29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from38 citizens of Australia:
To the Hanourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We wish to register our strongest protest against the establishment of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation, and the introduction of the National Compensation Bill, as proposed by the Federal Government.
We believe that the intended legislation represents a grave threat to the concept of a free Australian society, based on a prosperous free-enterprise system, because:
It will divert vast amounts of funds from the private to the public sector,-Government control and administration,
It will provide unequal competition, and thereby threaten the existence of the free-enterprise insurance industry which already suffers from high inflation and increased taxation,
It promises a range of over-generous benefits either free’ or at low cost, to be subsidised from consolidated revenue, and will therefore rapidly become an unbearable burden on the Australian taxpayer.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I draw the attention of the Senate to the numbers of petitions relating to the Australian Government Insurance Corporation that are still being presented and to the fact that the AGIC Bill is no longer before the Senate. I ask senators to use their discretion in presenting further petitions on the AGIC.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
An Ordinance entitled the Dogs Control Ordinance 1975 became law on 1 July 1975 in the A.C.T. This ordinance will subsequently in this petition be referred to as ‘The Ordinance’. The subject of control of dogs had been under consideration by the Department of the Capital Territory, the former Advisory Council and the present Legislative Assembly for some four years before the Ordinance became law. Dogs Clubs, the SPCA had been consulted prior to the enactment of the Ordinance.
Shortly before the Ordinance came into force a number of Canberra residents interested in dogs as household pets came to realise the probable consequences of certain provisions of the Ordinance as affecting them and the dogs they kept as household pets. A public meeting was held on 28 June 1975 and 328 people signed a petition protesting against the Ordinance and requiring certain provisions be amended. A subsequent meeting was held on 23 July 1975 when it was decided to form an association to be known as Dogs Lib Canberra’ to continue the protest against the Ordinance. A Committee was created at this meeting for this purpose and this committee together with other citizens are your petitioners in this petition.
The object of the Association is to represent and protect the interests of residents of the A.C.T. who keep dogs as household pets. The immediate aim of the Association is to secure a reasonable system both to those who keep dogs as pets and to the rest of the community. The Association objects to the Ordinance because it does not secure a reasonable system of control and is unfair to that substantial section of the A.C.T. community, who desire to have dogs in their households and to keep them conscientiously and in decent conditions. Certain sections of the Ordinance are excessively and unnecessarily wide and unconscionably harsh and thus cannot ensure a reasonable system of control of dogs in the A.C.T. If fully enforced your petitioners believe the Ordinance will eliminate from Canberra the great majority of dogs kept in the normal manner as household pets, in that the ordinance will make it impossible for conscientious law abiding citizens to keep a dog in their households. Certain other provisions are objected to in that they unnecessarily and unwisely provide for destruction of dogs, even where such destruction is not justified. The Ordinance seems to assume that the great bulk of the residents of the A.C.T. wish the Territory to be rid of household dogs whereas the number of dog owners suggest this assumption is incorrect and in fact the reverse of this assumption is perhaps the true situation.
It may be justifiably said that the protest is made too late. There is an explanation of the lateness which your petitioners believe should receive attention and be accepted. The explanation is twofold. Firstly the owners of household dogs are plain citizens not on the look out for legislation liable to injure them. They do not anticipate legislative disaster till in fact such legislation makes its impact and these citizens find, in practice, what has hit them. Secondly, owners of household dogs are not organised. The authors of the Ordinance consulted certain bodies assumed to be representative of dog owners. In fact these bodies- the SPCA and Dog Clubs- in no way represent the interests of the owners of household dogs. The SPCA are concerned with cruelty to any animal and cruelty to household dogs is a relatively infrequent occurrence. Dog Clubs are concerned not with household dogs but with specialised breeds- in breeding and showing the animals- normally valuable dogs carefully kennelled and guarded unaffected by the restrictive provisions of the new Ordinance- the owner of the household dog- was the class least consulted and the least able to present a case.
The specific objection on the part of your petitioners to the new Ordinance are as follows:
Firstly to Section 21(3) which in effect requires that all dogs must at all times and throughout the length and breadth of the Territory be under direct physical controlthat is, on a leash of the keeper. The only exception is that the dog may be at large on privately occupied land but on privately occupied land other than on the dog owners own land the dog can be seized and impounded at the request of the occupier. In other words if the owner of a household dog wishes it to run free for the exercise an active dog requires he must exercise it on his own (normally small) plot or on the land of some friendly proprietor of land or go interstate. To require a dog to be on leash among the hills or empty spaces unused and unoccupied by man where it can do no harm is a provision so wide as to be absurd. It is submitted that while dogs should not be at large, household dog owners should be permitted to run their dogs in their company and under their control- though not direct physical control- in any unoccupied and unused area save where for good reason this is specifically forbidden. To insist on dogs being on a leash on roads, streets and built up areas is reasonable and would be accepted by your petitioners. To require dogs to be on leash in the wild hills brings law into disrespect by its absurdity.
Secondly, objection is taken to Section 25 ( 1) and Section 34 (2) of the Ordinance. By the latter subsections anywhere but on the land of the keeper of the dog any person is permitted to take the law into his own hands without restraint and without the need of any further authority, than the section of the Ordinance, to destroy a dog attacking a domestic pet. In other words a dog, on a leash, attacking a cat or another dog, though no harm is done or injury caused and no-one or nothing is endangered, may be destroyed- (if not on the property of the keeper of the dog)- by any person at all, not necessarily the owner of the domestic animal attacked (who may not object to the attack). The dog’s keeper may also be convicted of an offence (under section 25 ( 1 ) of the Ordinance. That a person may protect himself or another person from a dog attack or that a farmer may protect his stock is accepted. The examples of the new provisions cited above however show how dangerously and undesirably wide are Sections 34 (2). It is accepted that a dog attacking, endangering or injuring domestic animals or pets is a mischief to be prevented, but your petitioners do not believe this is the best way to do so. A final example of the effects of these two subsections may be cited. In a confrontation between dogs if they snap at each other each dog can be destroyed by the owner of the other or by any third person who wants to interfere and the owners of each dog can be convicted of an offence. This example of the working of these two subsections show the folly of widening an established and long accepted provision intended to deal with a serious and dangerous situation to trivial incidents where the nuisance, if any, can better be dealt with in a better and less drastic way.
Thirdly, objection is also taken to Sections 25 (1) (b) and Section 28 (6). The words objected to are not exactly the same in both subsections but are to the same effect. The words are, in subsections 25 ( 1 ) (b), ‘By reason of the behaviour of the dog a person reasonably fears that a dog is about to attack him’- or in Section 28 (6) ‘the dog is deemed to have attacked him’. The objection is that the words apply to a subjective not objective test to the dogs behaviour- that is if a person believes it is reasonable to assume that a dog is about to attack him the dog is deemed to have done so. The proper test, it is submitted, should be whether the dogs conduct when it has been proved by evidence, would lead some person other than the one imagining the attack to fear an attack. A person obsessed with fear of dogs can reasonably believe- reasonably by his rights- that any action of a dog puts him in fear of an attack. Harmless and benevolent dogs can thus be destroyed and their owners convicted as a result of the obsession of persons who dislike or fear dogs at all times.
It can be said that those of the community who dislike dogs are not organised into any association. This is true but nothing unites a group of the community as fear and dislike of a common enemy. In this instance the dog. That this is true can be seen by the instance of this Ordinance which achieved the seemingly impossible by uniting dog owners in a common dislike of the Ordinance, its authors, those who are entrusted with its enforcement and those who support it. This leads to the final objections to the manner the Ordinance seeks to deal with dog control. Its extreme width and the volume of new offences created for in many cases trivial and commonly occurring incidents will make Canberra a paradise for the spiteful and vindictive and cause delight to the officious who enjoy dragooning their fellows. The spiteful can with little trouble carry out a good neighbour policy in reverse wherever they live. The Ordinance will thus be divisive in the community and cause antagonism and bitterness where it existed only in a minimal form before.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that for these reasons the Parliament will exercise their power to either disallow the Ordinance or permit amendments to be made so that other and better legislation for control of dogs in the A.C.T. may be enacted.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Customs. It refers to the collection of data about individuals for misuse in this Parliament, about which I have already asked a question. Will the Minister explain how his Department came to have the names of persons who bought superphosphate from private companies so that those names could be passed on to another Minister for use in this chamber? Is it not a fact that under the Superphosphate Bounty Acts the superphosphate bounty is paid not to the individuals who use it, but to the producers? What tactics, what threats, what intimidation were used to get from the producers to whom the bounty was paid the information about the individual users?
– The Government is of the belief that Parliament has the right to know who receives government money. It is public expenditure.
– Name us all.
– If politicians have not the right to know who is receiving government money the whole system of parliament collapses in a cloak of secrecy. Of course, the question of the receipt of government money was the subject of inquiry recently by the High Court of Australia because there is a right to know where the money is. I believe that in regard to the particular file in question, suppliers were asked to indicate to the then Minister for Police and Customs those people who had received bounty subsidy that would grant them a concession in excess of $5,000 for the year 1973. The reply came back listing 472 users of fertilisers in 1 973. There is no reason why this document should not be tabled and made public. There are some doubts whether the information was not given on a confidential basis. One person’s name has now become public. I intend writing to the suppliers of the information this week telling them that no longer can we keep this information secret and asking them to acknowledge our right, as a government, to make available to the public, information about those who are receiving taxpayer’s funds. When one thinks that a kid buying an icecream or a lolly stick is paying a tax in order to give $5,000 to Malcolm Fraser, it is justification for this information to be made public.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Police and Customs. Was the information voluntarily supplied by the suppliers, or was it collected by officers of his Department or by members of the police force?
– The information was supplied by the suppliers to my Department.
– On request.
-On request for the information. There was no suggestion of coercion being used for the purpose of obtaining the information.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Police and Customs. Mindful of the tremendous job with which his officers are confronted in liquidating- I use that word in its full offensive term- those people who are involved in bird smuggling, is the Minister satisfied that he is getting full co-operation from the States, or does he believe that the holding of an early summit conference to get the States to mesh in their internal activities with the activities of his Department would be justified?
– Yes, my Department believes that it is getting full co-operation from the various States in detecting the smuggling of fauna out of Australia and the illegal importation of different species. We have no doubt that the co-operation of the various State instrumentalities is available to use in those matters where police are involved. State Police Ministers, I myself and my departmental officers, will meet in conference in Canberra on 26 September, and if there are any problems surrounding these questions they can be ironed out at that conference.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. As the twenty-ninth annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines disclosed a marked reduction in the profit of the airline in that the profit for the financial year ended 30 June 1974 amounted to only $100,000 after tax compared with the profit of* $1,966,000 for the financial year ended 30 June 1973, will the Minister inform the Senate, firstly, how many people were carried as passengers, excluding crew members and TAA employees, free of charge during the financial year ended 30 June 1 974? Secondly, had those people been required to pay the normal fares for their trips what would have been the additional revenue to the airline? Finally, in addition to employees, which relatives of any employees of TAA are entitled to free air travel?
– The honourable senator gave warning yesterday of his intention to ask this question, but unfortunately I have not yet been able to get the required information from the Minister for Transport. I understand that the Minister for Transport has asked TAA to supply him with the information, which is not yet available. I will try to get it for the honourable senator tomorrow.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the disquieting rumours that are current in South Australia regarding the future of the Army camp at Woodside in South Australia? As those rumours are causing grave concern among the personnel at the Woodside camp can the Minister supply any information as to the future of the camp?
– I do not have any more information than I had previously. As a matter of fact I accompanied Senator Drury on an inspection there recently. The position is that it would certainly seem that the major units now at Woodside are likely to be located there until the early 1980s. The ultimate plan is to shift them, provided accommodation is available, to Holsworthy and Singleton at some time in the 1980s. I would think that, generally speaking, the answer is that they are clearly going to be there until that time and that the planning is so to provide the Woodside facility.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I refer to an answer given to me by the Minister last Thursday in which he said: the decisions which are taken by trade unions to affiliate with the Australian Labor Party and to contribute to the funds of the Australian Labor Party are done publicly. Everyone is well aware of them; they are done lawfully, and they are done by a ballot of the members.
I remind the Minister that he stated categorically that the decisions to contribute union funds to the Australian Labor Party are taken publicly and by a ballot of the members and I ask: Will he, as the self-established authority on the subject, table in the Senate a list for the past 2 years of the donor unions, the amounts of the donations and the dates upon which the relevant ballots were held?
– I would be very happy to do that, but I think it ought to be on the basis of a swap. I will provide all that information if the Liberal and Country parties will provide identical information about the goods, services and moneys provided to them by the various life assurance and general insurance companies.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Customs. In a statement issued by the Minister it was claimed that a new computer system in the Department of Police and Customs will help to save the community millions of dollars annually in transport costs. I ask: Is that a new role for the Department of Police and Customs?
-The introduction into Australia of the container method of carrying cargo has already reduced somewhat the transport costs within Australia. The Department of Police and Customs has an up-to-date computer which is now computing all the information regarding the arrival of containers in Australia that is supplied by overseas exporters and Australian importers. So, containers can be cleared much earlier than previously. The containerisation system of cargo handling has created many problems for the Department of Police and Customs. It has caused delays in checking, invoicing and inspecting the container cargoes. Not all containers are inspected. If information is supplied before the cargo arrives in Australia, by whatever means of transport, we can give the all-clear on many of the containers and they can be released immediately they arrive at the depot or place of disposal. The information can be fed into the computer and can be checked immediately simply by the pressing of a button in any of the Department’s offices throughout’ Australia. It will save considerable expense and delay in clearing container cargoes for disposal to the customers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. It is asked in the light of your comment, Mr President, at the opening of the Senate this morning, to the effect that honourable senators should consider whether they should present petitions urging the defeat of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill, and in the light of the fact that petitions have recently been received urging the Senate’s approval of such a Bill. I ask the Minister whether the Government, in fact, has accepted the rejection of the Bill by the Senate or whether it proposes to reintroduce the Bill at a later time.
-The Government intends to stand by the policy on which it was elected. It intends to reintroduce the Bill at the first available opportunity.
-Can the Minister for Social Security explain why nursing home benefits differ in various States and what action is being taken to remove anomalies which are evident in the nursing home benefits system?
– What appears to be an anomaly in fact results from the fact that payments are made by the Commonwealth to the States of differing amounts in order to assist the nursing homes. The principle on which this Government acts- and on which previous governments acted also- is, as far as possible, to see that the people who need nursing home care in the different States have the facilities of nursing homes available to them. If the charges which are made in the different States by the nursing homes are different, then if one is to see that people in all States are to have the same ability to go into those homes- if they need to go into those homes- it follows that different grants have to be made by the Federal Government in respect of the different States.
The problem is that the requirements of some States for the nursing homes are higher- I think that would be a fair way to describe them- than the requirements in other States. Consequently, the charges for an individual patient or inmate of a nursing home in a State where the requirements are higher would be greater than in those States where the requirements are not so high. The general view that this Government takes, however, is that, if a State does impose requirements on nursing homes within it which mean that the nursing homes have to provide more and more expensive facilities than in other States, then the burden, or at least some of the burden, in respect of those higher standards- I think one has to call them ‘higher standards’ought to be borne by that State rather than by the Commonwealth. There is something anomalous about people living in one State receiving greater benefits from the Federal Government than people in another State.
We have already taken some steps to introduce a national uniform benefit rate. From 13 November 3 States- New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia- will be receiving a weekly sum of $66. 1 5 for ordinary care patients. The supplementary intensive care rate will be increased from $2 1 to $30.80 a week in all of the States. In the 3 other States, where the benefit rates are already above that figure of $66.15, no increases are believed to be warranted at this stage. The reduction in the difference between the benefits was foreshadowed by Mr Hayden while he was Minister for Social Security when he announced the benefits which were to apply from 15 October 1 974. 1 may add that it does not seem to me, if we have a federal system, and we do have one, that there is anything wrong in one State government deciding that it has higher standards than those adopted by another State. This seems to me to be quite in order as we do have a federal system. But at the same time I think it has to be said that it is somewhat unreasonable, if a State imposes these higher requirements, that the Federal Government- I do not know why Senator Wright is getting so excited.
– Why this debate on the matter? Just answer the question.
– I thought I was answering the question. It seems to be unreasonable to impose a demand on the Federal Government that it meet the requirements of those States which make these particular impositions.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Agriculture. Is it a fact that the
Victorian meat workers strike threatens the fulfilment of that State’s portion of a 35 000 tonne sale of meat to Russia? Is it a fact that if Russia is obliged to buy elsewhere to make up the quantity she sought from Australia by contract, Australia will be forced to pay the difference in price? Can the Minister indicate the action the Government has taken to support the Australian Meat Board’s attempts to have the consignment exempted from the disruptive union action? Can the Minister indicate the action that this Government intends to take in the future?
– It is true that as a result of industrial problems in Victoria at the present time the meat contract with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has, at least in part, been placed in jeopardy. I understand that the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union made a wage claim and that it sought the support of the Victorian Meatworks Association. That support was not forthcoming and consequently work ceased in all except two of the establishments in Victoria. Essentially it is an industrial matter but as a result of it there will be shortcomings in our contractual arrangements with the Russians. At the present time R. J. Gilbertson Pty Ltd, the main supplier, has about 600 tonnes of beef in store but it has a problem because its cold stores now are full. Unless the matter can be resolved and some of the stored beef shifted it will be in trouble inasmuch as it will not be able to continue processing to assist in fulfilling the contract.
I concede that this is not a very desirable position. My Department has made every effort it can, in conjunction with the Australian Meat Board and the union involved, to try to resolve the problem. I intend to have further discussions with my colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland, about this matter in the hope that he may be able to find some solution to the problem. Unless the matter is resolved, and resolved soon, it will further jeopardise our prospects of completing the contract. There is a penalty if the contract cannot be fulfilled in certain agreed stages. If the space which has been booked is not utilised the Australian Meat Board will be liable to a penalty. I might add that it is not correct to claim that we have lost the additional 20 000 tonnes to New Zealand. There was purely an option available to the Soviet Union to buy an additional quantity of Australian beef. In fact it has decided not to take up that option and alternatively has bought approximately 5000 tonnes from New Zealand.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security, follows that asked previously by my colleague. Obviously the Minister would know of discussion in the community about the financing of nursing homes. Can the Minister give the Senate information as to the number of nursing homes helped by the system of deficit financing introduced last April? How much has been spent on this to date and what amount is budgeted for the next financial year?
-The Nursing Homes Assistance Act which received royal assent on 13 December last brought about the introduction of deficit financing for nursing homes, and a great number of the nursing homes have taken up the facilities which are made available to them by that Act. As at 3 1 July last, out of a total of some 350 nursing homes with a little over 14 000 patients, some 200 homes with nearly 9000 patients had entered into the deficit financing arrangements under the Nursing Homes Assistance Act. As at the end of the last financial yearthat is, 30 June last- a little over $2m had been provided for the deficit financing of nursing homes. It is expected that in the present financial year- that is, 1975-76- somewhat more than $31m will be expended on this form of assistance.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Are any major changes contemplated in respect the location and capability of railway workshops in South Australia as far as Australian National Railways activities may be concerned?
– I do not know of any such proposals. The only matter which arose from the legislation concerning the transfer to the Australian National Railways of the South Australian railway facility, as the honourable senator will remember, was the question which I think had to be considered, of the likelihood of the relocation from Melbourne to Adelaide of the headquarters of the Australian National Railways. I have not heard any rumours in relation to the capacity of the workshops. I think it is most unlikely that at present the capacity of any South Australian railway workshop- I presume the honourable senator is referring to the Islington facility- will in any way be downgraded because of the new arrangements. I would think rather that Islington would in fact achieve a higher percentage of activity resulting from the new arrangements. I know personally that the Port Augusta workshops are in fact fairly restricted. Attempts have been made to reach agreement on upgrading them, but agreement has not been reached yet. There has been some improvement there. So I think that overall there is no possibility that any such downgrading might occur in respect of the capacity of the Adelaide facility. However, I shall direct the honourable senator’s question to Mr Jones and see whether he can add anything to what I have said.
– My question which follows on from matters raised by Senator Greenwood this morning and yesterday is directed to the Acting Attorney-General. In view of the repeated promises of Opposition parties to restore the superphosphate bounty, and in view of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Country Party of Australia, and at least 6 Opposition senators stand to gain substantially and directly from the restoration of the bounty, should the whole question be referred to the Joint Committee on the Pecuniary Interests of Members of the Parliament?
-The Joint Committee on the Pecuniary Interests of Members of the Parliament has not yet completed its deliberations. As a matter of fact, it will be meeting today to finalise its report, and it is hoped that it will set down guidelines for the proper ethical conduct of members of the Parliament. When its report is adopted by the Parliament, as I hope it will be, I take it that all members who are interested in such matters as superphosphate bounties will look closely at their consciences to see whether they in fact satisfy the guidelines. Senator Webster, who is trying to interject, especially has an interest in this matter.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Media: Is it correct that the appointment of a Tasmanian on the Australian Broadcasting Commission expired at the end of June this year? Has this vacancy been filled? If so, was it filled by a Tasmanian? If not, who filled the vacancy and is it a fact that no Tasmanian would then be on the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
- Mrs Edwards was formerly a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Her retirement fell due about the end of June last.
She was replaced in that position as a member of the ABC by Mrs Venn who is now a resident of Victoria, as I understand it, but who previously had been living for some years in Tasmania. It is a fact that at this stage no Tasmanian is a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It also is a fact that the Government is not bound under the Broadcasting and Television Act to have representation of the various States on the Commission, although I know that it has been custom and practice over the years to do so. As time goes by I am certain that in future appointments that are made to the Commission a person from Tasmania will be included.
-My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security, relates to the frequent references to the cost of Medibank as being $ 1,450m. Will the Minister, in the light of these references, inform the Senate of the cost to the Australian Government of the so-called ‘voluntary private and noncomprehensive health insurance schemes’ prior to the introduction of Medibank? Will he in answering this question relating to Medibank inform the Senate whether he has any up to date information as to the attitude of the Opposition parties to the continuation of Medibank if they were to assume government?
-One of the fallacies of the approach of the Opposition to the question of Medibank has been to endeavour to delude the people that all the Australian Government expenditure on Medibank has suddenly been thought of and suddenly begun and that there never was any expenditure previously. The voluntary non-comprehensive health scheme which existed before would not have existed if it had not been for massive contributions of Federal Government money- approximately $ 1,000m during the last financial year. This is well known. When Mr Fraser, Mr Chipp or anybody else talks about $ 1,450m which is now being spent, he is completely- I think deliberately- overlooking the large sums which were spent by the previous Government. If the range of hospital and medical facilities to the public were to be extended, as it has been because 10 per cent of the population was not covered, there would have to be an increase but it would be certainly nothing of the order which they claim. I am afraid I am not in a position to speak on behalf of the Opposition as to its attitude to Medibank, but it would be very helpful if someone were to issue an authoritative statement once and for all so that we all would know whether it intends to abolish
Medibank or whether it does not intend to abolish Medibank. I find it is becoming increasingly bewildering to try to work out exactly what the Opposition intends to do about it.
-I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs: On this day, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, will he make a special announcement that this Government will direct its attention to the disintegration of the United Nations and instead of adopting an attitude favouring the admission of terrorist organisations to that body, so promoting it as a forum for guerrilla warfare, will restore it to the function and proper province of peace? I refer to Australia’s attitude on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation and International Labour Organisation decisions by which it favoured the admission of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, a terrorist organisation, to agencies of the United Nations. I ask the Government to reconsider its attitude and on this day to dedicate itself to restoring the United Nations to being an institution for the preservation of peace.
– I will refer the question to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I direct my question to the Special Minister of State. In view of the inadequate standard of many public libraries in Australia, is the Government able to take any measures to assist libraries before the committee of inquiry into public libraries makes its report? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the progress being made by that committee?
-The honourable senator will be aware that the Prime Minister earlier this year announced the appointment of a committee of inquiry into public libraries generally. The activities of that committee since its appointment have met with a very full and encouraging response from a large cross-section of the Australian community. The committee has held some 20 public hearings in the various State capitals throughout Australia and it also has been involved in hearings in regional centres. If I recollect correctly, it has received about 350 individual submissions from citizens. The committee is expected to report to the Government by 1 December next- in about 3 months time. The Government will be determining its approach to assistance for public libraries in the light of the report that it receives; nonetheless, it has taken and is taking steps to implement its undertakings to assist public libraries. I mention briefly the Australian-based Library. Information Service and the assistance given to local government authorities which enables them to improve their library facilities. I repeat that the Government has appointed a committee and that committee is expected to report to the Government by 1 December next.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Media. I refer again to ethnic radio. Is the Minister aware that the first experimental period for conducting ethnic radio is still current; that it has concluded only in Sydney and not in Melbourne? Does he know whether a report relating to the ongoing nature of ethnic radio and specifically to the period under review has yet been presented to the Government by the chairman of the committee on ethnic broadcasting in Australia? If such a report has not been presented, why did the Department of the Media commence transmission of ethnic radio in Sydney on Monday of this week without any reference to the former committee or even the one that has now been established? Is it a fact that the Department of the Media has removed all restraint on references to politics or ethnic influence? Will the Minister ask the Minister for the Media to review the situation and to wait until he receives an appropriate report?
– I am merely going on recollection, and my recollection of the matter is that the licence of the ethnic radio station in Sydney was for a period of 3 months and was due to expire on 1 September. The one in Melbourne is due to expire, I think, on 8 September.
– On 14 September.
– It is round about that date. The Government decided to continue the experimental situation and in that regard to renew the licences. That is why, I assume, the one in Sydney is continuing on an experimental basis. Senator Davidson, of course, has been appointed by my colleague the Minister for the Media to the national committee set up to oversee the introduction of ethnic broadcasting in Australia. I think my colleague Senator Mulvihill also is on that committee. As to the other matters about administrative steps being taken by the Department of the Media to stop political matters being discussed on ethnic radio stations, I am unaware of them and all I can do is refer that section of the honourable senator’s question to my colleague the Minister for the Media in another place.
-Can the Minister for Social Security inform me of the amount of assistance being provided through the program to pay sheltered workshops $500 for every worker who is assisted into permanent normal employment?
– I think that one of the things which people who work in the field of social welfare have recognised over recent years is that even the most severely disabled people, if they are properly attended to, are able to lead useful lives. It is one of the misfortunes of the present budgetary restrictions that the Government was unable to give assistance to the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped, a body which this Government established and on which two of our former Senate colleagues, Dame Nancy Buttfield and Mr J. F. Fitzgerald, are now sitting. Despite that fact, under a policy which I freely acknowledge was begun by the previous Government, quite substantial assistance has been given. From the financial year 1970-71 to the last financial year the amount of money made available to sheltered workshops under the handicapped persons assistance program increased from $5,000 to $61,500. 1 do not believe that that is money which in any respect can be regarded as wasted. It was not a handout. Many people who felt that their lives were finished now find that they can engage in all sorts of useful activities which not only keep them in a quite reasonable frame of mind but also enable them to make a useful contribution to the rest of the community. I think all of us hope that that program can continue and be expanded and that the present budgetary restrictions will not prevent the Government from going ahead with this very important work which, as I would concede, was begun by the previous Government and has continued under this Government.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Against the background of Senator Cavanagh ‘s answer regarding the publication of the names of any organisations or persons who receive money from the Government, I ask: Does this mean that it is Government policy for political purposes to state publicly the names of persons who receive Government social service pensions, widows pensions, family endowment payments, repatriation and unemployment payments and means tested student allowances? Will the Government uphold the provisions of the Income Tax Act and stop short of releasing details of personal rebates made under the new taxation proposals? Is this open government or an abandonment of the principle of privacy?
-With due respect to Senator Guilfoyle, I doubt whether she is really serious in drawing the comparisons that she has with the superphosphate bounty payments. Senator Cavanagh indicated quite properly, and I endorse the words he used, that the public is entitled to know the details of massive payments of a bounty which had been operating for many years. The real reason that there are objections on the Opposition side is the embarrassment that that has created. That is all. The principle is not at issue, and I am quite sure that to compare bounty payments with taxation deductions or social service payments is, with great respect, not really a goer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I preface my question by reminding him that some doctors are still endeavouring to follow the Chipp policy of wrecking Medibank, and that a Townsville general practitioner recently told a long-standing patient that he could no longer treat the patient if he continued to pay the doctor’s account with a Medibank cheque and the balance in cash. Can the Minister advise the Parliament whether Medibank cheques are legal tender and whether he can take any action to ensure that doctors will accept Medibank cheques tendered by patients as part payment of accounts?
– I have not heard of the particular episode in Townsville. As I think I told the Senate only a week or two ago, the overwhelming majority of doctors are behaving as one would hope and expect that they would do. They are acting in the best interests of their patients. I did not doubt that they would, and in fact they are doing so. Not only are the overwhelming majority of doctors doing that, but almost half of the accounts which are now being rendered by doctors are in fact being bulk billed. There are some doctors who apparently are taking advantage of their situation to intimidate- I do not think that is too strong a word- their patients. Certainly I should think that if a patient had paid the doctor with a Medibank cheque any subsequent action which the doctor were to take through the courts for any recovery of moneys to be paid in some form other than the Medibank cheque would be unsuccessful. But I would not want to venture at this stage into legal opinions. All I can say is that the doctors who do this sort of thing would seem to have a rather broad interpretation of their hippocratic oath. I should think that in due course they will be found out and the majority of people will go to those doctors whom they know to conduct themselves responsibly and to regard the care of their patients as being the primary object in life and not the making of money or the sabotaging of a democratically elected government’s policy.
-Has the Special Minister of State received a copy of a letter to Mr C. H. Rattigan from Mr E. P. S. Roberts, President of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council? If so, is the Minister in a position to make any comment on the principles outlined with regard to industry involvement in the activities of the Industry Assistance Commission at research level?
– If I have received the letter, I cannot recollect its contents. I shall check as to whether the letter has been received and give a reply in writing to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Police and Customs as the Minister representing in this place the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I ask: In view of the Government’s policy of decentralisation will the Minister consider establishing in Brisbane the headquarters of the new Australian Housing Corporation?
-Subject to the approval of the Premier of Queensland, we shall give this matter consideration. But the honourable senator must remember that in accordance with the Australian Government’s policy with regard to over centralisation it is proposed that the Australian Housing Corporation will not be located in one of the capital cities. It is desirous to decentralise such headquarters. But the Government has not excluded Queensland for consideration as to where the headquarters will be established.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of the recent reported statement by Dr Gray of the Victorian Anti-Cancer Council pointing out that efforts to discourage young people from smoking are failing because of the effect of glamorous advertising of certain brands of cigarettes which are now heavily purchased by the young? In view of this fact and the established link between lung cancer and heavy smoking, how does the Australian Government justify the savage reduction of Government contributions to anti-smoking campaign funds in this year’s Budget from $500,000 to $100,000?
– I have read the statements and apparently they are true. I must say that the advertisements that I have seen would not have attracted me to smoking had I not been smoking already. The exploits in which those who were smoking were taking part were not exploits which appealed to me very greatly. But I agree that there does seem to have been this effect, that people of Senator Missen ‘s vintage and my own apparently are giving smoking up whereas our heirs, successors and assigns apparently are indulging in the practice even more freely. The general cuts which took place with regard to the National Health and Medical Research Council unfortunately were part of the general Budget cutbacks in the public sector.
– Five hundred per cent.
-Yes, they were very high. We cut back very substantially in expenditure on the public sector.
Opposition senators- Ha! Ha!
-We did indeed. We cut back very extensively. I am interested to learn that the Opposition deplores this. Apparently the Opposition would like to spend more on the public sector. My own view- so far as one is a Minister I do not know whether one can have one’s own view- is, and I think the gentleman whom Senator Missen quoted has said also, that there ought to be some restrictions on the advertising of cigarettes. I think he made the point that a person gets a knighthood for pushing tobacco whereas another person goes to gaol for pushing marihuana. I think he was making a quite valid point. If Senator Missen wants any detailed information about expenditure on cancer research, I think Dr Everingham is the proper person to answer the question. If the honourable senator puts a question on notice I will obtain a more detailed answer for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Police and Customs. In view of the serious embarrassment being experienced by Opposition members because of the disclosure that certain of their parliamentary colleagues were in receipt of massive amounts of public moneys by way of superphosphate bounty up to and including the year 1973, will the Minister ascertain the increased tonnage of superphosphate that was purchased by large users of this commodity in 1974 so that they could take advantage of the bounty before it was phased out in December 1974? When he obtains this information will he table it in the Senate so that the Australian taxpayer may be aware of the real reason for the agitation by the Opposition to reintroduce the bounty?
– The position in relation to the superphosphate bounty is that the production figures and the sale figures are known each year. If there has been any marked increase in 1974 which justifies investigating whether superphosphate was stockpiled by farmers, we will do the necessary research. Under Customs by-law we impose quotas before a budget to stop profiteering on commodities in respect of which increased duties may be imposed in the Budget. I do not think anyone has considered the possibility of stockpiling superphosphate. The document referred to previously was compiled in reply to a request to ascertain all those who received in excess of $5,000. It does not mean that they received $5,000. It was some figure over and above that. On some of the figures supplied, my Department is of the opinion that the average for these 472 in that classification would be in the vicinity of $7,500. If we recognise that the superphosphate bounty that year was $12 a ton, on that figure those whose names I have received purchased, on average, 620 tons of superphosphate that year, whereas the 140 000 customers throughout Australia who received the bounty made an average purchase of 3 1 tons that year. So honourable senators can see that those who could afford it certainly made a welter of the superphosphate bounty.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Media. Before posmg it, I outline briefly the reason for it. The transmitter for Radio 2CO, an Australian Broadcasting Commission regional broadcasting station, is at Corowa. The studios are based at Albury, 35 miles distant. The studios cannot hear or receive 2CO on the off-air monitor. It is considered likely that the aerial is facing the wrong way and is not sending a signal to Albury. For the same reason, reception in Albury and
Wagga, the 2 main centres of population, is poor. Will the Minister call for a report on the matter, with a view to building a new aerial or placing a small low-power transmitter at Albury?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDHaving been the Minister for the Media I know that Senator Bunton ‘s description of the problems of Radio 2CO reception, certainly so far as Albury is concerned, is basically correct. The transmitter for 2CO is a horizontal one, not a vertical one, because of its proximity to the Albury airport. But having said that, I can assure the honourable senator that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is very much aware of 2CO’s reception difficulties in Albury and is currently looking at them with a view to seeing whether they can be overcome. Of course, the matter also very much involves the Australian Telecommunications Commission and our colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, Senator Bishop, is responsible for that area. I know that his people also have been looking at the matter. Senator Bunton can assure the people of Albury that the matter is being looked at and, indeed has been looked at for some time.
– Has the Minister for Social Security seen reports that some unscrupulous doctors are swamping Medibank with unreal, and unusual and abnormal claims designed to create additional funds for individual doctors? Would not such practices come within the category of fraudulent claims? Is the Minister also aware that many doctors who refuse to bulk bill are now charging patients $1 a month to handle patients’ accounts, thus subverting the Government’s free medical scheme? Is the Minister able to say what steps the Australian Medical Association has taken to eradicate these evils, and what can the Medibank organisation or the Government do to minimise such abuses of this most important piece of social legislation?
-Again I am not familiar with the detailed matters that Senator Gietzelt has raised. I know that there have been allegations of this kind. I am aware that some doctors have been behaving improperly but, as I said earlier, I do not think that the number who are doing this are anything other than a small minority of the members of the medical profession. I do not know specifically what the Australian Medical Association has done about this conduct which would sound unethical. My own experience of the AMA has been that although it has very vigorously and, on some occasions, perhaps even hysterically opposed the Government’s programs, I do not think it could be fairly said that at any stage it has countenanced or encouraged improper or illegal conduct by its members. In fact, a great many medical practitioners are not even members of the AMA. I think that only about 52 per cent of doctors are members of the AMA.
I can only ask people, when they become aware of matters like this, to advise the Health Insurance Commission, the Department of Social Security or me, and we will take what action can be taken if there has been a breach of the law. I believe that in general people will soon be able to identify those doctors who are behaving correctly from those who are behaving incorrectly, and those who are behaving incorrectly, unless they happen to be the only doctors in some small community, will pay a price in the long run for this sort of conduct. But that is not to say that if there have been cases of fraud they ought not to be dealt with, and of course the proper people to deal with them are the members of the police force. We cannot deal with these people unless we have specific information as to who they are and what specifically they did.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the statement made by the Minister yesterday to the effect that refugees from East Timor will be allowed to stay in Australia. I ask the Minister: Will he amplify this statement? Will such persons who satisfy the normal requirements be granted permanent residence in Australia? Will there be any censorship of their freedom of speech? Since the Government is using double standards with regard to refugees from different countries- for example, Chile in contrast to South Vietnam- will the Minister at the earliest possible date issue a series of uniform principles to cover all those people, including refugees, from all countries who seek permanent residence in Australia?
-That was not so much a question as a propaganda speech. I know that the Opposition finds it very difficult to fault the conduct of the Government in relation to the unfortunate people who have had to leave Timor recently. The recital that I gave yesterday of the series of steps taken by the Government in respect of the people who have had to leave Timor must have been rather embarrassing to the Opposition, because it was a recital of a humanitarian -
– Why should it be embarrassing?
-Because the Opposition does not like to give the Government credit for anything. That is why the Opposition did not like it. We have concentrated, in respect of the Timorese refugees, on putting first things first; that is, on making transport available to get them out of the country, on making transport available to bring them to southern centres so that they will not impose an additional burden upon the beleaguered city of Darwin, on providing them with clothing and food, on providing them with some tuition in basic English and, in many cases, on providing them with jobs. I would like to know what further action we could have taken in respect of those people. We have said, and I say it again now, that we have given them permission to stay in Australia on a temporary basis while we screen them and decide their future. I would hope that, subject to the normal health checks, all of them would be allowed to stay in Australia; but I think that to expect us to have made decisions about this matter at this stage shows a niggling and unworthy attitude on the part of the Opposition.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, relates to the proceedings arising from allegations about the theft of weapons from the Holsworthy military establishment in New South Wales that was said to have involved 3 Army personnel. Will the Minister inform me of the precautions being taken by the Army to ensure the safety of weapons, ammunition and the like? In the light of the recent thefts, what action is contemplated to improve the security of such stores?
-The Minister for Defence, Mr Morrison, currently receives regularly reports on the physical security of all units. The honourable senator probably will remember that last year, as a result of a number of incidents that might have been related to events in other countries, Mr Barnard gave instructions that all the Services were to tighten up their security. At present all the Services are constantly reviewing their procedures to ensure that the physical security of weapons, ammunition and explosives remains at a high standard. In the two most recent cases- one in South Australia and one in New South Wales- the offenders were apprehended. All the rifles and pistols stolen in South Australia have been recovered, but that is not the position in the current case. I might say that the various international security hazards have brought home to all the people in the Services the need for regular reports to be made. Units are now required regularly to give a report on their physical security and to have constant stocktakes. So, everything possible is being done to tighten up what, I think, in the past has been the result of something that has been happening in the community generally. The defence forces are really taking whatever security measures they can take to make sure that those things will not happen again.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I refer to the principle enunciated during question time earlier today by his colleague, Senator Cavanagh, that the Parliament is entitled to be given details of the recipients of the taxpayers’ money. I ask whether that principle will be applied by him in his administration of Medibank, particularly in relation to doctors. If not, how does that differ from the disclosure of other personal details in the possession of government departments?
– I am not responsible for the administration of other departments or the criteria that are exercised there, but I have given undertakings that the administration of Medibank will be completely confidential from the point of view of both the patients and the doctors, as is the administration of the Repatriation Department. Any complaints that have been made about me since I became a Minister have been because I have refused to reveal information to people and not because I have given information to people. That is a policy which I, as Minister, intend to continue to follow.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. No doubt the Minister is aware that Ajas-Bass Air Navigation Services of Moorabbin was told to stop all passenger and air freight services to King Island by sunset last night. I ask: Does the Government intend to amend the regulation gazetted in 1948 that stops the small company flying on the route from Moorabbin to King Island because it is a scheduled airline route? If not, will the Government assure the people of King Island that the service to the island will be kept at a satisfactory level?
-I will take up the matter with the Minister for Transport and let the honourable senator know his reaction to the question.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) Mr President, I draw your attention to the standing order which relates to the question of privilege. A matter of privilege, when raised, takes precedence over all other business. The matter of privilege I raise relates to an accusationa wide sweeping accusation- made by Senator Walsh. He said that 6 members of the Opposition had been involved in receiving money. I suggest to you, Mr President, that this is either a breach of privilege or Senator Walsh should nominate those honourable senators whom he alleged, by his question, to be in receipt of moneys of this nature so that we can pursue the matter further.
– I will consider the matter that has been raised by the honourable senator. I will give him a reply later today.
– On 28 August, Senator Jessop asked me a question without notice on an industrial dispute in Geelong which he said could result in substantial lay-offs at Chrysler plants in South Australia. The dispute is at No-Sag Springs, Geelong. I am informed that 286 employees of the company have been on strike since 25 August over a claim for a wage increase of $9.30 a week. The workers are largely non-English speaking migrants and the majority are members of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia. In effect, the company is respondent to the metal industry award and as a result employees received all increases granted under that award in 1974.
It appears that the employees are mistakenly under the impression that they should receive a flow-on of the $9,30 increase recently granted to vehicle industry workers by Mr Commissioner Clarkson. Because of alleged communication problems it would seem that there has been some difficulty in getting this message across to them. I am informed that Mr Townsend, Acting Federal Secretary of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, addressed a meeting of the striking employees yesterday. As a result of the meeting the striking employees voted to return to work this morning, that is, today, and to leave their claims in abeyance until after the decision is announced in the present wage indexation case. It is understood now that stand-downs at Chrysler’s South Australian plants will not take place. In fact I am advised the earlier reports of stand-downs as indicated by Senator Jessop were a misinterpretation of facts surrounding the dispute.
– For the information of honourable senators I present papers containing the Special Environmental Provisions applying to Mineral Leases Nos 95 and 102 on Fraser Island. Due to the limited number available reference copies of these papers have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
-( South AustraliaMinister for Police and Customs)- For the information of honourable senators I present a communique issued by the Albury-Wodonga Ministerial Council Meeting of 14 August 1975.
– by leave- It had been my intention today to make a ministerial statement in relation to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I was under the impression, quite wrongly, that an ordinance associated with the making of my statement would be ready for tabling today. I was wrongly under that impression and I will not be making the statement until the ordinance is available.
– I inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt), the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) and the Acting Leader of the National Country Party of Australia in the Senate (Senator Webster) requesting variations in the membership of Estimates Committees. Copies of the proposed variations have been circulated to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- agreed to:
That the requested variations in the membership of Estimates Committees be agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- agreed to:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of the Treasury
Department of the Special Minister of State
Department of the Media
Department of the Capital Territory
Debate resumed from 2 September, on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Senate take note of the Papers. upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment-
At the end of motion add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis because:
1 ) it does not provide an adequate programme to defeat inflation;
2 ) it does not relieve unemployment;
it does not restore confidence in the private sector of the economy;
it does not provide real tax relief to provide a proper basis for wage and salary restraint; and
5 ) it fails to restrain Government spending ‘.
– To understand the Government’s strategy in framing the Budget which the Senate is now considering I think it is useful to examine briefly the economic circumstances prevailing at the time the Budget was introduced. I submit that they could be briefly summarised as follows:
First, low levels of economic activity in the private sector with high levels of public sector expenditure; secondly, some signs- I do not want to exaggerate them but some signs- of recovery in private consumption and dwelling investment and a levelling out in the decline in private sector employment; thirdly, a high but somewhat moderating rate of inflation and the prospect of a continued underlying decline in wage increases, a tendency which has been confirmed even more in the time since the Budget was announced; and finally low levels of business confidence and the expectation of a decline in real terms in private investment in the year 1975-76. The seasonally adjusted level of registered unemployment, 4.8 per cent at the end of July, the low levels of average overtime, 1.6 hours seasonally adjusted level in June, and the decline in the ANZ index of factory production in May- the index was 12 per cent below that of a year ago- provide the testimony of spare capacity presently existing in the economy. However, the preliminary national accounts estimates for the June quarter indicate that in response to the series of fiscal monetary and external policy measures implemented in the second half of last year a recovery was occurring in some elements of private sector demand. Following an increase of 2 per cent in the March quarter, private consumption expenditure increased by a further 2.3 per cent in the June quarter. Reflecting increases in the number of dwellings commenced in the March and June quarters, private dwelling investment increased by 4 per cent, and this increase was the first since the September quarter of 1 973.
– That is in monetary terms?
-Yes. Although private non-dwelling investment also increased, the available surveys of business sector expectations and other indications did not lend much hope that that improvement would be sustained in the coming quarters. Furthermore, the reversion at the beginning of July to the 1974- 75 income tax schedule, the phasing out of the temporary reduction in sales tax on motor vehicles which was introduced as an emergency measure to counter the crisis in the motor vehicles industry in December last year, and the increases in indirect taxes and charges announced both before and at the time of the Budget raised the prospect that the above average rates of improvement evident in private consumption expenditure in the March and June quarters might not be sustained in the first half of
An important objective of the Budget from the point of view of the real level of economic activity was, as a consequence of the factors that I have mentioned, to ensure that the momentum which had been built up in the first half of 1975- as I said earlier it was a slight momentum; I do not want to overstate it- would not be curtailed. On the other hand, there was also the more medium term requirement of generating some recovery in private sector investment. That is necessary if supply constraints are not to become important in the second half of 1 976.
The main features of the Budget- I do not think this is contentious- are: Firstly, the estimated increase in total outlays in 1975-76 of 22.9 per cent is half that of the increase in 1974- 75 of 45.8 per cent. This is an admission by the Government that expenditure in the public sector was running at too high a level for present conditions in the economy. Secondly, the estimated increase of 25.2 per cent in total receipts is a little faster than the estimated increase in outlays but below the actual increase of 27.9 per cent recorded in 1974-75. The estimated overall deficit of $2,798m is $232m greater than the actual deficit of 1974-75. The domestic deficit is estimated- of course, as we all know, it can be only an estimate at this stage- at $2,068m, which is an increase of $2 19m. The estimated outlays are equivalent to about the same proportion of forecast gross domestic product in 1975-76 as in 1974-75; that is, about 30.5 per cent. The estimated domestic deficit in 1975- 76 is equivalent to a slightly smaller proportion of forecast gross domestic product than the 3.3 per cent recorded in 1974-75. These are, in broad outline, the principal features of the Budget.
In assessing the impact of increases in government expenditure on real activity, account must be taken of both the inflation element in expenditure on goods and services and the composition of outlays. Average weekly earnings are expected to increase in 1975-76 by between 20 per cent and 22 per cent. We hope that the increase will be less, but that is a realistic and, I suppose, rather pessimistic view of the likely increase in average weekly earnings.
– Do you have the percentage for last year, by way of comparison?
-Yes. I think it was nearer to 28 per cent. Of course, that was a disastrous figure. I suggest that the starting point of all serious economic thought would be that the disastrous level of percentage increase in wages and salaries last year had to be cut back at all costs and by whatever methods were available.
We are basing our proposals on this rather gloomy but I hope rather overstated increase of between 20 per cent and 22 per cent. A large proportion of government expenditure on goods and services relates to wages. It is therefore apparent that the increase in real government expenditure on goods and services in 1975-76 will be modest. The Treasury has indicated in the attachments to the Budget that real expenditure on final goods and services by all levels of government will not increase in 1975-76. In regard to the composition of expenditure, the Budget estimates indicate that those items of expenditure which have a greater impact on economic activity, for example capital and current expenditure, will increase at a slower rate than those items which have a smaller impact, for example transfer payments. Current expenditure and capital expenditure of the total government sector are expected to increase by 2 1.9 per cent and 0. 1 per cent respectively, compared with increases of 29 per cent and 60 per cent in 1 974-75. 1 cite those figures to instance the very serious efforts which the Government has made to cut back on expenditure in the public sector. Transfer payments are expected to increase by 31.3 per cent, compared with 41 per cent in 1974-75.
A further point to be taken into account in evaluating the 1975-76 Budget is that a large proportion of the Budget deficit in 1974-75 was concentrated in the second half of the year. As a matter of fact, the deficit in the second half of 1974-75 was running at an annual rate of approximately $4,000m. This compares with the expected deficit for 1975-76 of close to $2,800m. Whilst the extent of the expansionary measures implemented during 1974-75 obviously could not be maintained, it is apparent from the figures I have cited that the impetus from the government sector as a result of the 1 975-76 Budget will be curtailed markedly.
– Will you permit one question? Do you suggest any reason why the deficit was so much in the latter half of the year?
-Yes. It was, in the main, a response by the Government to the downturn in economic activity- an understandable response, especially by a party and in a society which have been conditioned during the post-war period to resistance to high levels of unemployment. As we freely concede, the economy has paid a price for this expansion in the deficit. The impetus from the government sector as a result of this Budget will be curtailed markedly. This is reinforced by the expectation that real government expenditure on goods and services will not increase during 1975-76.
The measures taken on the revenue side must be assessed against the expectations of both trade unions and employers. Whilst economic and political constraints obviously limited the ability of the Government to implement in full the recommendations of the Mathews Committee as we would like to have done, the loss to revenue of $400m is modest when compared to the estimated revenue loss of more than $2, 500m which would have accompanied the full implementation of the Mathews Committee recommendations. We say that the restructuring of the marginal tax scale, which we have undertaken in the Budget, and the adoption of the rebate system represent significant advances in the attainment of a more equitable and efficient income tax system.
I would like to say a few words on the question of wage indexation not only because it is a policy for which in my portfolio I am saddled with the responsibility but also because it is such an integral part of the Government’s overall Budget strategy. We freely concede that investment in the private sector is not likely to take off in any real sense until businessmen can see some signs of an abatement in the level of inflation. An examination of the figures relating to private enterprise over the last year- this was an examination that I was able to make in my previous portfolio of Manufacturing Industry- reinforced by many contacts with businessmen certainly convinced me that private enterprise, especially the manufacturing sector, is indeed in a state of crisis such as it has not faced in the post-war period. The squeeze on profits which is inseparable from the sort of wage increases that we witnessed last year- increases of roughly 28 per cent- resulted not only in a situation in which businessmen literally had no retained earnings to invest but in many instances they were actually struggling to maintain sufficient liquidity to keep their business in being. There could be no doubt about this. No matter what some people may think, this is not propaganda on the part of the business sector. I made it my business, as I said, to talk to businessmen, to have a close look at the state of business, and I am thoroughly convinced that its situation over the recent period was and indeed still is a parlous one.
– What brought them to that pretty pass?
– I know that the honourable senator and the more thoughtful members of his Party take no comfort in the fact that business is in this situation at a time when there happens to be a Labor government in office, but it is simplistic, I suggest, to say that all of these difficulties or even most of them are caused by the fact that we have a Labor Government in this country. After all, the simple fact is- and in saying this I do not for one moment suggest that no errors in economic management have been made by this Government- that in many countries with many different types of government we see the same picture. We see deep recession in the United States, in the United Kingdom, throughout Europe and in Japan and, of course, it is a matter of notoriety that these are countries with a great variety of types of government, yet they all share similar problems. The problem of inflation is a new phenomenon. It is a phenomenon which has defied solution by the experts just as in the 1930s there appeared to be no solution whatsoever to the problem of endemic unemployment until a man named John Maynard Keynes appeared on the scene and came up with what seemed to be so simple a solution that we wondered why it had not been discovered before. So in our age we have this new phenomenon of inflation which appears to have taken on the character of an incurable disease. I think it can be conceded that certain ingredients, certain manifestations of the disease, have been identified and that there is now pretty general agreement that at the present stage of our economic difficulties uncontrolled increases in wages are probably the most important ingredients in continuing inflation. For that reason the Government has set itself the task of attempting to achieve some sort of wage pause.
I suggest to honourable senators opposite that if they were in government at the present time they would find this task as difficult and as daunting as the Government finds it, and as I in particular find it. To those who may have some sadistic attitude towards the Government, and perhaps towards me, I suggest that they might cast their eyes out on the lawns opposite Parliament House this afternoon when, according to the reports, some thousands of angry miners are coming here to demonstrate specifically against me. That is a penalty which I am prepared to pay and which the Government is prepared to pay. We are prepared to do unpopular things, unpalatable things, in order to make some attempt to peg back inflation by a few percentage points.
I must say that I find it highly irresponsible and depressing to watch the attempts that are made in some sections of the Press to sabotage the efforts which this Government is making to cope with the problem of inflation. Only this week, on Tuesday, there appeared as though by some common policy editorials in the 2 main newspapers circulating in the Sydney area, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian which had as their aim the attempt to torpedo the efforts at wage indexation which have been espoused by this Government, not as a panacea but as an attempt to achieve some sort of pause in escalating wage costs. The editorial in the Australian is headed ‘The death throes of wage indexation’, and it has the nerve to suggest that the Federal Government is not doing what it should be doing in order to help make wage indexation work. I cannot imagine what more the Government could be called upon to do. It has appeared in wages hearings before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to espouse wage indexation and to suggest that the unions should adhere to the guidelines that have been laid down by the Commission. The Government has intervened in hearings before the Public Service Arbitrator. It has intervened in the metal trades case. The Government has appealed and I especially have appealed- continually not only to trade union leaders but also to trade union members to convince them that it is in their interests to moderate their wage demands at the present time and to show them that it is counter-productive for them to think that great increases in monetary wages serve their interests in the long run.
I do not like to be heard to be complaining about unfair treatment by the Press because I have always considered that that is par for the course. No government has any right to immunity or to special treatment by the Press, but within the confines of some sort of honest reporting I think credit should be given to the Government for the efforts it is making to ensure that wage indexation is a success.
– More specifically for you, Senator.
– I have the support of the Government in that also, and I believe that it is unfortunate that the Government could not afford- and I believe that Mr Fraser also would not be able to afford- to implement at the present time the recommendations of the Mathews Committee. I know that it would be much easier to make wage indexation stick if we could also introduce the sort of personal income tax indexation which was suggested by the Mathews Committee. I think I can say without giving away any secrets that in our Cabinet discussions I urged constantly that the Government should attempt some form of tax indexation, although I became convinced after an examination of all the options that that was just not on this year. I believe that what Mr Hayden has done in the way of tax restructuring is as much as was feasible consistent with fiscal responsibility at the present stage.
– At one stage your were reported as being in favour of exempting all wage increases from taxation. Was that not correct?
– I did say quite frequently that I believed that part of the package to make wage indexation work was tax indexation. I still believe that and I regret that the Government has not been able to implement it. But I suggest that no government today would be able to implement the recommendations of the Mathews Committee without having a quite unconscionable deficit. Without going into too much detail, I think that an examination of Mr Fraser ‘s proposals, an examination of the sort of Budget that he said he would implement, shows that an introduction of the recommendations of the Mathews Committee would involve him in an infinitely greater deficit than the one which the Government considers to be responsible at the present stage and which I understood Mr Fraser considered to be responsible. Admittedly, he proposes a 3-year phase-in of the Mathew ‘s Committee recommendations, not only in respect of personal tax but in respect of corporate tax as well. It is not clear to me just how that phasing would be implemented, but the figures speak for themselves. Personal tax indexation along the lines of the Mathews Committee recommendations would cost $1.25 billion a year; reduction in company taxation along the lines of the Mathews Committee recommendations would cost $1.5 billion a year. Mr Fraser also suggested the introduction of a 40 per cent investment allowance. That would cost $300m in a year. He proposed the re-introduction of the superphosphate bounty, which would cost $30m in a year, and he proposed to suspend the beef export levy, which would cost $20m a year. That is a total increased expenditure of more than $3 billion, and no matter how we fiddle the figures I suggest with respect that that would involve us in a deficit which none of the responsible economists considers would be justified in the present state of our economy. Mr Fraser also suggested a substantial reduction in government expenditure; that is, an additional cut on top of the cuts that the Government has already made. He suggested a further cut in the region of $ 1 billion.
He also suggested other small cut-backs such as zero growth in the Public Service, a denial of further funds to the Australian Industry Development Corporation, which would involve $75m, and a denial of an additional $20m to the Australian Housing Corporation for new housing lending. I must say that I commend Mr Fraser for having made a serious attempt to give us an alternative to the Budget, which the Government considers to be the most responsible Budget possible at the moment, but with respect to him I suggest that he has grievously understated the cost of his revenue proposals and has substantially overstated the potential savings from his proposed expenditure restraints. I submit that the net result of a Fraser budget would be a greatly increased deficit and that the measures he sees as savings would mean greatly increased unemployment. So whilst admitting to some imperfections in the Budget, I defend it as being the most responsible that was available to the Government in its present situation. I hope that in examining our present economic situation and the measures which the Government has taken to resolve our difficulties, Opposition spokesmen will maintain the level of responsibility which the situation betokens. I do not think that anybody can take any pleasure in the economic plight in which this country finds itself at the present time. I think all men of good will should bend their endeavours to help to get us out of this plight, and I hope that the criticisms which I know will be forthcoming, while they may be forthright and hardhitting, will at least be responsible and worthy of the difficult situation in which the country finds itself.
– This is the third Budget that has been produced by this Government. Those of us on this side of the House regarded the first Budget as being the worst for 40 years. It set the pattern for the socialistic pipe-dreams that the Labor Party wants to inflict on this nation. It set the pattern for the destruction of private enterprise and private industry in this country. The second Budget ignored the inflationary effects of the first Budget. As a matter of fact, it underestimated expenditure by some $2,000m. Of course it carried on the process of changing our private enterprise system by diverting money into the public sector. This Budget- the third Budgethas completely ignored the lessons of the other two. It is a complete hotch-potch aimed at appeasing everyone, but does not satisfy anyone at all. The effects of this Budget will mean that inflation will continue to rage and also mean that unemployment will soar.
We cannot blame the present Treasurer (Mr Hayden) because, let us face it, within 12 months we have had 3 Treasurers. The first two found the heat in the kitchen a little bit too much and could not stand it. So the Government had to find a fall guy who could stand that heat. The other two almost burned the kitchen down but at least the present one is reducing the heat to some extent.
– What do you mean?
– Because the nation is on fire with the way this Government is running it. The Government has set out with a determination to divert resources from the private sector to the public sector. It has aimed to centralise power in Canberra and in the Federal Government. I believe that this is a bad Budget for various reasons. It has completely ignored the plight of the primary producer and the rural community in particular; it increases the area of autocracy; it destroys the initiative of the people and it makes us all so dreadfully equal.
– What is wrong with that?
– Equal without selfrespect. It does nothing to encourage incentive for people who are prepared to go out on their own and develop their own businesses. There is no incentive in this Budget for the workers to work harder to improve their position in life, because they are no better off at the end of their work period. Their take-home pay is very little more than that of those who do very little, who are not prepared to work. This is typical of any socialist regime.
Let us take the case of the most insidious affliction that we have in this nation today- inflation. What has this Budget done really to tackle the problems of inflation? We all know the effects of inflation. First, it destroys the security and stability of private businesses. After all, Australia has been a free enterprise nation throughout its history. We are still dependent on the private sector for 75 per cent of employment. If you undermine the security and stability of the private sector then you are endangering not only the nation generally- the economic setup of the nation- but also certainly endangering the jobs of the people. Inflation also erodes the savings of the people. We all know the effects that inflation has on those in the community who want to prepare either for their own old age or for the future of their families. Let us face it: Inflation affects the little man more than it does anyone else.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was batting on behalf of the Opposition in relation to the problem called inflation. I said that it destroys the stability of the private sector- private business- and erodes the savings of the ordinary people who have prepared for the future, not only for their old age but for their families. It puts those wage earners- those taxpayers- who are able to show a profit commensurate with the inflationary situation into a higher tax range. It has been a wonder to us that the Government has not been prepared to tackle the problem of inflation but the reason is now quite obvious. The Government has a vested interest in inflation. The vested interest is that inflation unsettles the private enterprise system; it unsettles private business. It enables a government, without lifting a finger, without even suggesting that it is raising taxes, to raise taxes. The Government just collects the increased revenue. That extra money comes in because people are in a higher tax bracket. It enables the Government to carry out its program. It is quite obvious that the Government is not interested in the savings of the ordinary people and the effect that inflation has on their savings, because the Government wants everyone in this country to be dependent on it, to be dependent on big brother.
– Last night Senator Primmer blamed all the Government’s ills on the capitalist system.
-Of course he did. I will have a little to say about that later. We have heard a lot during the debate, and by Government speakers since the Budget was introduced, that considerable tax benefits will be given to the people of this nation as a result of the new rebate system.
– Have you studied it?
– Yes, I have studied it. The only thing that one really has to study is the figures for this year and the figures for last year. The comparison shows that receipts by the Government from pay as you earn taxation from wage earners and salary earners will increase by 43 per cent this year. That is a fact. The Government cannot say that it has given tax relief. The situation is a very interesting one. The Government will get 43 per cent more. The wage earners have demanded and have received, as I think it was said this morning, a 28 per cent increase in wages. By the time they pay their taxes their net income will buy them less. That is the important thing. It is not whether the net income might be a little higher than it was last year. It will buy them less this year than it did last year.
– How do you know?
- Senator Poyser does not know the cost structure. He has not been buying anything this year or he would know the prices of goods. He would certainly know the interest rates if he was one of those unfortunate people wanting to buy a house or something else on credit. The tax receipts this year will be up something like 50 per cent. Once again it is getting at the little people. Not only is the net income of the little person going backwards -
– Whom do you call the little person- a leprechaun?
-The average weekly wage earner, the middle income group. Not only will the net income that he takes home this coming year buy less than it did last year but also the Government will be receiving an extra 50 per cent made up mainly by increased pay as you earn tax receipts. The Government has also increased the price of beer and the price of cigarettes.
– The answer is easy. Give them up.
– It is all very well for people on the other side to talk. The majority of beer drinkers in this country would be in the lower-middle and lower income groups. It is the working man’s drink. Most of them do not go for wine. Senator McAuliffe would be able to tell us what happens at his hotel. Beer is the working man ‘s drink. The Government has hit directly at the working man. Not only has he gone into a higher tax bracket so that the Government is raking in more tax from him but the Government has also indirectly taxed him through cigarettes and beer. What about petrol? Whom does an increase in the price of petrol affect most, other than private industry which is dependent upon it? Again the working man is the one who suffers most. What about the increased postal charges? Business people can arrange for communications by some other method or can pass on the costs. The effect is inflationary but business people say: OK, that goes on’. The working person cannot pass it on. If he wants to post a letter he must pay 18c. If a housewife wants to telephone somebody next door she must pay 9c instead of 6c. So the people who are really feeling the effects of this Budget are the working people.
– Do not forget the pensioners.
- Senator Bonner mentioned the pensioners. It is all very well for the Government to say that it is raising pensions and that it has done more for the pensioners than the previous Government did. If anything, pensioners are worse off now than they were before. The Government talks about the pension as a percentage of the average weekly earnings. It may be a higher percentage, but the indirect taxes which the Government has placed on the pensioners more than eats up the increase. In fact, it has reduced the ability of the pensioners to operate. The thing that interests me is a table in one of the Budget papers, National Accounting Estimates of Receipts and Outlays of Australian Government Authorities. Table 1 in that document is very revealing. It breaks down the receipts by government from all sources. It lists receipts from taxation. The table starts at 1955-56 and goes through to the projected receipts for this year. In 1955-56 the income taxes on companies and the income taxes on persons other than PA YE taxpayers- that is, the persons who are usually referred to as the self-employed, the farmers, small businessmen and so on- were $ 1,389m. The income taxes from PA YE were $1,1 60m. The income taxes from the first 2 sources were a little bit ahead of the income taxes from the PAYE. Eventually they evened up. During our administration, from 1955-56 until 1971-72, they evened up. In 1971-72 the income taxes from PAYE were $2,889m. The income taxes on companies and on persons other than PAYE taxpayers were $2,415m.
– You are saying that the standard of living of the workers should not have been improved.
-No. Honourable senators opposite never understand this fact: Under our Government the workers of this nation were getting an increasing share of the productivity of the nation. One can always relate tax receipts to profits or taxable income, and this is what I am trying to do. We were moving gradually to a position where tax receipts from companies and private individuals were greater than tax receipts from pay-as-you-earn wage and salary earners. But what has happened since 1971-72?
In 1973-74 tax receipts from the private sector I will classify companies, small business people and people who pay provisional tax as the private sector- amounted to between $3,200m and $3,300m, and tax receipts from pay-as-you-earn wage and salary earners amounted to $4,238m. In 1974-75 tax receipts from the private sector amounted to a little more than $3,000m and tax receipts from payasyouearn wage and salary earners amounted to $6,000m. Under this Budget tax receipts from the private sector will amount to about $3,000m, which is a stationary figure, and tax receipts from pay-as-you-earn wage and salary earners will amount to $8,683m. This is hitting directly at the profitability of private industry. It explains exactly what this Government set out to do when it came into office in 1 972, that is, to transfer the assets and the interests of this nation from the private sector to the public sector. We do not have enough details to know whether all the money that has been collected in taxation has gone into actual public spending or to know the proportion for which the growth of the Public Service has been responsible. But one thing is obvious, and that is that in this growing country, in which inflation is rampant, the figure for tax receipts from the private sector has been almost stationary, which means that the figure for profitability in the private sector has been almost stationary. If we take into account the effect of inflation in Australia, it means that the profits of the private sector have been going down and down.
People wonder why there is massive unemployment in Australia today. The private sector employs 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the Australian work force. If honourable senators opposite wonder why we support the proposition put up by Mr Fraser, it is because it is a business proposition. If the Government were to provide $ 1,000m as an incentive to private industry it would find within two or three years that this incentive not only would put private industry back on its feet so that it could expand, develop, produce and provide employment- incidentally, the Government would get back from private industry what it paid as an incentive by way of increased taxation- but also would do away with the current losses, as I call them, or the unproductive expenses of this Government. When there is massive unemployment the government has to hand out unemployment benefits, and there is nothing productive about that. Once the private sector, which employs 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the Australian work force, gets back on its feet it will be able to absorb the unemployed. But, of course, this Government will do nothing for the private sector because its philosophy is never to help the private sector.
Everybody must realise that in this country we are getting into a situation where we are dependent completely on big brother. If private industry collapses- it is on the verge of collapsingwhat will happen to the 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the Australian work force which is employed in the private sector? Will the Government take on those people and make them public servants, or will it introduce grandiose Regional Employment Development schemes under which these people wander around the country doing really unproductive work, using picks and shovels when local councils have machines that are capable of doing the job properly? Or will the Government look after the private sector so that it can get on with the job of developing this nation?
I turn now to the situation which faces some of our main industries. I will say a little today about our coal industry. The Government has put a tax on the export of coal. To my knowledge, this is the first time that there has been a tax on exports. Of course, the Government uses the argument: These great mining ventures are showing great profits. We should get a cut out of them. ‘ What is the Government actually doing? Is it telling the Japanese: ‘You are paying too much for our coal; therefore we have to get a rake off’? That is what the Government could be telling them. Or is the Government telling the Japanese: ‘We are going to get a rake off and you will have to pay more if the companies are to be viable’? There is very little profitability in steaming coal. Under our Government we had a record of trading relations that was second to none in the world. For a country of our size, with 13 million or 14 million people, we ranked about twelfth or thirteenth in the world as a trading nation. We are dependent on trade. This country has been built up because of our ability to trade. This Government is raking off all the profitability of the steaming coal industry.
The coking coal industry is more productive and more viable at the moment. What the Government has done to the coking coal industry is to take away the money which the industry would have used for expansion. Let us face it: At the moment, with depressed meat prices and depressed wool prices, we need an export industry that can stop this erosion of our overseas balances, and the coal industry is an industry which can do this. In Queensland we have unlimited coal reserves with which to expand the industry. It was Mr Connor who returned to Australia and said: ‘We are going to have an expanded coal output from here on’. What has the Government done? All it has done is to take away from the people in the coal industry who are competent to do the job the money that is needed to expand the industry. Approximately $ 1,000m will be needed to meet the requirements for the infrastructure of the coking coal industry that this
Government has laid down for future exports of coal.
When we look at the rural sector we see a really serious situation.
-The honourable senator has not been out in the country lately. In his trip to Normanton he must have been walking around in the dark. Rural industry is really in trouble. If Senator Keeffe regards himself as a Queenslander he must be concerned about the problems facing the beef industry in Queensland, because that is where the majority of producers who are completely dependent on beef are to be found. They cannot diversify. People on the Cape York Peninsula, in the Gulf country, in western Queensland and in the Northern Territory- in fact, in the whole of northern Australia- are completely dependent on beef. They are faced with high transport costs. This Government has done very little to help the beef industry during this time of crisis. Employees in these vast areas have been put off. Senator Keeffe must have seen that.
– What would you do?
– If the honourable senator would listen he might hear something.
– We might support it.
– Order! Senator Maunsell must be allowed to make his speech in his own way and in silence.
-Thank you, Mr President. The beef industry, particularly in Queensland, is in real trouble. Properties are being closed down. Honourable senators opposite do not seem to appreciate what the real position of the beef industry is. The real position is that beef is a perishable item that cannot be stored efficiently or economically. Because of high prices for beef in the past and the fact that we have had terrific beef export quotas to other countries, we have built up the beef industry. We have had greater production than we have had for many years. We have had something like a 50 per cent increase in the production of beef. All of a sudden the rug has been pulled from underneath.
– Whose fault is that?
– Honourable senators opposite were in office when that happened; so if they want to blame anyone they should blame themselves. The fact of the matter is that we have a situation in which the supply of this perishable item is vastly exceeding the demand for it. I am not blaming the Government for not being able to get markets overseas. We know what has happened to most other countries’ as a result of the oil crisis. We know about the glut of beef in the European Common Market. Our traditional importers of beef have been going through tough times. We appreciate that. What we have to do is to tide over financially the legitimate beef producers- those who can do nothing else- until such time as some balance returns to the situation. Let us face it the large number of people in the better farming areas throughout Australia who switched from sheep to beef or from wheat to beef have created the present situation. We will have to wait until they get rid of their cattle and go back to their traditional forms of agriculture.
In particular, we have to look after the people in northern Australia who are engaged in beef production. Half the area of this nation is completely dependent upon the beef industry and if we let them go to the wall we will have a virtual desert in half the nation. If we have pride in our nation and we want to develop and settle the whole of it we will have to do something about what is happening in the more remote areas. Of course, since taking office the Government has not only brought about a cost structure situation that the industries in those areas can hardly live with but also taken away the necessary taxation deductions and other things that are not handouts, which is what the Government said they were when it was in Opposition. They are considered necessary by the people who live in those areas. For example, the Government has taken away the uniform petrol price scheme. The cost of running a car or any other vehicle out in that area now is almost prohibitive. Who does that hit the most? Does it hit the landowners or the ordinary workers who have been prepared to live in the towns in those areas, despite the conditions that exist there, because that is where they have their homes? In most cases their only assets are the homes that they have been able to build up over the years and pay for, but there is no market for those homes. One cannot sell a home in many of the places in the western cattle country today unless one sells it at a giveaway price. The Government has a responsibility if it calls itself the party for the workers, which we know it is not, to look after the people in those areas.
I believe that the Government has to get down to the problem facing the beef industry and provide sufficient finance to overcome it. We heard today that it would cost so many millions of dollars to lift the export levy on beef. Of course the Government has to take it away and do something for the beef industry. The Government has agreed to a program for the eradication of brucellosis from this nation. What a great opportunity it has at this time to do that. Because of the seasonal conditions in the north the people up there will have to shoot cattle. There is no sense in sending a beast to the market if one will have to send a cheque after it to cover the freight cost. Therefore is it not a good opportunity for the Government, if it wishes to do something for the beef industry and to preserve the limited grasses in those areas for those who can survive, to see that the cattle that are killed on this occasion are those that have the disease of either brucellosis or tuberculosis. The Government could have eradicated those diseases in one hit if it were prepared to do something about the matter. Honourable senators opposite should not try to tell me that the Government does not have the money to do so because there has been money wasted on the Regional Employment Development scheme and so on. The Government has been able to throw money around the place on unproductive schemes. This one would have been a really productive one.
Coming back to the wool industry we find that we have at the moment a reasonable price being obtained for wool but the cost structure is being built up not only by inflation but also by the fact that the Government has taken away the necessary incentives in this area. Because of the cost structure now there is almost no profit in the industry.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– We have just been reminded by the previous speaker in the debate, Senator Maunsell, of the policy of the National Country Party of Australia, which is to capitalise profits and to socialise losses. Let me remind Senator Maunsell and those whom he represents that if there is to be stability in primary production there has to be organisation both in time of plenty and in time of need. The beef industry and other areas of primary production are facing problems at the present time because in a time of prosperity no provision was made to buffer in some way those engaged in them in a time of need. The over production in the beef industry resulted from the poor advice given by the leaders of the industry to expand when the future of the market could be seen to be doubtful.
There is no doubt that the beef industry will recover. The problems that it faces at the present time stem from a variety of sources. One has been the increase in the price of stock feed and the price of feed grains that has caused countries such as the United States of America and Japan as well as those in the European Common Market to divert from the lot feeding of cattle to the more traditional or past methods. That has caused a glut and that glut will continue because recent reports seem to indicate that the Soviet Union is suffering from drought conditions and that it has now developed a very substantial need for grain, including wheat, and other food commodities. That will further lift the price of wheat, which will further increase the difficulties of the beef producers in the United States. The glut is therefore likely to continue for some time.
If the industry had been properly planned it could have stabilised the position in a time of prosperity. Instead of giving advice that beef production was a good thing and that as many people as possible should enter beef production the industry should have at least organised itself and established some form of quota system which would have prevented the entry into the industry of, shall we term them, Queen Street farmers or Collins Street farmers. Every Tom, Dick and Harry entered the beef industry. The beef industry quickly found itself in an over productive situation. The traditional farmers suffered as a result. Even real estate speculators who held large areas of land surrounding the cities entered the beef industry. In the north of Queensland even the Comalco organisation entered the beef industry and ran beef on the large leases it had. The traditional beef producer suffers in a time of over production. If one is to have a planned economy, as we have in other areas of primary production, it seems to me to be unreasonable to allow the entry into the production of beef of people who are not traditional growers. So Senator Maunsell ought to go back to the heart of the problem.
Senator Maunsell, who is a member of the National Country Party, as it is now called, reminded me of something that I must bring to your attention, Mr President, because it affects this chamber. At this very moment the National Country Party of Australia in the Queensland Parliament is about to carry out one of the greatest injustices in Australian political history because of the decision that party has made and because of its predominant numbers in the Queensland Parliament. Members of the National Country Party are about to deny the right of appointment to the Senate to a man who is entitled to that appointment. Senator Shiel is laughing at the present time. Let me say that the spin off from this action of the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, will be to the disadvantage of the National Country Party. Make no mistake about that. This afternoon a man who is entitled to appointment to the Senate will be denied his right of appointment. It will be done in such an unjust and outrageous way that it will in the long run or even in the short run- perhaps in the few months ahead- be to the advantage of Dr Colston, who is the man who will be disadvantaged. He is the man who the Liberal Party Executive in Queensland acknowledges should be the man appointed to the senate vacancy.
Senator Bonner, to his credit, admits that Dr Colston should be appointed. Newspaper editorial writers say that that is the just course. Yet, because Mr Bjelke-Petersen is so stubborn, so bigoted and by nature so unjust, another appointment will be made this afternoon quite contrary to all the accepted principles- political principles and principles of justice. Senator Maunsell ought to be reminded that he is a member of that Party which will this afternoon, in a short time from now, make a decision which will be disgraceful and which will be a discredit to his Party.
– It is nearly as good as sending Senator Gair to Ireland, is it not?
-Do you justify what the Queensland Premier is about to do, Senator Webster, on the basis that one wrong deserves another wrong? If that is the case, you have just established the level -
– The Standing Orders do not let me answer you.
– Well -
– That will be the day when you abide by Standing Orders. You are the worst offender in the place.
– Order! Please address the Chair, Senator Georges.
-For that matter, that will be the day when Senator Webster abides by anything that is just and right. But let me get back to the Budget. A few months ago members of the Opposition were berating the Government for doing nothing to stem inflation, for doing nothing to correct the economic problems of the country. The Government having now produced a Budget, a difficult Budget for a Labor Government to present, is now being berated for carrying out some of the measures which the Opposition was proposing. The effectiveness of that
Budget is revealed by the attitude of the Opposition at the present time. Prior to the presentation of this Budget the Opposition claimed that there would be an elections-there was no doubt about it. The Opposition Parties were crying out for an election. They wanted an election. They were going to have an election. They were going to do this and they were going to do that. The Budget having been presented, we now find the Opposition in retreat.
– Why do you not have an election?
-Senator Withers interjects and says: ‘Why do we not have an election?’ The initiative lies with the Opposition. Senator Withers on many occasions has threatened an election but it seems now that the Opposition is not prepared- irrespective of the opinion polls which seem to be running against the Governmentto do that which they threatened before the Budget was presented. Therefore it seems to me that the Budget meets the situation. The Budget to me has a subtlety about it, a subtlety that is needed in order to deal with the problem of inflation.
– It is confusing the people.
– It does not confuse the people, Senator Missen. It merely indicates to the people that there is a distinct difference between the approach of a Labor Government and that of a Liberal-National Country Party Government. The difference is essentially that this Government will endeavour to ride out inflation whereas the Opposition would take to inflation with a bludgeon and shake out the economy in the traditional way. We have heard all sorts of comments about the breakdown and failure of small businesses. A Liberal-National Country Party Government would attack the problem by traditional methods, and history shows that in those circumstances not only have many large firms collapsed and gone bankrupt but that many smaller firms have also suffered the consequences. The restrictions that have been imposed by previous Liberal-National Country Party governments have been imposed in the traditional way. These restrictions have resulted in large scale unemployment, large scale collapse of industries and large scale hardship. The greatest part of the burden has rested upon the ordinary people.
If I recall correctly, I said on the last occasion a supplementary Budget was introduced that inflation must be understood and dealt with in a different way. The capitalist system accepts the basic inflation rate of about 3 per cent to 4 per cent. That is basic to the capitalist system, and it has been accepted in the United States as basic. The percentage method of escalation of costs in a capitalist economy leads to constant inflation. A new element has been introduced which will raise the basic level of inflation. No matter what we do here that basic level of inflation has risen. In the United States at the present time, there is concern that the inflation rate which had declined to 8 per cent is now again starting to rise. They are afraid that double digit inflation rate may have now become endemic. The reason for this is something that we, as a nation, must accept. Our economy cannot be separated from the economies of the rest of the world. In the underdeveloped countries there is a desire to obtain a higher price for commodities than has been received in the past. Oil is one such commodity. Escalation in inflation caused by rises in oil prices has not yet ceased. We have the hd on oil prices in Australia at present.
– What, at $2 a barrel?
-Yes, Senator Withers, and you will admit that it will be very difficult to maintain the price at that level. As a Labor Government, we will maintain it close to that level. Senator Maunsell indicated the true attitude of the National Country Party in relation to this situation. If the Opposition is re-elected to government, the lid will be taken off the price of oil and the price of petrol in this country will rise quickly. It will reach the prices paid in other places, like Singapore- which is in the heart of oil and petrol distribution- of between $ 1 .25 and $1.50 a gallon. I should like to stress this point. We must realise this and we must accept it. There are inflationary pressures outside Australia which affect our economy. As a nation we should be looking very carefully at these inflationary pressures. Oil is just one commodity involved.
Underdeveloped countries have been placed at a disadvantage. The price of their commodities, such as rubber, has been lower than it ought to have been. Prices for their exports have been going down and prices of their imports have been going up. The position of their exchange is lamentable. A pressure now exists on them to increase the price of their commodities and that will flow into our cost structure. The price of rubber will increase as a result of 2 factors. One is the need for underdeveloped countries to receive higher prices for their commodities. The other is a result of the war in Indo-China. The hunger of China for rubber will lead to an increase in its price and that price increase will be injected into our economy. The point I am making is that inflation is due not only to some of our decisions within our economy. It is very much due to decisions made outside our economy and we must recognise that fact.
There is something else within this country that is now adding to inflation. We have heard it said that the world is adding fuel to our inflation and that the economy is aflame. I think Senator Maunsel and Senator Shiel- they are both members of the National Country Party- both used those emotive terms. But there are certain decisions and certain attitudes which are stimulating inflation in this country. We should recognise them and endeavour to diminish them. One area in which inflation is occurring, and in which there is pressure for increased wages and salaries and a resultant increase in costs, is the area of conflict between the Australian Government and the States. This conflict is reflected in this chamber by many of the decisions made here which have prevented the passage of government legislation. Such decisions stemmed from this conflict between the States and the Australian Government. These decisions have added to the problems and to costs. They have led to increases in the Public Service in both the Commonwealth and the States. This has led to the pressure on costs. It has led to perhaps more expenditure in the public sector than should have been necessary and this has stimulated inflation.
Let me give honourable senators an example by referring to Queensland. In Queensland the Public Service has increased at twice the rate. I think the increase in Queensland has been about 7.5 per cent as against 3 per cent in the Australian Government area. Why? It has happened because in Queensland there is now active competition with the Australian Government. Whatever the Australian Government endeavours to do Mr Bjelke-Petersen endeavours to match, whether in the area of drug detection or in the area of overseas trade. Mr Bjelke-Petersen even has entered the field of foreign affairs and has escalated activities in order to establish a position in which the States are competing with the Australian Government. In the area of company control we find that there is not a reduction in the responsibilities and activities of the Corporate Affairs Commission but an increase. As the Commonwealth proceeds towards legislation in that area, instead of our seeing a possibility of activity in the State area being phased out we find an increase and a duplication- an increase in the number of departments and an increase in the number of public servants.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen, in order to establish a competitive position on the part of the States as against the Australian Government, even has begun the practice of sending fact finding groups of parliamentarians and businessmen to SouthEast Asia, an area which surely should be left to the Australian Government as it is better able to negotiate and to obtain trade agreements for the whole nation instead of a section of it. Mr BjelkePetersen also just recently escalated the activities of the police force in competition with the Australian Government. Instead of seeing, as we expect, some restraint in expenditure in this way we find that the States are in competition.
In this Budget and in previous Budgets the Australian Government has provided substantial sums of money to the States. It is fair to say that the failure of some of the Australian Government’s schemes is due to the failure of a State government to implement them. I believe that as a nation we should begin to grow up. As a nation we have to accept the inevitability that we are one nation and not 6 States. We have an international role to play in both trade and foreign affairs and we can play it only as one nation, not as 6 States. The activities, or perhaps I should say the antics, of Mr Bjelke-Petersen are a denial of this inevitability. He prolongs development. He causes conflict. He increases costs and he adds to inflation.
I must admit that the Budget does cause me some bewilderment. I have believed for some time that wages are not the prime component of inflation. I believe that wages endeavour to follow what inflation causes. We ought to be looking for a system by which prices are based on a person’s ability to pay. I think we ought to be looking for a system by which not only wages and taxes are indexed but also prices. For the life of me I cannot understand why a lc increase in the cost of production, when the workers’ wage is the main component of that increase, escalates through the price system and finishes up as an increase of 3c or 4c. Such an escalation leads to the inflation we are talking about. No matter what it costs I think we should quickly get down to it and index not only wages and taxation but also prices. If the cost of a loaf of bread goes up by lc, the increase to the consumer should be lc. That is not the case at the moment. Inherent in the present system of percentage application is the development of inflation. We have been very close to a position of hyper-inflation but recent events seem to indicate that there now is a downturn. The problem we face is to maintain that downturn.
I am pleased to see that in Queensland the housing societies have decided at long last to reduce interest rates by one per cent. I believe that the housing societies have been irresponsible in offering high interest rates to depositors. That point is contested but I still stand by it. The high interest rates they offered to depositors resulted in high interest rates to home builders. It is pleasing to see a reduction of one per cent in housing industry rates. To my mind high interest rates much more than wages have substantially boosted inflation. In my view the housing societies in Queensland and in other States could operate on an interest rate at least 2 per cent below what they pay at the present time. Interest bearing deposits at the various banks which were operating at an interest rate as high as 1 1 per cent are now operating at 8 per cent or lower. Therefore the competition which the banks may have posed to the housing societies has been removed to a certain extent. It would be wise on their part to reduce their interest rates by at least another 2 per cent so that the interest rates to borrowers, the people who pay for homes, could be reduced substantially. I do not know whether the housing societies are aware that the interest rate that they fix imposes upon another area of financial interest, the credit unions, a much higher interest rate than the credit unions would like to charge. But, in order to protect their own deposits, credit unions are paying as much as 9 per cent and 10 per cent. As a result they are charging their borrowers as much as 1.5 per cent per month, which is an effective 1 8 per cent per annum- a rate which is much too high and which should be reduced. If the housing societies were to reduce their interest rates by 2 per cent, the credit unions would quickly follow. I would say that that, more than anything else, would reduce costs considerably, because the cost of high interest rates permeates or moves through the whole of the cost structure.
It seems to me to be unusual and quite unfair that in an inflationary period we endeavour to protect those who have funds, to the disadvantage of those who do not have funds. It seems always to be argued that if inflation is high we must give to those who have funds a high interest rate in order to protect their equity and savings. It seems to me that if we are to curb inflation we ought for a short time to take the risk there may be a loss in the value of assets and savings; we ought not to take the incorrect step of maintaining high interest rates, because they in themselves feed or fuel inflation to an unacceptable extent. Inflation is the true cause of our problems. An added problem, of course, is that we do not agree on how to deal with inflation. I think that the way in which the Labor Party has dealt with the problem is the much more acceptable way; that we should ease our way out of the problem and not bash our way out of the problem.
– You mean squeeze, not ease.
– We should ease our way out. We have seen the effects of squeeze in the past. The credit squeeze of 1961 really brought the economy to its knees. The economy at the present dme is in trouble, but I believe that the Budget which Mr Hayden has brought down is a responsible one in the circumstances. I think it will achieve its ends. It raises some ideological problems for some of us; nevertheless, in the circumstances, it is acceptable.
– It is good to hear that Senator Georges has recognised that some of the problems we have stem from inflation. In fact, I think that all of them stem from inflation. I have a strong feeling that many people who have spoken in the debate, as well as many of those who intend to speak in the debate, speak with something of a gloomy air. Notwithstanding the rather optimistic outlook of some honourable senators on the Government side, the current situation in Australia must imbue even some of them with an air of unease as to what is the economic future of this country. I refer particularly to the situation in our 2 main sectors of industry- secondary and primary.
I would like to use the time available to me to point up some of the problems, without trying to find answers in particular, because I think that only in that way can we understand what are the real problems. It is perhaps a vain hope, but we would wish and possibly continue to hope that the corporate ability of the Government would assist in trying to find some of the answers to the problems that beset this country at the present moment. Sure, there are tremendous problems. The greatest single problem, as Senator Georges said, is inflation. I do not necessarily agree with the reasons he gave as to why the inflation rate should be increasing or should be at its present level. Not so many months ago the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other members of the Government indicated that we were importing our inflation. Recently the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers have said that its cause is the demand for wages. Possibly there is some truth in both assertions.
Let us compare what has been done over the past year or two by some of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in relation to inflation. Table 13 of volume 17 of Economic Outlook shows that for the years 1962 to 1972 Canada had an average rate of increase in consumer prices of 3.3 per cent. It rose to 7.6 per cent in 1973 and then to 10.9 per cent in 1974. For the 12 months ended May 1975 it dropped back to 10.1 per cent. In the United States the rates of increase for the same periods were as follows: 3.3 per cent, 6.2 per cent, 1 1 per cent, and again a fall back to 9.5 per cent. For the first three of those periods the rates of increase in Japan were 5.7 per cent, 1 1.7 per cent and 24.5 per cent. I believe that in the latter part of 1974 the rate rose to almost 30 per cent. Japan has now achieved a wonderful result; its rate of increase has dropped back to 14.1 per cent, which represents a decrease on the previous figure of 10 percentage points. However, as I said, I understand that it rose even higher than the 24.5 per cent which I mentioned. Between 1962 and 1972 Australia’s average rate of increase was 3.4 per cent. In 1973 it was 9.5 per cent; in 1974 it was 15.1 per cent; and to the end of May 1975 it was 17.2 per cent. The figures for New Zealand, which is our closest neighbour, are very similar. They are 5.1 per cent, 8.3 per cent, 1 1 per cent and 1 3.2 per cent.
An examination of this whole list of figures indicates that most of the OECD countries are controlling or have reduced their rates of inflation. The one exception is the United Kingdom. Unfortunately it is the one which gives us, as a member of the old British Empire, a lot of concern. We do not know, but perhaps its high rate of inflation is due to the fact that it has a Labour government. For the periods to which I referred previously, its rates of increase were as follows: 4.9 per cent, 9.2 per cent, 16 per cent and 25 per cent. We do not know whether the increase in its rate of inflation is due to wages or to the importation of things that cause inflation or increase the rate of inflation. Whatever is the reason, inflation there is increasing at a very rapid rate.
There are very many facets of our communityour economic community in particularwhich are affected by these inflationary pressures. Probably this has been in evidence most in the secondary industry field. This problem, coupled with the tax measures used by this Government, has tended to make ‘profit’ a dirty word. The result is that we have in Australia the worst unemployment situation that we have had for decades. Sure, as I have said, there have been many indications of international economic conditions having an effect on our society. But, in the main, most of the problem has been caused by actions, or the lack of actions, by this Government. Ideologically, it seems that the Government has no retreat from the situation that now pertains. It was rather pleasant to hear Senator
Georges say that, ideologically, some of the problems besetting the country are giving the Government difficulties. Surely the Government has learned something during the last 32 months. Surely it has learned that it cannot transfer assets to the public sector at the rate at which it has been doing so without destroying incentive and profit. With those 2 important elements under pressure, it must finish up with unemployment and with many businesses either bankrupt or facing that soul destroying prospect when in many cases it has taken a lifetime of sacrifice and endeavour to put those businesses together.
In that regard it is interesting to note that, when writing about the Mathews report, Graham Williams said:
The Report says: ‘If indexation removes the fiscal illusion surrounding the effective rises in tax, rational decisions will have to be made about the extent to which increases in effective rates of personal tax are possible’.
It notes, with what is ill-concealed alarm, the massive rise in government revenue from personal tax.
Here is the unhappy scenario of rises in the take from personal taxes.
That last figure is approximately the size of today’s Budget. It continues:
The projected figures for the next few years assume a 20 per cent inflation rate.
They show a spectacular shift in income from the private to the public sector- a shift that the committee maintains is killing the goose that lays the egg.
I think we all agree that if we do not control inflation those are the sorts of figures we will be looking at and trying to absorb into our community. Just how much more can the private sector pass over to the public sector? We see also that the Australian manufacturing work force has dropped by 9.3 per cent in the past financial year. Those figures are supplied by the Bureau of Statistics. If we look at what has happened to small businesses over the last 12 months we get some idea of the gravity of the situation in which unfortunately they find themselves. I wish now to quote what Mr W. Henderson, the Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, said on 2 June this year. A newspaper article states:
About 160 000 small businesses were in danger of closing, the director of the Associated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia (Mr W. Henderson) said yesterday.
This could put the jobs of 20 to 3Q.per cent of Australia’s six million workers in danger. , . .
Mr Henderson said at least 1 500 small businesses closed in the past 12 months because of economic problems.
About 70 per cent of these suffered a shortage of funds.
Speaking on television, Mr Henderson said that part of their problem was that they were inefficient businesses.
But they did employ about 40 per cent of the total workforce, and given the right economic circumstances, they could grow. Small businesses are those employing fewer than 50 people.
In figures that we (ACMA) have developed in conjunction with the University of New England, I would think that about two-thirds of the 250 000 small enterprises are in some danger of closing’, Mr Henderson said.
I think even more alarming is that the latest figures show that since that article was written early in June 3000 such businesses have closed, an increase of 100 per cent in a little more than 2 months. Many other eminent writers have spoken about the situation in which we find ourselves at present. Professor Ted Wheelwright, who is a prominent political economist and a long time Australian Labor Party member, believes that the Federal Government is leading us inexorably into economic disaster. A newspaper report of an address by Professor Wheelwright states:
Professor Wheelwright says a flexible taxing system must be introduced to save the highly vulnerable companies from going under.
He advocates a 20 per cent reduction in company tax for small companies, with a cut in payroll tax in hard times and a payroll subsidy in many cases.
Firms that are really hard hit should be able to apply for a 10 per cent government payroll subsidy to tide them over’, he says.
In effect, the Government would be paying 10 per cent of the payroll. But this is necessary to stop them going bankrupt, closing up and putting thousands of workers on the dole’.
The professor, who has always kicked the Establishment, ponders and says: ‘If the market force economists had had their way from the start, Australia would be just a bloody sheep run now’.
He refuses to name them- but he is clearly thinking not only of the Treasury officials, but also the Reserve Bank economists, the Industries Assistance Commission and Mr Whitlam ‘s personal economic advisers.
That is quite significant. The article continues:
We have caught, he warned, the dreaded ‘English disease’- of bitter conflict between workers and employers, with polarised and intransient attitudes.
Another person who has been looking at this problem and speaking about it recently is Rod Carnegie. I wish to quote only briefly from what he said in Queensland recently when he was talking about people who are involved and associated with industry in Australia. He said:
The stakeholders are six groups of people: the people who work in the enterprise; the people who manage it; the people who invest in it; the people who supply it; the people who buy from it; the people who live near it.
I think it is well worth pondering on what he said. In a later part of the same speech he said:
In Australia in the next few months many managers will take responsibility. They will resign, or be fired, or as small businessmen go bankrupt. And in many cases it will not really be their direct fault.
It is a tragedy, a travesty of justice, that many of the people directly responsible for some of these business failures will pay no penalty. They will be protected by unbeatable electoral majorities, or by the safety of Public Service superannuation.
It is not a very pretty picture with which we are faced at present. I think those quotations amply demonstrate the difficulty and the restriction on profits imposed by taxation and the effects of inflation in the general sense.
I should like now to turn briefly to some of the situations in Tasmania. Those honourable senators who heard my maiden speech during the Budget debate last year will remember that I warned that there was a tremendous drain and pressure on small business, particularly in Tasmania. Now the disease seems to have spread far wider. In recent months this has been .exacerbated by many unexpected imposts on their profitability and capability. Small businesses are going through a terribly difficult period due to a lack of incentive. That incentive has not been restored in any way by the actions of the Government which I mentioned earlier. Since last year nothing has really been done to alleviate the difficulties. In fact many of the problems have multiplied with an increase of 40 per cent in freight rates. In the case of the paper industry, one of the industries that are greatly under pressure in Tasmania and particularly in the area where I live, that increase applies both northward and southward. We all remember that the Government exempted north bound trade with the exception of bulk, cargo and paper, using as its excuse to do so that the paper industry was making sufficient profit to carry the cost of extra freight.
We now find that paper mills at Burnie and Wesley Vale are in tremendous difficulties. Those difficulties have been illustrated by questions from both sides of the chamber. Increased imports into Tasmania of certain materials and other stocks which are needed by the companies have increased their freight costs by $2.62m. So it is small wonder that this industry is finding itself in tremendous difficulties.
– Has it not increased unemployment this week?
– Yes. I think that now approximately 500 people have been put off by these 2 plants in recent months. The increase in freight rates prompted Mr Lowe, who at the time was the Acting Premier, to say:
There now exists a state of war between Tasmania and the Federal Government on this matter.
This sort of situation will be seen more and more as time goes on. While I am still speaking about paper, I think it is interesting to note that Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd increased its output by 30 per cent, so it was said recently, due no doubt to advice that it received from the Government because it was at this period that members of the Government were indicating to Australia generally and to the paper manufacturing industry in particular that there would be a world wide shortage of paper. I think the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) will know that his Department has helped this industry. Unfortunately, it was only a palliative. It did enable the industry to maintain production for a little longer at a rate of about 35 000 tons a year. The industry again is faced with a situation now in which it can no longer continue to stockpile. So it is a pretty grim situation in which the 2 big industries on the north-west coast find themselves. It looks as though, because of the importation of paper, the opportunity to go back to something like a reasonable and rational rate of production is no longer possible for this industry in the near future.
I would like also to mention, but only very briefly because I think the situation is so serious that it warrants possibly a full-scale debate, that in Tasmania there is a situation currently in which because of the metal trades union strike which has been going on now for 9 weeks -
– Ten weeks tomorrow.
– Ten weeks tomorrow, I hear, and this is right. It has been estimated- I do not know how this has come about but it has been printed in the Press- that the extra cost to this Federal Government, not to the State Government of Tasmania, in restoring the Tasman bridge will be $10,000 a week. All work stopped on the bridge yesterday. The situation will stay that way for the next 4 weeks at least. The result will be that there will be about $130,000 to $140,000 unforeseen additional expenditure. I think it is a tremendous indictment of both the State and the Federal governments that this vital link between these 2 parts of the capital city of Tasmania should be left to rot and rust from the effects of salt water. That is really what is happening. The university recently conducted a study of the effects the disaster is having on the life styles of the people, particularly those who live on the eastern shore of the river. It showed, unfortunately, that many marriages were under tremendous pressure. As I indicated, this is not something that I wish to pursue now, but I think it is something that we should look at in the near future because it is this Parliament’s responsibility to provide finance for this venture.
One of the other problems that we have had in Tasmania for a long time, and it has been going on ad nauseam without solution, is that of freight costs on goods transported between Tasmania and the mainland. I think we are all waiting for the Nimmo report to be received by this Parliament in the hope that we will find some solution to the 3 times repeated promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the avowed policy of this side of the House that freight costs between the mainland of Australia and Tasmania should be equated. Just to give some indication of the variations I wish to cite some figures. This is the first time I have had an opportunity to see figures that graphically illustrate what the costs are. These are figures which I received from the abattoir on King Island when I was there recently. These figures were supplied to the Nimmo committee of inquiry. The King Island Abattoir Board took Wodonga, the sister city to Senator Bunton ‘s home town, as a place about the same distance from Melbourne as King Island is. For those people who have heard us talk about figures and variations in costs these figures will illustrate very graphically, I think, the tremendous pressures on the people of Tasmania. Ordinary freight costs on hide are about $25.95 a tonne between Currie and Melbourne, compared with $9.27 a tonne between Wodonga and Melbourne.
– Is that rail freight or road freight?
– The figures I am giving for Wodonga relate to road freight but I do not think the figures would differ all that much. Freight rates on many other items also indicate a tremendous difference. Until recently the only way meat has been able to be taken from King Island to Melbourne has been by air. Air freight on chilled meats from King Island to Melbourne is 4c per lb. The cost of handling it in Melbourne is lc, making a total of 5c. The road freight cost from Wodonga to Melbourne is 2c per lb, making a difference of 3c. Let me illustrate the difference this can make not only to Tasmania but in particular to King Island. During the year 1973-74 a total amount of 3 648 825 lb of meat was transported from the Island. That amount of meat at 3c per lb represents a loss to the Island and to the growers on the Island amounting to $109,464.75. That is a tremendous loss to the Island, which is really having troubles because with the exception of the scheelite mine it is virtually a rural area. Freight costs on tallow between King Island and Melbourne amount to $25.95 and between Wodonga and Melbourne $9.27. Freight costs on meat meal represent a difference of $16.88, which is a loss to the King Island Abattoir of $2,7 17. Freight costs on diesel fuel delivered in Wodonga amount to 26.55c a gallon compared with 31.29c a gallon, which represents a difference of 4.74c a gallon. All the heating at the abattoir is diesel fired so honourable senators can appreciate that this runs into a fairly substantial additional cost. In relation to general cargo, I have already indicated that freight charges to King Island are somewhere about 2>/2 times as great. These figures apply fairly accurately to Tasmania although there is some slight variation because of the distance. Freight costs on vealers amount to $12.65 from King Island to Melbourne compared with $3.50 from Wodonga. Freight costs on steers or grown cattle are $16.77 from King Island to Melbourne compared with $4 from Wodonga. Freight costs on sheep and lambs amount to $2.42 from King Island to Melbourne compared with 65c from Wodonga. I think those figures graphically illustrate the differences in charges in such a way that will demonstrate to the House what we have been saying for a long time in respect to the differences in charges that the people of Tasmania have to accept.
Another significant increase that has been brought about by the higher freight rates has been, unfortunately for the people of Tasmania, a dramatic increase in sales tax on a very large range of consumer goods which has been brought about by the landed cost of the goods being the figure that is used to compute the sales tax. I have no disagreement with this. I know that this has been the practice for a long time. This is particularly noticeable in respect of the heavier consumer goods such as refrigerators, electric stoves and things of that nature. It is fairly obvious that this disadvantages the people of Tasmania in comparison with people in other States as transport costs, as I have just illustrated, are very much greater and of necessity so too is sales tax. By no means are all the goods shipped to Tasmania freight equated, as has been said by others on occasions. We know that some of them are, including such things as cars, tractors and some of the food lines, but nowhere near all of them are freight equated. The result is of course that a very large range of the goods received into Tasmania carry’ the ‘40 per cent increase in freight plus the commensurate increase in the computed sales tax’” which is the result of that increase.
In the few minutes left to me in this debate I would like to look at the situation of the rural industry. Unfortunately time will run out before I will be able to deal, with it as fully as I would have liked, but I think it is important to note that the rural sector is not given very much consideration by this Government. At least it was given much greater recognition in New Zealand when the Prime Minister, Mr Wallace Rowling, in a statement delivered at the time that country devalued its currency by 1 5 per cent, said:
The main beneficeries of the move would be the farming community. The farmers had borne the brunt of the decline in income which New Zealanders had suffered. Substantial financial support had already been made available this season, but considerably more would be needed if farmers were to remain viable and have their confidence restored.
Whilst recognising that New Zealand has an economy that in some instances is different from ours in that it is more rurally based, I think the same situation still applies. It is important that this Government should give active consideration to some of the requests that have been made.
I know that the Government has a difficult budgetary situation, but it is a budgetary situation that it has brought upon itself. It has encouraged the sorts of things that have created our inflation. Early in the Government’s term of office some Government supporters encouraged the unions to make greater and greater demands for wage increases, which had the inflationary effect of starting prices moving upwards. We all know that wages are a strong component in the inflationary situation, but all these circumstances have been brought about by the Government’s own actions. It is no good the Government’s hiding behind the statement that it inherited inflation. If it is going to accept responsibility for government it has also got to accept responsibility for the economic situation in which it finds itself or with which it eventually finishes up. It is rather pointless to make excuses and say: ‘We inherited inflation. We got it from overseas’. That will not convince the people. It is the people who are paying the piper and that is not going to convince them for any length of time.
It has been indicated also by some people that because of the particular disadvantages suffered by the people of Tasmania the whole State should be included in Zone A for taxation allowance purposes. In view of the situation in which we currently find ourselves, that could well be something the Government took on board.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– My comments on the Budget will be restricted soley to comments from a budgetary viewpoint. I preface my remarks by quoting a statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Crean, following the publication of the Budget. He said:
The new taxation scheme is one of the Government’s greatest social contributions. We are using taxation as a proper social instrument.
I see nothing wrong with that contention, but this Budget was brought down at a time when Australia was in the throes of inflation and unemployment and it is a Budget which will be costly indeed. It is difficult to dovetail increased social benefits with the present economic climate without getting into financial trouble. Indeed, there is no doubt that this Budget presents a financial disability. The Government has budgeted for a deficit of $2,798m, following last year’s deficit of $2,566m. That is a state of affairs which should be looked at very carefully, and that is what prompted me to say that my comments will relate entirely to the Budget from a budgetary point of view. I realise that there are honourable senators in this chamber who would like to have seen the Budget include items which have not been included but, as happens with any Budget, it is a case of omissions and commissions.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has seen fit to say that his Budget would include expenditures outside those included in the Government’s Budget. Honourable senators in this chamber have said that they would not include certain facets of expenditure which the Government has included. That is entirely a matter of opinion. It is a difference of opinion in relation to priorities; it is a difference of opinion in relation to indirect tax charges, and your opinion is as good as mine. One opinion is as good as the next person’s as to what expenditure should be made and the field in which it should take place. But I think honourable senators will agree with me when I say that it is a signal of danger when we budget for a deficit of such magnitude. If the business world generally budgeted for such a deficit it would be a case of bankruptcy. Australia is in a difficult financial position.
I should like to pay tribute to the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland), who said this morning that when the Budget was being prepared there were signs of recovery. I think he was being a little optimistic in saying that. I would prefer to have seen the recovery take place before the introduction of legislation requiring excessive expenditure for the current year. I should also like to say that the Minister’s reference this morning to wage indexation was courageous and responsible. I think he did himself proud, and indeed did his Party proud, when he made a statement of party policy in connection with wage indexation. The starting point for the control of the inflationary trend is wage restraint. If we have wage restraint the cost of living will follow and fit in with the scheme of things. There will be an increase in productivity in the rural sector which is most necessary.
Inflation and unemployment are at a peak and in conjunction with that peak we see the exercise of the mandate given to the Government at 2 elections at a time which perhaps is inopportune. Perhaps there should have been a waiting period. However, be that as it may, no Budget has ever pleased the people generally. Never has there been a Budget which has pleased the Opposition. Never will there be a Budget which will please any Opposition because the introduction of the Budget provides an opportunity for everybody to let off steam. I am not a member of the Opposition; I am a freelance and I speak as I think I should. I do not intend to make comments which will be destructive. Rather, I should like to enter this debate in a constructive fashion. Budgeting for a further deficit does little towards arresting inflation. The simple truth is that when outgoings exceed incomings it is a danger signal. Let me repeat: In the private sector it means bankruptcy, and the Government is looking to the private sector to provide the wherewithal for it to fulfil its estimates of expenditure for the coming 12 months. The decisions made by the Government in the Budget mean that taxation is being inflicted which people cannot afford to pay. In this age of social benefits we need to be careful that individual incentive is not lost. In many instances today good salaries are being swamped in meeting taxation and normal living expenses.
Medibank, which in my opinion is a worthy social expedient, is very COStlY. I think it was necessary for the Government to provide such a scheme because with the previous contributory type of scheme many people who were prone to need medical and hospital care were not members of any society. With that state of affairs it was up to the Government^ working from the social welfare aspects of its platform, to do something to arrest the position. However, the funds to meet the expenses of Medibank are coming from Consolidated Revenue: Despite the high rate of taxation that we have it would appear that it might have been necessary to have a levy in order to meet that cost. When introducing a highly beneficial welfare scheme surely there was a need for consolidation in other fields. We have not got that consolidation. In going through the various lists I find that increased amounts have been made available in certain sections of Government expenditure. In my humble opinion funds are being made available in avenues which are not as worthy as some of the avenues which have been left out. I think that the estimates should have been pruned to such an extent that we could balance the Budget. If we continue with deficits from year to year we shall find ourselves, as a nation, insolvent. We cannot expect the public to meet increased taxation. In my opinion taxation is at an all time high. It is a state of affairs whereby- let me repeat- incentive has gone by the board. Government and co-operation in all things is the law of life. If we cannot get the cooperation of citizens generally in government proposals we shall be in trouble.
I note with some satisfaction that there has been a company tax decrease of 2Vi per cent. But I think that this is not doing enough for small business when we realise that upwards of 400 000 small businesses in this Commonwealth are having very lean times. There are approximately 400 000 businesses in the Commonwealth of which 95 per cent are small businesses and small companies- and the small businesses and the small companies are those which are employing under 100 employees each. We find that the relatively few large firms are dominating some parts of the market place. We find that small business has major problems, the foremost of which are financial, and in that category taxation is the main component of the problem. We find that small business is at a disadvantage in connection with management. It is at a disadvantage as a result of the domination by big firms and the danger of takeovers. I can speak with some conviction in connection with that particular facet. As far as small business is concerned, from a financial angle the trading banks see their role of providing working capital rather than providing funds for augmentation of fixed assets. We find that small business is more likely to run into liquidity problems. We find that small businesses are hit harder by inflation and that the retained profits are accumulated slowly, being insufficient to finance the faster rate of growth demanded by the market. From a management point of view we find that there is an imbalance between functional skills in the small business sector and in the small company business also. We find that there is an isolation of management, and indeed that small business management has not the opportunity and advantage of problem sharing with many managers who are operating in the big businesses. This leads me to say that it is necessary that a Budget should make special provision for the small company and for the small business man. In connection with the domination by big firms there is an absence of resources amongst the smaller companies to withstand fierce competition. They are at buying disadvantage. They are at a disadvantage in field technology. I feel that the Budget, in not giving a greater relief to small businesses has dealt them a severe blow. Companies with small profits being called on to pay the reduced rate of 42$ per cent company tax are in my opinion harshly treated.
We find that personal income is taxed on a sliding scale- the higher the income, the greater the rate. Why should this formula not apply from a company point of view? Small business has played its part in this nation’s development and has played a major part in the employment field- a field which is causing this Government and governments all over the world a deal of concern. It is cause for concern that many small businesses are folding up. I noticed an account in the Press only last week where the Premier of New South Wales said that in the first 7 months of this year 878 businesses had closed down in the State. The main cause of this is over trading, that is, trading beyond financial resources; companies being forced into a position that they did not know would arise because of their lack of financial resources. They have met their taxationa heavy taxation- all along the line. In my opinion their plight has been aggravated by what I think, from a small business point of view, is excessive taxation.
I should like to commend the Government for removing the added tax of 10 per cent on income from investments. The fundamental of any taxing or rating system is that it should provide a full degree of equity between taxpayers and between ratepayers. I am not unmindful that high taxation is loaded against those of initiative. Let us take the case of a middle bracket taxpayer with an income of, say, $15,000 to $20,000 a year. He is being sacrificed to meet the social welfare plan. I have nothing against that social welfare plan but it is necessary that there should be that full degree of equity applying between taxpayers in order that all will meet a just share. It is a bad state of affairs when we arrive at a system whereby it is nigh an impossibility for the human bird to get his nest. We have this state of affairs applying at the present time. It is difficult for a person, unless he is blessed by legacy or the like, unless he is prepared to forgo all the advantages which this blessed country can give him and provided he is not prepared to exploit his fellow man, to earn sufficient to get his nest. So we need to be careful. We need to take a humane outlook in this connection. It is governments that should set the lead in this. The Budget expenditure in my opinion should have been decreased rather than a substantial increase made by the heavy taxing of a section of the taxpayers.
I should like to advise the Senate of the local government attitude in these times. I doubt that there would be a council in this Commonwealth that has not had its recent estimates presented to it and that did not send them back to officers with the report: ‘You will have to reduce this amount. We cannot tax the ratepayers to the extent necessary in order to do these works.’ Local government is of course the victim of a vicious inflation. It had nothing to do with creating that inflation. I am not one of those who say that the Government is responsible entirely for inflation. I am not suggesting that. Inflation has been brought about by a mass of circumstances, including many over which the Government has no control. By the same token, local government was an absolutely innocent party to the inflation.
What do we find? We find that local government estimates have been pruned, in some cases to the extent of 20 per cent, 25 per cent or 33 W per cent, so that councils could keep their heads above water. The Government should have done a similar thing with this Budget. It has introduced social welfare benefits, and rightly so. At the same time it has not taken any cognisance of the fact that we are in the throes of inflation and unemployment as a result of which government funds must be expended in spheres outside the normal spheres. As a result we have this overwhelming deficit of $2,798m, following last year’s deficit of $2,566m. I do not think it is too late for the Government to have a further look at this matter. We could do that when dealing with the appropriations. I think we would be well advised not to throw out the Budget by any means but to modify some of the expenditure under it. Surely it is not expected that every facet of a Budget presented to Parliament will be acceptable. I accept it in principle, wholeheartedly. I maintain that under extraordinary circumstances the Government has done a reasonably good job in presenting this Budget. I did not envy the Government’s task in presenting this Budget. Let me repeat, as the result of a mandate given at 2 elections, that to introduce a liberal social welfare system and at the same time trying to arrest inflation and to provide ample employment is a herculean task. In view of all the circumstances I think the Budget is a well prepared document. Furthermore, I think that with a few modifications it would be acceptable to the people generally. I think we should have another look at it from that point of view.
The Public Service has expanded in the last decade. It has been a costly expansion and has been greater than was necessary for the normal functioning of public services. It has assisted materially to bring about the unhealthy financial climate that we have today. In my maiden speech I referred to the creation of boards, corporations, authorities and commissions to take over the business of responsible government. Since I became a senator, not only the Government but this Parliament generally has been prepared to accept commissions and corporations, one after another, to carry out the normal functions that were carried out by departmental heads in the past. Those departmental heads have not been retrenched. In the general Public Service set-up today there is a duplication of people. We have created a bureaucracy which is entirely contrary to a democracy. It is a costly venture and one at which we should look very closely. The Government should not seek to implement all these niceties when the climate is bad. It can do so when things are going along quite happily and merrily, but not in the present circumstances. This is not the cure for inflation or for our social ills. Our economy can be rectified only when inflation is arrested and full employment prevails. This position will emerge when a middle of the road policy is implemented by the Government, when capital and labour realise that each is dependent on the other and when the economy allows us to get our full share of the export market.
I will not support the Opposition’s amendment. I will support the original motion which reads:
That the Senate take note of the Papers.
The Opposition’s amendment seeks to add these words: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis because:
In the course of my remarks I said that I was reasonably satisfied with the Budget. After reading all matters relative to it and after hearing Senator James McClelland ‘s contribution this morning, my opinion is that the Government is acting in such a way as to create confidence. I think it has made a determined attempt to arrest the position in which it has found itself, a position which has been deteriorating gradually. It was with us when the Government took office. It has gradually become worse because, among other things, of the very poor lot of the man on the land.
We must not forget that this country is still a rural producing country. Secondary industry takes second place to rural industry. We must not forget that. When we give incentives to secondary industry and do not give comparable incentives to rural industry, a difficulty can be created. In very difficult times rural industry has not been able to play its rightful role in the economy of this country. I think a change will be made. It is necessary that we forever remind ourselves of what rural industry means to the success of this country. Let us make no mistake about where the emphasis lies. I think a responsible attempt has been made by the Government in very adverse conditions. I certainly would be prepared to allow it to exploit the avenues which are open to it and to carry on as suggested by the Minister for Labor and Immigration in his speech this morning. I thank the Senate for having listened to me so patiently.
– Today I wish to deal with several topics, all of which are important to my home State of Tasmania. I think all of them will indicate where the people of Tasmania need help, either because of the neglect of one aspect or another of the economy or because of the effect of particular aspects of this Government’s philosophy. I hope that the Government notes what is said and attempts to correct the situation in Tasmania. Perhaps at the outset I should point out that a great many Tasmanians feel that this Government is out of touch with the needs of the Tasmanian community. Many of those who now feel that Tasmania has been let down could have been called, once upon a dme, genuine Australian Labor Party supporters. They are the people who in 1972 felt that the election of a Labor government would be the answer to their hopes and their dreams. They are the people who felt that electing Whitlam would set the country in a better direction. They are the people who genuinely felt that after 23 years it was time for a change. I suppose that many of them thought that Labor could not do much damage in 3 years, anyway. These people came from all walks of life. Now, almost 3 years later, the people of Australia and Tasmania can see the damage that this Labor Government has been able to do to the country.
Students now wonder what is the value of higher education if they cannot get a job when they leave school or university. Pensioners wonder what is the value of bigger pensions when the costs of rent and other living costs are effectively making pensioners worse off all the time. Those in the middle age group wonder what kind of country this Government will leave for their children. This country urgently needs a change of direction, and unfortunately the Budget does not give the changes that are so urgently needed. Time will show that the Budget does not control inflation. I think time will show that this Budget will actually add to unemployment. Time will show that the taxation reforms are really a hoax. I do not believe in detailing a lot of figures, but I have a chart which shows the way in which taxation has increased during the last 6 years. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted for the document to be incorporated? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– In 1972 the net payasyouearn tax amounted to $3,200m or thereabouts, and this year it is expected to be nearly $8,700m. That is an increase of some 2¾ times since Labor came into office. In the same period the amount of excise duty and sales tax, both of which hit very solidly at the traditional supporters of the Labor Party, has almost doubled. In the 3 years of Labor Budgets total tax has increased by more than 2 times. Of course, a great part of this tax increase has occurred in the recent Budget. Pay-as-you-earn taxation under the reformed system will increase by some $2,600m, which is a huge increase. In fact, the increase is bigger than the total net tax collection in 1970-71. This is being done by a government that says it is trying to restore confidence in the economy. How can people have confidence in their economic future when this Budget itself assumes an inflation rate of some 20 per cent?
Not only the things in the Budget will have an effect on inflation. Of course, we must remember the increases in telephone and postal charges and things like that. They are just another form of taxation. They will have a profound effect on inflation. If one looks at the Government’s estimates one sees an increase of some $40m in those charges that has not been accounted for in the Budget. Those who once thought that this Government might lead them to Utopia I think have had grave doubts about it, even before this Budget was introduced, and their Utopian dreams will be shattered when they taste the reality of the effects of this Budget. We Tasmanians, it seems, have been beset in every possible way by this Government. Firstly, there was the 25 per cent reduction in tariffs early in the life of the Government, and even Blind Freddy could tell what effect that reduction in tariffs would have on many Tasmanian industries. We certainly saw the effect in Launceston, in places like woollen mills. Recently we saw, too, the most savage increases in the Australian National Line freight rates that anyone can remember when when Mr There - Are - More - Votes - In - Newcastle - Than - Tasmania - Jones approved those ANL freight rate increases. That was most probably the death knell for many Tasmanian companies. It will add a tremendous burden to the cost of shipping things to and from Tasmania. It is getting to the stage where one has to ask the question: What company in its right mind would set up in Tasmania now? Some companies will leave Tasmania and some will close down, adding even more to our very high level of unemployment at present.
But of course the ANL freight rate increase was not the end of the increases in freight rates. Air fare and air freight costs also were increased a few days after the ANL freight rate increase took effect, and Tasmania once again was savagely penalised. The economy air fare between Hobart and Melbourne has increased from $25.50 in 1973 to just over $38 now-a rise of almost 50 per cent. In the same period the economy air fare between Launceston and Melbourne has risen from $19.50 to nearly $31- an increase of some 58 per cent. In the future Tasmania will have to rely very much on its tourist industry. It will need the tourist industry even more in the future because I believe that a lot of manufacturing industries will collapse. So what does the Government do in this Budget for the tourist industry? This year we see the provision of some $9m- or $8.9m if one wants to be accurate- to assist the Australian tourist industry. But that $9m will be offset by the other measures that this Government is taking which will influence the already ailing tourist industry.
Tasmanians need air transport to get to the mainland. It is impossible to rely upon any other means of transport. So any increase in air fares has a disastrous effect on those wanting to visit the mainland or to travel to Tasmania. What effect will the Budget have? Obviously the fuel tax will lead to higher air fares. Obviously, too, the increase in our already very high air navigation charges will add to the cost of air fares not only between Melbourne and Tasmania but also all over Australia. I think, too, that the increases in post and telegraph charges will result in a sizeable increase in air fares. I believe that Mr Jones was well aware that these increased charges, which amount to some $20m between TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia alone, will be passed on. It is estimated that these increased charges will result in a further 15 per cent to 20 per cent increase in air fares. So one does not need to be Einstein to see that Labor’s transport policies are crucifying Tasmania.
This Government is just not sympathetic to Tasmania and it will not pay any heed to our total dependence on sea and air transport. If one looks at the crazy philosophy of increasing air navigation charges at a time when there is very little real growth in the airline industry one can see that it will lead to serious financial difficulties not only for the airlines that serve Tasmania but for Qantas Airways Ltd as well. I would not be surprised to see some retrenchments in the airline industry fairly soon, and this is at a time when already the general aviation industry is at a disastrous level. Now it appears almost as if the airlines will be driven to the wall fairly soon by Mr Jones merely because of his preference for trains.
I think that the Government needs to adopt a transport policy which recognises that even if we spend some money on airports that we do not get back directly, if people travel with the airlines the businesses associated with the airlines and the tourist industry will benefit. What the Government loses in one way it will get back in another way because people who travel by air transport from one place to another stay at hotels and hire cars, and this creates employment in the tourist industry, and the Government gets more than its share of the revenue by way of taxation. So internally I think that the country would benefit from low airport and landing charges. Internationally we would benefit a great deal by bringing to this country more people who would spend their money and leave it here when they go home. Our landing charges for international airlines, including Qantas, are already the highest in the world. I think that they should be reduced, not increased further. But I do not think that we will see that kind of common sense until there is a change of government. Until then those Tasmanians who ship goods or themselves to the mainland will have to continue to pay through the nose.
I should like to turn now to housing. One of the obvious things about housing in Australia during the last year has been the tremendous increase in costs and the consequent reduction in the number of houses being built in Australia today. In the housing industry it is my belief that inflation is running ahead of the average inflation rate, and high interest rates forced upon Australia by this Government’s policies have made it almost impossible for many people to be able to handle repayments on housing loans. It is my opinion that the Government has purposely connived at the collapse of the housing industry. As I have said before, houses are not only places for rest and renewal; they are needed by young married people as places where they can mould their own lives and where they can develop their families and themselves as individuals without pressure from their in-laws. For a long time past it has been an Australian tradition, and the hope of young people, to be able fairly early in one’s life to own one’s own home. Lately those hopes have been shattered. Many of our young people have been made to realise that they never will be able to own their own homes whilst the present economic conditions persist. I believe that the present conditions will persist until there is a change of government.
I suppose some young people have not yet realised just how difficult it is to get together the money that is needed to buy a home. Those who are thinking of getting married in the near future or of wanting to buy a house must realise that the housing shortage that exists at present, with only a few more than half the required number of houses being built, is going to last for a long time. I believe that this Government just does not want people to own their own houses because it is against private ownership of any kind. I think it would like to see all houses and land owned by the state. That would force all of us to become tenants of the state. No doubt some member of the Australian Labor Party will point out that the amount allocated in the Budget for housing is very good, or say something like that, but what he would be pointing to is the money provided for government housing. The young people of this country do not want government housing. They want inflation to be controlled and the economic conditions to be controlled so that they can own their own private homes. I believe that hardly any families want to be state tenants all their lives.
I believe that the Government has deliberately let the housing industry run down. That, of course, has had an effect on quite a number of associated industries. For example, the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australia Ltd in Hobart has been affected by the run-down in the housing industry because zinc is used in plating tin and a lot of the other metal parts that go into making up the components of a house. The Government has encouraged the imposition of the highest interest rates in our history, which is entirely contrary to its stated policy. I think that it ought to try to get back to its stated policy. Until we see a reduction in the interest rates in this country we will see record rates of increase in the prices of houses, we will see the shortages continue and we will see increases in the rates that are paid to councils because councils have to borrow money and pay interest on their borrowings.
I reiterate that I believe that the housing shortage is not a temporary situation. Those people who are looking for a house now or who anticipate that they will want a house in the future must realise that the Labor Government has brought this one time stable industry to its knees and that the present Budget does not improve the situation. In fact, a lot of those people who are wanting to buy a house are newly married couples who are both working and who have no dependants. This Budget has actually increased the amount of tax that a lot of those people without dependants will have to pay. So they are going to have even more difficulty in saving enough to bridge the gap and get a deposit. So this Budget offers no hope to those who do not yet own their own homes.
I would go as far as to say that not many of the people who want to buy their own homes are ever going to be game enough to vote again for this Government. Because of the Government’s failure in the housing area many young people are being frustrated. They are being made to feel helpless and hopeless. As I have said, I would be surprised if even one of the would-be home owners in this country were to vote for the Labor Party at the next election. Their chances of owning a home are almost zero whilst the Labor Party remains in office. The would-be home owners should not let anyone try to kid them that the Government could not have kept down interest rates a little if it had wanted to do so. I think that the young people who voted for the Labor Party in 1 972 have been gypped a bit by the Government. They have been short-changed in this area as well as in others. I anticipate that the Liberal and National Country Parties will make housing for people of all ages an absolute priority when they come back into government.
There is one other area in which our young people have been very badly affected by the Government’s policies; that is in the field of employment. About one-third of those who are unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 25 years. To many of the people who are attempting to enter the work force their first contact with the working community is one that sees their rejection. This is not good for the individual, it is not good for his future, it is not good for his confidence or ambitions and it is certainly not good for the country.
The unemployment situation in Tasmania is not confined to the young. The Government has brought unemployment within the reach of just about everyone in Tasmania. The unemployment situation is not improving; in fact, it is getting considerably worse. I would like to detail a few of the areas throughout my State in which Tasmanians are in trouble. Let us go firstly to Launceston. We all know about the situation in Launceston because we heard such a lot about it during the Bass by-election. That area was badly affected by the Labor Government’s tariff policies. Upwards of 2000 people are presently out of work in that area, taking into account those engaged under the Regional Employment Development scheme. The situation in the electorate of Bass is a very serious one. That matter was dealt with very well by Kevin Newman in his excellent maiden speech in the House of Representatives yesterday. The farming industry of Tasmania is just about destitute. Incomes are down considerably on what they were last year. Expenses are up and the Government’s contribution is down. I think that farming, like housing, is an area that the Government and the unions would like to take over completely. They feel that the State should own all the farms. So I do not think that we will see much Government help being provided to this most important aspect of our economy in Tasmania. The Government’s attitude towards farming has also resulted in the loss of jobs by those in Hobart who used to manufacture superphosphate. I feel that Senator Wriedt ‘s own State has been let down badly by the Government of which he is a member. I have already said that rural aid has been slashed by the Government.
Moving to the north-west of Tasmania we see not only despondent farmers but also the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd continuing to put off staff. The increase in shipping costs will cost APPM more than $lm in the coming year. APPM will have Sim less to pay in wages in the Burnie area. Therefore there must be more unemployment in the Burnie area because of the increase by the Australian National Line in shipping charges. That, coupled with the decrease in the demand for paper that will come about because of the increase in postal rates- fewer people will write letters, fewer people will send advertising material and fewer people will need to use envelopes- will make the future of APPM very shaky indeed.
Last year the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd, which is in the Braddon electorate, lost some $8m just on operating a mine. I believe that the trend will continue this year and that the stage must eventually come about when that company must decide whether it can afford to lose money continually. If continual demands by unions for increased wages or something else are allowed to affect that industry, amongst others in Tasmania, I can foresee the time when that company, which is so vital to the west coast of Tasmania, will be closed down or at least put on maintenance. If wages are allowed to inflate, the mine could well be priced out of world markets and all Tasmanians would lose if it had to close. The same situation applies with respect to the Electrolytic Zinc Co. in Hobart. If wages go up there we could be in even more trouble than we are in at present. Much of the unemployment at the zinc works is due to Government policies. Do not make any errors about that. I admit that there has been a slight fall-off in overseas demand for zinc. If we get housing going again and if we reintroduce the superphosphate bountywhich I have already mentioned- we will see more people employed immediately in the Hobart area. Yet just a few days ago we heard the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) going crook in a style I do not usually associate with him about Mr Fraser ‘s plan to reintroduce the superphosphate subsidy. Perhaps he does not realise that if the subsidy comes back in, many people in Tasmania will be able to return to work. I would suspect also that the yield from a lot of the farming businesses around the country will eventually increase again and the Government will get its money back in that way.
Other companies are in trouble in Hobart. In today’s Mercury I saw that H. Jones and Co. Pty Ltd put some people off yesterday. Another company that I feel is in a lot of trouble and could leave Tasmania- due mainly to the shipping freights- is a very big employer in southern Tasmania. I refer to Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd. I suppose that two-thirds of its packing materials, dried fruits and raw materials are imported into Tasmania. It will have to lift prices on a wide range of its products if it is going to remain viable. These goods have already been the subject of many increases during the past few years. We know that some of Cadbury ‘s business has already been transferred to the mainland. I expect that he Australian National Line freight rate increases will speed up this policy. Perhaps within a fairly short time we will see the company go to the mainland. I plead with the Government to re-examine the freight situation to and from Tasmania before we lose some of the very big employers, and lose them forever.
I should like to go over some of the points I have raised. In the electorate of Bass we have a lot of trouble with the woollen mills. A lot of them are closing down and a lot are in dire straits. In Wilmot the farming industry is about ruined. In Denison problems are associated with the zinc company. Some of the people who work at Cadbury’s, of course, live in Denison. Franklin has the highest unemployment rate in Tasmania. In Braddon there are farms, Australian Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd is just about mucked up, and the Mount Lyell company could close.
Unemployment in Tasmania has reached alarming levels. Immediate government help is needed to turn the tide in that State. For instance, unemployment in July reached more than 6000 and that included nearly 500 people who have been out of work since they left school last year. That figure of more than 6000 does not include the people who went back to school, or the 2100 people who were employed by the Regional Employment and Development scheme during that month. If all those figures were added together we would have more than 8300 people out of work in Tasmania during July which is more than twice the number of the previous year. Honourable senators can see that we already have a disastrous unemployment level which is causing a great number of people to leave the State. Bob Hawke has predicted, amongst other things, that unemployment will continue to rise. If it does, we will have the worst unemployment rate since the depression. I feel that Tasmania will be heading the unemployment percentages.
I believe that the Labor experiment has failed. I think it has failed because the Labor Party, purposely in my opinion, allowed public spending at a reckless rate knowing very well that inflation would follow and realising that inflation would suit the Government’s ends because it would allow galloping socialisation via taxation. This was very well put by Sir Arthur Rymill in South Australia in 1974. Rather than read his speech, I commend it to honourable senators to read. Unless we see a change of direction with emphasis on giving incentive to the individual in the private sector, unless we see a limit on the top tax rate in this country to 50 per cent- which I have advocated for many years to encourage those with enterprise to create businesses and jobsand unless we encourage small companies, we are a country that is heading for disaster. We will become a brotherhood of misery. A lot of the trouble will be the result of 2 things: First of all is government spending. Secondly, the Government has done very little to control the union demands that we have seen during the last couple of years.
During the last couple of years we have seen some unions that occupy key positions in our community using their power to raise their incomes, regardless of the needs of the rest of the Australian people. The unions have put the squeeze on the whole community, irrespective of what the community can afford. Some sectors of the population have had to pay for those demands of the unions. It almost seems as though the unions are in control of this country or, at least, in control of the economy. There are many large sectors of the community that cannot be organised. They are the ones which suffer the effects of rapid inflation which is partly attributable, as I have said, to the huge demands by the unions during the past years. Those people who are very poor, very young, sick or helpless or physically or mentally handicapped, are the prime casualties of rapid inflation. They cannot organise themselves like the metal workers or miners that we saw outside this Parliament earlier today. They are powerless. Many of them dread opening the newspaper because they know that the wage rises that they see reported will lead inevitably to rises in the cost of essentialsfood, electricity and transport.
The poor have to pay for the excess union demands. It seems that almost literally they have directly to contribute to the higher pay packages of the unionists. Just as the under-privileged suffer from wage inflation, so they suffer from the strikes. The economy has felt the effect of a great deal of bullying strikes during the period of this Labor reign. In my State of Tasmania we have seen a strike by the metal workers which has lasted some 10 weeks. This has been a crazy strike. It is an example of how one section of the community is able figuratively to bash the rest of the public in the face. It is an example also of the way this country is following Britain on the way to economic ruin. It is time that the Government showed the way it wants the unions to act, or is this the way? Does it want the country ruined?
I believe that the only time we will see a start on the long haul back to full employment in Australia and control of inflation is when there is a change of government. From my point of view Tasmania can no longer afford the Labor experiment. All over the State the question I am asked time and time again is: ‘When are you going to kick them out?’. The people of Tasmania want a chance, as soon as possible, to tell the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, what they think of what he and his Government have done to this country. I predict at the next election a rejection of Mr Whitlam and his Party of a magnitude never before seen in this country. Following that election, it is my belief that action will be taken to revive production and investment, to control government spending and to reduce personal taxation in order to get Australia on the road again. I support the amendment moved by Senator Withers.
-The Senate is debating the 1975-76 Budget. In July, August and September of each year we are treated to a public discussion, of sorts, in the 2 Houses of Parliament. Members of Parliament engage in their annual gabfest as they put forward their theories of how this country’s economy should operate. Paper economists- the lightweights within our communityhave endeavoured to suggest, and have found some favour in the Opposition parties, that the Budget itself is a panacea so far as economic management is concerned. They have tried to create the impression that the Budget is the economic instrument which will determine economic activity within a given country. But we all know, or should know, that it is only one of the methods by which influences can be exerted within the economy. It is wrong to suggest that the Budget can have any great effect on the way in which the economy operates. Nevertheless, the Budget has certain objectives. Its strategy is determined by the Government. Whichever government is in power, it seeks to exert some influence upon the economic affairs of the country.
I think we can describe this Budget as a balanced Budget, a holding Budget, even a conservative Budget or a defensive Budget, because it seeks to maintain the gains which have been made in the years from 1972 to 1975 and which will improve materially the way of life of the people of Australia, if they have not already done so. (Quorum formed). This is a compromise Budget. I think it could be best described as a wheeler-dealer Budget. Sir Frederick Wheeler obviously played some part in developing the strategy of this Budget. In dealing with the goodies of this country the Budget continues the policies followed since December 1972. Therefore, it ought to be supported by the Parliament and by the Australian people. The Budget has certain objectives aimed at continuing the social program of the Labor Government. Of course, the most significant one is the Medibank proposals that are incorporated in the costing of the Budget. The Budget continues the policy that was a feature of the 1972 and 1974 elections, namely the transfer of funds and resources to the public sector. As suggested in the Budget Papers, the Government accepts its responsibilities in terms of the transference of funds from the public sector to the private sector because it is in that area that the great deficiencies have occurred in postwar years.
This Government is concerned about where we live and how we live. A number of the major programs which now have been established will make services which are essential to urban living more accessible to people in our cities and towns. This will create better urban surroundings. It is in this area that a great amount of additional finance is being made available. In short, the Government is pursuing its urban and regional development objectives through a blending of new initiatives with a conscious effort to do the customary things, the things which were a characteristic of the previous Government, so much better. There is no doubt that with the effluxion of time a great deal of improvement will result in the urban infrastructure. It must never be forgotten by those who support the amendment before the Senate that the private sector, which makes its own decisions in economic management and develops its own strategy and its own activity, is itself responsible for its downturn of activity. It is not the responsibility of this Government, as I hope I will be able to prove in the second portion of my contribution to this debate.
Every country, particularly those in the Western world, is experiencing the son of economic downturn that is a characteristic of this country. Every country has large Budget deficits, unemployment, inflation, a drop in business confidence and a drop in productivity. Yet to listen to Opposition speakers one would think that in this universe Australia is something of an exception; that it is something different; and that these things do not happen anywhere else. What has been said by Opposition speakers indicates their negative attitude not only to the Budget but also to economic planning in this country. For example, recently the members of the economic thinktank of the Liberal Party met, but after several days of discussions they broke up without developing any alternative strategy or policies.
Of course, we are told that the whole of the problem facing this country arises because of the policies pursued by this Government since it came to office in 1972. We are told, for example, in the amendment we are asked to support, that the Budget will fail because it does not restrain government spending. I find it very difficult to understand the logic in the point of view of the Opposition. In 1972-73, the period covered by the last Budget developed by the Opposition Parties after having had 23 years of uninterrupted control of the Parliament- it is interesting to note that they were able to enjoy a substantial majority in the Senate in that period of time and did not suffer the obstructionism which has been a feature of the Whitiam Government’s term from 1972 to 1975-$2,500m was allowed for payments to the States. That was something like 26 per cent of the Australian Government’s expenditure. It is noteworthy that in this Budget payments to the States have risen and now represent 3 1 per cent of Budget expenditure. In money terms what is proposed in this Budget represents an increase of 170 per cent on the moneys allocated in the 1972-73 Budget.
We are led by Opposition spokesmen to believe that all we have to do is to cut back government spending and the economy will be back into high speed gear. I find this difficult to understand after reading what the Liberal or Country Party Premiers said when asking for more money during the period in which the Budget was being prepared. Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, said that if the States did not get the money unemployment would worsen and the economy would fall to pieces. He said that unless Queensland got what it was seeking the Queensland Government would have to lay off thousands of employees. Mr Hamer said that unemployment would increase if the States were not given the funds they needed. Mr Lewis expressed similar sentiments. When the Liberal Premiers met on their own they were reported as having told the Federal Government that they would be able to create work for an extra 10 000 people if they were given an extra $240m.
We are told that if the Australian Government spends public funds it will worsen the economic position; yet the State Premiers took the view that unless they got those funds there would be a downturn in the economy. I find it contradictory and hypocritical that members of the Opposition parties should place so much stress on public spending in their contributions to the Budget debate in this place and in the other place. This is particularly so when it is realised that government expenditure generally by the 3 arms of government in Australia represents only onequarter of the total expenditure. So that for every government dollar spent at least 3 nongovernment dollars are spent. Therefore it is strange reasoning on behalf of Opposition senators to suggest that within that one-quarter of total expenditure the answer to the problems of the economy can be found, particularly when a comparison of the figures show that of that onequarter of total expenditure only half is Commonwealth Government spending; the other half is expended by the State, semi-government and local government authorities. So I find it difficult to understand the reasoning of the Opposition.
Of course, one does not have to do more than challenge Opposition senators to nominate the areas in which they claim that Australian Government spending should be cut back. Should it be cut back in the national welfare field? Are they prepared to nominate which sections of our welfare programs should be cut back. Are we to cut back our community health program for which a great amount of money has been made available? Are we to cut back expenditure on the Australian Government rehabilitation service, for which the funds allocated have risen by some 60 per cent? Are we to cut back expenditure under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act or for assistance for the aged, in relation to which the comparative figures for 1972 to 1975-76 are $27m under a Liberal Government and $87m under a Labor Government? Or are we to cut back the $74m which we have allocated to services for children, and particularly for child care centres, voluntary day centres and the like. Of course, I could go through all of the social welfare programs of this Government and the same picture would unfold.
Are Opposition senators suggesting that pensions paid to ex-servicemen and women, which have risen in the comparative 3 year period by some 54 per cent, or the war widows pension, which has risen by some 80 per cent, or the single rate age and invalid pension, which has risen by 93 per cent, or the married couples pension, which has risen by 87 per cent? All of these increases took place in a period when the consumer price index rose by only 44.7 per cent. Yet what is Mr Fraser ‘s attitude? In a speech which he made on the Budget on 28 August 1973, which is 2 years ago, he said:
The Budget is seen as an instrument of social and political reform. This particular Budget effects a substantial transfer of payment from the productive sector of the Australian economy to welfare. Many people will welcome the efforts to relieve real hardships. The extent of the Government’s efforts in this area can be measured by the fact that $ 1 ,396m of the $ 1,938m additional expenditure, or 72 per cent, goes to the welfare area- social security and educational expenditure.
If we examine all of the areas of public housing, urban affairs, public transport, culture and recreation, industries assistance and so on, we will find that the Australian Government has been associated with the most dramatic increases in public funding ever in the history of Australia. Of course, Mr Fraser is notorious for his failure to be consistent in his attitude. In a speech which he made on 9 April 1972 to a Liberal Speakers’ Group Conference in the Melbourne Town House he had this to say:
There have been times in quite recent years when the Commonwealth Government has come under quite extreme pressure for greater social service payments. I often wonder how much of that pressure would have existed if people had realised that welfare payments in total had increased by more than $700m over the last 5 years. It is now at a record $2,000m.
The Budget reveals that it is now up to $4,700m. I wish to quote the words of Mr Fraser, who is the main Opposition spokesman in the Parliament, in his reply to the Budget Speech because I do not think the contribution made by his counterpart in this place had any particular relevance to the debate at all. What did Mr Fraser say in his speech which he delivered on 26 August 1 975 in the other place? He said:
The principal source of this crisis has been the immense growth in Government spending since 1972. Government spending has risen by $9,405m in 2 years- an 80 per cent increase.
He went on to refer to the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Treasury officials in giving reasons why this Government should be condemned for its budgetary program this year. He also said that this Government was influenced a great deal by the Treasury advisers in drawing up this Budget. It does not meet all of my wishes but nevertheless it represents a consensus view within the Australian Government. I know the extent to which the Treasury officials influenced the compilation of this Budget. I remember what both Mr Snedden and Mr McMahon had to say about the Treasury officials when they brought in their Budgets in the years 1971 and 1972. I think perhaps it could be described as bum advice because in those days those Treasurers blamed the Treasury advisers for the loss of public support which resulted from the Budget in that period.
Mr Fraser went on to say that Government spending has been funded by higher and higher taxes. He ignores the fact that in the whole of the 23 years in which the Liberal and Country parties were running this country the basic tax structure scales remained the same. This is the first time, in the third year of a government which was sent to the people only half-way through its term of office by the Senate, that we have been able to bring in a much more equitable tax scale. Mr Fraser went on to say:
The interests of Australia would not be served if the Opposition simply took a negative and destructive approach to whatever Budget the Government presented.
He could have fooled me, having heard what honourable senators opposite have had to say in this place, because they have taken a destructive and negative attitude towards this Budget. They have not faced up to their responsibilities and they have not endeavoured to understand the strategy that is before the Australian Government and before the Australian people. Mr Fraser went on to say:
There is no choice between inflation and unemployment.
We deny that. We want to cure inflation and we want to eliminate unemployment, and the Government is going about doing just that. Mr Fraser also said that government restraint, tax relief and business incentives are required. It is interesting to note that when the Opposition talks about cutting back expenditure it refuses to nominate the areas; it says that it is not its responsibility as an Opposition to nominate the areas in which cutbacks in public spending should take place. Mr Fraser said that he would reintroduce a 40 per cent investment allowance. He said that specific incentives are clearly demanded for the primary industry sector, that the superphosphate bounty should be reintroduced, and that beef producers should be eligible for welfare payments. But the Leader of the Opposition parties cannot even bring forward a coherent economic policy. Why is that so? It is because of his basic philosophical position. An article published in the National Times earlier this year about the new leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Fraser, said that he was not an exserviceman but of all the leaders he is the richest. The article goes on to say:
Nonetheless, his philosophy is that post-war Australians are too comfortable, too affluent, and that without stern leadership they may be unable to meet the challenge of an increasingly hostile world.
Further on the article states:
He told his Deakin lecture audience that ‘we need a rugged society, but our new generations have seen only affluence.
If a man has not known adversity, if in his lifetime his country has not been subject to attack it is harder for him to understand that there are some things for which we must always struggle!
That Malcolm Fraser who has known neither poverty, nor war or even the mundane nuisance of city living, and whose only adversities have been of thwarted ambition, could make these remarks says something for his facility with pure reasoning.
The article continues:
As he remarked to a Liberal conference, ‘If we are to live in an age where people come to expect rights without obligations, without duty, then we live in an age in which greatness will be denied our country’.
Yet time and time again Opposition senators and members of the other House of Parliament enjoin the Government to make funds available in ever greater quantities to improve the quality of life of our people. That is all I will have time to say about the public sector.
I want now to direct my attention to the private sector because the Opposition, the newspaper nabobs and other people throughout Australia are criticising this Government by suggesting that it is the fault of this Government that there is a downturn in the private sector. In 1962 Sir Robert Menzies caused to be elected a committee, which comprised a number of the most eminent men in industry, commerce and public service in this country, and which was subsequently known as the Vernon Committee. That Committee presented reports to the Parliament in 1965. The Committee showed that the downturn began in the 1950s and continued in the 1960s and the 1970s although the report at that stage dealt only with the 1950s and the 1960s. For example, it showed that the accumulated gross fixed capital expenditure of the rural sector fell from $ 18.4m in 1953-54 to $ 15.3m in 1959-60. In the mining industry it fell from $2.2m to $ 1 .9m. In manufacturing industry it fell from $48.5m to $45.3m
It is interesting to read something of what has been said by those associated with the Australian Industries Development Association which is the big business association in this country. It is made up of the 30 largest manufacturing groups in our country- the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, ICI Australia Ltd, Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd and others. The Australian Industries Development Association produced a document in December 1974 which confirmed what Sir John Vernon’s Committee said in the 1960s, which was that in terms of constant value there had been a substantial decline in fixed capital investment in manufacturing industry and that the downturn began in the 1950s and continued in the 1960s. For example, in 1966-67 the figure was $830. lm. It rose in 1970-71 to $943.2m. Then it began to fall again to the point at which in the last year of the Liberal-Country Party Government it was $770.8m, and it climbed in the first year of the Labor Government to $805.8m.
It is interesting to read what the Jackson Committee has to say. That Committee has been appointed by this Government to concern itself with the private sector. The Menzies Administration failed to act on the report from Sir John Vernon which had as its aim productivity and economic growth, full employment and capital investment. It received the report and did absolutely nothing about it. It is to the credit of this Government that the Jackson Committee was appointed this year to examine the problems associated with manufacturing industry and the private sector generally. Honourable senators ought to know that Mr Jackson is a very important man in our economic life. He is the Chairman of Directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd and is a director of companies associated with mining in the Northern Territory. He said:
Companies in manufacturing are mostly reporting sliding profits and high stocks. . . . While the trend for profits from manufacturing to fall has been accelerating lately, it is not new. It has been going on slowly since about 1964. Ten years ago, net profit of listed manufacturing companies averaged 10 per cent on shareholders’ funds. By 1973 it had fallen to about 9Yi . . . the problems are more deepseated and will not go away when business picks up. indeed some of them may then get worse . . . real profits from manufacturing did not increase from 1 968 to 1 973.
So in the period in which Opposition senators had the responsibility of economic management in this country the decline in the private sector was already apparent. Mr Jackson continued:
Investment in real terms has stagnated since 1964. … It is obvious enough that at present exchange rates many of our industries are not internationally competitive. In general, Australian tariffs are high; but not high enough to shelter some important industries from serious trouble.
He then points out that State departments of industrial development, universities and Australian academics generally have neglected manufacturing industry in their understanding of the trends that are taking place within our country. He points out that manufacturing is a very important segment of our private sector economy and that it employs more than one-quarter of all our people.
It is interesting to look at the figures. In 1969 as many as 28 per cent of our work force was employed in manufacturing industry; in 1973, according to Mr Jackson, that had declined to one-quarter of our people. He goes on to point out that there are a whole number of problems associated with the private sector. He said:
The human situation in Australian factories is not well enough understood . . . Notwithstanding unemployment -
He is talking of the current period- many manufacturing industries report high labour turnover and absenteeism. Behind the figures is alienation in the work force and frustration in management.
He points out the need for the private sector to take up its own challenge and to become associated with the changing attitudes of the consumers and the changing attitude of the economy, technology and so on. I should like to refer honourable senators to what Mr Rod Carnegie said in an article headed ‘Wake up, private enterprise’ which was published in the Australian on 22 August 1975. He is the chairman of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. He points out that those associated with the private sector must realise that there are a lot of stake-holders involved, not just the shareholders, and that there is a crisis in capital accumulation. He suggests that some of the problems associated involve those manipulative features, the stock exchanges throughout Australia. He points out, as Mr Jackson did, that in the industrial scene there are all sorts of apathy, alienation, frustration, unrest, absenteeism, high turnover and so on.
I wish now to refer to one of a great number of world economists who are concerned with the current problems in the Western world. A French economist, Jacques Attali, writing in Le Monde in January of this year forecasts that European inflation would rise in excess of 10 per cent this year. He said that higher unemployment, a low growth rate, economic inequalities exaggerated by inflation and extremely rapid industrial concentration would be a feature of Europe. He considers that at the root of the current crisis are 2 basic mechanisms, the reduced economic efficiency of capital and the reduced social efficiency of growth. He cited studies which report that the real productivity of capital has halved over the last decade and thus more and more capital is needed to create the same unit of value added. The reasons for this, he believes, are inadequate social and industrial structures, the limited scope of some kinds of technological progress, execessive specialisation of labour with resulting inequalities and the giant corporations. I urge the Senate to consider the problems facing the private sector and not just to believe that in this Budget all the answers to our economic problems can be found.
– I do not think anyone on this side of the chamber would disagree with Senator Gietzelt when he said that not all the answers facing the private sector will be found in this Budget. None of us would declare for a minute that that was the case and for different reasons no doubt we would come to the same conclusion. However, I believe that the Budget passes one test- that is, the political test. There has been enough apparent change in the Budget under the guidance of the new Treasurer, Mr Hayden, for him and the Government to claim credit politically for any fortuitous circumstances that may arise during the 12 months, if the Government lives that long, that this Budget will live. It is apparent that the rather favourable public reception through the media of Australia of the change in personal income tax scales and the means by which they are arrived at, and the supression of” departmental requests for expenditure to a level which will keep the deficit in monetary terms to that of the last financial year has meant that the Budget has passed some sort of political test. I do not believe, though, that it has passed anything of the nature of a practical test. It is not good enough for the Treasurer to state that he has made dramatic cuts in government expenditure simply by confronting departmental advisers and departmental heads and saying to them: ‘We will cut your expenditure from what you want to spend which would give us a deficit of $5,000m so as to produce a deficit of just over $2,500m’. I think everyone realises upon quiet reflection that every department and every government anywhere in the world will ask for more money on the Estimates than they think they will get. It is simply no answer for the Treasurer to use that argument which every Treasurer every year must take in confronting the over-anxious departments in relation to their intended expenditure.
A great deal has been made, I believe, of the essential point in the Budget documents. It appears in the attachments to the Budget Speech at page 106 of the House of Representatives Hansard, where it simply says:
Underlying this estimate are assumptions that average weekly earnings per employed male unit will increase by 22 percent . . .
That is a short part of the great volume of the Budget documents, yet it details the concern of the Government and the problems which have beset the people in the community both as private individuals and as operators in the private business sector of the commercial and industrial community. If the Government is accepting an increase in average earnings of 22 per cent it must obviously admit, as it does- I must give credit to the Treasurer for that- that it expects Australia to continue through a year of what cannot be termed anything but disastrous inflation. It hopes to moderate it, I think as a speaker has said today, by a few significant points. I think words to that effect were used by Senator James McClelland who spoke this morning. It is a dark and gloomy outlook to face yet another year of inflation just reduced and only just reduced below the rate which existed last year. Therefore we are continuing on knowingly and budgeting for a rate of inflation which no country with our type of government has proven it can accept and still maintain its democratic base. Indeed, in Britain today is a continuing manifestation in the political turmoil, in the administrative turmoil and in the social turmoil of that country of the effects of inflation which is probably 30 per cent or 40 per cent higher than we have in Australia. If ever there is an example of how we cannot afford to accept this position it lies in the United Kingdom. It is not sufficient for honourable senators opposite to say that this is therefore a problem which exists around the world. A study of the figures relating to comparable countries will show that Australia is among the highest on the list of inflation rates. We have at the same time many favourable factors existing in this country’s economic base which do not exist in countries in other parts of the world with comparable or higher rates of inflation. We ought not to have the high rate of inflation that we have, given the advantages that we have in comparison with those countries.
It has been interesting to read in passing in the first week or so following the presentation of the Budget the general comments which have been made. One perhaps which would have struck home fairly hard to the Labor Party was the comment by Professor Wheelwright which was well featured. It seems that Professor Wheelwright stood behind the public remarks of Dr Cairns who, of course, advocated a Budget of quite another nature without the more responsible attitude- and one must use that term- that Mr Hayden has displayed. Professor Wheelwright believes that this Budget will bring disaster to the community. We hope that he is wrong, but he does point up from a left wing point of view, I think it is fair to say, concern within the Labor Party’s own ranks at the effects of this Budget. In the United Kingdom, as I have said, there are further manifestations of the problem of union demands which have been quite impossible to resist whether the government in Westminster has been a Tory government or a Labour government. All of this has given us a warning somewhat ahead of time that we ought to accept.
In this regard I must say that I stand in some admiration of the forthright attitude Senator James McClelland has taken in this House to the problems which now confront him. They are obviously problems which he has freely accepted; otherwise he would not have accepted a ministerial position. I think it is all the more commendable that he has accepted what may be the most onerous of all positions in the Government, and that is to face squarely the main issues which he freely admits and very adroitly and properly catalogued in his speech this morning. He faces the issues which are.basic to our rate of inflation. I believe his attitude demands and has earned the support of all honourable senators. I am not saying that I support his Government or that I support the wider manifestations of his Party’s policies or the wider manifestations of his own political policies, but in the job that he has been selected to do and in the forthright manner in which he has gone about it I believe he has certainly earned the support of this House. I am pleased to state that publicly whatever the political consequences could be.
I think that we are witnessing quite significant political change within the Labor Party. It is easy to oversimplify what must be very complex moves within a major party such as the Labor Party, but to an outside observer it would seem that the Labor Party was led, if one may use that term, by the policies which would be epitomised by Dr Cairns and Mr Clyde Cameron right up until the early part of this year. They were policies which I think were evident on a very small scale in South Australia which is but a small part of the Commonwealth. A Labor government came to office in the State in 1 965, where a Labor government had not seen office for 32 years. It ignored the consequences of spending freely without regard to where the funds were to come from. The consequences of that were severe by our local scale. I think we have seen on a much wider basis and in a deeper sense that same reckless adventure federally through the policies, as I have said, which have been so visibly represented by Dr Cairns and Mr Clyde Cameron. It surely must be typical in the existence of the Labor Party in office that now 2 gentlemen have so prominently adopted a corrective attitude within the limits of their political area of operation- gentlemen such as Mr Hayden and Senator James McClelland. It surely is a very great convulsion in a party to have a consensus accept that change of attitude and action as Labor has done. It will be interesting to watch in the future months whether that consensus stands behind the obviously blunt and determined attitude wich has been adopted on the industrial front by Senator James McClelland.
At the same time, while these gentlemen face this most difficult task, there has been a far less desirable move by people within the Labor Party but outside the Federal parliamentary scene who, acting like political jackals, have been manoeuvring for top Federal parliamentary positions. I refer to Mr Hawke and Mr Dunstan. I think that it does them little good and says little for their attitude to the real issues facing this community that they should discuss so provocatively and publicly the Federal leadership of their own Party without contributing one iota to the stability of the Federal Government. It is interesting to note that whenever a crisis occurs in the Federal Labor Party Governmentwhether it be the loans affair, the Bass byelection or any of the other innumerable consecutive and continuing items- Mr Hawke is overseas or is not available; he is never in the thick of the fight.
It was interesting also to watch Mr Dunstan, the South Australian Premier, advocating on television last night that Mr Hawke be the Prime Minister. One wonders whether he is using Mr Hawke as a stalking horse for his own case. It was not an unnoticed or unplanned episode that national television should be so dealt that piece of effrontery last night by 2 gentlemen who take none of the brunt, who will run always from the hard and most difficult fight in which their Party is involved and yet who manoeuvre for the top position their Party can offer any of its parliamentarians. I see, therefore, 3 segments of the Party. There are the discredited who have gone from the Cabinet or were relegated to very insignificant parts of it in the Dr Cairns and Mr Cameron episodes; there is the hard fight being conducted now by Senator James McClelland and Mr Hayden; and there are those 2 people who, without credit to themselves, are manoeuvring outside the field for the spoils of office, without facing any of the responsibility that their colleagues here have to face.
There is a complete consensus in the Senate concerning the need to rehabilitate the private sector. Theoretically, of course, there ought to be some sort of pragmatic link between the fortunes of industry and commerce and the fortunes of Labor in Federal Government. The Labor Party seems to be allied very directly, at least in its propaganda, to the theme of consumerism, to upgrading the spending capacity of those whom it pretends at times to represent. In theory, that ought to widen the market for industrial goods and the attention needed by the commercial community to the servicing and selling of those goods. However, that is simply theoretical and does not exist in practice. We have seen this Government destroy confidence through move after move in the Federal scene. This has left private industry bereft of leadership in the initial instances and then bereft of the support systems it needs to flourish, to grow and now even to exist.
There have been too many reports in recent weeks about the failure of smaller businesses. Some statisticians calculate that smaller businesses in this community employ something like 1.2 million members of our work force. If there is a continuing rundown in the number of small businesses there will be a very grievous loss to employment in this community; but worse than that in the longer term will be the loss of the dynamic growth of industry in general because the innovations that the smaller businesses bring to industry are so much a matter of support for large industries. How often in recent times have we read of industrial processes being taken over by larger organisations and developed at a cost of many millions of dollars, industrial processes which have been developed at times by one individual. That is the essence of the small business. It is not just to take a share of so much commercial or industrial activity; it is to be part of the inner sense of the growth itself. We will suffer a grievous loss if by the manipulation of our tax structures we cannot take some different attitude to small business to make sure that it is encouraged and not lost to the industrial and commercial community.
There are many other reasons why this Government has lost the confidence of industry. Issues which stand to one side of industry itselfissues such as the loans affair, which has been discussed so well in this Parliament- have not given any cause for confidence in the administrative capacity of this Government. The last time the loans affairs was discussed in this chamber a private witness attended. After that witness had left and when we were not in possession of any further facts concerning the loans affair, one thing stood out from the very fact that we did not have any further information. It was that this Government had set out, through its senior Ministers, to raise the unheard of figure of $4 billion through one of its intermediaries who, on his own admission, was an important part of the contact system, and he did not know what the Loan Council was about, he did not know the price of emission of the loan, he did not know how much the commission would be and he did not know who would pay it. It was not, therefore, an advantage to the Senate to get any information from that witness, but it .certainly was an advantage to know that he did not possess any information. The raising of $4 billion from a person who knows nothing of the private or public aspects of finance is one of the most preposterous propositions that any person could make, and that sort of activity has not helped to impress the business community.
As I said earlier, it is agreed that we need a better productive base in Australia to provide the living standard which we have all set for ourselves. No one in this chamber disagrees with that. It is simply a matter of how we are to go about it. It is agreed that we must reduce the rate of inflation. We must reduce it until it pays to save, to accumulate and to invest in the types of industries which are basic to our continuing high standard of living. Today, when the rate of inflation far exceeds anything like a normal rate of interest, it does not pay to save. Many people in this community are aware of what is called ‘inflation psychology’. One of my friends, who happens to be a successful businessman, said to me the other day: ‘I notice so much this year the difference in the attitude of the customer. Last year the wholesalers used to say that they would take another 1000 units if I would reduce the price by 5c a unit. That was a normal business attitude. I would haggle and we would come to an arrangement. This year they do not even ask the price for the same items. They simply ring up and ask me to send them 1000 units or 5000 units. Far from haggling on the final unit price, they do not even ask what it is’.
All of us have had the experience from time to time of seeing friends or acquaintances taking action to counter the rate of inflation and the cruel raid it makes on their rate of savings. We see today people improving their homes or the contents of their homes, knowing that next year those improvements will cost 20 per cent more. We have seen how savings money terms have gone into some fixed asset. We have seen the flight from support of public companies and the funds that they need, and the scramble in which they have had to engage to get the funds to carry their inventory of stock. All of this is agreed and is not really in dispute.
We have come to this situation where the Government has admitted and quite freely stated that the cause currently of the continuing rate of inflation in this country lies basically at the root of unreasonable wage demands. So the Government has committed itself to wage indexation and the much harder task of making it work. That is a task which, in the opinion of so many people in the community and in industry today, grows harder almost by the hour. I know for instance as every senator would know of the many instances where wage indexation is being broken every day of the week in Australia. I was in contact with a company in Adelaide several weeks ago which, much to my dismay, eventually gave in under the demand of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union for a significant addition to the already existing over award payments. That company had something like $4m in one outstanding contract and to continue to resist the demand of the AMWU would of course not only have wrecked the profitability of that company perhaps for the rest of this financial year but would have lost to South Australia a contract of very great substance. What could that company do? What could the Government expect that company to do? Was the company to go broke? Was it to say to its shareholders: ‘You are a sacrifice for indexation; whereas we know some competitor of ours in Sydney or Melbourne or some other part of South Australia will not resist and we will be gone for no good reason whatsoever’. It added sting to that defeat to know that at least four of the senior employees of that company who were out on strike were receiving social service benefits for unemployment at the same time.
I do not blame the Minister for that and I commend him for his recent decision which has been the cause to him of some controversy today. But we know it happens. Politicians are not policemen. I know those people involved by name, but I will not state their names. We are not policemen and we must never involve ourselves in that role. But it is, as I say, very galling to know of these things and to know that a shop steward who is a principal in a strike is on unemployment relief during the strike that he has caused. This is not good enough in this society. Obviously a great deal more has to be done and, with the Minister’s present attitude, I do not expect him to be lax. He will probably do what has to be done. But it is not a task which is easy and it is not a pleasant prospect for a government to be asking industry to support indexation while another arm of that government inadvertently, and unwillingly of course, but still actively, is supporting through the arm of social service the very strike which is harmful to Government policies and which is striking at the very basis of the Government’s attempts to control inflation. I am sure that the Minister has that in mind.
There have been many headlines which have been given a great deal of attention in recent times. One of the most disturbing related to the oil industry shut-down threat which I think appeared in the Australian .newspaper, and reads: ‘Oil shutdown threat by union militants: Bid to wreck indexation gathers pace’. The article states:
Fuel supplies throughout Australia- and the Federal Government’s attempts to impose wage indexation- hang on a crucial meeting between ACTU officials and representatives of the oil companies.
So the report proceeds. My contacts in industry tell me that they are pessimistic about the survival of indexation, that they pessimistically believe that the, perhaps, drop in the tempo of wage demands at this moment is temporary and that the continuing rise in the price structure of the goods and services in this community will bring about yet another wave of demands in the next few months almost equal to that of last year. I hope that this is not the case. I put it to the Government however that it has to do more to make indexation work. It is a subject of some division in this community. The industrial community and the commercial community are divided as to whether they support indexation or not.
No one, I suggest, however has brought up a better alternative at this stage and that is the crux of whether it ought to be supported or not. What is the alternative? The alternative seems to be simply to say in this community that union demands will be led off in those crucial industries such as oil supply; they will set the standard for the rest of industry which does not quite have that throttle hold on the community. From there each time we will get the conflagration in wage demands which stand behind something like 16 per cent to 20 per cent in the rate of inflation. I suggest that the Government will have to look deliberately at something which perhaps would be more politically contentious than anything else it could handle, and that is to support financially companies which stand up for indexation. I could imagine the turmoil that that would cause in the Labor Party, or for that matter within any party. But I suggest that there again it may very well be a matter of alternatives. We look at Britain and the uncontrolled union demands which have been so ably written about by Mr Paul Johnson, who is continuing the articles he wrote in the New Statesman in I think further articles in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. He divides the ideology of the unions from that of a Labor government. He calls it syndicalism rather than socialism.
I suggest that the Government should set up a fund. It should have some sort of controlling authority to assess the intentions and the performance of a company involved in standing up to over award demands. It should support, by payment to a company which stands beside it on wage indexation, a high percentage of loss of profit that the company incurs in standing against unjustified wage demands.
– What sort of fund would that be?
– It would be a fund of some great consequence. I understand from my brief research into the matter that company profits in Australia, I think a couple of years ago- it is hard to get a final figure- are something of the order of $4,000m; that is, taxable profits. If you were however to divide that amount by the many, many times by which it would be divided, and consider the effectiveness that a government policy without penalty- of course penalties are not to be considered in this present situation; they will not work- you would find that by the establishment of a fund of this nature some few hundred million dollars in a year would certainly break the opposition to indexation which will come from what are, after all, only the militant unions of this community who are no longer supported by anything else than a small minority of Australians.
– Some employees are opposed to it.
– I would support action across the board.
– And finance the employer to fight the unions.
-That of course is the attitude which unfortunately would develop. I am assuring the Minister, Senator Cavanagh, that I do not expect such a decision to be promulgated by one Minister or one individual. There would have to be a proper body of assessment. Let me say to Senator Cavanagh that his Party has in these last recent months paid substantial sums of money to companies for various reasons. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd in Tasmania is an example of a company which freely has had a handout to support employment.
– Not to fight workers; to help them.
– Yes, of course and so is my contention to help them. The Minister, if he stands behind indexation, obviously must consider every measure to make it work. The alternatives are what is in effect the whole voice of the Senate and the concern that both sides of this Senate show for the Budget and the promise or lack of promise which it gives to this community. I again state that I appreciate Senator James McClelland ‘s determined attitude and wish him success in the hardest of all jobs that Australia could offer any politician. I hope that with his much greater resources, he will consider in much greater detail the suggestion about supporting financially those companies which lose profits through standing up for indexation and supporting the Government’s policy on it.
– I find it interesting that of recent days Mr Paul Johnson seems to have become something of the toast of the petty bourgeoisie. He has never been one of my favourite socialist writers. In fact, I think he is probably the shallowest person who ever occupied the editor’s chair at the New Statesman. I noticed that just recently he has been read- I presume read; he has at least been quoted- with great enthusiasm by Senator Hall and many people of the same political ideology as Senator Hall. Mr Johnson has been quoted because of the strictures which he has been casting at the British trade union movement. I think Senator Hall let slip a little part of the general purport of Mr Johnson’s remarks, but I think that Senator Hall and anybody else on the opposite side of the Senate who quotes Mr Johnson ought to understand what he is really saying. His criticisms of the British trade union movement are not from a capitalist point of view. He is critical of the British trade union movement because be believes that the syndicalist approach, as he describes it, of the British trade union movement has been a hindrance to the advancement of socialism in Great Britain. I would not think that either Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, whom I notice is attempting to intervene, or Senator Hall would agree with Mr Johnson that the brakes ought to be put on the British trade unions or on any other trade unions to advance the cause of socialism.
I am glad to see that the New Statesman is being read by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and Senator Hall, although I wish they had read it more avidly in their youth when Kingsley Martin was editor. They might have a somewhat more enlightened approach to some of the matters that come before the Parliament if they had. Senator Hall has quoted the New Statesman as an authority. He is a rather late convert. Nonetheless, as they say, I think, at the Beda College in Rome, some of the late converts, the mature converts, make some of the best priests. I think if Senator Hall, even as a late convert to the New Statesman, were to read it, he would find that the whole tenor of the remarks of people such as Johnson is that a socialist solution is necessary to the problems which at present face the British people and people throughout the whole of the capitalist world. This is the sort of matter which 1 think deserves at least some passing consideration while we are dealing with the Budget, because when we deal with the Budget we deal with the economy of this country, which is primarily a capitalist country, and we cannot look at this Budget without looking at the economies of the other capitalist countries. When we look at all of the capitalist countries, whether they are those which have a substantial measure of social control, such as West Germany, Austria and even Sweden, or whether they are those in which there is very little public control and public ownership we find that all of them are faced with either inflation or unemployment or both. Most of them are faced with both. I submit that this is a natural outcome of the present stage of development of the economic system under which we are living and are likely to be living at least for some considerable number of years to come.
We have heard from a number of visiting economists, particularly Professor Milton Friedman who, appropriately, was brought here by a firm of stockbrokers, that the solution to all our evils is some adjustment of the monetary system, that inflation can be cured by cutting down on the amount of money which is being printed by the Government. I am sorry to see Sir Magnus leaving because I am sure he would have found what I was about to tell him both entertaining and illuminating. Professor Friedman’s views are views which have been practised throughout the capitalist world for many years. His doctrines are not in any way basically dissimilar from the doctrines of Adam Smith. The doctrines of
Adam Smith which were applied, I think conscientiously, in both Britain and the United States in the 1 8th and 1 9th centuries led to great misery for the people of those countries and ultimately led to breakdowns in their economic systems.
A much more perceptive economist has been out here during the past few months. She was not brought here by a firm of stockbrokers. I refer to Professor Joan Robinson of Cambridge University. Her analysis was a much more perceptive analysis. The question that she asked, which is the question that I think all of us should be asking, was: ‘How can you expect a system to function efficiently and to operate in the best interests of the people living in the country in which it operates when that system is based purely on the chance of people seeking to sell at the highest price and buy at the lowest price?’ This is merely a question of luck, if it happens to work. As we find in most things, bad luck or just moderate sort of luck is much more prevalent than really good luck. That is the explanation for the booms, busts and depressions which are more common under the system in which we live than is any position of permanent prosperity.
These are matters which we must consider when we come to the Budget. The Budget initially, in countries such as Australia, was a fairly simple matter. It was something which was approved by Parliament to grant to the Executive Government the funds to carry on the elementary services which were provided by the King and his courtiers. This is no longer the case. The Budget in Australia, although it does not deal with the whole of the wealth of the country, involves the distribution and the application of wealth of a massive nature and affects every citizen. Areas of the economy cannot be touched by the Budget. We live in a federal system. The States are autonomous still, to a very large extent, from the Federal Parliament. They are able to do a number of things which are not affected by steps taken by the Federal Government in its Budget. Because of the huge volume of our economy which is in private hands- a large part of it in foreign hands- whatever is done in a Budget still goes only part of the way towards resolving any economic questions. As long as we have a private enterprise economy, the authority which can be exercised in any budget is limited. Nonetheless, the Budget is very important. It is very important because something like a quarter of the total expenditure of the country is controlled by the Commonwealth Parliament. For that reason the decisions taken in a budget have profound effects on every person who lives in this country. The present Budget has taken account of that fact. It is the third Budget which has been introduced since the election of an Australian Labor Party government in 1 972.
We were elected in 1972 with a mandate from the Australian people to bring about massive social changes. We have brought about massive social changes. We have made available to the people of Australia things which were not anywhere near within their grasp under any previous government. Twenty-three years had passed in which the living standards of the Australian people, when one looks at the per capita gross national product of this country, had slipped behind the living standards in comparable countries. When Jack London came to Australia during the term of office of the Fisher Labor Government before the First of War he wrote an essay on Australia in which he described Australia as the most advanced country in the world for workers. Even as late as the period after the Second World War vast numbers of immigrants came to this country from Britain, Western Europe and even northern Europe because the conditions of working people in this country were much better than the conditions which could be found in The Netherlands, Belgium, West Germany or, for that matter, Italy. They no longer come here. They stopped coming here during the period of 23 years government by the previous Government. One of the reasons they stopped coming here, one of the reasons it became almost impossible to obtain immigrants from Western Europe and one of the reasons the previous Government stretched the White Australia Policy to include Turks was because it could not get people to come here from countries such as Austria, West Germany and other parts of Western Europe. The living conditions to which those people were coming in Australia were not as good as the living conditions which they were leaving behind, although the per capita wealth of Australia was greater than the per capita wealth of the countries which they were leaving. One of the reasons was that the level of social services, the level of welfare and the level of education in this country had slipped miles behind those levels in comparable countries in other parts of the world.
The Australian Labor Party set out to redress that balance. We set out to redress the balance when we found the capitalist system to be in one of its endemic economic crises, when we found that throughout the world there was galloping inflation and unemployment which affected -
– It was sad.
-Yes, it was very sad. It is still not as sad as it was, I think in 1952, as Senator McAuliffe reminded us, when the rate of inflation under the previous Government was much higher than it is now under this Government, as was the rate of unemployment. It was very sad indeed. It was a very sad situation in which we found ourselves. Therefore we have needed to co-operate with organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to redress this balance.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting I had been trying to recall some of the circumstances in which the Australian Labor Party in government has found itself in the period of almost 3 years that we have been in office. We were elected to office at a time when there was a fairly high level of economic buoyancy throughout the world. We were elected to office after 23 years of conservative government in which this country had fallen well behind comparable countries in the fields of social welfare and education. Of course, these were not the only fields in which changes were needed. Dramatic changes were also needed in our foreign policy, which is not relevant to the Budget but which I think is indicative of the attitudes which had been pursued by our predecessors, which had led us into the disaster in Vietnam and which had caused this country to pursue the most asinine policies with regard to the recognition of China and other countries which play a major role in world affairs and without whose cooperation and without talking to whom it is impossible for Australia to play any constructive role in world peace.
– Now a major market for our wheat.
-As Senator Wriedt reminds me, China is now a major market for our wheat, something which is of direct bearing to the economic situation of this country. If it had not been for the actions of this Government in establishing relations with China, it is certainly beyond question that we would not have the highly satisfactory and profitable trade relations with China which have been built up through the good relations which this Government has been able to establish with China. Since it has been in office the Government has endeavoured to raise the standard of living of all the Australian people. In doing so we have freely acknowledged that a very high proportion of the total Budget of this country has been spent in the public sectorand not only in the public sector, but in the nonproductive, unprofitable parts of the public sector, those parts of the public sector which consist solely of payments out without anything coming in. We have set about trying to remedy that. We are a democratic socialist Party. We follow the same policies as do other member parties of the Socialist International, and we make no apology for the fact that we -
– What are those countries?
– I am glad that Senator Marriott asked me what those countries are. The countries which have governments provided by democratic socialist parties are Britain, West Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore and three of the Canadian Provinces. Those are some to go on with. There are members of the coalition in Switzerland and of the coalition in Italy. There are some others, but as I do not think Senator Marriott would be very familiar with them I will not bother him at the moment by mentioning them. We follow the same policies as do the governments in those countries. We believe that there should be an increase in the governmental role within the public sector. For that reason we intend to pursue our policy of establishing an Australian Government Insurance Corporation. We believe that one of the major contributions which was made by the Government which before this Government was the most progressive in the history of this country- the Fisher Labor Government of 1910 to 1913- was the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. That Government established certain great precedents which it has taken all these years for us to get into a position to follow. One of the great precedents which that Government established was the foundation of the Commonwealth Bank, something which no tory government, however moth-eaten, would be prepared in any way to mishandle.
We believe that the same would apply to the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Corporation. For that reason we look forward to an increasing, active, participatory role by the Australian Government through the Australian Government Insurance Corporation and through such bodies as the Australian Industry Development Corporation in the life of this country. But at the same time we acknowledge that there has been an unduly high rate of expenditure in the non-profitable areas of the public sector, that there has been a disproportionately high amount of the revenue of this country spent in fields which are essential but which at the same time are not such fields that one ought to be spending in them amounts of money which will lead in other respects to damage being caused to the economy. I refer to fields such as social welfare and education. We have to put the brake on. We have not cut back on the actual expenditure in those fields. We have had to cut back on the expectations of people. We have done that and it has been a very hard course which we have had to follow. I can assure honourable senators that if they had had the experiences that I have had during the last few weeks of going around and talking to people -
– And during the lunch hour.
-And during the lunch hour, yes, talking to people, and I will come to that later. I would like to see Mr Street or any of the other so-called spokesmen on labour matters from the Opposition being prepared to face the same sort of audience that Senator James McClelland and I faced this afternoon and say to that audience the same sort of things as we said. We have had to face people. I have had to face people and tell them that the expectations which they had will not be fulfilled because we have found it essential to cut back on spending in the public sector because expenditure in the public sector has been a major contributory factor in inflation, and we freely acknowledge this. We do not say that in the long term this cut-back in expenditure in the public sector will continue, but we do say that in the short term we intend to cut back on public spending.
It is no use members of the Opposition- I have heard them do this- being critical of cuts or alleged cuts in public spending and at the same time saying that what is wrong with Australia is that there is too high an amount of the gross national product of the country going into this same public sector about which they have complained during the last couple of years. Along with the problem of the growth of the public sector we have been faced with the fact that the increase in wages has been disproportionate to the rate of development of the economy and that the increase in wages and incomes which has taken place throughout Australia has added to inflation. We have taken what steps we can to ensure that there will be indexation of wages and that at least for the time being- we are not arguing that this will bring about perfect justice- wages will be tied to the consumer price index. We will have to appeal to our own supporters in the same way as the leader of our fraternal party in West Germany, Helmut
Schmidt, and before him, Willie Brandt, had to appeal to the West German workers to restrain their demands, to restrain their requests, which in any other situation could be regarded as per.fectly legitimate, in order that the whole economy does not collapse and that all of those things which we have built up after so many years of struggle will not be washed away.
I notice that Senator Webster seems to think that there is something to be laughed at in this, but I can well remember the opposition of Senator Webster, along with his colleagues in his Party, the name of which escapes me for the moment- it changes as frequently as the Party’s attitude to the appointment of senators to fill casual vacancies- and in the Liberal Party when this Government proposed that power should be given to the Parliament of the Commonwealth to legislate on prices and incomes. This was defeated because of the opposition of the Liberal and Country Parties. It is an almost impossible situation for any national government to be in, to have no power to legislate over prices and incomes. Despite the fact that this power was denied to us by the concerted action of endemic conservatism and the deliberate irresponsibility of the Liberal and Country Parties, we have still had to take steps which are very unpalatable to us indeed. My friend Mr Bert James, the honourable member for Hunter who represents coal miners, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) and I had a singularly disagreeable experience today in speaking to representatives of the Miners Federation and other mining unions- unions which have given a lot of loyalty to this Government and to this Partyand telling them that we cannot at this stage do anything but support indexation of wages and incomes. I had the disagreeable responsibility of telling them that those of them who are deemed to be on strike will not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits during the period that they are on strike. I can assure any Liberal senator that it may be easy for a Liberal to say that sort of thing to a group of workers and members of a trade union but it is not easy for any member of the Labor Party to say it. It is not very easy to go to the people -
– Why not?
– It is not very easy because the people who belong to the Miners Federation are amongst the people who put this Government into office and were prepared to stand up and be counted during the Vietnam war and many great struggles. When Senator Greenwood was conscripting young men to go off and be killed the Miners Federation was standing against those policies. I do not feel happy about having to go to the Miners Federation and say to it -
– You are apologising for your management.
– I am not apologising to anybody. I have seen the Miners Federation and I have told the Miners Federation that if its members are on strike they will not be receiving the unemployment benefit. I am saying that this is an example of the seriousness with which the Government approaches the whole question of inflation and that we have to face its problems by cutting back on expenditure in the public sector and, at least in the short run, by facing up to the question of excessive wage demands.
– What about the extra $7m for hearing aids and appliances?
-I do not think that the faculty which Senator Baume is lacking is hearing. What we have done is something which we find most unpalatable but something which is essential. At the same time that we have done it, nonetheless the percentage of the Budget of this country which is expended on social welfare has radically increased. During the time in which this Government has been in office it has established Medibank, which is something that is going to be as permanent in this country as a similar system has become permanent under both Liberal and Conservative governments in Canada. We have established the Australian Assistance Plan to see that the people of the country can participate in the management of the country. We intend to pursue the same objectives of bringing about the participation of the Australian people whatever the result may be of any action taken by the Tory Government in Victoria to defeat the legislation in the High Court. We intend to pursue those objectives.
– You would ignore the High Court, would you?
-We do not intend to pursue the objectives illegally, but we do intend to pursue them.
– That is what you have been doing for the last 3 years.
-Yes, we have been in office for 3 years and we will be there for many more years, too. We will be there for many more years indeed. Mr President, the allegations that have been made against this Government are allegations that we have attempted to do too much and that we have attempted to do too much too quickly. It may well be that in some instances we have attempted to do too much too quickly, but we have attempted to do things that are of benefit to the great mass of the Australian people. We have not attempted to curry favour with little old ladies in white tennis shoes by conscripting young men to be sent off to be killed in Vietnam. We have not sent troops to Timor, as honourable senators opposite would be doing if they were in office at the present time. Despite the fact that there may have been some setbackswe agree that there have been- we believe that we do have a command of the economic situation at the present time and that with the co-operation of the trade union movement and the Labor movement generally we will be able to restore -
– You are not serious, are you?
– I should have thought that Senator Jessop would be out selling insurance. Every time I see him on television he is marching along with the life underwriters. It is very pleasing that he has been able to find some time to get along here tonight. Many people who have tried to accomplish great things in the past have been subjected to the same sort of calumny as this Government has been subjected to. We intend to proceed along the course that has been charted by the Australian Labor Party for nearly 90 years. I do not generally quote South African newspapers, but if I may digress onto a subject that would not normally attract Senator Webster’s attention, I would like to quote briefly from something that appeared in a Nationalist newspaper in Cape Town called Die Burger. The article refers to the one-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Afrikaans as a language in South Africa and talks about the people who set about establishing Afrikaans as a language. It reads:
In the circumstances of a century ago, these people were wild men’ and the established order of those days came violently into conflict with them, as it does time after time, and will continue to do, against what is regarded as irresponsible and dangerous.
There is much to be said for such resistance. It is good that revolutionary ideas should be regularly subjected to a strict test to prove their validity and viability. This ensures that half-baked ideas do not easily take root. But the events of the past century also teach us that resistance can sometimes be taken too far.
One can scarcely find anybody who is more conservative than a South African Nationalist. What is being said there applies completely to the Australian position at the present time. We are being opposed by people who would want to continue this Government in the state of CocaColanisation which we found when we came into office. That is something which we have tried to remedy by bringing about Australian ownership of Australian industry and by seeing that the people of this country are receiving adequate social welfare and adequate education. We are not going to be deterred by any momentary setbacks. We believe that they can be handled with the co-operation of the trade union movement because we believe that the trade union movement, when the case is explained to it, is loyal to this Party and to this Government. We repudiate an Opposition which stands here not with a policy but merely with an attitude of denigration and a return to the old days when Senator Greenwood had as his guiding political principle that what was good enough for Grandma is good enough for him. Our principle is for the establishment of a new social order in Australia. We have taken dramatic steps in that direction in the time in which we have been in office and we shall continue to do so.
-This debate on the Budget brings us to think about the situation that has developed in Australia at the present time. I think that the general opinion of the Australian people is that this country is in a real mess. Those of us who heard Senator James McClelland, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, speak today must admire and congratulate him for the courage with which in his speech he faced up to the problems. I must say that I think that he has impressed people since he has been a Minister by the honesty and forthrightness which he has shown to this nation. I have read about the Australian Labor Party looking for new leaders. I do not think that it should worry about Mr Hawke. If the Labor Party had a leader like Senator James McClelland it would not be in the mess in which it is today.
There is no doubt that the two main problems that are plaguing this country today are inflation and unemployment. Senator James McClelland said today that the unions have played a great part in helping to bring about a lot of the difficulties we are experiencing. I think that their demands have been excessive. They have really gone to the extreme in their demands. The other aspect that has brought about the present difficulties is the extravagance of this Government. There is no doubt about that. From the way in which the Government has thrown money around in certain sections one would think that it wanted to get rid of the money in case it caught some disease like the plague from holding it. The Government has thrown money here and there in a most odd sort of way. The result of that has been that today we are in real trouble. There is no questioning the fact that this country will have to face up to the difficulties.
The economy is at such a stage that, according to the Budget, the Government is quite prepared to accept an inflation rate of 16 per cent. The rate of inflation has been increasing ever since the Government has been in office. When the Labor Government took office in 1972 from the Liberal-Country Party Government the inflation rate, if I remember rightly, was about 4 per cent. That shows how it has shot up. What probably does not strike the ordinary citizen is that inflation cuts into his savings. The Government seems to be quite satisfied with the present rate of inflation of 16 per cent. It means that for every $ 100 a person has saved he can buy $ 16 worth of goods less than when he originally saved the money. Continued inflation has a deteriorating effect on people’s savings.
It is no good the Government trying to make out that inflation is an international disease that it has caught. Most other countries have suffered from inflation as a result of very high increases in the price of oil. The oil gangsters of the Middle East countries raised the price of oil by an exorbitant percentage. But we in Australia- thanks to the promotion and the encouragement that the Liberal-Country Party Government gave to the exploration for oil- are in the lucky position -
– That was John Gorton, whom you crucified.
– It was long before John Gorton. I have been in this chamber for almost 26 years and I can tell. the honourable senator that such encouragement was given even before John Gorton. Because of the encouragement that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government gave, we are in a lucky position so far as oil is concerned. This Government has chased practically every national major oil seeker out of Australia, and it will take a long time to bring those people back. Only a government in which those people have confidence will bring them back to Australia. I well recall- I am sure that Senator Wright, who has been here for the same time as I have, will recall this- a previous Leader of the Opposition, the late Senator McKenna, really going to town about helping people to find oil. He suggested that the Government should find it. If the Government had set about finding oil we would still be looking for it. We would have spent many hundreds of millions of dollars and probably would not have found anything. The Government of the day gave great encouragement to people to find oil. It is because of that that Australia is in the lucky position in which it is today.
It is rather interesting to hear honourable senators on the Labor side of the chamber saying that it is the international situation that has caused inflation and unemployment. This rather amuses me when I remember arguments put forward by the Labor Party just a few years ago. In November 1972, under the Liberal-National Country Party Government, unemployment reached 88 000. The display and the arguments that came from the then Opposition- the Australian Labor Party- were terrific. Members of the Labor Party said that such a rate of unemployment was terrible. When unemployment exceeded the 100 000 mark, they called that disgraceful and said that the Liberal-Country Party Government was the worst government in the world for allowing unemployment to reach that level. I can remember, at that time, that unemployment in the United States of America, Britain and so on had reached about 5 or 6 per cent. When that argument was used in this chamber, what did the Labor senators say? They said: That has nothing to do with what happens in Australia. It bears no relationship’. All of a sudden, we find that inflation and unemployment in Australia are influenced by overseas trends. What a change has taken place. It is a great change in the Labor Party’s thinking. Its argument is the complete opposite of what it argued when it was in Opposition.
The Government, in preparing the Budget, realised that it had got Australia into a mess. It set about trying to recover the situation. The Government has acknowledged this. Senator James McClelland admitted today that mistakes have been made. The Government has said that it will encourage private industry and so on. I believe that what is proposed in the Budget will not be sufficient to restore the confidence of private enterprise to undertake proper development which, in turn, would provide more employment. What is the situation today? Because of the chaotic conditions- unions are running mad and the Labor Party had shown a weakness in this respect until people such as Senator James McClelland came on the scene- companies are making much smaller profits.
I know that it is quite the thing for Labor parliamentarians to snarl about people making profits. What they have to remember is that if people in private industry do not make sufficient profit they do not have a sufficient surplus to provide any further development to upgrade their industries. It is because of that loss of confidence in the Government which private industry has at the moment that development is not being undertaken. That is one of the reasons why the unemployment level is not declining. Once the Government has killed the incentive of people, organisations and companies, it will find that it has dealt a very serious blow to the development of Australia. If we do not have development in the private industry sector we will experience increasing unemployment. Today two of the big mining companies- one of them is Mount Isa Mines Ltd in north Queensland- announced a large reduction in profits. It is all right to say that those companies made a good profit. The type of work in which those companies are involved requires large sums of money to cany out further development.
Honourable senators opposite have spoken about Australian ownership. In my city of Mackay I have occupied various positions and have endeavoured to promote development. We have great coalfields in the area. For about 25 years we tried to get Australian companies to come in and dig for coal. No Australian company was interested. Australian companies did not have sufficient capital, of course. Now those companies have even less capital because of the way in which this country is being run. Overseas companies developed these fields which are just south of Mackay, at Goonyella and places such as that. Those companies put about $300m into each of the projects before any coal is produced. Wages were about $70 a week, but when these terrible overseas companies came into the Mackay region the men received double what they normally would have received. They received about $140 a week. Do honourable senators opposite think that the overseas companies were squeezing Australians by doubling the pay of the workers?
– Do they take the overseas money?
– Yes, they take the overseas money. Since then, the wages have risen considerably. The Australian Government taxes the profits of these overseas companies. Mention has been made of leaving the coal in the ground. With the advances that are being made in the generation of power- such as the use of uranium and, no doubt, solar power- if we leave the coal in the ground we might be told in the future to leave it there forever because it is not wanted. Another aspect that we have to keep in mind is that coalfields in Siberia and Manchuria are far more extensive than the great coalfields we have in Australia. Once money is put into the development of those areas we might price ourselves out of the market if we use tactics in order to squeeze people and show that we do not want to encourage people to invest in and develop our areas. Those 2 areas are much closer to one of our great consumers- Japan. The transport costs to Japan would be much less and we might easily find Japan telling us to keep our coal. In these matters we have to be careful that we do not overstep the mark. Private enterprise creates a great proportion of the employment in Australia and this Government should give it more encouragement. The Government says that it has given some concessions but what has it done in other directions? It has increased postal charges considerably. It also has increased telephone charges and there will be increases in petrol costs. Are these increases not costs to industry and business? Of course they are. On the one hand the Government gives industry and business a small concession but adds extra charges in other ways. What a shrewd method the Government used in bringing forward the increased postal and telephone charges. It did not introduce them in the Budget; it had the organisations that it set up bring them in a week or a few weeks beforehand.
– You supported the setting up of the Commissions.
– Of course. The point is that the Government engaged in a very snide operation by bringing in the increases in this way so that they will not be looked upon as Budget increases. Just fancy the cost of posting a letter going up from 10c to 18c and the cost of a telephone call rising to the present price.- 1 note that Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Police and Customs, is making notes. He is to follow me in this debate. He is one Minister who has a down to earth realisation about things. I know that he has to argue in certain ways because he is a Minister but I always have had a high regard for him. He will recall, as I do, that only a few years ago when the Labor Party sat on this side of the chamber it put on a great performance about wanting to knock over increases in postal charges which were introduced in a Liberal-Country Party Government Budget. The Labor Party then had the idea of really causing havoc to the Budget and possibly forcing an election. Members of the Labor Party were incensed at that time during the debate that it brought on because members of the Democratic Labor Party did not support them although they had talked about postal charges in other Budgets.
Some honourable senators on the Government side will recall that occasion and will remember the amount by which postage was increased at that time. It probably increased by lc or something like that. But this Government has increased postage by almost 100 per cent and thinks it is quite all right. The inconsistency of the arguments put up by the Labor Party in Opposition then and its silence now in supporting these terrific increases really makes me wonder. If I were a bloke who drank alcohol I would wonder whether I had been listening correctly. Being a teetotaller I clearly remember the debate that took place then.
However, business and industry have been slugged in this way and so have the ordinary citizens been slugged. Once again we will find that there will be repercussions from these increases throughout private industry and there will be a detrimental effect on employment. One example that has been mentioned is the Christmas card trade. No doubt this increase will nearly kill that trade.
– You do not send me a Christmas card.
– I send you one at times because you are a good bloke. If people ceased to send Christmas cards the Government will find that the printers who print those cards will have that much less work and the shops who sell them will have fewer sales. It will find that this will affect the people who make the envelopes. So the effect will go on right through the economy. The Government may think that these things do not have much effect but they do affect people detrimentally. These heavy increases in postal and telephone charges and the increase in petrol costs will be a charge on business and industry. They all will have a very detrimental effect.
The thing that amazes me about the Labor Party is the most unusual way that it talks about saving expenditure. It is very interesting to note how it cuts down expenditure. It has cut expenditure on medical research this year from $8m to $4m. I know that the Government has said that the vote for medical research will go up next year; but have honourable senators ever thought of anything so serious, so damaging or so stupid? There are organised teams engaged in medical research and if the funds allocated for it are cut in half for one year what will happen to that team? Its members will disappear. Probably they will go overseas and find jobs elsewhere.- If the Government increases this vote next year, as it says, how will it get those researchers back? It is an established fact that such research work is a matter of continuity and persistence over a period of time. That is the way to bring about the best results. Research into ways of saving the lives of people from cancer, heart disease and so on is more important than some of the things for which the Labor Government is maintaining expenditure. It really dazzles me to think that the Government will do such things.
The vote for the anti-smoking campaign has been reduced from $292,000 to $75,000. 1 think all honourable senators must respect Dr Everingham, the Minister for Health, who had the courage to speak about the damage that smoking and drinking alcohol do to the general health and minds of our people. We owe him a debt for the way he has spoken on both these questions. But we find that the Government has cut down expenditure on both these aspects of medical research. One would think, surely, that the health and welfare of people in the future, and ways of preventing them from getting things like cancer and heart disease, would be very important. Apparently these things do not appeal to the Prime Minister, Mr Whitiam, because they do not have a glossy appearance like some of the glamour girls he has around him.
– He wants to buy a couple of Blue Poles.
– For instance, the amount this year for art purchases is $5.8m. Honourable senators will remember that in his early stages he bought this piece of shickery art called Blue Poles for US$2m. Where is it hanging? The Government has spent millions of dollars more since and now is going to spend another $5. 8m. I am keen on literature, music and art but there is a limit to what the Government should do when it is supposed to be short of funds. Who sees these art productions? Somebody told me that the Prime Minister has Blue Poles hanging in Kirribilli House where he sometimes camps at the expense of the people. I do not know where that painting is. If these pieces of art are kept in Canberra how many Australian people will see them?
– In Melbourne 300 000 people saw it.
– Yes, 300 000 people saw one big painting.
– In Melbourne.
– Yes, in Melbourne, but how often will the people be able to see it? It will be stuck here in Canberra and how many people come to this city to see these things? We also know that last year and this year $2,300,000 has been voted for International Women’s Year and for the gabble that is going on around this place. Anybody who saw Monday Conference the other night would wonder just why those women are here.
- Senator Martin would not agree with you.
– I do not give a hang what Senator Martin thinks. These people who talk like that just make you sick and they make the average woman in Australia sick. I am talking about these women yabbers. That is what I call them. They are no more in touch with the thinking of the average woman in Australia than Gough Whitlam is in touch with the Australian people. I have talked to the staff around Parliament House who work in their offices.
– They are over-awed by you. They would not say no to you.
– I am a bachelor and can look on and see most of the game, but when I talk to them they agree with me. The people who work in the offices of Labor Party members say that it is a lot of rubbish. I cannot think of anything more divisive than these people talking about everybody being equal. The way they are talking, one would think that there was a great division between men and women. As one who has always had a very high appreciation of women because of the wonderful mother I had, it disgusts me to hear the sort of nonsense they go on with. We have given so much- more than $3m over 2 years- for this silly nonsense that they go on with. What do we find? Mr Whitlam plays up his glossy girls. Germaine Greer got $100,000 to make a picture on reproduction, I think it was. Germaine Greer was a married woman at one stage. What did she do about reproduction? I have not been married. What has this women Reid, who is the chief adviser to the Prime Minister on women’s affairs, done for the money that she is getting? She talks around a bit. She is famous for the lecture that she gave to university students here about how to bring on an orgasm without having intercourse- the most disgusting thing I have ever read. That is the type of woman who is appointed as the chief adviser on women’s affairs. She would have no more in common with the average woman in Australia than would this table.
– Order! Will the honourable senator connect up his remarks to the Budget?
- Mr President, the allocation to this woman Reid is in the Budget. I read in the newspaper today that Mrs Wilenski has been given a job as Director of the new Equal Opportunity Branch of the Public Service at a salary of $17,000. Mrs Wilenski ‘s husband was a former private secretary to Mr Whitlam. Between the two of them they will now receive an income of $1,000 a week. In view of the current situation, one would have thought that there may have been somebody else who needed the job. But, no, it was a case of jobs for the girls. When I think of the cut-back in expenditure on things such as medical research -
– We heard that from the other honourable senator last night.
– It is all right. I am speaking, so mind your own business. The honourable senator may be a good cricketer. Then, of course, expenditure on research into methods of inducing people to cut down on smoking has been cut. But what of the glossy girls? No fear, they must be left untouched.
We hear a great deal about the proposed expenditure on education. What steps has the Government taken to see that the huge amount of money that will be spent on education this year, $l,900m-odd, will be used to educate people?
– Why do you not ask the State education Ministers? They bludged on this Government.
-I know that. What are they doing? They are given the money. They can find out. In a recent edition of the Australian Professor Crisp said that most children today cannot spell, cannot write, cannot add up, and so on. Another educationist, Betty Archdale, says that half of our teachers should not be doing that job. In other article another man talks about illiteracy and he quotes some of the things that university students have written. They cannot write; they cannot add up; they cannot spell. Mr Beazley, the Minister for Education, said that the Queensland education system was the best because it is more old-fashioned.
– Who said that?
- Mr Beazley said that publicly. If what he says is correct, heaven help the children in the other States. I can tell honourable senators that many students in Queensland cannot add up and cannot write. I have tested them. I have asked: ‘What country is New York City in?’ They cannot tell you. I have asked: ‘Where is Suva?’ They cannot tell you. I have asked: Where is Vietnam?’ They cannot tell you. I have asked: ‘Where is Penang?’ They cannot tell you. It is on these people that we are spending this money. What are we getting for the money we are spending? We are not getting a proper education system. The money is going down the drain. An education system has been set up, but we are not getting true value.
In conclusion, let me say that Mr Whitlam has made a great fuss about effecting economies. He wants parliamentarians to travel economy class, but what does Mr Whitlam intend to do? He does not intend to travel economy class. He is going to travel by VIP aircraft. Members of the Labor Party burst out laughing when he said that he intends to travel by VIP aircraft for security reasons. Who does he think is going to shoot him while he is travelling around Australia? Do honourable senators think that he runs a risk? Do honourable senators think that others do not run a risk if he does? We find that parliamentarians and others- I do not know who is included in the word ‘others ‘-will spend $2,830,000 this year on air travel, but the Prime Minister, with his VIP travel, and a few others will spend $1,269,460 this year. I know what a lot of honourable senators opposite think about this matter. I think that the Prime Minister is absolutely hypocritical on the matter. There is no reason why he cannot travel economy class with the rest of us. If it is good enough for us, it is good enough for him.
– I could not agree more.
-Yes. The trouble is that Senator Poyser knows as well as I do -
– I hope you picked up my interjection that I could not agree more.
-I did pick it up. Mr Whitlam does not want to travel economy class because he is a snob. As was said by one Labor parliamentarian and as another parliamentarian said to me, he is the most vain, the most arrogant and the most conceited man in Australia. I am very glad to know that Senator Poyser has got sufficient sense in relation to this matter. I heard his interjection before. Mr Whitlam ‘s suggestion that he cannot travel economy class for security reasons is ludicrous. In conclusion, the position is this -
– That is the third time you have said that.
– This is a real conclusion because it is a good conclusion: If an election were to be held at the moment this Government would be wiped out of existence, and Mr Whitlam would go with it.
– We are once again debating the annual Budget, which is the occasion on which everyone can speak. Honourable senators are given the opportunity to wander all over the place with their remarks and speak on matters which can be relevant or irrelevant to the Budget proposals. Of course, the Budget debate goes on for days. After possibly the first 3 speakers have made their contributions there is nothing left to say, but subsequent speakers repeat what preceding speakers have said about the Budget. Honourable senators on the government side have a compulsion to support the Budget as being one of the best Budgets ever presented, and those on the Opposition side have an equal responsibility to oppose the Budget as being one of the worst Budgets that has ever been presented to the Parliament. So we go on with this repetition. Because those sitting on one side have a list of speakers it seems to be essential that those on the other side match that list so that the number of senators supporting the Budget is equal to the number opposing it. Although it is necessary to do that, having just heard from Senator Wood we realise that no new thoughts are introduced into the debate; what is said is just a rehash of what has already been said, with all the mistaken beliefs that are uttered from time to time.
I reciprocate Senator Wood’s expressed opinion of me. I think that we all love Senator Wood. He has been here for so long that he is now an institution in the place. He has not been noted for his outstanding political ability. He has been in the Parliament for 24 years, and for twenty of those years his Party was in power but his colleagues never saw fit to elevate him past the back benches. Now that his Party is in opposition he has been seated in the extreme back bench in the nearest seat to the door of the chamber. So it looks as though his life as a politician is now coming to its end. Nevertheless, we do thank him for the contribution he has made during his period in this place, although, as was the case tonight, his contributions contain generalities and utterances which are not supported by any authoritative facts. Mount Isa Mines Ltd may make a big profit. It may have nearly doubled because of its workers, but no one knows whether it did.
What Senator Wood said showed that all through this debate the Opposition has not grasped what the Budget is all about and what a change of government in Australia has done. It is true that the Opposition can point to inflation and to unemployment but it cannot point to the poverty that existed in 1 97 1 .
– Professor Henderson has.
– Professor Henderson is showing up the pockets of poverty that exist today. Although the Opposition may think that the Australian Government is a lost cause because of certain gallup polls that are organised, the people will not forget the legislation this Government has passed. It came to power with the sole purpose of redistributing wealth in Australia. The public will not forget that this Government has improved the quality of life in Australia. It will not forget the consumer protection legislation, the Trade Practices Act, which the Opposition would abolish, the Racial Discrimination Bill and the Family Law Bill, which although not a Labor Government Bill was passed during the term of this Government. The Opposition has criticised the increase in the education program and has said that we should not have it. We have encouraged advancements in the education of young children in Australia. We have made improvements in social security and the health services so that no one need fear financial loss or expenditure on medical care through being ill today. We have undertaken urban and regional development to improve urban life. We have considered environmental matters. We have a Minister who is especially responsible for developing sport in Australia. All those matters involve the alteration by this Government of the quality of life in Australia. They are not forgotten by the electors. I mention also the doubling of expenditure on Aboriginal affairs.
For the first time in history the victims of a disaster, Cyclone Tracy in Darwin, have received compensation by way of compensation legislation. All those benefits are Labor’s policies for contributions to the needy of Australia. That is what is hurting Opposition supporters today. No longer can they claim that they are the masters and no longer will government expenditure go to profits for industry and private enterprise. I suppose that it is true that with the keeness of a new government we jumped into the traces and took headlong steps on the reform policies, all of which needed expenditure. There was no revenue as a result of better health benefits or better education benefits and we got to the stage at which in this Budget there had to be, one could say, a curtailment of the ambitions of Ministers. There was no reduction in expenditure compared with previous years. It is wrong to say that we are retracting and not expending today, but the money has not been available for the various departments to the extent to which they would hope to expand Labor’s policies.
The alternative Budget which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) presented would produce a deficit which Mr Whitlam and the Treasury have costed as approximately $4,500m. I realise that that figure is disputed; nevertheless, on a vote catching campaign the Leader of the Opposition said that he would reduce taxation by another $ 1,000m. Of course he has to make that money up somehow and he would make it up by a further reduction in expenditure. While Mr Fraser denies, contrary to the statements of his shadow Minister, Mr Chipp, that the Opposition would scrap Medibank, in the Melbourne Sun of 2 September 1975 there is a report from Andrew Kruger which reports Mr Fraser as saying: . . it is increasingly difficult for people to save the deposit on a house, pay for their children’s education and to assist aging parents.
There we see the old psychology that it is the child’s responsibility to keep aging parents. We have the meagre starvation pension syndrome again- I have had many an argument over that in this chamber- whereby the children should be supplementing the parent’s pension. (Quorum formed.) I appreciate the call for a quorum. I think that at all times a quorum should be present in the Senate but, as I stated at the opening of my speech, one cannot blame honourable senators for walking out of the chamber when in the main they have heard it all before.
I had intended to make a few more remarks but because of the time taken up by calling a quorum and the limited time available to speakers, I will come to some of the important points which Senator Chaney will not like and which he has brought on hastily us a result of calling a quorum. I want to deal with 2 mattersthe superphosphate bounty and the Australian Police. Questions have been asked regarding the superphosphate bounty and by his alternative Budget Mr Fraser would reimpose it. As it was found that in 1973 Mr Fraser received in excess of $5,000 out of the superphosphate bounty one can appreciate his desire to have it reimposed. When that matter was disclosed to the Senate those men who are capable of doing so immediately attempted to degrade the Government for exposing such information, which should be made available to the public. No one other than that bitter and snarling questioner Senator Greenwood this morning asked me a question which ended:
What tactics, what threat, what intimidation were used to get the information about the individual users from the producers to whom the bounty was paid?
I answered to the best of my ability with the information that I had. It was not sufficient for Senator Greenwood to attempt to show that there was some plot on this side of the Senate to use scurrilous methods to obtain information to disclose the amount of money that Mr Malcolm
Fraser was making out of the superphosphate bounty; so he asked me a supplementary question. He asked whether the information was supplied voluntarily by the suppliers or whether it was collected by departmental officers or through the police force. The implication was that we were using the police as spies to threaten suppliers for the purpose of obtaining this information. According to Senator Greenwood, it is abhorrent to think that we should be allowed to obtain this information. I will tell the Senate how the information was obtained.
The Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Bill was assented to on 31 October 1963. That Bill was not brought in by a Labor government; it was the Liberal Government which brought it in. That legislation provided that the information had to be supplied before bounty was payable.
– What year was that?
-The instrument by which we obtained this information is this legislation which was introduced by the Liberal Government. In answer to Senator Poyser, the year was 1963.
– What section?
– I will give the honourable senator the section, chapter and verse. Section 14 ( 1.) of the Act reads:
A producer of bountiable products is not entitled to bounty unless he keeps, to the satisfaction of the Minister–
He cannot keep just records- accounts, books and documents showing, from time to time, the production and sale of bountiable products and fertilizer mixtures, the selling prices and receipts from sales of bountiable products and fertilizer mixtures and such other information in relation to the bountiable products and fertilizer mixtures as the Minister requires.
That is a condition which has to be met before bounty is payable. Section 14(2.) reads:
A producer of bountiable products is not entitled to bounty unless he furnishes to the Comptroller-General, in respect of each financial year in which bounty is payable-
a manufacturing account and trading account and such other information in relation to the bountiable products and fertilizer mixtures as the Minister requires;
The powers that be in the Liberal Party which was in office in 1 963 made it a condition of the payment of bounty that this information had to be supplied at the request of the Minister. Section 17 of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act, which was assented to on 29 October 1966, has a similar provision. Section 17(1.) of the Act reads:
A producer or importer of subsidized goods is not entitled to subsidy unless he keeps, to the satisfaction of the Minister, accounts, books and documents showing, from time to time, such information as the Minister requires with respect to-
in the case of a producer- the production and sale by the producer of subsidized goods;
The producer is obliged to supply the information. This legislation puts him under that obligation. What we have asked the producer to do is to supply the information that the law of the land compels him to supply. It was never intended that this information should be secret. Although the previous Government was or could have been getting this information each year, because it could not denigrate any member of the Labor Party who was getting $5,000, the provisions of the Act were never used in the way that they have now been used.
In April 1974 the then Minister for Customs and Excise asked, under the provisions of the legislation, for information on those who received in excess of $5,000 during the financial year ended June 1973. We have received information and we have an obligation to table the document and to make the information public. As to the suggestion that this may lead to disclosing who gets social security payments and who gets educational grants, of course governments do not disclose that sort of information about individuals; but in respect of commercial propositions we have always done this. Grants to schools, grants to aged persons homes and financial assistance to industries are all public knowledge. Financial assistance which is given to industry such as the paper mills in Tasmania is all public knowledge. Politicians are under an obligation to know where the money is going.
– But you made a big thing of this and you singled it out, senator. You have made it abnormal, not anyone else.
– Someone on this side of the Senate has pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition, who wants to reintroduce the fertiliser bounty, received something in excess of $5,000 last year from the payment of bounty.
– But you had a personal salary rise of $5,000 last year and you lost the vote in this chamber. What is the moral difference?
-We received an increase in emoluments in accordance with what the Parliament decided.
– And in accordance with what your Minister fixed.
– Yes- what your Minister fixed for you.
-No. Senator Wright is becoming as senile as the honourable senator who spoke before me. Members of Parliament receive a salary laid down by the Remuneration Tribunal, although in one year the recommendation was not accepted. We all get the rise. It is a “ward for services rendered. If, as Senator Hall says, there is nothing wrong with this, what is wrong with tabling these documents? I received a letter today from Senator .Gietzelt, who-I think is the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, asking for various details of expenditure for consideration by that Committee. The information was not tabled because some of the companies which replied asked that it be kept confidential.
– You breach the confidence in one instance and observe it for the time being in the other.
-We have not done that. What I was saying was that some of the supplier companies requested- they had no right to do so- that the information be kept confidential. I decided that I had an obligation not to table the documents until such time as we told them that the information was obtained in accordance-with the provisions of the legislation and therefore it had to be supplied without any strings. These documents will be tabled next week and now that we have been asked to table any further documents we will, as we have stated, table them because if we do not do so we will be accused of hiding something. But here we have someone who condemns the whole structure of this legislation, someone who is crying out about the poverty in primary industry, and he is one of the big beneficiaries under the bounty legislation. According to the figures, the numbers of people who received in excess of $5,000 in 1 973 were 77 in New South Wales, 62 in Victoria, 48 in South Australia, 219 in Western Australia, 41 in Tasmania and 25 in Queensland, making a total of 472.
– Do you know how many employees they had?
– We may give you some information on that. As I said today, the information from the Department relates only to those who received in excess of $5,000. The average may be around the $7,500 mark for the year. If it was a bounty on superphosphate and not nitrogenous fertilisers, on the basis of a bounty of $12 the average amount of superphosphate used by each customer in that range would be about 620 tons. Senator McLaren asked today whether there was any stockpile last year. The figures I have for phosphate bounty indicate that in 1972- 73 there were 4 470 837 tons and in 1973- 74 there were 5 470 577 tons. So in 1973-74 there was an excess over 1972-73 of 1 million tons. For nitrogenous fertilisers the figure for 1972-73 was 493 425 tons and for 1973-74 it was 595 049 tons, which is some 100 000 tons in. excess of the 1973-74 figure. Again, the largest number of customers was in Victoria. New South Wales had 20 000 customers, Victoria an estimated 50 000, Queensland more than 15 000, South Australia an accurate figure of 25 052, Western Australia more than 25 000 and Tasmania more than 5 000, making a total of 140 052 customers who received the bounty. The average tonnage per customer, based on those figures, was 36 tons in New South Wales, 30 tons in Victoria, 1 1 tons in Queensland, 27 tons in South Australia, 54 tons in Western Australia and 30 tons in Tasmania. The Australian average was 3 1 tons per customers. This indicates the great increase of fertiliser that has gone to those who received $5,000 or more in bounty during that year.
– The same moral argument would apply if any of your colleagues had bought a motor car during the period of reduction of sales tax. If any of your colleagues had bought a motor car then and supported the reduction in sales tax then the same moral question would arise.
– Prior to their buying it.
– Did any of them buy any motor cars during the period of reduction of sales tax?
– I suppose that is a normal trading business.
-That is different, is it?
-No, it is not.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. The Minister should address the Chair and not answer the cross examination by the honourable senator from South Australia.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- The point of order is upheld.
- Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The point of order is upheld. The Minister will address the Chair.
– When he gets a quorum. (Quorum formed)
-Mr Deputy President, the Opposition has succeeded in almost exhausting my time by calling a quorum and by interjecting. Possibly I made a mistake in answering the interjections and not addressing the Chair, as the point of order indicated. I wanted to talk on the Australia Police. However, we have cleared up today the matter of the superphosphate bounty and my comments on the Australia Police will have to wait for another occasion. Let me just say that some of the interjections indicated that there are some people who are still not listening. Those who talk about the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty do not realise that a bounty gives to those who are not in need. It gives to the greedy, not the needy. The farmer who could only get 3 1 tons of fertiliser was being exploited in order to give to those who were getting $5,000 or more of taxpayers’ money. As I said this morning, in general revenue the Government gets contributions from the low margin worker, from the housewife in the tax on her grocery expenditure, from the tax on the ice cream a child buys at the shop. This is all put into general revenue and is used to give to the exploiters of the bounty system a big taxation advantage and it goes to those who do not need a bounty for the purpose of carrying on farming.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The Minister’s time has expired. (Extension of time granted.)
– I thank the Senate for its indulgence in giving me an extra 5 minutes. Let me touch briefly on the Australia Police. It is one of the matters raised in Mr Fraser’s speech. If he would cut down services for the purpose of reducing Government expenditure he would not go ahead with the introduction of the Australia Police. He has the idea that it is cheaper to run 4 fragmented police agencies because Mr BjelkePetersen from Queensland is complaining that the Australian Government is going to put a super police service into Queensland and duplicate the Queensland Police Force. Although from the report of the Royal Commission which inquired into the Queensland Police there may be some justification for that impression, in fact it is far from the truth. The Australian Government has no intention of expanding the operations of the joint police force that has existed since March of this year. That force has a total of 2500 members throughout Australia, with seventy-six of them in Queensland. The Australia Police comprises the police who work mainly on guard duties and are at the airports and have a responsibility for the policing of Commonwealth law, the Australian Capital Territory Police, the Northern Territory Police and the detection service within the customs area. So instead of having 4 police organisations, the Government is seeking to have one organisation, althougt there will still be a Commissioner in the Northern Territory and a Commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory. We shall have 3 wings within the organisation- the Australia Police Force, the Bureau of Customs and a joint service wing. Honourable senators can see the whole benefits of economy in joint service- in pay and recruitment, staff records, training, computer service, communication, transport and research into operational records. They can see, surely, the value of having a computer service located at a central office and available to policemen throughout Australia- made available to State police forces. Duplication would be avoided. How can a Leader of a Party believe that he could cut down expenditure by stopping the amalgamation of police forces within Australia. Obviously this would not be an achievement on his part at all.
We intend to establish a national police college in the Bathurst-Orange area. We shall have the one police training authority which will give training at the best standards in Australia and possibly the best standards anywhere in the world. We shall have the normal training for escort duty, guard duty, detection duty and surveillance duty. We shall have management training; we shall have special trained forces for the purpose for which Australia has a responsibilityto police the white collar crimes and the corporate crimes in Australia. We shall have this instead of waiting until someone is overseas in Mexico after having robbed the country of millions of dollars before some preventive action is taken and some preventive machinery is put in train. That is the plan. We as a department, and myself as a Minister, are concerned at the proposal that such a responsible person as the Leader of the Opposition would undo, or would fail to proceed with, something that has been accepted by all sections in Australia as one of the greatest contributions to, one of the greatest advances in, police supervision that we have in Australia and would do so under the false plea of economy.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Earlier in the Minister’s speech he quoted from a document. I ask him whether he considers it to be a document which is of a confidential nature or whether he is prepared to table it. It concerned the number of people getting certain amounts in superphosphate bounty.
– I am prepared to table the document.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- The document is tabled.
-The Budget debate forms part of the parliamentary year and as such has its own area of importance. However there are many other factors of particular importance and significance attached to the Budget presentation. Apart from the fact that they present the financial program of the Government the Budget documents indicate the Government’s attitude to the economy; they indicate the Government’s attitude to the commercial state of the country and they indicate the Government’s attitude to the social and educational and other needs of the community. They also convey an expression of political philosophy. But any Budget should also respond to the circumstances and the climate of the nation at the time of its presentation. I must say that in the contributions that Government supporters have made in this Budget debate they seem to have ignored the importance of the Budget itself and totally disregarded the purposes for which the Budget presentation is made. Indeed, they sought to justify certain petty feelings that they may have about certain members of the community rather than give a studied attention to the reasons for which they established the documents that are the subject of the debate before the Senate tonight.
Several Government senators have devoted their time to such things as attacking the social habits of a section of the community for which they obviously have some degree of envy or jealousy. Others have paraded denigrating references to the private sector and have tended at all times to drag down instead of building up. We had a situation today whereby a Minister in a very low key persuasive speech apologised for certain conditions. Another speaker from the Government side confessed that there were subtleties in the Budget which he did not understand. He further confessed that to him the Budget papers were a mystery and in the end one wonders whether the Government is really enthusiastic about its Budget papers. The debate for part of this evening has revolved around one measure which has a relationship to the Budget. It obviously reveals a sense of discrimination which the Government is applying and implying. I think it is high time that the situation was pointed out to the Government that if there is an arrangement whereby people can obtain subsidies or assistance in any one of their industries or activities and if it produces an increased amount of productivity and export income and a greater amount of wealth for the community and gives greater confidence to the people, then that sort of subsidy, subject to examination, is justified.
It is all nonsense for the Government and the Minister to claim that it is the poor people who are paying for the rich. How does the Minister justify the widespread and extensive handout to the total education system whereby thousands of people who could well afford to pay for tertiary education are getting this education free today. There are people who are on the lower brackets of income who through indirect taxation and other matters are providing revenue for the Government to enable it to hand out all manner of educational benefits to people who are well able to afford it. The Government is absorbing great sums of money coming from the lower income sections of the community. It is taking money from the poorer section of the community in order that the rich may have advanced education when they can well afford to pay for it. If this is part of the social program of the Government and if it is prepared to give the money away in one section, it should be prepared to acknowledge the need in another. Let us look at this Budget with regard to the whole field of indirect taxation. Which section of the community is being penalised by the Government’s indirect taxation policy? Who are the people who are providing the great revenue for the rest of the community?
The Government is completely inconsistent in its attack on one comparatively small section simply because it has a sense of discrimination, it has a kind of inverted snobbery, it has a kind of jealousy of the private sector of the community. It has a jealousy of people who are successful, who can do things for themselves, who are prepared to accept responsibility and who, through accepting that responsibility are able to make a contribution and impart a degree of confidence to the community at large. It is hardly the kind of support for a Budget that I should have expected from Government supporters and from Ministers which we have heard today. It is a Budget which I suppose under any circumstances can be described as designed to meet the circumstances of today. Certanly the arguments which have been put forward during the course of the debate this afternoon and this evening would not lead me to believe that the Government was altogether enthusiastic about the measures it has put down in the papers. If a government is to prepare a Budget to meet the needs of the day and to meet the circumstances of the time then of course it has to take into account the various problems and situations and circumstances that are in existence just now.
The Government has introduced this Budget against a background of the worst economic crisis that has faced this country since the depression. It is no credit to the Government, which went into office claiming that it would change the face of Australia and redistribute the national wealth of the country and provide services and facilities for people, that it finds itself within Vh years of taking office, facing the worst economic crisis since the depression. I attach total blame to the Government, because the extent of the crisis and the blame for it are clearly evident in the statistics that are available. The present economic position is very obvious and is acutely felt by the community because of the massive levels of inflation and the massive levels of unemployment that exists in our community. Yet during the last election campaign, which was not all that long ago, in May 1974, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Government claimed that Australia had overcome the worst of its economic ills and was on the upturn. In my view, this claim completely ignored economic realities and the need for the Government today to initiate policies that would restore a measure of stability to the Australian economy. No credit can be given to the Government- it is to .be condemned and blamed- for finding itself within 2lA years of taking office in a situation in which the inflation rate has soared to 17 per cent. No credit can be given to the Government- indeed it deserves to be condemned- for the increases since it came to office in the cost of living of the ordinary man and woman, the worker, that downtrodden citizen to whom it pays so much lip service. This section of the community has to meet and has to deal with the problem much more than other sections of the community have to deal with it. The Government is to be condemned for allowing the cost of living to rise by 41 per cent, which is a fairly large rise. A dollar that was worth a dollar in 1972 is now worth only 70c and is rapidly on the way to being worth something less than 60c. If honourable senators think that I am making up these figures just to suit my argument, let us look at the percentage change in consumer prices in a number of countries. Let us look at the percentage change in consumer prices in the last 12 months in a country such as West Germany. There the figure has increased only 6 per cent. In the United States it has increased 9’A per cent. In
Canada it has increased by 10 per cent. Australia has the inglorious record of having a figure of 17 percent. The only 2 nations ahead of us are the United Kingdom, with a socialist government, on 25 per cent, and Italy on 20 per cent.
Apart from inflation, a further economic reality is unemployment, which has trebled since Labor came to office. It is an indictment of Labor’s policies, Labor’s concern and Labor’s social outlook that it has allowed unemployment to treble to a figure which is well over 300 000 and which is likely to increase to half a million before too long, with the prospect of certain of the Government’s unemployment relief schemes being wound down and of a lot of school leavers joining the pool of unemployed in the early part of next year. There is nothing in this Budget to take care of this grave and tragic situation. It is grave not only from an economic point of view; there is nothing worse than unemployment to scar a young person’s life and to make a grave impact and effect of a social nature upon not only the people concerned but the generation to which they belong.
There is no credit to the Government- it is to be condemned- for another economic reality of the day in which it brings forward this Budget. People can no longer afford to purchase their own homes. Does the Government call this a contribution to social welfare? Is this the way it proclaims that it will change the face of Australiaby worsening the financial position of people so that they can no longer afford to purchase their own homes? The Government knows as well as I do, as well as every honourable senator knows, that inflation and high interest rates resulting from the policies of the Government have brought about a situation in which repayments to a building society have doubled in recent times. It is no wonder that the number of new home commencements have been reduced by 30 per cent. So we have a situation that is a crisis situation. The Labor Government and the Budget which it has put down have caused this crisis in our economy. That is not a statement from me, from my Party or from the Opposition. That is a statement which can be very well substantiated in documents by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund. Both organisations point to the fact that the crisis situation in the country at the moment is due directly to domestic causes I quote from page 35 of the OECD document:
The difficulties of the Australian economy over the last few years stemmed initially, in large part, from the unsettled world economic conditions . . .
These are the key words - but more recently domestic factors have become preponderant.
In short, the Government must take and must assume the total blame for the crisis situation in which we are placed today. We have seen a massive increase in expenditure in the public sector. Because of that increase we have seen a massive shift of resources from the private sector of our economy to the public sector. If I may quote statistics in relation to this matter, during thelast2½ years we have seen the share of wages in the gross domestic product increase by 9 per cent, which is quite a substantial amount. On the other hand, the gross operating surpluses of the private sector have decreased by over 6 per cent. This imposes an intolerable burden upon the great number of what I would call middle range income earners who have tried to run, own and operate their own businesses- the sort of people that the Government is constantly proclaiming that it is protecting and assisting. Sometimes these people are called the ordinary men and women. I am never quite sure what we mean by that phrase, but they include a large number of people who service the community through their own business enterprises- through the small shops, the agencies, the service stations. They include the farmers, the people who work for themselves and who like to get some return from their hard work and who like to retain as much of their earnings as is reasonable and appropriate.
With this sort of background and with this sort of monetary crisis- there have been plenty of acknowledgements by Government speakers today that there is a monetary crisis- one would have thought that the Government would have introduced a budget which would at least have given some lead to the solving of Australia’s economic problems. We needed a budget which would lead to this. We needed a budget which would do something to stimulate the private sector, which would do something to increase and create some incentive for productivity and not for waste and which would provide, if it were at all possible, employment opportunities for those Australians who are now suffering through unemployment and for those people who have no prospect of employment- those Australians who are dependent on the growth and stability of the private sector for their employment. As honourable senators know, three quarters of the employment opportunities in this country are offered by the private sector. Nothing in the Budget helped in this regard. There were no policies aimed at regenerating the activity of the private sector.
One would have expected a budget which would have provided a stimulus to produce goods and articles and the wealth of which Australia is so absolutely and truly capable and which, in this day and generation, is so absolutely necessary. We need this sort of production if we are to make a contribution in the international sphere in which the Government is so interested and in which all of us are interested. We are interested in our international relations and the role which Australia can play particularly in the field of international aid, among other things, but we cannot do so unless we have some development and growth in our productivity and some confidence in our people. We need this productivity and wealth if we are to develop not only those things to which I have referred but if we are to have worthwhile national programs, including the very important program of social services and aid in our community. We can do so only if we have an Australian economy that is sound, alive and vibrant. We can do so only if we have behind that economy a community which is confident and able to contribute to it because it is able to seize the rewards of its own work, is able to accept responsibility and is not totally dependent upon governments as the Australian community is rapidly becoming. It is rapidly degenerating into a nation which is totally dependent on governments and government resources.
I would have expected a budget which cut back the growth of public spending, which cut back the growth of government expenditure, and cut it back substantially. I know that figures have been put forward today which might lead us to believe that there have been some cuts, but they seemed to me to have been totally inconsistent with and not having any relationship to the growth and standards of the country. By cutting back government expenditure the Government could well make available resources for productive purposes. Government spending has increased enormously since this Government came to office. There has been an increase of some $9,000m, which is an increase of 80 per cent. That is a very large percentage increase in a comparatively short time. It is no wonder that on the morning after the Budget had been brought down in this place the editor of the Canberra Times led off by saying that many people would be puzzled and angry that the Government’s idea of restraint is an increase of 25 per cent in estimated expenditure and an overall estimated domestic Budget deficit of $2,000m. He went on:
It is worth noting that the Government is increasing by 25.2 per cent expenditure which already last year amounted to 46 per cent more than the previous year.
I applaud the comment of the editor. He went on:
The Treasurer has merely turned what would have been an unmitigated disaster into a smaller disaster, but still a disaster . . .
We expect certain things from a Budget. What did we get when this Budget was brought down? We got a Budget which did not even begin to recognise the economic problems to which reference has been made. It was a Budget which only marginally provided the stimulus which the economy so urgently needed. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Budget is a document which just clearly indicates a political philosophy. It is a socialist document insofar as it continues to make people dependent upon government. It will continue to make people subservient to government. It has been introduced by a Treasurer who regards government provided services as part of an individual ‘s income. I think that this is something which contrasts very markedly with the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty under Professor Henderson, and there has been some comment on that today. We must bear in mind that Professor Henderson was talking about the needy sector of our community. He concluded by saying that the freedom to spend one’s income is one of the most important freedoms. It is the kind of freedom that the Government is taking away from us. It is the kind of freedom that is being taken away from us in this Budget. Indeed, the danger in the future is that this freedom will be taken away from us to an even greater extent. I digress for a moment to quote one other part of the Henderson report. Professor Henderson concluded that the condition of the needy in this country had worsened considerably under the Labor Government. If that can be proved to be true it is an indictment of honourable senators opposite who have been talking like they have this evening.
I now refer to the taxation matters which are in the Budget. I suppose that taxation is central to the Budget Papers or to Budget matters because after all we naturally are concerned, as each Budget season comes around, as to whether or not taxation will be increased and, if so, in what areas. The Government has claimed that there is a reduction in taxation. I must say that I question this claim. Indeed, as I read the papers, there will be nearly a 20 per cent increase in gross receipts from taxation. It is true- I acknowledge thisthat taxation has been reduced on some levels of income, but I question whether this is in reality a reduction in tax. I think that the references to tax reductions totally ignore the effect that inflation will have on incomes during the next 12 months.
It is a pretty simple observation to make that inflation will push wages higher just to maintain the same wages in real terms. We get the old story of wage earners being pushed into higher tax brackets although their real incomes will not increase.
We have been intrigued by the proposed rebate system which has been designed to replace the previous concessions which were allowed. This also causes some real doubt in my mind. Whereas previously the concessions were deducted from the gross income thereby reducing it to fall into a lower tax bracket, the new rebate system leaves the gross income unaltered. This results in the tax rate being assessed on that higher gross income with the rebate being deducted after the calculation is made. In addition, the benefits to taxpayers claimed by the Treasurer for the new rebate system, in my view, are an illusion. In the example that the Treasurer gave he put the position the other way round. He referred to the tax payable under the new system after the $540 rebate had been deducted from the calculated tax payable. He compared this with the tax payable under the previous system on the income as assessed before allowable deductions were deducted from that income. So this seems to confirm, in my mind, that the proposed rebate system in the Budget clearly discourages any form of thrift, any form of selfhelp, any form of encouragement by providing tax benefits to individuals whether those individuals seek to help themselves through life assurance or spending on health, education or other matters. If a person is concerned and thereby endeavours to put funds aside for these sorts of things he is penalised because he is thrifty and takes his financial obligations quite seriously.
A point which also should be made about the restructured tax system is that, in my view, it is discriminatory. I think that it discriminates particularly against young people, whether they are single or married without children. These are the people who might well be expected to make a contribution simply because they have not got the same obligations as other people. But these are the people which this country needs to encourage to use their initiative, to work, to receive, to understand and to observe the reward that they get for their effort. Thereby this encourages a sense of responsibility. These people need to be encouraged to develop their own talents and not to be totally and continually turning to some authority or some government for support. They could in their circumstances normally be expected to take the sorts of risks which are necessary to achieve success. If one looks at this in the business sphere, which I suppose is one of the fairly obvious examples, one sees that these people could be encouraged to do this kind of thing. Yet under this Budget it is these people who will be bearing the considerable brunt of taxation. The resources which they could apply to assisting with the rebuilding of Australia’s economy and their own futures have been removed from them. They are in the age range where they are devoid of encouragement. They are being placed to one side and are getting no return for their work. They can rapidly fall into a state of dilatoriness and join the great band of people, which regrettably is growing larger, which is depending upon government and other resources.
Along with other honourable senators I am deeply disturbed and indeed angered at the increased postal charges. I think that it is a lot of nonsense for honourable senators opposite to try to equate these increased charges with some figure on a percentage basis. The fact remains that these incredible increases in charges will not only be a hindrance to business but will also create one of the most serious social problems that this country has faced. The people whom the Government claims to represent will be the ones who will be most seriously hurt. Recently the Government set up 2 commissions within the postal and telecommunications sphere, and honourable senators will remember that the first task of these commissions was to raise the salaries of their senior employees; and the second task was to do what I have just referred to, that is, to increase the cost of postal and telecommunications services to the public.
– But they did it with the approval of the Minister. It is the Minister’s determination.
– That lends emphasis to the point which I am making and which was made in a speech earlier this evening by a Minister on behalf of the Government. The Minister should be clearly aware of the section of the community which he is hurting most of all. Who would have thought that a government which professed the kind of line that this Government professes would increase the letter rate by 150 per cent in less than 12 months? The letter rate was increased from 7c to 10c in the last Budget and now it is being increased to 18c as a result of the decision of the new Australian Postal Commission. The community has been grossly and gravely hurt by these totally savage increased charges for communication services which are the very lifeblood of our society and which go to make up our quality of life. It is absolutely ludicrous for a government organisation to raise charges by something like 50 per cent at a time when private businesses are being held to price rises of” 5 per cent or even less.
– What would you cut in order to find the money?
– Let me respond to the interjection of the Postmaster-General by saying that he may argue the way he has but he knows perfectly well that a great number of people will be seriously inconvenienced and severely hurt by the increased postal and telecommunications charges. I am not talking about business and other organisations, which have their own ways and means of dealing with this type of thing. The increased charges will add to inflation and to costs. The people who will be paying them will be the little people, or the people who can ill afford to pay the extra costs. I disregard the Christmas card argument and that kind of thing. That sector will be hurt, too; but I am more concerned about the people who are totalling dependent upon their telephone and the writing of letters. They will now have to give very serious consideration to whether they can afford to retain their telephones and to write their letters. They will be not only inconvenienced but also hurt, aggrieved and seriously disadvantaged.
I am very disappointed at the lack of response by the Government in the Budget to the needs of the rural community. Of all the sections of the community that happen to be in some sort of economic malaise, die rural section is the most seriously placed. It would seem that the Government has very little concept- indeed no concept at all- of the gravity of the rural situation. It may be that the community does not have much of a concept of the problems. I suppose that that is due largely to the way in which our society has developed. Certainly the Government has not drawn the attention of the community at large to not only the gravity of the rural situation but also the role played by the rural section, particularly as far as our export income is concerned. It is a very serious situation when a country that depends as much upon rural exports as Australia does has a net farm income for the year of $700m, which is the lowest for 15 years, at a time when every other figure is on the ascendency. There was a peak some 3 years ago of over $2,000m. Today we have a situation which represents a fall of some two-thirds in net farm income.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– This Budget debate has now been continuing in this Parliatment since 19 August, which is when my colleague Mr Hayden introduced the Budget in the House of Representatives. Because this is a Budget debate it necessarily involves matters that have to be dealt with, debated and pursued at great length. Although this is the third Budget that the Labor Government has introduced since it came to office in 1972, it is quite obvious from all of the remarks that have been made by Opposition speakers this evening that the Opposition has not learnt the role of an Opposition. It has adopted the old style tactics of merely sideswiping at this item, that item and the other item and picking out comparatively small items and criticising the Government for overspending in one direction or underspending in another, merely to try to capitalise on the votes that might be influenced of those who are interested in the matters that are the subject of the criticism.
For instance, I have heard a lot said this evening about education. For the first time in this Parliament members of the Opposition have come in here and said that we are spending too much on education. What was the situation in 1 972, which was the last year of office of the Liberal-Country Party Government? I remember it being claimed proudly in this chamber by Senator Wright, who was a Minister in the then Government, that in the Budget introduced by Mr Snedden in that year there had been a record increase in the expenditure on education of some $70m, bringing the expenditure on education up to $400m. In response to Senator Wright’s claim that a record amount of money was being spent on education, we said at that time that it would be necessary to spend at least 4 times as much to give Australian children a standard of education equal to that given to those attending schools in the United States of America, Sweden, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom or any other advanced nation. So it was that in our first year of office we spent $800m- twice the amount that the previous Government had spent- on the educational needs of the Australian community. (Quorum formed)
Prior to Senator Wright drawing attention in typical fashion to the state of the Senate- he sits here day after day calling for quorums, taking points of order and adopting one of the most negative attitudes of any honourable senator- I was pointing out that in its first year of office the Labor Government increased from $400m to $800m the expenditure on education during the last year of reign of the McMahon Government In its second year in office the Labour Government increased that expenditure to $ 1,500m. Prior to the introduction of the Budget this year rumours were flying around that the Government would not increase its expenditure on education any further. I can remember the hue and cry from members of the Opposition about the claim that we would not do anything to increase further the educational standards in Australia. That criticism was based merely on rumour. We have since increased the expenditure on education to some $ 1,900m because we believe that the children of Australia and the people of Australia are entitled to enjoy the same educational standards as people in other countries. Now that we have done that, we are being accused of overspending in the education area.
I daresay that if Mr Fraser were to cut back government expenditure by another $ 1,000m the education area would be one of the areas upon which he would have his eyes. During his speech on the Budget in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, 26 August, he told the Parliament and the Australian nation for the first time what he would do. He said that he would adopt a completely different taxation structure and that he would adopt completely the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Inflation and Taxation- the Mathews Committee. He was going to cut public expenditure by a further $ 1,000m. The Australian Financial Review- & newspaper which no one could claim is sympathetic in any way to this Government- had something to say in its editorial the next day about Mr Fraser’s speech. On 27 September under the headline: ‘Mr Fraser Breaks the Rules’, the Australian Financial Review stated:
Mr Fraser would have wielded a much heavier broadsword in cutting back public expenditure.
The fact that he has not fully specified where he would have sliced another $1,000 million off the hide of the Canberra bureaucratic machine is relatively unimportant.
It is his policy attitude which is significant.
In terms of vote-getting, Mr Fraser has fallen for the Hayden trap of adopting policy advocating further heavy public sector cuts.
Mr Hayden knows that as the full significance of what he has done sinks into the public sector and those directly dependent upon it, then he is going to be villifed as a mixture of Simon Legree and Ebenezer Scrooge.
He also knows that those who will do so are most often the vocal, affluent, educated, articulate, middle classes who can most afford to take the treatment but who exercise a disproportionate political strength to their numbers.
Mr Fraser has now offered himself as an even more obnoxious target.
My colleague the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) in framing and laying out this Budget clearly has indicated his objectives and the objectives of this Government. He, as the financial representative of the Government, has indicated that we are desirous of curbing inflation and are desirous of taking all steps that are necessary in the opinion of the Government to curb inflation. In this regard we have considerably dampened down public expenditure- by about $2,000m. Of course, it is our desire as has been expressed by Mr Hayden, to assist the private sector of the economy in overcoming some of its difficulties. Therefore, the Government has described the Budget as a stocktaking Budget- a Budget presented at a time when, as it were, one pauses for breath along the road of reform. Despite all the claims made by the Opposition and despite all the criticism of this Government by the mass media, the achievements of the Labor Government since it came to office are readily discernible.
Whether the Opposition likes it or not the value of incomes has risen. There has been a real transformation in educational activities in Australia. There has been real progress along the road of social reform in the nation’s social welfare programs. The age pension rate has increased from about 18.6 per cent of average weekly earnings, when we came into office in 1 972, to about 23 per cent or 24 per cent of average weekly earnings. There has been a pause in that regard now. For the first time, we have compared percentage increases for pensions with consumer price index figures. Pensioners, too, have accepted that it is their responsibility along with the rest of Australians to joint in the fight that the Australian Government is leading towards curbing inflation. All of our reforms, all of the programs that we have implemented and all of our successes cannot be measured merely in terms of dollars and cents. Our reforms, I suggest, have been enduring and come what may they will never be reversed.
Senator Cavanagh, during the course of his remarks, referred to the Government establishing, for the first time, the portfolio of Recreation and Tourism to ensure that funds are spent on genuine and desirous recreational needs of the Australian community. The portfolio of Urban and Regional Development has been established to encourage the development of our cities, our urban areas and our decentralised programs. I was previously the Minister for the Media and I was, amongst other things, responsible for broadcasting. New broadcasting licences were issued. In Sydney one licence was issued- the first dme in 30 years. One broadcasting licence was issued in Melbourne- the first time in 40 years. Public broadcasting was introduced. Frequency modulation broadcasting was established. Ethnic broadcasting was introduced. The broadcasting listeners’ licence and television viewers’ licence fees were eliminated last year. Despite the fact that rumours were prevalent this year that the licences would be renewed, it was a reform that had been achieved by this Government and it has not been tampered with again. I mention these few matters only to indicate that those things, under this Government, will endure for all time to the credit of the Labor administration. As I have said, those reforms are here to stay. If it had not been for this Government, such reforms would never have been introduced.
Let me refer to one or two matters that relate to the concept of the Budget which are involved in the administration of my portfolio- that of Special Minister of State. I refer in particular to the Australian Grants Commission and to the Prices Justification Tribunal. When this Government came to office local government organisations throughout Australia, of which there are 880, were literally starved of funds by the States because the States could not get the funds from the Commonwealth. We undertook to extend the concept of the Grants Commission. The role of the Grants Commission changed from that of merely making recommendations to assist mendicant States to that of making recommendations concerning financial assistance to local government. We amended the Grants Commission Act in 1973. In 1974, as a result of detailed inquiries throughout Australia by the extended Grants Commission, the Labor Government accepted the recommendations of that Commission so far as financial assistance to local government was concerned and last year it made available some $56.345m to local governments. Those funds were made available without any conditions. They were completely unconditional grants to local government organisations.
This year, of course, despite the necessity of cutting back on government expenditure and because we realise the necessity of building up the regions in Australia and the need to develop Australia having regard to the 3-tier system of government- Federal government, State government and local government- we again accepted the recommendations of the Grants Commission. This year, there has been an increase in expenditure following Grants Commission recommendations. In 1974 such expenditure was $56.345m and in 1975 it was $79.898m. That is an increase, in round figures, of about $23.5m. For more than 2 years the Australian Government has demonstrably maintained its commitment to strengthen the status of local government. The scheme of assistance to local government, through the Grants Commission, is an historic breakthrough. It gives local government, for the first time, access to untied Federal funds. It is equalising the capabilities of local government councils around Australia to provide the many standard services that today’s community demand. As I have said, in the 2 years in which the scheme has operated a total of over $ 1 36m in equalisation grants has been earmarked for payment through State governments to specified councils. The proportion of councils recommended for assistance under the Grants Commission scheme has risen from 92 per cent in the first year of its operation to 95 per cent in the Commission’s last cycle. For the 1975-76 financial year the Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendations which involve, as I said, a total of over $79m in equalisation grants to local government bodies. This represents a rise of about 42 per cent on last year’s total of $56. 3m.
Therefore, when members of the Opposition say that we are not giving consideration to the problems of people who live in rural areas, I say that we are directly assisting such people by providing this finance on a completely untied basis so that the representatives of the people in the areas, the local government bodies, can determine how best the money should be used in their areas. I understand the disappointment of those councils which did not receive a grant this year but the simple fact is that 41 councils did not receive an allocation under this year’s latest allocations compared with about seventy last year.
Senator Cleaver Bunton from Albury discussed this matter during the course of the Budget debate this afternoon. I looked at the figures that applied to his region. I think it is commonly referred to as the zone 6 region within New South Wales. This year over Sim has been made available or will be made available by this Government to local government organisations in the zone 6 region of New South Wales which takes in Albury. I think I can tell Senator Bunton that the Albury City Council received some $200,000 this financial year. This year there is $lm for the region compared with some $600,000 last year. In all, as a result of this Government’s Budget allocations, in the last 2 years $1.6m has been spent in the region about which my friend Senator Bunton spoke.
It is, however, in the nature of the scheme that in the application of equalisation principles some councils will not receive a grant. On the evidence available to it the Grants Commission is convinced that a number of local governing bodies have a comparative advantage in raising revenue which is sufficient to offset any expenditure disabilities they may experience in providing services at current standards. The fact is that there has been widespread acceptance by local government of the scheme of equalisation grants initiated by the Whitlam Labor Government in 1973. During the last cycle of the scheme’s operation all eligible councils participated. The Grants Commission scheme, together with other Austraiian Government assistance programs to local government, has been a powerful stimulus in increasing local government’s knowledge of federal and State responsibilities in relation to its own and has set in train a more thorough appreciation at all 3 levels of government of the problems of raising and distributing money.
Might I say in the short time available to me that I note that the Federal Opposition has announced that it would move to establish a grants commission for each State. I suggest that the substantial interstate differences in responsibilities and the fiscal needs of local governing bodies requires that recommendations for assistance from the Australian Government be based on assessments and criteria applied uniformly throughout Australia by the one body. I suggest that based on experience the Grants Commission is the best qualified body in Australia to undertake an assessment of the relative needs of local government bodies on a national basis.
– It is arrant nonsense for it to claim any knowledge of local government.
– I hear Senator Wright’s negative objections again. The simple fact is that when the present Opposition was in government we in the Labor Party received deputation after deputation after deputation from local government organisations and bodies throughout Australia urging action on the part of the then Government. If Senator Wright will remember, there was urgency motion after urgency motion in this chamber and in another place on the same subject during the time that the Opposition Parties were in government. I ask him to compare that Government’s record of nil assistance from the Commonwealth to local government with the $136m allocated by this Government in 2 years.
I want to say something about the Prices Justification Tribunal. We have heard a lot from our friends on the Opposition- side about what they will do to curb inflation, of how they will go about tackling the mammoth task that lies ahead, of how they will reform the taxation structure, of how they will reduce taxation, of how they will adopt the full recommendations of the Mathews Committee and of how they will further reduce public expenditure by $ 1,000m. I suggest that the Opposition also says that it will do away with the Prices Justification Tribunal. Although the Prices Justification Tribunal is an independent quasi-judicial body I remind honourable senators opposite that it does not act, as they appear to think it acts, in a vacuum. It has kept itself fully informed on developments in the economy at large and has adjusted its approach accordingly with commendable promptness in difficult times. The Government has made submissions to the Tribunal to assist it in its task and those submissions have been accepted by it in that spirit. The Tribunal will continue to play its part in tune with changing economic circumstances in the same enlightened manner.
The Tribunal began operations in August 1973. By the end of July 1975 it had received 12 392 price notifications. Of these only 48 were taken to public inquiry. Of the remainder, 1310 resulted in reductions in originally proposed prices after discussions with the Tribunal. I realise that the Tribunal’s second annual report is about to come to hand but if honourable senators read its first annual report they will see that it estimated that in its first year of operation it saved the Australian consumers some $2 5 3 m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– This Budget has been presented at a time which can be described only as one of great economic crisis. I must say also that the Government must take a great deal of the blame for the crisis that exists in Australia at present. I think it is worth reminding the Senate that when the Whitlam Government came to power inflation in this country was running at something like 4.6 per cent. In Mr Whitlam ‘s own words, that was a little over 1000 days ago. Many of us can remember that low rate of inflation, 4.6 per cent, which was of great concern to the then Government formed by the Liberal Party and the Country Party. In that 1000-day period we have seen inflation increase from some 4.3 per cent or 4.6 per cent- it had been slowly falling and unemployment was under control- to something like 6.9 per cent. All the signs are pointing to an increase in the rate of inflation. The forecasts are that it will go as high as 20 per cent. Unemployment is also at an all time high. Even Mr Hawke has said that in all probability unemployment in this country tragically could reach in the vicinity of half a million people. That is a tragedy for Australia, because for so long we were known as the lucky country- a country of great potential, a world leader in development with a consistently very low level of unemployment, and a country which consistently maintained one of the lowest rates of inflation in the world. Today the whole situation is completly reversed. Australia is at the top of the list today and is regarded as the pacesetter in the world in relation to inflation.
One of the tragedies which has befallen this country is the fact that when this Government came to power after 23 years in Opposition it went headlong into putting into reality its socialistic doctrinaire policies, completely overlooking priorities and completely overlooking one of the major elements which should be found in any responsible government- good economic management. That was of secondary consideration to the Government. We can see the results that are with us today- high unemployment and a high rate of inflation. Incentive in the country was killed. Private industry was attacked as much as it possibly could be. Small industries were placed in jeopardy, as is evidenced in an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 August last. The article refers to figures which were supplied by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission and states:
As the Commission noted in its 1974 report: ‘The number of companies placed in liquidation- 1 1 55- represented an increase of 9.2 per cent, arising from an increase in a number of voluntary windings-up.
Figures covering the first seven months of 1975 reflect an intensifying of the economic gloom. To the end of July, 878 companies had been wound up. The most disquieting of these statistics are the higher numbers of companies voluntarily going into liquidation- 102 in May, 10 1 in June, 1 1 5 in July, at least double the monthly average in the previous 1 8 months.
Those figures are related to small industries. The article goes on:
What of the fate of those businesses which are run as family concerns or partnerships and are not registered as companies? These businesses are registered under the Business Names Act, and it is significant that in 1974 applications for new names were 1036 fewer than in 1973- the first yearly fall recorded by the New South Wales Statistician’s Office since 1967.
These figures are related to small companies which make up such an important part of industry and commerce in Australia and which play a major part in the employment of so many people. It is because so many small companies have gone out of existence that today so many people are unemployed. More than 250 000 small businesses employ approximately 40 per cent of the Australian work force. The figures I have cited reflect the tragic present situation.
The Government set its sights on nationalising industry as much as it possibly could in order to squeeze private enterprise and to kill incentive in this country. We found that ‘profit’ became a dirty word. It was not until last year that the signs became so gloomy that the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) realised that they had to change their attitudes. Dr Cairns, who was Treasurer for a short period, at that stage recognised that profit was a necessary part of industry and commerce in this country. Mr Whitlam went one further. He even suggested that the Prices Justification Tribunal should consider the aspect of profitability when making its findings. That was a complete turnaround on the part of the Prime Minister. By that time, of course, a great deal of industry had been affected and we are still seeing the effects of that rundown in this country at the present time.
One only has to look to mining and oil exploration in this country to find another area in which incentive was killed. We know what has happened in the mining area. We have seen a downturn in exploration and in the activities of mining companies. Latest reports show very clearly that profitability is at an extremely low level. No incentive is offered to companies to go further afield to explore potential mineral deposits in this country. Firstly their profitability is too low to carry the excessive expenditure involved in the hit and miss nature of exploration; secondly, incentive is being killed because they are being bled of their profitability by so many of the policies that this Government laid down early in its time in office. Only recently has it started to give some sympathy to the idea of changing them.
If one looks at oil exploration activity in this country at the present time one can appreciate how much was being done in Australia previously. Not so many years ago oil wells were being drilled in many of the off-shore areas of Australia. Australia has great potential in its offshore areas. Many wells have been drilled onshore yet today’s figures show how that activity has suddenly run right down. In 1969 322 wells were drilled in the exploration for oil and natural gas. In the first half of 1975 only 16 wells were drilled, and it was proposed that a further 31 wells would be drilled, although one doubts that that will be so. Only 17 rigs are available in Austalia at the present time, and of those only three are active; fourteen are idle. In years past we had far more drilling rigs than that in Australia. What has happened to them? The drilling companies, along with other companies, have turned their backs on Australia and have gone to explore other fields because they were given absolutely no incentive in this country to continue their exploration, which is very much a hit and miss operation and a very expensive exercise.
The companies concerned faced the reality of what would happen if this Government continued on its merry way. As an example one only has to look at what has happened on the northwest shelf of Western Australia. Already billions of cubic feet of gas have been found in that area but the situation there is static because of the attitude of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who has killed completely incentive in that area and in other areas of Australia. To me that is absolutely tragic. At a time when we have an energy crisis and should be developing all the resources we have in this country, we have basically what could be described as a static situation. In a few short years, in a little over 1000 days, the situation has been allowed to run right down almost to a stop. The price of oil and so many other products is very high today in overseas countries. We perhaps could have been in the position of being able to export these products. At least we could have been closer to selfsufficiency than we are at the present time.
The Government has created another problem by encouraging excessive wage demands, and that encouragement continued right through until last year when suddenly we found that even Mr Crean as Treasurer made the statement- I believe that Mr Cameron, who for so long had been encouraging excessive wage demands, also supports this statement- that perhaps there should be some restraint because one man’s pay increase could mean another man’s job. But by that time the damage had been done. The Government is very conscious of the problem that it has on its hands at the present time, as was pointed out earlier today by Senator James McClelland, the Minister responsible for such matters.
The Government also engaged in excessive spending which in itself was not only inflationary but also transferred resources from the private to the public sector. It removed the opportunity for futher investment as well as killing other incentives for private investment. It shunned and criticised overseas investment. In many cases it went so far as to condemn overseas investment and virtually to close the door on it. It was not until last year, when it could see the gloom, that it suddenly changed its attitude. Its attitude did not just change; some members of the Government Party went to such extremes, with the support of the Prime Minister and many other Ministers in the Cabinet, that we reached the situation in which we had the $4,000m loan exercise.
That loan was to be obtained not through the normal channels but by very strange means which were peculiar to this Government and would be peculiar for any other government. That was the crazy situation which we reached. One knows why the loan was being raised. It was being raised in order to nationalise all our areas of minerals and energy, from exploration and exploitation to production. There is no doubt about that. Let us look at the hypocrisy that comes into this matter. For so long the Government condemned overseas finance, even overseas finance raised through the normal channels, and suddenly responsible Ministers were going overseas and running around dark alleys and other strange places trying to raise a loan of approximately $4,000m. I am citing only one of the loans, which eventually, when the time came to repay it, would have cost the taxpayers of this country approximately $ 1 8,000m.
We have reached the present situation which can be described as a frightening economic crisis, with high inflation, a lack of incentive and a lack of confidence not only in the country but also in the general business and commercial sectors. We have the problem of increased unemployment and the problem of young people leaving school this year. Where do they go when they leave? It is a tragedy for those young people and I am certain that many of them will never forgive this Government or forget what it has done. The Government must take the blame for the policies that it has followed blindly because of its political bias and political ambitions, irrespective of its economic responsibilities and its national responsibilities. The Government was hell bent on setting down its socialistic ideals and forcing them upon this country, irrespective of what it did to the people, industry and commerce and the potential of this country.
Whilst one can say that there have been social reforms in Australia, I ask: At what price have they been introduced? How long will it take for Australia to recover? How long will it take for overseas investors to have enough confidence to come back into this country? I am certain that they will not come back while the Labor Party is in power. If this country is wise enough and the Liberal and Country parties get back into government at the next election, we will see some confidence restored in the community and overseas, we will see an upsurge in private investment and in the industry and commerce of this country and I hope and pray that we will see a great downturn in unemployment, which is one of the greatest tragedies that this Government has inflicted upon Australia at present.
I fear for the young people who will leave school or university at the end of this year in the hope of going into the work force. It is all very well for the Government to say: ‘We will give them unemployment benefits and social compensation’. What is that to a young person who has initiative and pride and wants to make a contribution towards the country? Members of the Government Party are to blame for that. I know that they will turn around and say ‘It is not our fault, it is a world-wide problem’, as Senator Mulvihill said earlier. I violently disagree with Senator Mulvihill. Although I have a high regard for him I cannot accept that statement. Mr Whitlam and others have said that overseas inflation is a grave problem and that we have had to live with the importation of that problem. I remind the Senate that there were high rates of inflation in other countries during the period that we were in government, but at that time Australia was not the pacesetter for inflation as we are today. We had one of the lowest rates of inflation in the world during those periods, and we were proud of that.
– Which period?
- Senator Poyser can go through the statistics for any period he wishes and he will see that the situation is clear from the figures. I turn to the energy crisis. It has been said that the increase in crude oil prices has had an adverse effect on Australia. What has happened to the 70 per cent self-sufficiency of this country? The price of crude oil in Australia is one of the lowest in the world, at approximately $2 a barrel. This country was self-sufficient in its foodstuffs and in the great bulk of its raw materials. We did not have to rely upon the importation of many raw materials, including crude oil, unlike other countries such as Japan which were affected by the energy crisis and which suffered from an inflation crisis as a result.
What is the position today? Whilst we are a pacesetter and have one of the highest rates of inflation in the world, many other countries such as Japan have experienced a great downturn in the rate of inflation. In the United States of America, where there has been so much turmoil and trouble with inflation, the rate of inflation today is coming down. Those countries are getting themselves under control. So far this country is not under control. That has been stated by Mr
Hayden himself, who has made a responsible attempt to do something to make up for the mess that this Government has created in a little more than one thousand days. It is no good members of the Government Party saying that inflation was imported and was caused by the energy crisis, because I remind the Senate of the statement made by the Treasurer in Statement No. 2, The Budget and the Economy’. He said:
Australia had been comparatively insulated from the oil price rises-
I emphasise those words- and the downturn in world activity also reflected in only muted fashion in demand for Australian exports.
So Mr Hayden does not agree with some of the statements which have been made by members of the Government Party. In many ways I feel sorry for Mr Hayden, who now has the responsibility of trying to correct the mess that has been created by this Government in a little more than one thousand days.
I do not intend to go into details of the Budget. They have been covered by many speakers on this side of the chamber. Senator Cotton dealt in depth with the financial and taxation aspects and Mr Fraser put in very clear and concise terms exactly how we, if we were in government, would reduce expenditure and at the same time create incentive to try to get industry, the economy and the country generally back on the rails. Besides the huge increase in revenue resulting from the expected continuation of and increase in inflation which this Government will receive this year and which is anticipated by the Treasurer’s statement, the Government is increasing its revenue from indirect taxes. I refer not only to the increases in the taxes on such things as beer, spirits and cigarettes, but also to the levy of $2 a barrel on crude petroleum which will cost approximately 5c a gallon. All those factors are inflationary because beer, cigarettes and the other commodities fit into the consumer price index. When a government throws a levy of $2 a barrel on crude oil, which will have a great impact throughout the whole of the economy, I cannot understand its logic and I doubt whether it has any wisdom, because that levy will have a very inflationary effect which will be cumulative.
Perhaps one should turn to another area of indirect taxation that was left out of the Budget. It was brought in by what could only be described as a backdoor method. I refer to the increases in postal and telecommunication charges. I will agree that although we did try to amend part of the legislation we supported and finally agreed with the Government on the introduction of legislation to change the structure of the Post Office to have a postal commission and a telecommunications commission, but that is where our responsibility stopped. It is of no use the Government saying that the increased charges are the responsibility of these respective commissions. No doubt if the Government had been more generous in its attitude in the first place regarding the capital side of the operations of the postal and telecommunication bodies the charges would not have had to be so excessive, but at the same time irrespective of that the final decision to increase charges come back to the Government. So it is of no use the Government trying to dodge the issue.
The responsibility for the increased postal charges rests fairly and squarely on the Government itself and it must accept all the blame. As far as the electorate is concerned, it is of no use to bring in these increased charges a fortnight before introducing the Budget because these charges are going to be extremely inflationary. They are part of the Budget because they are part of the fiscal policy and attitude of this Government. I repeat, this Government must take full responsibility for these increased charges. As has been said before, Father Christmas has now been killed; the Christmas spirit will go. One can feel sympathy for the many people such as mother and daughter and friends who communicate by letter. The cost involved in this method of communication is going to become very excessive.
Even though one could perhaps say to himself that in the private sector these increased charges are not going to be inflationary, they are going to be a very heavy burden when they are coupled with all the other increased costs which have been inflicted upon the general community. If one looks at the area of business and the commercial world one sees just how inflationary these increased charges will be. I have been doing some work since the Budget was brought down. In discussions with major retailers in my city of Adelaide I have learned that generally stores there are faced with the prospect of increased charges of the order of $200,000 per annum. Who will meet these costs? Do honourable senators think that the stores can absorb them? Even the Labor Party now agrees that there must be profit for industry if it is to stay alive. There is only one way these costs can gc and that is straight back to the consumer.
Let me refer to what has happened with country newspapers. In respect of one metropolitan newspaper in Adelaide, the daily afternoon newspaper called the News- I am allowed to quote these figures- it is estimated that the increased charges for postal and telecommunications services generally will cost this newspaper in the vicinity of $50,000 per annum. The postal increase itself will stand at about $20,000. Another newspaper which comes out once a week faces increased charges of something like $15,000. There is a limit to how much of the increased costs companies can absorb when all the other costs are escalating all the time. These costs finish up going one way. The price of the newspapers will increase and that means the consumer finally pays. This is the message we have been trying to get through to the Government for the last 3 years. It is the little people who pay for the excesses of and the mismanagement by this Government. This is the tragedy which exists in this country.
Turning to country newspapers, let me say that there does not appear to be much sympathy from this Government for them. There has not been much sympathy for country people generally since this Government came to power and there is still not much sympathy for them. I can only put it this way. I think this Government realises that there are very few votes in country areas, so I would sum it up by saying ‘no vote, no value’. I think that is the general attitude of the Government towards country areas. I have taken out some figures relating to country newspapers. I found that because of increased charges last year some 14 country newspapers in New South Wales and 10 country newspapers in South Australia went out of existence. Looking at the effects that the postal increases will have on country newspapers, it is estimated that of all the newspapers put out in New South Wales something like 30 per cent are posted. That means country newspapers are going to face increased charges estimated to rise by about 72 per cent and in some categories by 55 per cent. There is only one way that these additional costs can go and that is to the consumer. This will result in a decrease in circulation for many country newspapers and no doubt other increases in costs will mean that more and more country newspapers will be going out of existence. To increase postal charges is just like putting the clammy hand of death on so many country newspapers today, newspapers that are so important to the communities which they serve. Yet this Government is killing this very important area of the media. I regret very much the attitude the Government has adopted on these increased charges.
One newspaper in South Australia which was established in 1903 went into recess last week, but with these increased postal charges it is doubtful whether it will ever start again. We hope that it will. I refer to the newspaper put out at Balaklava. The newspaper put out at Clare has a circulation of about 2500 and of that number 1 100 are mailed, including 500 to metropolitan and interstate subscribers. What effect will the increased postal charges have on that newspaper? Of the 6000 newspapers printed every week at Kadina over 1000 copies are posted. What effect will these postal increases have on this newspaper?
In the last 3 years of increased charges and costs through inflation this Government has much to answer for, particularly in relation to the effects on country people in the area of the media. In losing their local rag, they are losing quite a bit of colour, as I have said on previous occasions. Government supporters talk about monopolies. They talk about aggregation and control of newspapers in Australia by one or two people. Who is doing more to send newspapers out of existence or to force newspapers to merge or to force them into a situation in which there has to be a takeover than this Government is doing at the present time? What will happen to the community service clubs which put out magazines? How are they going to keep going? The same applies in respect of publications put out by religious organisations. The charitable organisation Austcare in South Australia has told me that it will cost an extra $1,000 per annum to continue its publication. I can only question whether the Government, by increasing these charges on charitable organisations such as Austcare, is now starting to put on the squeeze so much that it is beginning to live off charity. These are the problems that we are facing with this Government at the present time. Turning to telecommunication charges, the Government itself must take the responsibility because now we find that transmission costs for radio land line services are going up.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Senator Young who has just finished his speech did the same as other Opposition speakers have done. He spoke about the need to cut back expenditure and then he wanted a number of subsidies. He talked about postal and telecommunication charges and the recommendation which the Government accepted from the 2 commissions in charge of postal and telecommunication services. Honourable senators will note that he said the Government ‘should have been more generous’, which means of course that the ordinary taxpayers have to subsidise a service which in these days has been accepted by all the authorities as needing to be based on commercial and business principles. This Parliament, whether the honourable senator likes it or not, accepted the Vernon Commission’s recommendations which affirmed that principle. In addition, this Senate in fact endorsed the legislation. Opposition supporters knew what the legislation proposed. Those tariff recommendations which came to me in the first instance from the 2 Commissions were somewhat buried under negotiations with me. The formal arrangements were carried out but in discussions I recommended alterations which provided for subsidies. Does Senator Young know that in the case of the country newspapers, and by that I mean registered publications, including newspapers and charitable organisations, even with the $ 1 m subsidy the Postal Commission will still lose $1 lm in that area. Has any Opposition senator, has Senator Withers or Mr Fraser said how they would fill the gap? If the tariffs had been left as they were the Government would have been required to find $348m. Does anybody say seriously that this Government or any Government should find that amount of money? Where would the money be taken from to ensure that tariffs were kept as low as they were before.
The cost of a stamp is now 1 8c. That is high. It is 4c or 6c higher than the cost of the daily newspaper that one buys every day and throws away. A letter can be transferred from one part of the country to another, and that price was recommended by the Postal Commission. The Government has made a subsidy over the 2 areas of $ 16.5m. A subsidy of the magnitude suggested by the Opposition would have been the equivalent of any of the following programs: The loans for the reserve price scheme for wool; half the recurrent and capital expenditure proposed by the Schools Commission for the coming year; an increase in the standard pension rate of $5.35 a week in a full year and in the married rate by $4.45 in a full year; abolishing the means test on people aged between 65 years and 69 years at a cost of $240m in a full year. The full Budget for the Department of Urban and Regional Development is $3 69m, and yet the Opposition says that the Government should have left the tariffs as they were. An amount of $3 50m would buy 4 patrol frigates; the Government currently is buying two.
Let me come to the crunch on this matter. Opposition senators are always getting up and saying that the Government should cut expenditure. Every day in this place and in the other place somebody gets up and talks about the need for a subsidy. Senator Young says that the Government has got to be more generous. What would the Opposition cut back? What would it do? The Opposition has not said what it would do. No offer has been made in this Parliament in any of the Budget debates indicating what the Opposition would do. Would it provide $14m to reduce by 2c the cost of a postage stamp? Of course it would not. Would it recover the money by reintroducing television and broadcast listener’s licences?
– Why not?
-There you are. The Government did not do it. The Opposition might do it but it has not said that it will. Would the Opposition put a poll tax on the people? Mr Fraser has found all the remedies but he has not made any offers. Opposition senators will get up tomorrow and ask: ‘What about the postal and telecommunication charges?’, but nobody will make a firm offer from the Opposition side on where the money is going to come from to reduce the charges. In fact, the Opposition accepts the principle of those increased charges. The Opposition spokesman in this place, the shadow Minister, has affirmed the principle, which is a safe principle. As I said before, it is unfortunate that the 2 Commissions have had to start off in a period of general world wide depression and inflation and they are suffering.
– That is a weak excuse.
-Of course they are suffering.
– You brought the inflation in.
-And what did the Opposition do when it was in government? This Government has reduced the load on the ordinary taxpayer by $67m by abolishing television and broadcast listeners’ licences. Perhaps the Opposition will do what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is now suggesting. When it comes back it will put the licence fees back on. Is that what the Opposition proposes to do?
– No, I would get rid of the rubbish that you have produced.
– Maybe you can. Yes, probably you will. The honourable senator referred to it; I did not.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Senator McLaren interjected and made an observation in relation to a superphosphate bounty which he apparently alleged I obtained. Is that what you are saying?
– No, I did not. I never mentioned you. I said that Mr Fraser might return what he got and that would help the Budget.
- Mr Deputy President, I should remind you that the President promised to put down a decision in relation to a matter of privilege that I raised earlier.
The DEPUTY PRESID*ENT (Senator Webster)- Order! The honourable senator will not interrupt the Minister.
– The position is as clear as day. Opposition speakers get up in these sorts of debates and say that the Government has got to impose wage restraints; it has got to cut back government expenditure. Yet all that Opposition speakers have been asking about tonight and over the last few days and all that they will ask about tomorrow is this: What about the programs which the Government has cut back? What is it going to do about them? Before this debate concludes I should like to know what the Opposition is going to offer to reduce expenditure. It has got no policy. Senator Withers in this place and Mr Fraser in the other place have presented the Opposition’s policy. Nobody will change that. They have criticised Medibank. Is the Opposition going to change that too?
I would remind honourable senators opposite of what the Government has done. It has given a subsidy of $ 16.5m to the 2 Commissions. That amount was as much as the Government and the Cabinet thought was necessary in view of the principle which had been accepted for the establishment of the 2 Commissions. That is a principle which in the long run will save the ordinary taxpayer the load that he has carried in the past. That involves an argument that has always been used as a political argument in this place. We all know that on occasions in this place when in Opposition we have attacked proposed charges, and the Government has used the device in relation to postal charges of saying that the important and extraordinary charges have got to be maintained. In this case the Government, after proper examination, for the first time has given these 2 enterprises the responsibility- a responsibility which the Opposition endorsed- for running their own business, and they are doing it in a good way and they have got to be left to do it. They have to be left to run their own business undertakings. We have to give them a go in a period which is very difficult. Senator Young said that the Government has to be more generous, but it has done something else, as he knows. It has made 2 important decisions which will benefit the Commissions. For example, the superannuation liability of both undertakings has been written off, saving the Telecommunications Commission an estimated $500m over the next 30 years and the Postal Commission $70m in that time.
I put it to honourable senators that the Government has given the 2 Commissions as much of a start as it can in these dmes. If the dmes had been better perhaps the Government might have provided increased subsidies, but in this year of restraint everybody is talking about the need to get back to a time of stability during a period of world wide difficulty. Opposition speakers talk about unemployment as though Australia were the only country in the world which is suffering from it. Let me quote the unemployment figures throughout the world, including that very prosperous country, the Labour-governed Federal Republic of Germany, whose unemployment rate is currently 5.2 per cent. The figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for the quarter ended in February 1975 show that in Canada unemployment is 8.6 per cent; in Australia it is 4.7 per cent. We do not want that and the Government is trying to create economic conditions which will stop it. In the United States the unemployment figure is 9.1 per cent; in Australia it is 4.7 per cent. In West Germany, which has the best rate of economic growth of any country in the world, the unemployment figure is 5.2 per cent. In Belgium the figure is 5.9 per cent and in Denmark 12 per cent. These are characteristic influences and Opposition senators know that the Australian Government and the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) are trying to provide conditions which will meet the situation.
What does the Opposition propose? It proposes no solutions to the matters I have mentioned. It has made no offer of reductions in expenditure because it cannot justify the sort of cuts that are now being put forward by the Leader of the Liberal Party. I might best express my point by quoting what was stated in the Age of 29 August. The article read:
Some of the areas in which Mr Fraser indicated he could get significant savings are patently absurd.
Abolition of the Media Department, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Australian Legal Aid Office and the Australian Police may be legitimate policy objectives, but they are irrelevant to the level of Government spending. The public servants involved would have to be absorbed into other departments and some functions, such as law enforcement, would still have to be maintained.
The proposal to cut the Treasurer’s advance by $75m is scraping the bottom of the barrel; this is a contingency sum . . .
Statements made by Senator- Casual Senate Vacancy: Queensland
The PRESIDENT: Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Honourable senators, earlier this day at the conclusion of question time Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred to remarks which he stated had been made by Senator Walsh and which he suggested might constitute a breach of privilege. He thought that the matter should be pursued further and I undertook to take the matter into consideration. Honourable senators will be aware that questions of privilege are matters not for the President but for the Senate itself to determine. However, in keeping with my undertaking, I called for Hansard records of the proceedings and closely studied the remarks actually made by Senator Walsh. I do not feel that they are such as to call for any action.
– I do not often speak during the adjournment debate, but I feel that today is a very sad day not only for this Government but for members of the Opposition as well. I refer to the appointment of a person in Queensland to fill the casual vacancy in the Senate. This makes me sad for 2 reasons: The Premier of a rather hill-billy government in the great State of Queensland threw away all political decency in his mad desire to fill a vacancy caused by the death of one of my colleagues with someone other than the endorsed Australian Labor Party candidate. In doing so he defied the conventions and all of the decent political customs and practices that have been observed not only by the Labor Party but by most sections of the Liberal Party ever since 1949 and, prior to that, with one or two minor exceptions, since Federation. I feel sad too for the man who has taken the position- Paddy Field- who in the twilight of his life had thrown away whatever principles he may have held in the political arena to accept this position.
The other point I wish to make is that the man who has been selected may not be electorally qualified to take his place in this chamber. In advancing my argument I want to cover a number of other very important points. We know that in the days when Mr Snedden was the Leader of the Opposition he made an appeal to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Lewis, not to appoint any person other than a member of the Labor Party to the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator, now Mr Justice Murphy. At that time- I know Senator Bunton will not take this personallyMr Lewis said that he would appoint a political neutral. At that time Senator Bunton held a very important local government post in his own city. But it is not possible in 1975 for anyone to be a political neuter or to be politically neutral. Of course Senator Bunton on most occasions, as I think everbody expected and as Mr Lewis certainly expected, has voted with the Opposition in this chamber.
The first reference to the vacancy just filled was made by the Premier of Queensland a very few hours after the sad passing away of our former colleague. On that occasion he passed rude remarks about the Prime Minister of Australia doing his own guess work, etc. I refer to an exchange of letters that took place about previous vacancies in this chamber caused by the resignation or death of members from Queensland.I have photostat copies of the letters that were exchanged between the Premier and the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the State House in Queensland. I cannot readily put my hands on them tonight, but I am prepared to table them if members of the Opposition want them tabled at a later date. They are printed in toto in the National Review of 25-3 1 July 1 975 in a story written by Denis Murphy under the headline: ‘Joh Plays his Double Standard Trick Again’. I will read the preliminary paragraphs because I think they are relevant to the sad issue we are discussing tonight. The article states:
Bert Milliner was a Labor senator for Queensland for seven years. He was not dead one hour before Joh BjelkePetersen was crowing about his power to decide Milliner’s replacement.
Even before Milliner had been dead 24 hours, Bob Sparkes, the president of the National Country Party in Queensland and the man who shares the real power in Queensland with Alan Callaghan, the head of BjelkePetersen’s progaganda machine, was announcing that the Queensland government would wait until after the South Australian elections before it decided from what party Milliner’s replacement would come.
Sparkes, it should be emphasised is not a member of the Queensland parliament but is quite accustomed to saying what the Queensland government will do. On this occasion, though, Joh couldn’t wait until then to ‘do a Lewis’, as the following letters show.
In 1971 when Liberal senator Dame Annabelle Rankin was made high commissioner to New Zealand, BjelkePetersen wrote to Jack Houston, leader of the opposition, informing him of the government’s intention of filling the casual senate vacancy: 31 May 1971
Dear Mr Houston as you know, the accepted practice when a casual vacancy of this nature occurs is for the senator to be of the same political party as his predecessor and I have asked the Queensland division of the Liberal party of Australia to advise me, as quickly as possible, of the name of the person they wish to nominate on this particular occasion.
As soon as I am in receipt of the name of this nominee,I shall advise you accordingly and, at the same time, the necessary constitutional procedures for the filling of this casual senate vacancy brought about by Dame Annabelle ‘s resignation will be set in train.
– Who signed that?
– It is signed:
Joh Bjelke-Petersen Premier
The article goes on:
It should be noted that Bjelke-Petersen asked for one nominee, not a panel of two or three, and repeated this in the final paragraph.
There was a large field of nominees within the Liberal Party and one only of these, Neville Bonner, was chosen.
It is to Neville Bonner’s credit that he came out publicly a few days ago and suggested that only the Labor candidate should be selected.
– When Senator Bonner was chosen did the Labor Party not ask for a panel of names to be submitted?
– To answer that interjection, if Senator Greenwood wants to defend -
– Order! Senator Keeffe may make his speech. Interjections are disorderly. Senator Greenwood may speak after Senator Keeffe has completed his remarks.
-Thank you, Mr President. That is the message I was endeavouring to convey to Senator Greenwood. The article goes on:
Contrast this with the recent letter sent to Tom Burns as leader of the Labor party in Queensland: 17 July 1975
Dear Mr Burns, the generally accepted practice when a vacancy of this nature occurs is for the new senator to be of the same political party as his predecessor.
To this end, therefore, I should appreciate your advising me as soon as possible the names of three persons whom your party would be prepared to nominate for the election of one of them by the parliament to fill the present casual senate vacancy . . .
Joh Bjelke-Petersen premier
When a vacancy is caused by the resignation of a member of the Liberal Party only one candidate is called for; when a vacancy is caused by the sad death of a member of the Labor Party the Premier of Queensland wants a panel of 3 names from which to choose. The State Executive of the Labor Party met. As a member of the State Executive I was present when the deliberations took place. It was decided unanimously that we would nominate one candidate only- Dr Mai Colston. When his nomination was rejected by a vote of the Queensland Parliament a week ago today, the Labor Party again decided unanimously to put forward the name of only one candidate.
Dr Mai Colston is a man of the highest personal and political calibre. He is a man with great academic qualifications. He is a patriot in that he is a serving member of the Citizen Military Forces, with senior field rank. He was a candidate for the Labor Party at the Senate elections in 1970 and 1973 and at the double dissolution election in 1974. He is a candidate again for the Senate election which will be held somewhere between now and 30 June next year. As the leader of the Labor Party team for that election I am proud to be associated with him. He is a writer of note. In fact, recently he had published a book dealing with Senate elections, particularly the 1974 election. When he was under question last Wednesday, a week ago today, a political Johnny-come-lately by the name of Byrne who on 7 December 1974 defeated a Labor candidate for the State seat of Belmont raised a question about statements that had allegedly been made by police in relation to Mai Colston. There was no truth at all in the story. I think Mr Byrne has realised the great mistake he made in throwing a bucket over one of the best people in this nation, because I am advised that today he refrained from voting in the State Parliament on this matter. In a weekend paper he described himself as ‘the national bastard of Australia’.
As I said earlier, I feel very sad for the new Senator Field. I think I have an obligation to let the people of this country know the circumstances of his selection. It was certainly not an election in the true sense of the word. They must know the background. He was registered on the roll as residing in 1951 at 72 Bundara Street, Morningside, a Brisbane suburb. His occupation was described on the roll at that time as polisher.
– What did he polish?
– To make a humorous aside, one of his colleagues in his present union said tonight that whilst he might be described as a polisher, after today he would not be able to polish his colleagues’ shoes. In 1960 he was registered on the roll as a truck driver. He is currently employed as a polisher in a government department and is a member of the Federated
Furnishing Trade Society. News items today and tonight on radio and television described him as president of the Morningside branch of the ALP. In fact, he resigned from this position in May 1 972, more than 3 years ago. It is possible that he still holds a ticket in the party, but he has obviously lost total contact because there is no longer a Morningside branch of the ALP. The name was changed many months ago to the Galloways Hill branch of the ALP. Perhaps somebody will catch up with the new senator and remind him that the name of his branch has been changed and that he has not been president for over 3 years.
For the last three or four years he has been president of the Federated Furnishing Trade Society which disaffiliated from the ALP some considerable time ago as a result of dissatisfaction because a member of the union who was previously an endorsed Labor Party candidate was expelled from the Party. One assumes that as an active member of this organisation he participated in the support of the expelled member and consequently, morally, he expelled himself from the Labor Party several years ago. So my good personal friend Holy Joh is away off the track when he says today that he is selecting a member of the Labor Party to come to this chamber. This union has a bad industrial record and has had for some time under its present control in Queensland. It has a very bad political record and under its present control would be more likely to support the Democratic Labor Party, the Liberal Party or the National Country Party than it would the Australian Labor Party. There was a time when this union had a very proud record. I refer to the days when the late Bill Rogers was Secretary of the union for many years. He was a great stalwart of the Labor Party and was a delegate to the State Executive of the Labor Party for many years. His place was subsequently taken by George Hard who carried on in a similar manner.
How was the new senator selected? Several rumors are circulating. One is that the secretary to the Premier rang Mr Field at home and asked him to nominate. Another is that the Premier then came on the telephone and said: ‘Hey, Paddy, you have to nominate. We need a member of the Labor Party ‘.
– It sounds as though he is not a member of the Labor Party.
– If he was a nominal ticket holder he is not any more. The other rumour is that Mr Field lodged a written application with the Premier saying that he would like to be the new senator for Queensland, under the mistaken impression that he would be here for 6 years. Of course if an investigation reveals that he is not qualified to come here the chances are that he will not be here after 30 June next year. An alternative suggestion is that the Secretary of Mr Field ‘s trade union rang a member of the Liberal Party and suggested that this gentleman ought to be approached. Whatever happens, he would automatically be expelled from the Australian Labor Party. Unlike other political parties we do not tolerate scabs in our organisation. The Premier’s boast that he has nominated and selected for this chamber a financial member of the Australian Labor Party is so much hogwash and hot air. This man cannot sit in the Labor Party Caucus and cannot participate in Labor Party committee meetings in this House. He cannot actively associate with the Labor Party in any way. Where he votes is a matter for his own conscience. No doubt he will vote fairly frequently with the Liberal Party in these circumstances. He is not a septuagenarian but he is getting very close to retiring age. It is a great pity that a man should do this virtually in the twilight of his life.
I am respectfully suggesting that the Commonwealth Electoral Office should examine the bona fides of his enrolment. Apparently for practical purposes the residential address as shown in the latest available electoral roll- it may have been changed; I am prepared always to be charitable and give the benefit of the doubt- is 72 Bundarra Street, Morningside, but I am reliably informed that he has not lived at that address permanently for some time.
– With whom is he living?
– There are no inferences in this at all. I am saying that this is not his permanent place of residence, according to reliable informants. His permanent place of residence is 34 Gillan Street, Norman Park, a suburb that is a considerable distance away from Morningside. If somebody is trying to ring the new senator his telephone number is 992273 and the STD for those who want to contact him is 072. In a few days it will be 07. 1 am saying in all sincerity that if somebody does not live at an address for a stipulated time according to the Commonwealth Electoral Act they are not properly enrolled. If a subsequent investigation proves this man is not properly enrolled I suggest that he is not qualified to sit in this House and that the matter ought to go back to the State Parliament and that Dr Mai Colston be elected as a senator to fill the vacancy caused by the very sad death of Senator Bertie Milliner who was beloved not only by his own Party but also by the honourable senators on the other side of this chamber.
-Today, during the Budget debate I predicted that the Premier of Queensland would be guilty of a political act that is difficult to describe. A member of the Liberal Party in the other place, Mr Jim Killen, indicated in an article in this morning’s Courier-Mail what he felt about the decision that appeared to be likely to be made. He said:
In our smug way we can be convinced that this nation can be spared the ugly excesses of human activity.
He could have added before ‘activity’ the word political’. He continued:
Take but for example, the mean, shabby and quite disgraceful proceeding with respect to the appointment of a casual Senator for the State of Queensland.
– Who said that?
-That was said by Jim Killen, a member of the Liberal Party. In fairness to the Liberal Party, let me say that in the vote in Queensland today, when this decision was thrust upon the Senate, every Liberal Minister in the Cabinet voted against the appointment of this person. Yet the Leader of the National Party, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, had his way by imposing the will of his executive, the will of Mr Sparkes, upon his parliamentary colleagues. There is no doubt that Mr Bjelke-Petersen, in spite against Dr Colston, appointed the only other nominee. There were not 2 other nominees. My belief is that of the 3 propositions that Senator Keeffe put, this one is the correct one. From information that I received from a work mate of this Mr - what is his name?
-This Mr Field put in what would be a crank nomination. In desperation this Premier of Queensland, this disgraceful Premier of Queensland, was guilty of a disgraceful act. In order to disadvantage Dr Colston, the Australian Labor Party nominee, the Premier of Queensland accepted a crank nomination- the only other nomination- from a Mr Field.
– He did not have a panel of them, either.
-Not a panel; no one else.
– Order! I must remind the honourable senator of this standing order so that he can have it in mind while he is speaking. It states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
- Mr President, I was aware of that standing order, but you must appreciate the extraordinary circumstances which led to my making that statement. It would be very difficult for me to remove that description from the Premier of Queensland. In the terms that one of his colleagues, or one of his associates in coalition, used in the newspaper article to which I have referred, it was a shabby act. I say that it was a disgraceful act. I say, therefore, that the Premier of Queensland is a disgraceful man. If there is an imputation there, I say that the imputation I have made is well supported by the actions of the man himself.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. The Standing Orders of the Senate to which you have referred must be upheld. I submit that, you having given fair warning to the honourable senator, he chose in effect to ignore the invitation which was offered. I submit, in accordance with the Standing Orders, that he should be required to withdraw a reflection upon a member of a State House, that being the prohibition contained in the standing order which you read.
- Mr President, may I speak to the point of order?
– In making the point of order Senator Greenwood said that I ignored what you, Mr President, had to say. In fact, I did not ignore what you had to say; I spoke to it. I sought to explain the extenuating circumstances which are before us. Perhaps I am now debating the matter, and I would not wish to debate it. But I would say that the Premier of Queensland has treated the Senate with the utmost disrespect in making an appointment to the Senate in this way. How can any of us- I include myself in this- having been treated in this way be guilty of discreditable behaviour in describing discreditable, disreputable behaviour to the Senate by outlining the way in which this appointment was made? I am abiding by the high standards of the Senate and the high standards which you have imposed -
– Order! Mr President, I wish to raise a point of order. I heard you call the senator to order and draw his attention to standing order 418.1 was of the view that the 2 senators who -
– You think that you are giving the ruling.
– Order! I call Senator Webster.
– He is talking about calling people to order.
– Order ! I call Senator Webster.
- Mr President, I reiterate that I said that you called the honourable senator to order under standing order 418. I held the view that the 2 honourable senators who had spoken on this matter tonight had shown more moderation than was usual for either of them. But certainly Senator Georges contravened your ruling, Mr President, when he said that the Premier of Queensland was a disgraceful person. I would have thought that when that type of language is used about any member of Parliament, whether it be Federal or State, something should be done to stop the honourable senator. I support the point of order taken by Senator Greenwood.
– I usually refrain from speaking in the adjournment debate. But I strongly support the -
- Senator McAuliffe, are you raising a point of order?
- Senator Poyser, do you wish to speak to the point of order?
– Yes. I want to support what Senator Webster said. Senator Georges failed in his duty by being so mild in his language about that hillbilly who claims to be the Premier of Queensland, and I support that -
- Mr President, I rise again -
- Mr President, I rise to speak to the point of order.
– Order! Senator McLaren will have the call.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the same point of order. I rise to speak because I think that the last person in the Senate who ought to rise on a point or order and accuse honourable senators on this side of being disrespectful to any person, whether that person be a member of this Parliament or another Parliament, is Senator Webster. It was only a few days ago that Senator Webster, when speaking in the Senate, accused a Minister of this Government of having his Angers in the till. He is the last person who ought to rise in the Senate to speak on such a point of order. Senator Webster- I have caught him out on many occasions- has told more untruths in this Parliament than any other honourable senator. He is the last person who ought to say the things that he said.
– I will give a ruling on this point of order. I believe that we should have some regard to the decorum of the Senate. I draw attention to the standing order that prevents honourable senators from making offensive remarks about other members of other parliaments. We all respect this requirement and we have to draw the line somewhere. I drew the line when honourable senators were getting to the stage of becoming perhaps, over-enthusiastic. I want to quote the words from previous rulings on similar matters. It is stated that ‘offensive’ means offensive in some personal way’. The same consideration applies to improper motives and personal reflections which are also covered by the Standing Orders. I hope that when Senator Georges continues his speech he will bear that in mind. The Standing Orders protect individual members and personalities in other parliaments.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I ask for your ruling. Do you rule that to say that the Premier of Queensland is a disgraceful person is not to make a personal reflection?
– Order! I have ruled that the Standing Orders rule against the use of that type of language. I hope that Senator Georges will not continue in that vein.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. If it is against the Standing Orders, Senator Georges should be called upon to withdraw.
Senator Cavanagh- I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr President. The Opposition, lacking any capability to reply to the charges that have been made, is now trying to get some political salvation out of the situation by raising points of order. Senator Georges has been very cooperative. When you mentioned the Standing Orders to him, Mr President, he recognised that the dignity of the chamber should be upheld and indicated his preparedness to abide by the Standing Orders. He told you of the extenuating circumstances which had made him go into the subject and apprently referred to the Premier of Queensland as ‘a disgraceful person’. I think that it is a question, firstly, of whether that is derogatory in view of the particular circumstances. Those who enter politics put themselves in a position in which they are the subject of some criticism. To say, for example, that a politician had his hands in the till is to accuse him of a criminal offence, but Mr Bjelke-Petersen may not find it derogatory to be called a disgraceful person. In fact, it may be praise compared with what he is generally called in Queensland. I do not think that it can be generally said that that is derogatory. If the issue is raised I think that someone would have to show that he is not a disgraceful person and that would be beyond all the lawyers in this chamber. The point is that such a remark has been made. Irrespective of whether it has to be withdrawn, Senator Georges has had the satisfaction of saying what he has said. That satisfaction cannot be taken away from him. I would suggest that instead of continuing to raise points of order we should get on to the business of debating whether what the Premier of Queensland or the Queensland Government did was a proper thing to do. If the Opposition has any reply to the merits of the case put, it should reply and not seek to try to get some kudos out of raising points of order.
– Order ! The practice in the past, when an honourable senator has felt so aggrieved about a statement by another senator concerning someone else as to ask for it to be withdrawn, has been for the Chair to ask the honourable senator to withdraw it. I do not know whether Senator Georges feels inclined to act in that way.
– I thank Senator Greenwood for putting me in an extremely difficult position. I withdraw the word ‘disgraceful’. If, in using it in referring to the Premier of Queensland, I have been in breach of the Standing Orders I withdraw the word ‘disgraceful’.
– But he is a nut, is he not?
-No, Senator Poyser.
– Order! Please address the Chair, Senator Georges.
– I have withdrawn the use of the word, Mr President. In no way am I referring to the Premier of Queensland as a nut. So that cannot be directed against me.
– Order! I would like to bring the debate back into reality. Would you please address the Chair, Senator Georges.
-For Senator Greenwood’s information I point out that on a number of occasions I have been accused in the Queensland Parliament of quite a number of things. I was accused of disloyalty by Mr BjelkePetersen during the time of the debates and demonstrations on Vietnam. I have been accused of conspiracy by members of the Queensland Parliament. The Deputy Premier of Queensland accused me of dishonouring my father’s name.
The honourable member for Murrumba- I forget his name; it is not important- indicated during the debate on the 18-year-old vote that I tickled the peter when I was treasurer of the referees association. Fortunately the records of the referees association were still available after that great number of years and they vindicated me. Nevertheless, this is the type of statement which is made by those people who represent the Liberal-Country Party Government in Queensland. In some modest way I may have used the term which Senator Greenwood says is in contravention of the Standing Orders. If this is so, honourable senators can see what may have driven me to the use of that word. If in continuing my remarks I use a similar word unconsciously, honourable senators will realise why I press the point.
The Australian Labor Party has been placed in a very difficult position by an act of banditry, which is the term which was used here tonight. It could be another word starting with the same letter but that would be an offensive word to use in this place. It is an act of banditry. It is an act on the part of a man who should know better than to put in such an odd nomination. This act was taken advantage of by the Premier of Queensland. In what position does it put this Senate? At least in relation to New South Wales the appointee was a man of some standing. The appointee from Queensland is a man of no standing whatsoever. The act of the Queensland Premier is a deliberate insult not only to the Australian Labor Party but also to this Senate.
I hope this is the last time that any government will make an appointment which is quite contrary to convention. Senator Greenwood said: Look, the Labor Party asked for a panel on one occasion.’ Let me refresh Senator Greenwood’s mind. The principle upon which the Australian Labor Party acted on that occasion was a high principle. It was on the occasion of the resignation of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. The Liberal Party had to make a decision as to who should be the candidate to replace Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. The logical choice was Senator Bonner. The logical choice in this case was Dr Mai Colston. At that stage of the game the Liberal Party started to play around with that nomination. It did not want Senator Bonner. But Senator Bonner had both the tenacity and the ability- we now appreciate his ability- to insist that he should be the Liberal Party candidate. On that occasion the ALP said: ‘If you do not nominate Senator Bonner, we will nominate him. ‘ That is an entirely different situation to the situation in which the Federal Liberal Party and
National Country Party find themselves. When I think of Mr Bjelke-Petersen I start to think of words like renegade, quaint -
– I must withhold myself. This action has placed the National Country Party and its leadership in, shall we say, an embarrassing position. How do we treat this nomination? How do we treat this man who comes to the Senate tomorrow to be sworn in? How do honourable senators expect the Australian Labor Party to treat such a man and such a nomination in the corridors of this place? It was a disgraceful act. There are no words which can properly describe what the Parliament of Queensland has done. I think it is also a disgrace to the memory of Senator Milliner that the Premier of Queensland could not, at least out of respect for Senator Milliner, appoint a man who is qualified, a man who went before the electorate, a man who missed out on becoming a senator in his own right by a mere handful of 4000 votes out of many hundreds of thousands of votes. Yet not only did the Premier of Queensland refuse his nomination and appointment but, in so doing, encouraged one of his back-benchers to destroy the character of Dr Mai Colston in a most despicable way. How can one avoid using terms against this man who engineered the character assassination of Dr Mai Colston and who has attempted to justify someone other than Dr Colston being appointed and who did everything possible to seek out some odd nomination that was brought before the Parliament. It is a disgrace to the Queensland Parliament and it is a disgrace to the Queensland Premier.
Some comfort can be gained from the action of the National Country Party in Queensland. It has improved Dr Colston’s position at the next Senate election. He is the Labor Party’s No. 3 candidate. What has been done to Dr Mai Colston will be remembered by the Queensland people. What Mr Bjelke-Petersen has done will be recalled time and time again. The great geniuses of the National Country Party do not seem to realise that the Party that will be disadvantaged will be their own Party. While on present indications the National Country Party had a chance of picking up the fourth seat in Queensland, it has got Buckley’s chance now, and that is the way it ought to be. Dr Mai Colston will be elected to the Senate. This has-been, this person, who will have the audacity to take the place of Dr Mai Colston is well described and defined by a writer- I forget his name but Senator Wheeldon, with his excellent recall, will tell me who the writer is- as a scab.
– Jack London.
– It was Jack London.
– I usually refrain from speaking during the adjournment debate. I strongly support the remarks of Senator Keeffe and Senator Georges on this occasion. I think that what has occurred in the Queensland Parliament today is very important. I did not think I would ever live to see the day, as a Queenslander, when the political affairs of that State would sink to the level they have at present. The Gestapo-type manner in which the filling of this vacancy was carried out is reminiscent of the days of Hitler’s bully boys. I am pleased to say that a section of the Liberal Party in Queensland- including all the Liberal members of the Cabinet- supported the correct nomination, that of Dr Mai Colston.
I regret that the National Country Party of Australia in Queensland adopted the attitude that it did, particularly after the comments of the Federal Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Federal Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony). I would have thought this evening that the National Country Party Whip in this place would have risen to his feet to support his Leader in the stand that he has taken on the filling of this vacancy. He still has time to rise and support the advice of his Federal parliamentary leader.
I very much deplore the fact that participation in politics among a lot of people in Queensland has reached the stage where it could be classified as political thuggery. I cannot recall- in fact I do not think I know- the person who has been appointed, Mr Field. I am surprised that I do not know him. I have heard that he was supposed to be a President of a Labor Party branch and was a member of the Australian Labor Party. I first sat on the Queensland Central Executive of the Party in 1950. I feel I have been reasonably active in the political life of that State ever since. He appears to be unknown to me. I will wait until he arrives in this place. I do know one thing about Mr. Field. He had something that all of us on this side of this House hold very dear- that is, membership of the great Australian Labor Party. It is known to me that he has put himself outside the boundary of the Australian Labor Party. He was automatically expelled as a member of that Party when he allowed himself to be induced to nominate to fill this vacancy against the endorsed Labor candidate, Dr Mai Colston. I hope the occasion will present itself in this Senate when he takes his place here to remind him of his misadventure. I hope to speak on the matters that have been raised here this evening in future debates.
Before I resume my seat I must deplore the tactics adopted to assassinate the character of Dr Mai Colston. I think any fairminded decent person who has any humanitarianism at all will deplore the action of producing a letter assassinating the character of a person in view of the fact that later it was divulged that the relevant file was missing. As if enough damage had not been done to the man’s character by the production of a letter 13 years after the alleged happening, it was then said that the file was missing and the inference was that during his period of employment as a research officer in .the Police Department he had taken the file away.
– Obviously it was knocked off by the Minister.
– It seems to me- and anybody who has followed the whole strategy of this affair would agree- that someone other than Dr Colston should take the guilt for the missing file. I agree with what Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe have said. Dr Colston is the number 3 candidate on the Labor Party ticket for the next Senate election. I have a lot of confidence in the Queensland people, even though sometimes they get a little wayward in their political thinking. They usually come back on to the path because Queensland has a great record. It was Queensland that gave the world its first Labor Government. It was the Queenslanders who gave the Labor Party a world record for the longest serving period in government of any Labor Party. Barcaldine in Queensland was the birthplace of the great Australian Labor Party. So we Queenslanders have not always been political thinkers in the way in which we are thinking at the moment. I think that despite what happened today in the Queensland Parliament and despite other actions which have occurred previously and which seem destined to occur again in Queensland on account of this stand-over, Hitler, bully-boy tactic that is being adopted, the Queensland people are going to realise the error of their political judgment in the past few years and are going to flock back to the Australian Labor Party. But one thing is certain: Whilst such things might happen in Queensland, the Senator elect will never be allowed to return to the Australian Labor Party.
– I can understand the feelings which have motivated the 3 senators who have preceded me to rise and speak this evening. I think that I could speak on behalf of almost all, if not all, people on this side of the chamber when I say that we would have preferred to see the State of Queensland choose the nominee of the Australian Labor Party to replace Senator Milliner. Indeed, I think it should be recorded that the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has maintained consistently that position in his public statements. He issued tonight a statement which I will read. It states:
I recognise that the choice or a senator to fill a casual vacancy is under the Constitution, the sole responsibility of the Houses of Parliament of the State concerned; or if the Houses of Parliament of the State are not in session, of the Governor of the State acting on the advice of the Executive Council.
I have repeatedly said that in my strongly held view, the convention or practice which has prevailed since proportional representation for the Senate was introduced in 1949, should be upheld. In the case of Senator Milliner, that means that the replacement ought to be chosen from the Labor Party. There is a further practice that when the dead or retiring Senator has come from a recognised political party, the replacement should be the nominee of the party concerned. I have not deviated from that view.
That is a view which ought to prevail. It has behind it the merit of general practice and the virtue that it represents a working basis in the ordinary accepted circumstances of an ordinary resignation or death.
Having said that, and I do not qualify that position at all, I think there are some matters which ought to be brought into the record to balance some of the intemperate remarks which have been made. I invite those senators who have spoken to recall the decision of the Senate on 13 February this year when a resolution, initially moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) and amended by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) was, I think, unanimously agreed to by the Senate. It was:
I think that resolution expressed a recognition of the constitutional position. It expressed a recognition of where the responsibility or the power for the appointment of a successor to fill a vacancy resided and the preference or view to which this Senate subscribes. I think it is interesting and of value to reflect that it was, as I said, the unanimous view of the Senate that we would prefer, insofar as the opinion of the Senate is of relevance, that the appointee should come from the political party, of which the senator to be replaced was a member. In the circumstances which have arisen I think it follows, having regard to the practice, that it be the nominee of that particular party. But it ought also be recognised, because we cannot ignore the clear provisions of the Constitution or the rights of State Parliaments if they choose to assert those rights, that the determination of whom that successor is to be is the prerogative of the State Parliament. I say this because I think it is a highly relevant matter in the light of things which have been said.
Senator Keeffe raised questions which may or may not have substance and which if they do have substance I imagine he will air at some particular time in the future, concerning the qualifications of the man who is reported to have been the successor. There are procedures under which substantial questions of that nature can be determined.
Senator Georges raised the question of how he and his colleagues will receive a man who, I think by interjection, some people called a scab. I know the meaning which people in the Labor Party give to that epithet but I hope there will be an acknowledgement of the fact that when the new representative of the State of Queensland comes here he comes as the choice of the State Parliament, appointed constitutionally and in accordance with the law. He ought to be accorded, and I hope will be accorded, all the rights, entitlements and respect which the Standing Orders of this chamber require to be accorded to him.
I sought by interjection to have exposed, if it be the fact, what I understand was the argument raised in the Queensland Parliament today from the Labor Party. Did or did not the Labor Party in 1971, when Senator Bonner was chosen, ask the Queensland Government to give a panel of names so that a choice could be made? I understand that that was the allegation made. It would be very interesting to know whether the Labor Party put that argument forward. Did the Labor Party, when the Speaker of the Queensland Legislative Assembly was recently appointed, request the Government to give a panel of names so that the Parliament could make a choice? I would be interested to know what the Labor Party says as to those statements, which I understand were statements made in the Queensland Parliament by the Premier of Queensland.
The final point I would make- because it has been raised- is this. The misuse of the privilege of Parliament to malign and to defame with possibly highly adverse consequential results a person who has no opportunity in the Parliament to defend himself because of the absolute privilege which attaches to words said in the Parliament is abhorrent. I do not believe that anyone can acknowledge that parliamentary privilege should be used to make allegations about persons who have not the opportunity to defend themselves unless there is an overwhelming public interest which cannot be realised in some other way. What amazes me is the fact that tonight there should be from Labor Party senators such an affirmation of the principle when I have sat here and heard this chamber used by Labor Party senators on numerous occasions to malign other people by the same misuse of parliamentary privilege which they condemn. I will never forget a day in March of 1973 when a Minister in this chamber used this place to attack and to vilify countless people who have not to this day had one opportunity to reply to the traducement, completely untrue. Let the Labor Party senators think about those things before they make these accusations which suggest that they are wholly innocent and others are to be wholly condemned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the question:
The Government has not proposed any scaling down of any kind at Canungra. Since the establishment of the Jungle Training Centre during World War II Canungra has evolved into much more than a training centre for jungle warfare. The Centre has responsibility for qualifying courses for tactics, battle efficiency, unit administration, and administrative and technical officers. In addition, all courses for Australian Intelligence Corps personnel are conducted at the Centre by the School of Military Intelligence. Because of the wide training roles of the. Centre, the name was changed recently to the Land Warfare Centre. The following movements will affect the activities at Canungra:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Treasurer has advised that the Minister Assisting the Treasurer recently wrote on his behalf to the Federal President of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association advising him that, while he sympathised with Mr Edwards, he did not consider he would be justified in approving a payment to him as an act of grace.
In that letter the Minister noted the Staff Association’s point that Mr Edwards was given an assurance that he would not be disadvantaged by transferring to the Commission. But it was considered that it could not reasonably be expected that the intention was to protect Mr Edwards against every conceivable type of loss and that such an assurance could have related only to the application of the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act. The provisions of this Act were in fact properly applied in this case.
There has for a long time been difference of three days between commencing dates of pay periods in the then Postmaster-General’s Department and in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and thus the dates of effect of increases in pay to the respective staff. The effect of this in cases of an officer transferring from one body to the other has apparently not previously been the subject of a complaint. But even if there had been such a complaint it would not have been a matter which could properly have been met by adjustment by act of grace payment.
Over the wide range of employment of staff by the Australian Government there are inevitably some variations in employment conditions including dates of effect of awards and determinations. This means that there are invariably some employees who are advantaged or disadvantaged by a particular circumstance.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Society has purchased 3 transportable houses at a price of $34,500 each. Architectural plans for first 9 houses are available. Estimated cost of the first 4 houses is $29,860 each.
Houses were not costed separately. To date three houses are complete and a fourth is under construction. On basis of materials and labour the three houses cost out at approximately $45,000 each.
The average cost of houses, which are designed to fit in with tribal concepts, is less than $ 10,000 each.
Two houses are partly complete. The builder has resigned after differences between the community and himself. The Amata Community Inc. is now investigating other means of completing the houses. An estimate of cost per house is not possible in the circumstances.
The houses cost approximately $40,000 each.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) A thorough search of the Mildura District Telephone Office records nas failed to reveal any trace of an application for telephone service having been received from Mrs Sheila Smith. However, if an application were to be lodged, service could be provided within three weeks. (4), (5) and (6) Namatjira Avenue is approximately 11/2 miles from Dareton and while I understand that medical attention is available at Dareton between 9.30 a.m. and midday four days a week, the 100 or so people living in the area are relatively isolated. Until early last year, a multi-coin public telephone leased by the Social Welfare Department was available to the residents. However, both the cabinet and instrument were subjected to constant vandalism and it became impracticable to continue the Service. The Australian Telecommunications Commission is currently negotiating with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to reprovide this telephone and would be prepared to install it in one of the homes in the area, provided the occupant agrees to make the facility available to any bona fide caller and to oversight its use.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– I am advised that the answers to the specific questions are:
Queensland. The proposed new laboratory would replace the inadequate, sub-standard and unsafe facilities at Rockhampton at present used by the organisation for beef cattle research. The present estimate of cost is $4m.
Overseas Loans Negotiations
-On 29 May 1975, Senator Jessop asked me a question without notice concerning overseas loans. The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Minister for Minerals and Energy has informed me that neither the Monte Carlo Finance Company nor the Globe Finance Company was involved in any way in his discussions in connection with the proposed petrodollar loan. The Minister has been informed by Mr Gerasimos Karidis that the Monte Carlo Finance Company and the Globe Control Finance and Trade Company (Aust.) Pty Ltd, which are registered in Adelaide, were formed in connection with Mr Karidis’ personal business activities and that Mr Karidis is a director of both companies.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750903_senate_29_s65/>.