.
I now turn to deal with the National Investment Fund which is a different kettle of fish altogether. We on the Opposition side have always had a very great concern about the National Investment Fund. For a start, I think that we will all acknowledge that Australia is one of the highest saving countries. I think that the saving rate in Australia has ranked only second after Japan’s through the years. I do not know whether this pattern will continue with the way this country is being run by the present Government and with the inflationary position existing at the present moment but I am talking about what has been the position in the past. We have had a very high saving rate. We have financed 9 1 per cent of full development by accumulating our own resources out of our own savings to attain profits and depreciation and have taken about 9 or 10 per cent of funds from overseas. It is a remarkably good record. Those people who have studied the NIF legislation- I include not only Opposition members but other people as well- have made observations from time to time that there would be a compulsory transfer of funds from institutions which were of a saving type in order to fund the NIF. This has been stated. It was denied. It was stated again that however one looked at the position one could see no clarity whatsoever. In any situation the Government would have the capacity, if it wished to do so, to transfer compulsorily for its purposes the funds in the savings areas. Traditionally, these include life assurance companies, deposits in savings banks, superannuation and pension funds and building societies. It has been said that the NIF is designed to do some useful things but by no test that I can put on it does it add to the existing pool of savings. It does not in any way that I can see add to savings. I believe that in a society like Australia it is better to let the savings of the people remain as much as possible in their own hands, to let them make their saving choices between savings banks, building societies, superannuation funds, life offices and so on; as far as possible to let the individual decide to save where he will and in effect own his own savings; to let the disposition of those savings rest with those with whom he saves and not to have that forced upon him by government action, no matter how laudable the purpose might seem to be to the Government. That would be my view, and I am not responding to the ideological pressures which were referred to earlier or anything of that kind. I am responding to what I believe are realities in a society of individuals, of high savers and of people who want to protect their savings. I think it ought to be left to them to make and to retain their savings.
I think one has read from time to time with a great deal of alarm Government remarks about the possible transfer of savings from the private sector to the public sector. It has been said often enough by Treasurers and other people in Budget speeches for us to know that it has been the firm intent of this Government to acquire for its own purposes a greater share of the total resources. That means the savings. The instrument of utilising that was to be the NIF and the AIDC associated with the NIF. Under the proposals that we have made the AIDC would exist. It would have help; it would have encouragement. But it would operate in open competition and would not have access, by compulsory transfer and draft, to the Australian people’s savings. They will therefore not be put at hazard. The Australian people can make their own decisions as to what they want to do with their savings.
One of the other problems in this total scenethis is one of my objections to the NIF- is that it did not add to savings at all. It was doing nothing further than was already being done in this country. It was another device to do things that really could be done just as well or better somewhere else with more protection. It was part of a pattern of putting an excessive drain on the total Australian resources. This is hard to say because people take political positions. But all of us in the Senate in particular will have to come to grips in due course with exercising restraint amongst the whole of the Australian population to get ourselves into some degree of balance on the demands we all make on Australian society and on expenditure for things that we want. We will have to get to a position in which the demand on resources is in some way approximated to the resources that are available for the purpose. That is the view that I have currently; it is the view that I have held for some time. The NIF seems to me to be leading in the direction of putting further strains on demands without having resources advanced in any way to equate them.
There has been a very good expression of view on the NIF. It deals with the following areas which it is clear, I think, are advantages that a National Investment Fund has particularly and peculiarly over other savings institutions. If it were allowed to be created it would have an advantage over traditional savings institutions which would make their existence much less effective and much less sensible. They are income tax deductions for contributions to savings plans; the coupling of non-superannuation savings with the unit type trust operations; the relief of stamp duty; and the relief of State and Territory company legislation. Doubt is expressed about the effect of Trade Practices Act on the AIDC. There is great doubt in my mind- the writer of this article has expressed a similar opinion- about the ability of the AIDC and the NIF properly to separate their management functions. It has been very difficult to draw what I call a sensible management chart that would illuminate the scene for an AIDC and NIF, a national interest division, operating theoretically with the same management system but supposedly detached one from the other in a state of financial integrity. I find it very hard to see such a successful management scene displayed.
Looking at this matter all in all, the conclusion to which the Opposition came was that the NIF did not need to be created. If it were a welloperated concern, the AIDC had access to the capital market or the funding by government in capital subscription. The NIF did not add to savings. There were certain areas of potential advantage that it would have if it were created. It seemed to have some dangers which we did not really need to take on board as we did not need the institution anyway. It did not add to the acquisition of ownership in Australia because it did not add to the Australian savings. All in all our conclusion is that it does not need to exist. We do not believe that it is necessary in the Australian scene. We therefore quite objectively believe that the NIF legislation ought to be defeated.
-We have just heard a speech by Senator Cotton, in which one would have to concede- as always- that he applied his mind with some degree of thoughtfulness and perception and one cannot just discount what he says. However, I think one must go back to 13 November 1972. 1 can probably anticipate some derisive remarks from the Opposition. The fact remains that on 13 November 1972 my Leader, who is now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), gave an undertaking to the Australian people that the Government would do 2 things in particular. Those are the matters that we are debating tonight. Those undertakings are to be found in his policy speech. I am indebted to Senator Cotton for reminding me of the history of the Australian Industry Development Corporation because it was promoted by Sir John McEwen, then Deputy Prime Minister, and implemented by John Grey Gorton, the Prime Minister at the time. We in the then Opposition were not satisfied that it had the teeth that were required to achieve the end results which were espoused by the former Prime Minister, Mr John Grey Gorton. As an aside, I regret to learn that he is thinking in terms of leaving politics. We have different opinions about many aspects of politics, but I have a very high regard for that gentleman because I believe that first and foremost he is an Australian.
– And honest.
-And honest. That is a rare quality in politics. He was determined to secure for Australia an interest in Australia’s assets. I think that was one of the matters that brought about his downfall. That aside, one must give credit to those 2 gentlemen.
Among other things, in respect of the Australian Industry Development Corporation my Leader said:
We will expand the work of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to enable it to join with Australian and foreign companies in the exploration, development and processing of Australian resources.
That was a clear and unequivocal undertaking. When speaking of foreign investment he said:
It’s time to stop the great takeover of Australia. But more important, it’s time to starting buying Australia back. A Labor Government will enable Australian and ordinary Australians to take part in the ownership, development and use of Australian industries and resources.
That was the undertaking that was given on 13 November 1972. It was subsequently repeated during the course of the election campaign following the double dissolution in 1974. So we have received a mandate in 1972 which was endorsed and reaffirmed by the people of Australia in 1974. I understand and I acknowledge that the Opposition is not particularly interested in the question of a mandate, but the fact remains that it is one of the cornerstones of our system of government. Competing parties offer, suggest and promote policies and ideas to the community at large and one or other receives adequate support to form a government in the other place. Having received that support, if the
Government of the day that is formed in the other place, which is the only place that it can be formed, has a minority in the Senate, the will and wishes of the people in the democratic House, if I might use that description quite deliberately, should be respected.
At least one must be grateful for small mercies. It has taken more than 2 years to achieve one result, which is acceptance and support of one of 2 pieces of legislation which complement each other. That is the indication by the Opposition this evening that it is prepared to support the Australian industry Development Corporation Bill as it is now drawn. But it insists upon opposing the second piece of legislation- the National Investment Fund Bill- which, I repeat, is a complementary piece of legislation.
I think it is important in the course of this debate to remind the Opposition of and place on record the proposed functions of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. Clause 4 of the Bill states in part:
1 ) The functions of the Corporation are-
I underline the next paragraph-
I move across to the National Investment Fund Bill. I repeat that because the National Investment Fund Bill and the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill are complementary pieces of legislation we should look also at the objects of the National Investment Fund Bill. Clause 4 of the National Investment Fund Bill states:
The object of this Act is to assist the Australian Industry Development Corporation in the performance of its functions by providing a means by which financial resources may be made available to the Corporation.
One cannot discount that both measures are in fact interrelated and that one is dependent upon the other for its success. I turn to clause 7 of the National Investment Fund Bill.
– The Bills are being debated cognately.
-Yes, the Bills are being debated cognately. There are cognate debates at times as a matter of convenience, but this cognate debate is of greater significance. It is absolutely essential that the Bills be debated cognately because of the nature of the interlocking relationship between one Bill and the other. I was about to deal with clause 7 of the National Investment Fund Bill. In my view it discounts so much of what Senator Cotton has said in expressing his opposition to this Bill as a complementary measure to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. Clause 7 of the National Investment Fund Bill states’, in part:
1 ) When the Corporation has created a series of investment bonds, (he Corporation shall cause to be published in the Gazette a notice-
I emphasise the word ‘inviting’- applications for the purchase of bonds in the series; and
In other words, with respect to what Senator Cotton has said, the National Investment Fund and the AIDC in effect will be competing on the open market for what funds are available for investment and they will not, as Senator Cotton has suggested, intrude upon the free choice of the Australian people to invest because they will have an opportunity of looking at a statement that the Corporation has prepared setting out a series of investments and the terms and conditions upon which bonds will be issued and sold in that series and they will be able to compare that with, let us say, a similar statement prepared by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works or any other body outside of the governmental and semi-governmental institutions. They will also be able to look at those of any of the private financial institutions that are attempting to raise finance on the open market. I cannot understand why Senator Cotton argued so strongly that the provisions of this legislation will impose a conscription, so to speak, upon the financial resources of the people and prohibit them from investing in other than the National Investment Fund.
Senator Cotton also made reference to the need for some capital limitations to be applied. I would agree in part with what he said provided he were to carry that over into the private sector of the economy, but he has not done that. I do not want to repeat unduly what I have raised on other occasions, but let us think in terms of the tremendous assistance- to some advantage, admittedly, to the Australian economy but at a tremendous price to the Australian communitygiven in the form of the funding of companies which were prepared to engage in exploration for and, if successful exploration were pursued, exploitation of the mineral resources so explored for. I repeat that over a number of years, through the assistance of the Australian people via the government of the day, irrespective of the colour of its politics, both Australian and foreign interests have been assisted and encouraged to explore for and exploit our mineral resources. We have found on balance that if the special provisions of taxation on the one hand and the concessions of subsidies on the other were measured against the payments back to the Australian people in terms of taxation and royalties they would show that the Australian community has been in fact subsidising those companies to quite a substantial tune and, more importantly, that those companies have been accruing unto themselves extraordinary returns on their investments which in my view could not be condoned by even the Opposition if it were prepared to concede the point I have made and I think that it would be prepared to do so privately.
If that is to be said to be the way in which we are to fund the exploration for and exploitation of our natural resources and /or to assist our own secondary industries and rural industries, why should that sort of technique and that philosophy not be employed through the representatives of the Australian people as elected by the Australian people and not through the board of directors of company A or company B? A situation in which the elected representatives were answerable to the Australian community would be more preferable to the situation at present in which private companies are beholden to no one except their shareholders. I have found through experience that even the shareholders seem to be of secondary consideration in many instances. We have no inhibitions about what we are saying. I would have no inhibitions about speaking to the public at large on this issue. We believe that we have been given a mandate to strengthen the AIDC. One must give credit to Sir John McEwen and John Grey Gorton for at least introducing the concept of the AIDC. We have undertaken to strengthen it. We have undertaken to support that concept by providing, through a National Investment Fund, the opportunity for the ordinary Australian individual to invest in his own future. Having said that on one occasion and received the endorsement of the people and having had it confirmed on a second occasion we believe that the Senate should acknowledge the will of the people.
I wish to deal briefly with the remarks of Senator Steele Hall. I hope that 1 have not misunderstood what he said. I attempted to do my best to record faithfully what he said when he was talking about overseas equity. I wish he were present in the chamber because I may have misunderstood him. From the way in which I followed his argument it seemed to me that on the one hand he was trying to say that Australians should have an interest in their own economy, natural resources and secondary industry and that on the other he talked about the importance of overseas finance and foreign investment. We acknowledge this within the limitations of controllable investment. I often think about countries such as Japan. Japan has been able to do quite well. Its actions have not caused foreign investors to have second thoughts about investing in the country. Japan, from the moment that it started its economic recovery after the 1939-45 World War, insisted on Japanese equity being at least 50 per cent; in fact it may have been 5 1 per cent. If the Japanese were able to insist on that and to succeed as they have succeeded, I cannot see for one moment why we should not be able to insist on equity such as the Japanese have in their industries and commerce.
I was concerned about the reference made by Senator Steele Hall. I hope I am not doing him a disservice or misinterpreting what he said, but it seemed to me that he agreed with a level of foreign investment but placed overseas equity above Australian equity. If I have misinterpreted him I apologise. I have no inhibitions or reservations about showing my concern. I am sure all of us in this chamber are concerned about Australian equity and a balanced arrangement of investment from overseas to ensure that we are able to find the financial wherewithal to promote our industries while at the same time retaining for ourselves the right to determine our own economic destiny. A country that forfeits that forfeits everthing. There are many examples- all of us in this chamber would know of some- of that action spelling disaster for the people of the host country.
Finally, I should like to commend my colleague, Senator McAuliffe. I am not a back scratcher. I think his contribution this evening is one which should be read. I am pleased that it is on the record. In a very methodical and objective way he retailed to the Senate the history of the
Bills that had been referred to the Senate Committee and, with what I felt was a refreshing truthfulness, pointed up the reasons why he stated what he stated. It could have appeared, if one wanted to play politics, that it was an attempt to criticise a colleague. I hope the day never comes when one cannot state the facts objectively and in genuine, honest-to-good ness truthfulness, notwithstanding Standing Orders which say that one cannot refer to a person in another place in a disparaging way. I do not think that to state the truth is to disparage; to state the truth is to cast light where there is darkness. There is a very distinct and meaningful line between deliberately setting out to disparage a person in another place and simply attempting to point up the truth. I commend my colleague Senator McAuliffe because I think he did precisely that this evening. I hope that it will not be another 2 years before the second part of this legislation, namely, the National Investment Fund, ultimately will commend itself to the Opposition as has the first part, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. It may well be that, with the passage of time and a little more experience in Oppositions, members of the Opposition in due course will be prepared to support both pieces of legislation which are before us this evening. I commend both Bills to the Senate.
– I support the remarks that have been made from the Opposition side of the Senate this evening and in particular our attitude on the National Investment Fund Bill. It would be pointless for me to retrace the events that have taken place with regard to the work of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control and the attempts that it made to finalise a report and have it presented for discussion in the Senate. I do not want to traverse again the areas that have been covered by my colleagues with regard to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. I wish to say something, however, about the National Investment Fund Bill and perhaps take a somewhat more detailed look at the Bill than has been taken by some of my colleagues. I note that under clause 5 of the Bill the Corporation may create one or more series of investment bonds. That is perhaps the beginning of the scheme with which we are dealing tonight.
The other area in which there is activity in the raising of capital is under clause 16. Sub-clauses 3 (a) and 3 (b) state that the Corporation may establish and maintain superannuation or retirement schemes and establish and maintain savings schemes on such terms and conditions as the Corporation determines. Those functions of the National Investment Fund Bill are the things to which I want to draw attention. In particular, a series of questions need to be asked when we are looking at the Bill and the proposals that are before the Senate. 1 need to ask under what terms and conditions these schemes may be operated. I know that clauses 6 and 7 refer to the terms and conditions and the invitation to subscribe for investment bonds. I wonder whether the Parliament would not have been assisted more in considering the scheme if we had had more detail as to what inducement, incentive, or compulsion could be offered or exerted by a government which wanted to extend very forcibly the operations of the National Investment Fund. For instance, at the time that the Senate Committee was dealing with the Bills we had a discussion as to whether there would be a compulsory direction to the life insurance houses of this country to divert some of their funds to the National Investment Fund for enlargement of that program.
I feel that what has been said by Senator Cotton needs to attract our attention with regard to the diversion of savings in Australia which could be created through the National Investment Fund. If we accept that interest rates are determined by demand and supply of funds and if there were an additional demand from the AIDC or the National Investment Fund and no additional supply of funds, quite obviously the price of funds would go up and it could cause an increase in interest rates. That is why I was pleased to see in clause 5 (4) a limitation on the operations of this Fund. I think that some of the amendments that have been made as a result of the report of the Senate Committee are noteworthy and should not be overlooked because we are not able to deal in detail with a report that should have been presented before the Senate was expected to deal with these Bills. If we accept that there will not be an increase in total savings and there could be a diversion of funds, are we to face the face that there could be shortages of funds for housing and general finance company operations and other aspects of the Australian money market that are equally important to what might be Government aspirations with regard to a National Interest Division of the AIDC? We have not been told what the incentives would be. If they were too high and diverted capital into this style of fund, I can see that there would be problems in the resultant activities. We would have to ask, then what would be the effect on the Australian capital market of a Government designed fund where it was in the hands of a government to provide conditions that could divert savings into one area of loan money only.
I acknowledge that other things should be talked about when we are considering the attraction of the investing public to something that is styled a National Investment Fund. One of the speakers from the Government side of the chamber said that the coat of arms of Australia and the guarantee of Australia would enhance the prospect of attracting funds to this Fund. I wondered whether the senator realised when he was speaking that there is no undertaking by government to guarantee the funds in the National Investment Fund. There is no guarantee by government as to interest, as to repayment of capital or as to redemption of the bond itself. I think that there may have been an overstatement of the protection that the Australian investor would have if his money were absorbed into this fund and invested in something which was not profitable, resulting in a diminished National Investment Fund source of supply. I think the Bill is too vague with regard to its objectives and the use of the savings that it hopes to attract from Australian investors. Admittedly, the National Investment Fund will face competition from the other financial institutions in attracting the funds that it hopes to gain.
Clause 16 of the National Investment Fund Bill provides that the Fund will ‘establish and maintain superannuation or retirement schemes and establish and maintain savings schemes’. I would have expected that we would have been given some idea of the objective of the Government in this regard. The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) is in the chamber and at some later time he may be talking to us about a superannuation or a national compensation scheme. I wonder whether this fund will be the source of the money that he would apply to his scheme.
– I am too young for superannuation; just compensation.
-Well, in regard to compensation, I wondered whether the provision in clause 1 6 referred to that style of fund. I wondered whether it was to be a large national fund and whether the moneys were to reside in the National Investment Fund. The Minister might like to respond to that point in the future. If we are talking about national compensation or national superannuation one can understand that it would be easy for the Government to offer an inducement to the people of this country to place their funds in this way.
I would like to refer shortly to some of the activities of the National Investment Fund and the way in which it will operate. I was interested to see in clause 24 that there will be a Supervisory Council. I am interested in this point because to me it seems important that we should know something of the responsibilities of the Supervisory Council and about how it will be able to fulfil its purpose, as set out in that clause, of protecting the interests of the subscribers. The next clause refers to the membership of the Council. I will be interested in the new clause which suggests that there shall be a full time chairman of the Council. I am interested also in the fact that members of the Council are not, it appears, to be liable for loss or damage to the funds which may be entrusted to them. I am thinking of the sort of responsibility or liability that a public company director would assume in the activities that he has and I wonder whether in the area of the members of the Supervisory Council there ought to reside more responsibility than has been specified in the clauses which relate to its functions and activities. It seems to me that the duties of the Supervisory Council are fairly responsible and I would like to think that the whole activities of the fund were covered by some sort of legislation that gave protection to Australian investors.
For instance, if we are talking about the raising of capital in the case of an Australian corporation, the application of the Companies Acts throughout this country provide some protection in the seeking of capital and some protection to investors. I wonder whether there will be prospectuses which will outline all the provisions that are set out in a company prospectus when a company seeks to raise capital. Will such a prospectus disclose the fact, as I mentioned before, that the bonds of the National Investment Fund are not guaranteed by the Australian Government or the Australian Industry Development Corporation? 1 think that there ought to be a disclosure of the assets and liabilities of the various divisions of the National Investment Fund.
In clause 32 of the Bill honourable senators will notice that the functions of the Supervisory Council are set out. Clause 32 (e) provides that as soon as practicable after 30 June each year the Council will ‘prepare and furnish to the Corporation, for incorporation in its annual report to the Minister, a report on the activities of the Council during that year and containing such comment on the operation of the Fund as the Council thinks fit. I wonder why that clause is not more specific in regard to the duties and responsibilities for disclosure and reporting that should reside in members of the Council. I also wonder why, under clause 33, the Council may require the Corporation to furnish to the members such information as the Council specifies. I wonder why this is such a discretionary clause, why we should not have full information and why it should not be at specified times. It seems to me that the big questions are when, how often and with what detail.
These are aspects of the Bill that lead me to consider that the protection for the Australian investors is not as strong as I would like it to be. I also draw attention to the fact, as I understand it, that investment is to be permitted by the Australian Industry Development Corporation in unincorporated bodies. It would seem to me to be more appropriate that investments should be in corporations with limited liability, particularly if we are talking about the protection that people who invest in National Investment Fund bonds expect to receive.
Those are some of the matters that I wanted to place on record as indicative of the reason why the Opposition feels that it cannot support the National Investment Fund Bill although it may be a companion Bill to a Bill we support. For all the reasons I have expressed, and because of the other questions which we think should have been answered, we consider that we cannot support the National Investment Fund Bill. Accordingly I indicate that I will follow the course of my colleagues and support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill but will vote for rejecting the National Investment Fund Bill.
– I do not want to canvass any of the areas covered already by my colleagues on the Opposition side of the chamber. During the last 12 or 18 months there has been a lot of publicity surrounding the possible establishment of a co-operative vegetable processing industry on the north-west coast of Tasmania. As I live in that area I think it pertinent to make some observations about the possible merits or otherwise of this venture. In principle I agree entirely with the proposal but there are a very large number of practical difficulties that I think any venture such as this must overcome. At present we are seeing very high interest rates and the need for a tremendous amount of capital for the establishment of any such industry if it is to be viable.
In the latter part of last year this proposal was presented to the Australian Industry Development Corporation with the hope that it would be able to attract sufficient support for the Corporation to be able to assist. The situation was, however, as stated in a report of the ‘Advocate ‘ of 12 October last year, that that could not be done at that time. Mr Costello, the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, was reported as having referred to something said by Mr Mervyn Radford, one of the persons helping to propose this venture. Mr Costello was quoted as having said: . I am fully aware of the present situation. My department co-operated with the feasibility study being conducted by the PDS, both in the provision of statistical information and also in discussions. I also was present when the then Acting Prime Minister (Dr Cairns) visited the North- West. Dr Cairns had made it quite clear that, although he personally was in favour of the project, the Australian Industry Development Corporation had rejected it since it did not believe it was economically viable. Dr Cairns had gone on to say that, had the Senate not refused to pass the amendments to the AIDC Bill, then it would have permitted the establishment of such projects as the co-operative.
Only a fortnight ago this same group with the same continuing interest- if nothing else they have to be commended for the tremendous amount of time and effort they have put into this interest- journeyed to Canberra and presented again the same proposition to Dr Cairns. He indicated then, as he did on the previous occasion, that he was interested. He said that he was impressed with the case that the group presented to him and he was prepared again to present it to the AIDC. Obviously it was not a proposition that the AIDC had already looked at and rejected on the grounds of economic viability.
Under certain clauses of the Bill a national interest division could be made applicable to projects such as this one. It need not necessarily apply to the one I have mentioned but it could apply to other projects that are of national interest. It may well be said that the project which I have mentioned is of national interest for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that for many years a large number of people in the food processing industry and many associated industries have been saying that food is too dear and there is too great a gap between what the producer receives for his product and what the consumer pays for it after it has been through processing and the various channels of handling through which it has to go. If such a project as I have mentioned can be established it could well disprove many of the beliefs held by the community if it is viable. Unfortunately the history of such co-operatives is not favourable mainly because of the tremendous difficulties in marketing and the tremendous costs involved.
The meat industry is another labour intensive rural industry. It is reported that last year the labour content cost alone increased by 45 per cent. Because of the very nature of the vegetable processing industry it is necessary to work 24 hours a day for three to four months of the year during the vital part of the season, which is the harvesting and processing of beans, peas and a number of other vegetables. This raises the cost tremendously. So we are not looking at a small venture. I have heard figures mentioned of between $20m and $27m. I do not know what the current figure is. I have not had the advantage of being able to peruse or even look at what the proposition is.
The important aspect is not only the national interest division contained within this Bill. The other important aspect is that should any such venture be presented- Dr Cairns has indicated in response to an interjection by Dr Edwards that this is what he has in mind and that this sort of venture would be presented to both Houses of Parliament- both Houses of Parliament would then be in a position to make a value judgment on whether they think the Government or the AIDC, which is the arm of the Government in this instance, should be called upon to assist in trying to create some stability. It is fairly obvious that if we are to have this sort of proposition put before us we must have the benefit of the reasons why, say, in the case I have mentioned, the AIDC rejected on the grounds of economic viability the case these people presented to it. If that information is not available to the Parliament it could well be that we would be shooting in the dark and somewhat shooting from the hip in trying to make a value judgment. These ventures would require a lot of assistance, capital and help, but we could not readily make a value judgment without the benefit of a tremendous amount of research. The research that has been undertaken into the feasibility of establishment is not necessarily what we would be wanting to look at. We would want to be looking at the feasibility of a continuing operation that would have the advantage of eventually, not necessarily straight away, showing a return to the people who have contributed the funds.
We have heard in the debate today all the points that are relevant to the AIDC and the advantages that can now be obtained from it. Senator Brown indicated that one Bill is necessary to the other. I do not think this is true. I think it has been fairly amply demonstrated that this is not the situation, that the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill can quite easily live by itself. It does not have to have the benefit of the support, as I understand he indicated it needed, of the National Investment Fund Bill. There has always been a worry by a lot of people, and certainly by some on the Opposition side of the House, that it could become the vehicle whereby the Government may decide to direct the savings of the people away from the areas where they have been very well served for a long time. Directing savings into particular areas is different from allowing utilisation of savings to be determined by the competition of the market. I think we all can fairly readily agree that one of the problems in the employment situation at the present moment is the inability or unwillingness of industry generally to spend money on development basically because it is not sure what the future holds. If it is restricted, as unquestionably it is, by the cost of money, it will have the effect we are seeing in the community at the present moment.
I rose just to point out that I personally favour supporting the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, but for the reasons given by Senator Guilfoyle, Senator Cotton and others I have some reservations about the National Investment Fund Bill. I also indicate that if it is at all possible for the industry I have mentioned, which is so terribly important to the area of Tasmania where I live, to be given the kind of support by the Government or an agency of the Government that is necessary to get it off the ground, it can do nothing but good for the industry. There are many other aspects that we could go into at this point, but I do not believe they are relevant. The feasibility of the proposition I have put will be tested if we see a national interest division of the AIDC. I support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and wish the venture on the north-west coast of Tasmania every success that it may be possible for us to help it to achieve.
– in replyThe Senate has been debating the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill. As we know, both of these Bills have been before the Parliament on previous occasions, and most of the material which has been advanced tonight in the course of the debate has been used on previous occasions. I just wish to comment on one or two matters which were raised which I think were new to the debate. Let me place on record the Government’s conviction that both of these Bills would be to the benefit of the Australian people. They are not intended as an attack on the private sector. This fact has been stated many times, especially by the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). The Government realises the need for this strong sector in the Australian economy. I believe that both sides of the Parliament have come to realise over the years that many of their traditional stands have had to be looked at afresh. One considers, for example, often quoted government enterprises such as the Commonwealth Bank, Trans-Australia Airlines and the Australian National Line, all of which were originally opposed by the Liberal Party and its predecessors in their day who were very often dedicated to the disbandment of these government run organisations. Over the years, particularly in 23 years of Liberal-Country Party rule, we saw the activities of all these organisations expanded because the government of the day, I think, recognised the value of them to the economy. I believe that in these comparisons we can see a movement towards what is accepted now in this country as a mixed economy. The whole thrust of the policies of any Australian government should be to ensure that these 2 sectors of the economy can work together for the mutual benefit of both and to the benefit of the Australian community.
I shall refer briefly to the comments which were made concerning the Australian Resources Development Bank and the comparisons that were made with the Australian Industry Development Corporation. Reference was made to the return on capital of the ARDB compared with the AIDC. It is important, though, to make the same comparisons. For example, the profit of the ARDB for 1974 was $1.6m, which represented a return of 2.58 per cent on capital. These earnings were derived from total funds employed of more than $576m. The profit of the AIDC was $3m. Excluding the surplus realised on foreign exchange, as Senator Cotton chose to do, the Corporation’s profit was $812,000, representing a rate of return of 1.5 per cent. These earnings were derived from total funds employed amounting to $ 123m.
It is not a question of whether or not one is a more efficient operator than the other. The ARDB has significant advantages. It is mainly owned, of course, by the major trading banks which have very great financial links and facilities. They assist internally in loan raising by the ARDB. The AIDC is largely dependent on Government support. It is not a question of whether the AIDC is run by people who are less competent commercially. Not only this Government but our predecessors recognised that it was desirable to redirect certain resources in Australia for what were considered to be desirable projects. It is not a matter of taking away available resources from the private sector at all because that capital is redirected into the private sector. I think there has been some recognition over the years that some of the development projects of the country which have been entered into purely for profit motive may well not have been entered into or that there could have been fewer resources directed into that area and that other things could have been done which would have been of more benefit to the Australian people. That, of course, has been the whole purpose of the AIDC and the reason why the Government has wanted to expand the role of this particular Corporation.
It is, I believe, a matter of regret that the Opposition will oppose the National Investment Fund Bill. It is perhaps not an essential corollary but a desirable corollary of the AIDC Bill. Every effort has been made by the Government to meet the requirements of those sections of the community which feared that something drastic was being done to the private sector. I am sure that no one has adopted a more conciliatory and reasonable attitude than Dr Cairns himself. But it seems that at this fourth stage of the legislation which is now before the Senate we will see the rejection of the National Investment Fund Bill and the passage of the AIDC Bill. Senator Bessell instanced the co-operative in his own area of Tasmania- an example of just what the AIDC will now be able to do, providing of course the normal commercial standards are observed, and I am quite sure they will be. This is the sort of thing the Government wishes to do with AIDC. I am quite sure that given the support of the Parliament we will see these advantages flow to various sectors of the Australian community as a result of this legislation. There is little time left tonight and I think it is important that we pass this legislation before we rise. However, at least we have made this much progress as a Parliament; we are about to pass this very important Bill which 1 am sure time will demonstrate will be of great advantage to many sectors of the Australian community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Section 16 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted:- “ 16. A Director, other than the Secretary to the Department of Manufacturing Industry or the Secretary to the Department of Minerals and Energy, shall be paid out of the funds of the Corporation such remuneration as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.
– I move:
This is a procedural amendment relating to the existence of the Remuneration Tribunal. The remuneration of directors of the Australian Industry Development Corporation will normally be determined by this Tribunal. If, however, the Tribunal has not made a determination or a determination is disallowed, the amendment provides for directors to continue to receive their existing remuneration. Similarly, if such a remuneration has not previously been fixed regulations fixing remuneration can be made.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 25 February on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Retrenchments in Electronics Industry
-On 10 July 1974 Senator Jessop asked me the following question:
I direct to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry a question along similar lines to those which were asked previously by Senator Cotton and Senator Drake-Brockman. I refer to a statement made today by the Managing Director of Philips Industries Ltd. Has the Minister noted this statement which suggests that the company is considering the retrenchment of employees at its manufacturing plant at Hendon, South Australia? Has he noted the suggestion that some 200 employees will be retrenched very shortly and that by the end of next year it is quite likely that this factory will have to be closed? 1 want to know what the Government is doing about this specific area of difficulty because it is of great significance to South Australia. I believe that if this factory does close it could well herald the end of the electronics industry in Australia.
I should like to provide the following information in answer to the question:
As a result of discussions between Philips Industries, the South Australian Government and officers of my Department, Philips have agreed to re-assess the situation and have limited the number of retrenchments in the short term. Information is being examined to ascertain whether any assistance may bc available to the company under the interim subsidy scheme for the production of selected electronic components in Australia. This matter is expected to be finalised in the near future. lt is emphasised that it is open to the company and any affected employees to make applications for assistance under the Government’s Structural Adjustment Assistance Scheme.
Retrenchments in Electronics Industry
-On 10 July 1974 Senator Laucke asked me the following question:
I direct a question to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. It follows on questions asked earlier in respect of the retrenchments of employees at the Hendon works of Philips Industries in Adelaide. Has the Minister seen a very forthright statement made by the Chairman of Philips Industries yesterday that these retrenchments were due directly to tariff cuts introduced by the Government? In view of the extreme urgency of this matter will the Government take immediate action to give the necessary protection to this industry which is vitally important to our State and to the nation?
I should like to add the following information to that given in the initial answer to the question:
As a result of discussions between Philips Industries, the South Australian Government and officers of my Department, Philips have agreed to re-assess the situation and have limited the number of retrenchments in the short term. Information is being examined to ascertain whether any assistance may be available to the company under the interim subsidy scheme for the production of selected electroniccomponents in Australia. This matter is expected to be finalised in the near future.
It is emphasised that it is open to the company and any affected employees to make applications for assistance under the Government’s Structural Adjustment Assistance Scheme.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
Has the Postmaster-General’s Department any plans to introduce pushbutton telephones; if so, when will the telephones be introduced.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Post Office studies on the possible introduction of pushbutton telephones are expected to be finalised in a few weeks. I am unable to say, at this stage, when such telephones will be introduced but will let the honourable senator know as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Senate Vacancy: Publication of Convention
-On 19 February 1975 (Hansard, pp. 237-8) Senator Greenwood asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning the establishment of the convention that a State should be required, in filling a Senate vacancy, to choose a person who was a member of the same political party as the vacating senator.
The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer 1 gave on the same day to a question without notice by Dr Jenkins ( House of Representatives Hansard, pp. 427-9). That answer was based on documents provided to me by the Premier of Western Australia, the Hon. Sir Charles Court.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 March 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750304_senate_29_s63/>.