29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received through His Excellency the Governor-General from the Governor of the State of Queensland a certificate certifying the choice of Albert Patrick Field as a senator to fill the vacancy in the representation of that State caused by the death of Senator Bertie Richard Milliner. The certificate will be laid on the table and read by the Acting Clerk.
- Mr President, I wish to raise a point of procedure before the certificate is laid on the table. The point of procedure that I am raising questions the eligibility of Senatorelect Field to be sworn in as a senator of this place. In order to support my point of procedure I must refer to a series of questions which were placed on the notice paper by the Leader of the Opposition in the Queensland Parliament and to which answers were received this morning. The questions were as follows:
The answers to the questions are as follows:
I repeat the date:
and (5) He was paid his weekly pay to 2.9.75 on 3.9.75, the date of his appointment, and he was paid his holiday pay on 5.9.75.
I put this case to you, Mr President: It is obvious from the answers to those questions that Senatorelect Field must have placed a nomination, in order to be appointed on the 3rd, before the time of his resignation. The second point I wish to make to you is that under the conditions of the Public Service Act and, if he is not a permanent public servant, under the conditions of his award, he was required to give notice of his resignation. I also wish to make the point that the Manager of the Public Works Department was not entitled to receive his resignation. Because of this and some other misleading information, incorrect information, that was given by the Premier in the Queensland Parliament and other incorrect information that is attributed to Senator-elect Field, I say as a point of procedure that Senator-elect Field was not eligible for appointment on 3 September- the day that he was appointed- because he had not legally resigned from an office of profit under the Crown. It is for that reason that I have raised this matter for your consideration, Mr President, and for the consideration of the Senate.
– There is no precedent that I can refer to for a situation such as this, and it is obvious that I could not give a decision on such an important constitutional matter. Such a decision should be made by a committee of disputed returns and qualifications or a court of disputed returns. I am not the one to make that final decision. That, in my view, is where this matter should be finally resolved.
- Mr President, in view of the matters raised by Senator Georges I am sure that not only the Senate but also the other House of the Parliament would wish to ensure that all the proper procedures were observed before any member of either House took his seat. As I think you have indicated, it would be very difficult for any decision to be taken here and now. Therefore, in order to place the matter formally before the Senate, may I move:
– I have to ask you to seek the leave of the Senate to do so, Senator Wriedt.
-I seek the leave of the Senate to move accordingly.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I formally move:
That the eligibility of Senator Field be referred to the Senate Standing Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.
– Firstly I ask for a ruling from you, Mr President. If this motion were carried what would you do, Sir?
Would you then proceed to swear in Senatorelect Field? Sir, I have asked that question for this reason: We believe that it is not for the Senate to go behind the certificate that you have no doubt received from the Governor of the State of Queensland. I assume that you have received a certificate from either the Governor of Queensland or the Governor-General. If Senator Wriedt ‘s motion is designed to present Senator Field from being sworn in at the moment I think we shall have to oppose it. The question of whether there should be an investigation afterwards is, I think, a matter for later decision.
I point out to the Leader of the Government in the Senate that I was informed of this matter just as you were coming into the chamber, Mr President. I am being expected to take it upon myself to act for and on behalf of each and every one of the Opposition senators. I think that is an unfair situation into which to put the Opposition. Therefore, Mr President, we would have no option, if it were your intention not to swear in Senator Field, but to oppose the motion at this stage. If the motion were then defeated and you were then to swear in Senator Field and if Senator Wriedt cared to move the same sort of motion after the swearing in I would then seek an adjournment of the debate on that motion so that I could consult with my colleagues at a later hour this day or tomorrow in order that the matter can be determined tomorrow with the Opposition having a view to put forward. I do not really think that the Opposition should come here at 2.30 p.m. and be met with this sort of proposition. Therefore, Mr President, I ask what you intend to do. If I moved for the adjournment of the motion now, would you then not swear Senator Field or would you swear him? If you should proceed to swear him, I would move for the adjournment of this motion until I consulted my colleagues.
- Mr President, in answer to Senator Withers and perhaps to help you clarify your mind, let me say, as I indicated earlier, that the possibility of someone being sworn into this Parliament without the proper constitutional procedures being observed is a serious matter. On behalf of the Government, I should indicate that the Government would oppose the swearing-in of Senator-elect Field at this time. However, as I understand Senator Withers ‘ remarks, he does not oppose this matter being referred to the Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications at a later stage.
– I said that we would be seeking an adjournment of the debate.
– Seeking an adjournment today, to discuss the matter at a later stage. For the present time, the Government feels that this motion ought to be proceeded with and that until such time as the matter is resolved satisfactorily the person concerned should not be sworn in as a senator.
– It is my view that in a matter such as this the Senate is the master of its own destiny and the master of its own arrangements. There is a motion before the Chair indicating that the Government does not wish the swearing-in to continue because of certain circumstances that have arisen. The Leader of the Opposition has indicated that the Opposition will oppose the motion and it is obvious that the motion would be defeated. I would then be obliged to carry on normally and to go ahead with the swearing-in. Before I make any decision I want to reiterate that it is my understanding that the Opposition would oppose the motion before the Chair and that, whatever happened, the proceedings for the swearing-in would continue because the Opposition intends the proceedings for the swearing-in to continue. I would prefer that the matter be settled before I proceed with the swearing-in. I will proceed with the swearing-in immediately the matter is settled.
- Mr President, I wish to raise a point of order in connection with your ruling that the Senate is master of its own destiny. I accept that in all things except matters related to the Constitution. We must think of the position of Senator-elect Field. The point I raise is that, by coming here and accepting the oath, this man would be in breach -
– Order! I think you must seek leave to speak again on this matter.
– No, it is a point of order.
– Order! Senator Georges has not come to the point of order.
– I seek leave to speak on the matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-Mr President, I have raised what I consider to be a breach of the Constitution in the appointment of Senator-elect Field. I think that the Senate is not master of that situation. It is master of all its other procedures but if the Constitution is breached the situation is different. I have raised the question that Senator-elect Field is in breach of the provisions of the Constitution and I feel that for that reason he could not be sworn in. I extend my apologies to the Opposition for raising this point at such short notice. The information upon which it is based was received from the Queensland Parliament approximately threequarters of an hour ago. My point of order is that there is a breach, we cannot proceed to the swearing-in and it is a matter of referral. After that referral and the decision and recommendation of the Committee the swearing-in could proceed.
- Mr President, I draw your attention to standing order 324 and ask whether the procedure being adopted by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) is the appropriate procedure. Standing order 324 provides:
Any question against the choice or appointment of a Senator which cannot, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, be brought before the Court of Disputed Returns, may be brought before the Senate by Petition.
It does not appear at the moment whether this is a matter which cannot, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, be brought before the Court of Disputed Returns. If it is such a matter the appropriate way for it to be brought before the senate is apparently by way of petition and not by way of motion.
– If I may speak to the point of order, the standing order in chapter XXIII to which Senator Rae has referred makes provision for the presentation of a petition. If one reads all the relevant standing orders- standing orders 324 to 327- it would seem to be quite clear that that is a petition of citizens outside the Senate. Provision is made there for the payment of deposits and for various other procedures which I will not read out. Mr President, I submit to you that insofar as a matter of this kind is raised by a senator -
– Under standing order 38.
– It is raised in the normal course of Senate business as has been done under standing order 38, as Senator Douglas McClelland reminds me, by Senator Wriedt by leave of the Senate being obtained- leave was obtained for him to move this motion- and the only time that the provisions of chapter XXIII would apply with regard to the petitions to which Senator Rae has referred would be when there were persons who were not senators who wished to make a petition as to the eligibility of a person to sit as a member of this chamber.
– The matter of disputed returns is covered in standing orders 324 to 327 which refer to a petition. By leave of the senate the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, has moved that the matter be referred to the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, which is a committee of the Senate. This matter is now before the Chair and I am going to proceed to put that motion to the Senate.
That the motion (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator The Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement in relation to arrangements about pairs.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– By arrangement between the Whips of the Senate, Senator Laucke did not vote in the division this day, to compensate for the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Milliner.
The Acting Clerk then laid on the table and read the certificate of election of Albert Patrick Field.
Senator Albert Patrick Field made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Wriedt from re-submitting to the Senate a motion for the reference of Senator Field’s qualifications to the Senate Standing Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed-
That the eligibility of Senator Feild to be chosen as a Senator be referred to the SenateS tanding Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
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 whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island, and
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decisions of the Australian Government,-
To depart from its 1972 election promise that basic pensions would be related to average weekly earnings and never be allowed to fall below 25 per cent thereof, and
b) To increase postage costs and the costs of installation and annual rental of telephones, will seriously add to the economic burdens now borne by those citizens who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pensions.
Your Petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decisions (a) and (b), and to determine-
That pensions be related to average earnings as promised by the Prime Minister in his 1972 policy speech, and
That no charge be made for installation or rental on the telephones of those pensioners entitled to a PMS Card.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
The Acting Clerk- The following petitions have been lodged for presentation:
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 coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Martin (2 petitions).
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 Martin.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
6 ) That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Martin and Senator Keeffe (3 petitions).
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the Minister’s remarks about the activities of Mr Laurie Carmichael in respect of a proposed union stoppage of work this week which the Minister categorised as ‘outright sabotage’ of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s indexation proposals. I ask the Minister: Why did he use the expression ‘outright sabotage’? Is Mr Carmichael ‘s membership of the Communist Party of Australia a relevant factor in the endeavours to use industrial power to break down the authority of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? Does the Minister, by his statement, acknowledge that the real power and influence which active communists who are union secretaries are able to exercise is being directed against Australia’s economic recovery?
-Mr Carmichael’s membership or otherwise of the Communist Party of Australia was not a relevant factor which I had in mind when I made my remark. I do not know whether the Communist Party, in any of its various forms in this country, has a policy to bring down society, as Senator Greenwood says. I do know from conversations I have had at various gatherings with Mr Carmichael that he is an opponent of this Government’s indexation policy and of the guidelines laid down for the preservation of that policy by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
I believe that the timing of the present Caltex Oil (Aust) Pty Ltd dispute in Sydney and the efforts which I know Mr Carmichael has personally put into fanning that dispute can be interpreted only as a concerted effort on his part and by those who think in the same way as he does- be they members of the Communist Party or not- to torpedo the Government’s wages policy. I take it from the indignation expressed by the honourable senator that he is firmly on the side of the Australian Government’s indexation policy and that he hopes that Mr Carmichael will not be successful in his aims.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral recall that in, I think, October last year I raised with him the question of a special concessional Christmas mail rate so that the time honoured practice of exchanging greetings at the Yuletide season could be continued? Will the Minister again take up this matter with a view to making special provision for a reduced Christmas mail rate so that the sentiment I have mentioned can be perpetuated and that organisations dependent for a substantial part of their revenue on the sale of Christmas cards can continue to pursue their necessary revenue raising activity?
-Senator Devitt will recall that at the time he raised the question the then Australian Post Office rejected the suggestion because of the cost. It argued against loss. Since that time I have had the matter considered. I will be glad to convey to the Australian Postal Commission the proposal of the honourable senator to see to what extent support might be given to it. In saying that I do not contemplate that the Government is in a position to subsidise any such service. I will ask the Commission whether it will consider the matter in the light of its commitments to see what might be done over that period.
- Senator Devitt, like a number of honourable senators, has made representations to the Postmaster-General on the matter of concessional rates for Christmas mail. My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Media. Will the Minister inquire from his colleague whether he is aware of the complaints of residents of Devonport in Tasmania about the poor reception of Australian Broadcasting Commission television? If so, will he urge the Minister to ask the Australian Broadcasting Commission to take action to remedy the situation?
-About 2 years ago I was in Devonport attending an eisteddfod. While there Senator Devitt introduced me to some people who were complaining about a certain section of Devonport having poor television reception. That was at a time when I was Minister for the Media. At that time I raised the matter with engineers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to see whether anything could be done about the section of Devonport which was the subject of the complaint. I was given to understand that the type of tower that might be available in and around Devonport was not the type that would overcome the reception difficulties. I do not know what the latest position is but I will refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for the Media, in another place to see what information I can get on the matter for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. The Minister will recall that he was previously asked at question time the details of the total pension payments that are available to the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated veterans by way of both disability and service pensions. I now ask the Minister: Is he able to provide similar information relating to the total payments available to war widows?
– I do recall having answered such a question. The answer which 1 gave referred to the maximum rate of total and permanent incapacity pension which was available to those TPI veterans who were not in receipt of any other income and did not have sufficient property to disqualify them. The eligibility for war widows is of a similar kind to that which applies to the TPI recipient. A war widow under 70 years of age who satisfies the other qualifications will receive a total pension of $74.15 a week which is the equivalent in taxable income of $84.20 a week or $4,378 a year. A war widow over the age of 70 receives a total pension of $89.50 a week, which is the equivalent of a taxable income of $105.40 a week or an annual income of$5,481.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the question I asked the Minister last week in which I foreshadowed that the coal export levy would cause unemployment, and to the Minister’s response that he would investigate the matter. I now ask: Is the Minister aware that a number of mines on the western coalfields of New South Wales which supply steaming coal for electric power generation in Britain must face serious loss situations if forced to pay the $2 a tonne export levy? Is he further aware that this is likely to cause unemployment of at least 400 men in one area alone? Has he started general investigations already? Will he give urgent attention to the special aspect which I now raise and will he inform the Senate as soon as possible of the action to be taken?
– I am not aware of the specific matters of detail raised by the honourable senator but they will form part of the general investigation that I am having done of the general matter raised by the honourable senator last week. I hope to let him have a reply in the near future.
– Is the Special Minister of State aware that many local government bodies throughout Australia and, in particular, in Queensland, are levelling unfair criticism against the Australian Government to the effect that this Government is the main cause for ratepayers being deprived of many essential services in the respective areas for which local government bodies are responsible? Can the Minister say whether there is any method whereby he can ensure that local government bodies in receipt of the large amounts of untied grants moneys advanced by this Australian Government to these bodies inform the ratepayers that these moneys have been made available in the past 2 years?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDDuring my remarks on the Budget last Wednesday, I mentioned that last financial year, during the first year of operation of the new Grants Commission, the Australian Government had made some $53 m available in grants to local government organisations throughout Australia on an untied basis. This financial year, the Government has increased the amount of grants from $53m to a record amount of $79. 9m throughout Australia. That has meant an increase this financial year over last financial year of about 42 per cent in unconditional, untied grants made available by the Australian Government to local government organisations on the basis of recommendations of the Grants Commission. The percentage increase in regard to Queensland- I speak from recollection- is of the order of 54 per cent.
I have made a number of ministerial statements and have given Press releases on this subject. Whether all or any of them have been publicised in the areas in respect of which they are made I do not know; but certainly, whereas 70 shire councils or local government organisations did not receive a grant in the 1974-75 financial year, this financial year only about 30 councils have not received a grant. All told some 830 or 840 councils have received benefits from the Australian Government as a result of recommendations from the Grants Commission. I believe it is fair to say that this Australian Labor Government has done more for local government than has any other government in the history of this country.
-My question is adaddressed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to his statement relating to the report entitled ‘Care of the Aged’ which seemed to indicate that the report would not receive attention at present. The inference has invoked Australiawide concern. In view of this concern and the Prime Minister’s announcement today, what response does the Minister have in mind in relation to this report? In any study committee which is established, will the Minister include voluntary agencies which have given so much leadership in the field of care of the aged? Because of the concern expressed in the community relating to care for the aged, can the Minister give the Senate any further information which will be helpful?
– I would not have thought there was any further information which I could give and which would be helpful, beyond the information that I gave recently. Despite what some newspapers may have reported- not all newspapers; as I said at the time the Age reported me correctly- I did not say that no action was going to be taken on this matter. What I have said is that at this stage the Government does not intend to embark on any new initiatives in the field of social welfare which would cost substantial sums of money. That is the position which the Government adopts. If it is not the position of the Opposition, I wish that it would say so, so that it can tell us what sort of a deficit it thinks we ought to have.
What I have said is that my Department is studying the report of the Social Welfare Commission’s committee, which I have said is a very important report dealing with very important matters. A number of the propositions which are put forward within the committee’s report would seem to show that there would not be any additional expenditure involved- in fact, there could well be a saving of money- if one were to direct some of the attention which is now given to institutional care to domiciliary care. These matters are being studied. In addition, a committee which has been established by Cabinet is studying all the priorities within the field of minimum income which has, of course, at least some relationship to the care of the aged. Certainly the role of voluntary bodies is important in this matter. We would be unable to function if voluntary bodies were not giving the assistance which they give at present. I do not believe that any government has given more financial assistance to voluntary agencies than this Government has given.
-Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation advise the Senate of the position with regard to claims for compensation as a result of the damage caused by cyclone Tracy?
– I get regular figures provided to me by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation. I am pleased to be able to say that the compensation claims are being dealt with rapidly and that the payments are being made rapidly. As at 29 August last, a total of some $13,250,000 had been paid out for a total of more than 7500 claims for death and injury and for loss of and damage to property. A total of almost 5000 claims are still under consideration, but, as can be seen from those figures, the bulk of the claims have already been dealt with in very few months.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. I ask: Is it a fact that most of the soils in Western Australia have insufficient natural phosphorus for satisfactory plant growth and animal nutrition? Can the Minister inform the Senate what sources of phosphorus, other than superphosphate, are available to Western Australian farmers and, in particular, what alternatives are available at reasonable prices? If no reasonable alternatives are available, what action is being taken to study the problem and to alleviate the rapid deterioration in both stock and pastures that will follow the decreasing use of superphosphate resulting from the rapid increase in price and the removal of the subsidy?
– It is widely known that the soils in Western Australia are much more deficient in phosphorus content than the soils in other States of Australia, particularly Queensland. The question, of course, invites a technical answer on the type of work that is being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I am certainly not in a position to answer on that aspect of the matter. As to the alternatives that are available insofar as our own supplies are concerned, we do have the resources that we are developing in Queensland. Although the phosphate rock in that State is generally not suitable for Australian conditions we still have reliable supplies from our traditional sources in Nauru and Christmas Island. Certainly the costs have gone up, but, as I have said here on many occasions, only $12 of the cost increase of $45 to $50 per tonne that has occurred in the last twelve to eighteen months was involved in the superphosphate bounty. The rest of the increase has been due to the fact that we have had to pay much higher prices- in fact, we have had to pay the world price- for our imported rock phosphate.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. Is it a fact that the Government has declined to purchase a 2.2- kilogram specimen of gold-bearing ore and a 471 -carat golden yellow sapphire after receiving a recommendation from the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections that the specimens be acquired for the National Museum in Canberra? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the reasons why those important and valuable specimens were not purchased by the Government on behalf of the Australian people.
– It is true that the Government has declined to purchase the golden yellow sapphire and the specimen of gold-bearing ore that have been referred to by the honourable senator in his question and that have been the subject of a fair amount of Press publicity in recent months. It is also true that the Government, in taking that decision, did not accept or agree to the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections that the specimens be acquired for the proposed National Museum. The Committee of Inquiry had recommended the acquisition of the specimens after it had considered a report from an expert from the Bureau of Mineral Resources on the value and importance of the specimens as examples of Australian mineralogy. The proposal that the Government acquire those items for the National Museum was, naturally, a desirable one, but in a difficult year for the obtaining of funds for new programs it is only natural that there would be certain to be some disappointment about proposals of this nature, which obviously could not be taken up because of financial stringencies on the part of the Government. Funds could not be made available to acquire the 2 specimens that were mentioned in his question by the honourable senator who, I know, has shown some private interest in these matters. Therefore the owners have been advised that the Government does not wish to proceed with the negotiations at this stage.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, and I refer to the decision of the Government to disband the Army school cadet corps. Will the Minister clarify the position in respect of the future of the air training corps and the naval reserve cadets? Are these groups exempted from the abolition decision?
– I know that Mr Morrison is considering the matter, but I am not sure whether he has come to a determination on it. Following the consideration of the Army cadet corps, the Minister also considered the expenditure incurred on the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force cadet corps, which is much less than the expenditure on the Army cadet corps. In answering the honourable senator’s question, perhaps I should point to some of the reasons why Mr Morrison decided as he did. In the report on the matter, of which Senator Laucke will be aware, it is stated that out of a total of 1940 secondary schools in Australia, including schools which cater for boys as well as co-educational schools, only 312 schools or 16 per cent had school cadet corps.
The Senate might recall that in the public arena certain retired senior officers have voiced the opinion that while in some cases the cadet corps were suitable for youth training, they did not think that the money should come from the defence vote. I think that is the main reason for the decision. However, I will ask the Minister for an indication of whether he has decided the question.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. In the light of the latest unemployment figures, what levels of unemployment does the Minister anticipate over the rest of this financial year?
-My Department has prepared for me some estimates of unemployment for the coming year, and I underline that they are only estimates. In particular, I think we have to be conscious of the fact that a record number of school leaversapproaching, it is estimated, a quarter of a million- will come on to the labour market by next January. The best estimate that the Department is able to give, and of course it is nothing in which we take any pleasure, is that actual unemployed, including school leavers, who register for unemployment, could approach 400 000 members of the labour force in 1976. Seasonally adjusted unemployment, however, is likely to remain at around the present level of 300 000, or 5 per cent, at that time, and thereafter should fall gradually towards 250 000 by next June. Actual unemployment also should have fallen to about that level, that is 250 000, by that time.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to questions I have asked him recently concerning the new staffing and salary arrangements for the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission and to the fact that the Minister said he was discussing these matters with the Minister for Labor and Immigration under some Government directive to do so. I now ask: Has the PostmasterGeneral had those discussions with the Minister for Labor and Immigration? Do the new salary and staffing arrangements of the commissions conform to Government policy, in particular in relation to wage indexation?
– Senator James McClelland and I last week met the chairmen and managing directors of both commissions. Senator McClelland was accompanied by his own officers. The matter was not finalised but I think Senator McClelland would agree that there was an amount of agreement as to what might obtain in relation to procedures in the future about classifications and appointments. When the matter is determined I will give Senator Durack some further information. As to the last part of his question, I have mentioned before to Senator Durack that more than once these properly constituted Commissions have said that they agree entirely with the Government’s wage indexation policies and with the guidelines which have been pronounced by Senator James McClelland and the former Minister for Labor and Immigration.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been drawn to Press criticism of the carriage of some Service personnel in a Royal Australian Air Force Hercules to take part in a football carnival in Sydney at the end of August? Will the Minister indicate whether this occurred and whether it represents a change from Service practice over the years?
– I have seen a report of the matter to which the honourable senator refers. It is a long-standing practice that Service personnel be carried to such carnivals on a space available basis using normal scheduled flights. Occasionally space is not available. Where large numbers are involved and the sporting function is properly sponsored, the Royal Australian Air Force may task an aircraft specifically for the purpose. Such flights are included in the total number of approved flying hours for the financial year and therefore do not add to overall defence costs. I can confirm that of the 2 flights in question one was specifically tasked and the other was a scheduled flight. Both journeys were to have been made on scheduled flights but a more urgent requirement for freight for Papua New Guinea resulted in a changed arrangement to transport the South Australian and Victorian players. The return journey was on routine flights meeting the Service requirements that I have mentioned.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Transport recall the criticism that he and I made of the report of the then Department of Civil Aviation on the aircraft accident at Sydney Airport between a TransAustralia Airlines aircraft and a Canadian Pacific aircraft in which, by a curious distorting and twisting of facts and a complete ignoring of procedures laid down in flight manuals, the major responsibility for the accident was placed on the TAA captain? Has the Minister seen the decision of a Justice of the High Court who placed the major responsibility upon the then Department of Civil Aviation because of the actions of the operator in the control tower? Does the Minister recall that I- and, I believe, he at the same time- advocated that because of the biased nature of this report, air accident investigations should be divorced from the Department and be placed in the hands of an independent authority, as I believe is the case in the United States of America? Will the Minister take up this proposal with the Minister for Transport?
-I remember the debate. I think Senator Cotton was the Minister and there was a far-ranging debate following the report. It was one of the occasions on which Senator Sim and I were on the same side; that does not happen very frequently. However, the point which the honourable senator has made is in regard to the investigating body. I will ask the Minister for Transport whether he will consider that matter.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate of the latest developments in the dispute involving New South Wales travelling post offices?
– There has been longstanding agitation by members of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union in Sydney resulting from the decision by the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales to take the travelling post office vehicles off the system because of costs. Discussions were held between the Australian Postal Commission officials and the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales and the New South Wales Minister for Transport met a deputation from the Union. During the discussions with Mr Fife one of the APTU officials said that he intended to approach the Australian Government with a request for a subsidy, which would be quite a large amount. That submission has been made to the Prime Minister and to the Treasurer and it has been pointed out by both that in no circumstances would the Australian Government be able to supply a subsidy in the circumstances but that the Australian Postal Commission, if it wanted to, could consider what it might do. I have been advised by the Commission that it is not able to support the system financially but it is prepared to set up an alternative system.
Last week I met the union delegation here in Canberra and informed it that attempts would be made to ask Mr Shirley, the Chief Commissioner of the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales, to defer the date for cancelling the service. Today the delegation is meeting Mr Shirley to put that request. I met the Trades and Labor Council delegation and I propose to meet it again on Thursday. We will tell it what arrangements are possible at the time of that deferment. All I can say is that we have been through the whole scale of negotiations on this matter. As honourable senators know, the New South Wales railways expect a deficit of, I think, $250m this year. The Australian Postal Commission does not have the resources required to keep this service going. There certainly are guarantees by the Postal Commission and me that proper arrangements will be made in respect of pay, etc., for any staff which might be changed. In the long run no staff will lose anything as a result of the changeover.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Media aware of Dr
Cass’s reported statement on a television program last night to this effect: ‘The Australian Broadcasting Control Board should not be burdened with the question of standards, and ultimately standards should be left to the people; to decide if they’ll watch it’? Will the Minister ask Dr Cass to define standards as he sees them and to inform the Parliament whether such matters as the use of four-letter words come within that definition? Will he also ask Dr Cass to give clear evidence that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board fully supports his statement that it, the Board, is thrilled with his view on such matters as standards?
Firstly, I am unaware of the statement attributed to my colleague the Minister for the Media on a television program last night. All I can do is refer that section of the honourable senator’s question to my colleague for elucidation. I remind the honourable senator that in the last session of this Parliament, and also I think in the previous session, the Government sought to make amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act relating, amongst other things, to the definition of standards, and the Opposition in this chamber did not see its way clear to permit a second reading of the legislation on those 2 occasions. All I can say is that under the existing Act standards are the responsibility to date of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. For any further elucidation of my colleague’s remarks I will refer the honourable senator’s question to my colleague.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation been drawn to an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Commission yesterday in which the Executive Director of the Life Offices Association refused to divulge the cost of the insurance industry’s anti-Government campaign but in which he also said that the Minister’s estimates were exaggerated? Will the Minister make some effort to provide the Senate with an accurate estimate of what the policyholders really are paying to support the industry’s campaign?
-Yes, I did see the report. As a matter of fact, not only did I see it but I obtained a transcript of the interview. I was most disappointed, because I met Mr Renton only the other evening. He was introduced to me by Senator Melzer, who apparently is an old friend of his, and we had quite an enjoyable chat. I was upset that he should adopt this attitude. One of the things I did notice in the course of his interview was what he said when asked whether he would be prepared to state publicly how much his campaign had cost him and his organisation. He said: ‘The amount is not a very large sum, but I would not want to bandy any particular figure about. I think it would only attract unnecessary criticism. ‘ It seemed to me a little puzzling, if it were such a small amount, that it would attract any unnecessary criticism. If it is such a small amount, I do not think Mr Renton should attract all this criticism in respect of the small amount which he apparently says he has spent. I intend to have an assessment made of the total amount that we can obtain evidence of. I think this should be made public. I think that the people who purchase insurance policies ought to know how their money is being spent, and I will do my best to see that they find out how their money is being spent.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Did the Australian newspaper of 8 September 1975 report the Prime Minister as having said to a Victorian Labor Party seminar that the Liberal Party discriminated against Jews, Catholics and migrants? Are there not Liberal Party senators of both religious faiths to which the statement referred? Is the Minister not aware that Mr Misha Lajovic, who migrated in 1950 from Slovenia to Australia, is a Liberal Senate candidate for New South Wales and does he not occupy a position which is likely to ensure his election? Do these facts detailing the breadth of representation in the parliamentary Liberal Party and of the Party’s candidates not emphasise the untruth of the Prime Minister’s assertion?
-The answer to the first part of the honourable senator’s question is no, I have not seen it.
– I will provide it for you.
– Well, if the question is based on a newspaper report, I am certainly not going to comment on it.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. A newspaper recently canvassed the possibility of Australian firms bulk posting letters to New Zealand for redistribution through New Zealand mails to Australia.
– They have to do something to prevent them from going broke.
– Will the Minister indicate the correct position as to the legality of this procedure in order to avoid any firm being misled by considerable publicity in this well known journal?
-May I reply first to an interjection made by Senator Jessop to the effect that these firms have to do something. The fact is that if that sort of practice developed the Australian taxpayer simply would have to pay more. So the Postal Commission is making energetic efforts to stop such a practice under the by-laws. The Commission is protected by postal by-law 222, and by postal services regulation 45 which is a very common and general by-law used by most Western post offices to protect the system. The Postal Commission is monitoring the mail that is going backwards and forwards. The real position is that in 1971 the New Zealand Labor Government put a price freeze on a number of items, including postage rates.
The Australian Postal Commission has to take whatever steps it can to make sure that it pays its way in the future, in accordance with its responsibilities under the legislation approved by the Parliament. Its success will depend largely on the efforts it can make to become more efficient. I hope that the Commission can become more efficient and that everybody, including ourselves and the trade unions, will give the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission a chance to work as efficiently as possible. If they can do that there is no doubt that the price of their service will be less than would otherwise be paid by the Australian taxpayer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs: How does the Government justify the retention of a media propaganda machine of 800 people at a cost of over $60m when the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is being forced, because of lack of funds, to reduce its numbers of scientists to 300 people, particularly in view of the fact that many of the Organisation’s research programs deal with matters related to the nation’s health?
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Media. The Minister for the Media, and indeed the Minister representing him in this place, would be aware that because this is International Women’s Year the Australian Broadcasting Commission made time and facilities available to women employed in the ABC to produce a radio program entitled The Coming Out Ready Or Not Show. As this program has proved so popular, as indeed it should being one of the most intelligent shows broadcast, has the Minister considered investigating the possibilities of making facilities available for and encouraging a similar program on television?
-The decision to establish the radio program The Coming Out Ready Or Not Show was taken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself in conformity with the general conception that this year is International Women’s Year. I know that a seminar is intended to be conducted by the Department of the Media on the role of women in the media in this year, International Women’s Year. Whether a television program along the same lines as the radio program The Coming Out Ready Or Not Show would be taken on board by the ABC is a matter, of course, for the Commission itself, but I will refer the honourable senator’s worthy suggestion to my colleague for his consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property. I refer to an advertisement appearing in the Melbourne Age on 4 September 1975 under the heading ‘Office of the Purchasing Commission- Department of Services and Property’ and detailing and requesting tenders for substantial equipment required for the Purchasing Commission. In view of the defeat some weeks ago of the legislation under which the proposed purchasing commission was to be created, I ask: Firstly, do these proposed acquisitions relate to the commission referred to in the Purchasing Commission Bill? Secondly, if so, under what power or authority and for what purpose is it proposed to acquire this equipment for a non-existent body?
-I am afraid I could not answer the question. I am quite sure that whatever advertisements were placed, it was done properly and in conformity with the rights of the Minister or the Department of Services and Property. I will refer the question to the Minister for a full answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Will he consult with his colleague with a view to prohibiting in the Australian Capital Territory the sale to children of imitation cigarettes in the form of sweets which are packaged like real cigarettes and labelled ‘Fags’, as these lollies are a great inducement to children to become addicted to the health destroying habit of smoking?
– I am rather embarrassed by this question because I possess an imitation cigarette myself. I did not realise that children were taking to them. I am not sure to what extent children would be addicted to them.
– They are lollies.
– 1 suppose that lollies can be damaging too. I have seen lollies take a number of shapes, some even more indecent than that of cigarettes, but I will certainly take the matter up with the Minister for Health. I may say in passing that this is not a subject on which I have terribly strong views, but I can see that Senator McLaren does. I will see that this matter is drawn to the attention of the Minister so that he can take whatever action he deems appropriate in all the circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. In view of the claims by the Minister for Agriculture that the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on superphosphate was not at hand when the Budget was drawn up, I ask: When was the report received by the Minister? When was it considered by the interdepartmental committee? Was any attempt made to include in Budget discussions the IAC recommendation for restoration of the bounty?
– I will answer the question. 1 think Senator Maunsell ought to distinguish which IAC report he is talking about. There are 2 reports on the question of superphosphate, one concerning Western Australia specifically and the other relating to a general reference. The one on the general reference has been presented to the Government, and it is a public document. It is still under consideration by the Government and until such time as we make a decision on what will be done about it it will remain in abeyance. I am not quite clear whether Senator Maunsell is suggesting that the report was not available at the time of the Budget. Is that the implication in what the honourable senator is saying?
– I am asking whether it was available before or during Budget discussions.
-No, it was not available; that is why I think there may be some confusion about this report and the other IAC inquiry into superphosphate use in Western Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. In view of the fact that Medibank is refusing to post receipts to claimants because of the Government’s huge elevation of postal charges, the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia is unable to pay benefits to its members. Many thousands of people are being financially disadvantaged because of this irregular business practice. What action is the Minister taking to remedy this anomalous position?
-The anomalous position is that some funds are refusing to do what other funds have agreed to do. There is no necessity for them to have these receipts. If any individual wants to obtain a receipt he can get it. The majority of funds have agreed to handle the matter without the difficulty which Senator Sheil has mentioned. Certainly this is something which the Health Insurance Commission has to continue to study, but the anomaly to which Senator Sheil refers is a result of the deliberate attempts- I put it as strongly as that- by some of the so-called voluntary funds to sabotage Medibank.
– I address a question to the Minister for Agriculture. In view of misleading statements which from time to time suggest that the Government’s contribution to the Wool Marketing Corporation is a subsidy hand-out rather than a commercial loan, to clarify the position I ask the Minister: Is not Government participation purely the guarantee of a loan at commercial rates of interest? Will not the Corporation pay the Government about $37.5m this year in interest- a fact which further reduces the net appropriation to the Corporation, compared with the figure widely publicised? Is it not also a fact that the grower levy provides the Corporation with some $50m cash annually to cover interest and any short-term trading loss?
– The facts enunciated by Senator Scott are basically correct, with 2 exceptions. The market support fund is around $50m but it is more likely to be $45m. It is provided by a 5 per cent levy. The more significant factor is that a proportion of the money is made available under guarantees and the rest of the money has been appropriated from Government sources. Notwithstanding the source from which the money comes, it has to be repaid at commercial rates of interest.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration been drawn to a Press statement appearing in the Melbourne Sun of 3 September that Victoria lost 128 300 man weeks or 2500 man years of production time last year through industrial accidents? Is this position brought about because of the lack of inspection of the safety measures taken in industry or is it because the employers are not using the proper methods of preventing accidents in industry?
– I have seen the news item to which the honourable senator adverts. It is notorious that a far greater loss of time in industry is caused by accidents than by strikes. I would not altogether agree that employers in this country have not done a great deal to improve this position. Certainly some of the larger companies have put in a lot of time and effort to diminish the level of accidents in their works. For instance, I have personal knowledge that Broken Hill Pty Company Ltd has devoted a lot of attention to reducing accidents and it has had a considerable amount of success. However, as long as there are any accidents at all not enough is being done. I know it is a matter to which my Department has given a lot of attention. I hope that its efforts, together with those of employers, will continue to diminish the number of accidents occurring in industry.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister will recall his reply to a question on 20 August in which he said that one very well known and important member of the farming community wanted the Industries Assistance Commission report on superphosphate deferred until it was examined by the industry. I ask: How many other representatives of rural industry have urged the Government to adopt and implement the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission without delay? Why did the Minister choose to refer to the one negative request and to ignore the other positive request?
– I am invited to check on those facts. I shall do so.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. In view of the persistent rumours that technical staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be transferred compulsorily from country towns to regional provincial centres, can the Minister advise whether such transfers have taken place, or is this policy still under consideration?
– One of the recommendations of the Vernon Committee was that there should be decentralised administrative centres for the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission. Honourable senators will recall that some time ago I sent out notifications pointing out what might be considered. 1 pointed out also the localities to which staff might be transferred. The position generally is, for example, that if a local headquarters of the Postal Commission were to be moved there would be an increase at the new location in the number of personnel employed by the Telecommunications Commission and vice versa. The Chairman and the Managing Director of the Postal Commission and I have said that we will not determine these matters until everyone who wants to make representations to us has had an opportunity to do so. We hope to have some consolidation of our views about the end of September. That is the situation at the moment. There is certainly no intention on the part of the Commissions to perpetuate any hardship. The Commissions want to have an efficient operation in the same way as commissions which have been set up in other countries have.
-On 2 September, Senator Sim asked me questions concerning the general position of Essendon Airport. The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions: The approximate cost of operating and maintaining Essendon Airport for 1974-75 was $1,225,000. During the same period, the revenue gained directly by the Department of Transport at Essendon was approximately $563,000. The revenue in the form of air navigation charges and fuel tax also is derived from operators based at Essendon; but, of course, it is not feasible to apportion that revenue to any particular airport. During 1974-75 the number of aircraft movements at Essendon was 45 849. The Government’s policy of achieving full recovery of air transport facility costs is being implemented gradually. The contribution of Essendon Airport towards that goal, that is to say, its justification, is in the final stages of evaluation. The problem is complex because Essendon, with other airports, and air transport operators, form an integrated system, so that any decision on Essendon affects other aspects of air transport as well. Investigations have so far shown that Essendon Airport would perform an increasingly valuable role in the air transport system in the future. The Government will shortly be considering the retention or disposal of Essendon Airport and, in coming to a decision, will take account of not only its cost recovery policy but also the policy that all proposals for investment in air transport should be subject to economic evaluation.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Education for 1 974.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1967-1970 I present the Report of the Council of the Canberra College of Advanced Education for the year 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1974.
– I present for the information of honourable senators the reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority on non-adjustable spanners and plywood.
– For the information of honourable senators and pursuant to sections 6 (5), 7 (7) and 12d (5) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973-1974, I present, in the order received by me, copies of 17 determinations and 3 reports as follows:
Seven Remuneration Tribunal determinations in relation to:
Aboriginal Land Fund Commission
Independent inquiry to determine the fees for medical benefits purposes
Australian Advisory Committee on Research and Development in Education
Interim ACT Technical and Further Education Authority
Technical and Further Education Commission
Inquiry for Radio Australia
Australian National Railways Commission
Australian Telecommunications Commission
Australian Postal Commission
Health Insurance Commission
An Academic Salaries Tribunal determination and report in relation to annual leave (bonus) payments.
Two Remuneration Tribunal determinations in relation to:
Capital Territory Health Commission
Australian Dairy Corporation
The Secretary to the Department of Northern Australia
A document entitled ‘Remuneration Tribunal Reports and Determinations August 1975’ which contains 2 reports and 3 determinations in relation to all groups within the jurisdiction of the Remuneration Tribunal.
Four Remuneration Tribunal determinations in relation to:
Administrator, Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Trade Union Training Authority
ACT Valuation Review Board
Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee
The Secretary to the Postmaster-General’s Department Australian National Railways Commission
Commissioner for Community Relations
Commissioners under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974
Road Safety and Standards Authority
Director of National Parks and Wildlife
Aboriginal Hostels Ltd
Health Insurance Commission
Mr President, I ask leave to move motions in relation to the determinations.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Division of the Australian Public Service and holders of public offices, tabled this day, be disapproved.
The document entitled ‘Remuneration Tribunal Reports and Determinations August 1975’ contains determinations and reports which pass on or propose to pass on or recommend the passing on to all the offices within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal the adjustment of 3.6 per cent for salaries granted by the national wage case decision of 30 April 1975. The offices to which the reports and determinations apply are Ministers of State, members of Parliament, judges, holders of offices in the First Division of the Australian Public Service and holders of public offices. The Government is moving to disapprove the determinations and will not proceed with legislation to implement the reports which recommend the passing on of the 3.6 per cent adjustment in respect of salaries payable to Ministers of State and to judges. In the case of the determinations, however, the 3.6 per cent adjustment will, under the Remuneration Tribunal Act, apply from the date of effect provided for in the determinations, namely, 15 May until they are disapproved.
In reaching this decision the Government has taken into account that the Remuneration Tribunal reviewed salaries and allowances in 1974, that determinations and reports arising from this review were re-presented in the Tribunal’s 1975 review and took effect from 1 March 1 975, and the fact that these determinations and reports were made by the Tribunal itself in accordance with its powers under the existing Act. The Government feels that remuneration within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction should be adjusted only once per annum. A number of the other determinations that I have tabled incorporate the adjustment.
Consequent upon the Government’s decision to disapprove the determinations passing on the 3.6 per cent wage adjustment and in order to treat office holders within the jurisdiction of the Remuneration Tribunal consistently, I also have moved to disapprove the determinations of the Tribunal in respect of the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Australian National Railways Commission, Commissioner for Community Relations, Commissioners under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974, Road Safety and Standards Authority, Director of National Parks and Wildlife, Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, Schools Commission and Health Insurance Commission.
- Mr President, the Opposition will not oppose the motions put down by the Government. I have not had time to look it up, but I recall that when the Bill setting up the Remuneration Tribunal went through the Senate- I think in 1973-1 said that whilst wishing the tribunal luck I did not think that it would have much more chance of success in having its decisions accepted than any other method which had been adopted by the Parliament since about 1900.
– There have been 4 amendments to the legislation since it was introduced 2 years ago.
– I mean its decisions being implemented. This is a decision that the Government has made. The Opposition does not quarrel with it. In my view it is a decision which governments, not tribunals, always ought to make. This is just my personal view. The Government having made that decision, we accept it.
-I rise to speak because of my special interest in this matter. I heard of these determinations only this morning, and it is with the greatest pleasure that I support the Government’s motions to disallow these increases. I think it is preposterous that the Remuneration Tribunal should operate as if it is an arbitration commission operating in the industrial field where indexation, which is subject to recurring review by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, is a peculiar function of industrial peace. I was in communication with the secretary of this tribunal last Thursday, seeking to be reminded whether or not an annual review was contemplated and to have my name registered as a particular applicant to give evidence before the tribunal if there was to be a review. Not a word was said to me that this interim determination had been put forward and would come before the Government. I state that publicly as a complaint about the want of candour on the part of this tribunal in dealing with responsible inquiries by members of the Parliament.
Far from assisting the cause of indexation, which the Arbitration Commission allowed as an experiment in indexation, subject to its review, for the first time some 3 months ago, that this
Tribunal in trying to transfer it to Ministers of the Crown drawing a salary of over $40,000 a year, High Court judges drawing a salary of over $40,000 a year, other federal judges drawing salaries of between $25,000 and $35,000 a year and then to transfer it to members of Parliament drawing a salary of $20,000 a year, is likely to inflame with resentment those in the industrial field to whom indexation is offered as a benefit. I think that the Tribunal is wholly misconceiving its functions if it is to use an arithmetical calculation to give increases in every range of remuneration simply because that remuneration takes the form of a salary or wage. Long before indexation became part of the current language of the country I protested against the fallacy of applying a percentage increase to all ranges of salary. What is an appropriate percentage adjustment to meet the cost of living increases of a fitter earning $6,000 a year is a wholly inappropriate percentage adjustment for a higher salary of $20,000 or $25,000 a year. Until we get a degree of sanity in regard to the fixation of salaries this country is going to be beset by an ever increasing obstacle to its purpose of trying to get inflation down.
I wish to conclude by putting on record my view that the giving of temporary support, only because the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has so decided, to any application for indexation in the industrial field is a fundamental fallacy and that all forms of indexation that lash up to and follow the larger results of inflation are simply self deceptive. I have risen because of the particular pleasure that I have in supporting the prompt action on the part of the Government in moving to disallow these determinations. There is one other thing I want to say, Mr President. I have not moved for the adjournment of the debate on this matter; so there will be no qualification of that support.
There was one thing that fell from the lips of the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland) that I did not fully understand. I understood him to say that because these determinations are purported to commence on 15 May and will not cease to operate until this day of disallowance the accruals between 15 May and the present time in the increments of which we are disapproving therefore will be credited to the bank accounts of the people concerned. I think that that is a wholly shabby detail that the Government should have taken the advantage of removing before it was finished with this proposal. If I have misunderstood the substance of the Minister’s remarks in this respect I hope that he will intervene and save me the necessity of going on.
I believe that with the number of determinations that have been presented to us today the Tribunal is presenting us with a complexity that the Parliament simply cannot manage. Furthermore, we took unto ourselves in the Senate direct parliamentary control of the salaries of the heads of departments because those salaries were significant. Before they used to be simply increased year by year by the government of the day. Some four or five years ago the Senate began to require that those salaries should be such as is approved by the Parliament. We then set up a remuneration tribunal for the purpose of delegating to it, as our specific parliamentary agency, the adjustment year by year of those significant salaries. We have reached the stage where the Parliament has lost more control over them by that delegation than it had in the practice that preceded direct parliamentary control. I hope that the Minister will assure me that the determinations will be completely erased and that no increase, not even an interim increase, will be permitted to stand, because it is improper that it should do so.
– in reply- In responding to the query that Senator Wright has raised I draw the attention of the honourable senator to Section 7(8) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act of 1973, which is Act No. 2 1 5 of 1 973. It states:
If either House of the Parliament, within 15 sitting days of that House after a copy of a determination has been laid before that House, passes a resolution disapproving of the determination, then-
if the determination has not come into operation- the determination shall not come into operation; or -
This is the provision to which I wish to refer the honourable senator-
The Tribunal has determined that it shall take place as from 15 May- the determination shall not have any force or effect in respect of a period on or after the day on which the resolution was passed.
The reason why I have now moved for the disapproval of the proposals is that today the Government took a decision on the matter and that decision was to disapprove of them. I have moved in accordance with that decision, so that the disapproval will commence from this date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present a report prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads on national highways linking Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Due to the limited numbers available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. In addition, copies of the supplementary documents referred to in the introduction to the report have also been placed in the Parliamentary Library, although those documents are not now being tabled.
– For the information of honourable senators and following a request made last week, I table the 1974 survey of fertiliser sales pursuant to the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act 1963-1971 and the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act 1966-1973, including a list of companies which or individuals who purchased more than 400 tons of fertilisers that attracted bounty or subsidy.
For the information of honourable senators, I present the first annual report of the National Training Council for the year ended 3 1 December 1974.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- agreed to:
That the resolution of the Senate of 3 September 1975 relating to consideration of the Particulars of Proposed Expenditure 1975-76 by the Estimates Committees be varied so that, unless otherwise ordered, Estimates Committees shall report to the Senate on or before Tuesday, 14 October 1975.
– by leave- I move:
I believe that the motion is self explanatory. I understand that copies of the proposed program for the sittings of the Estimates Committees have been distributed to honourable senators. It will be noted from that proposed program that the 3 Thursdays planned for the Estimates Committees to sit are 1 1 September, which is the coming Thursday, and 2 and 9 October. If this proposal is agreed to, it is intended that, subject to any emergency arising or unless otherwise ordered, Estimates Committees A, D and F will sit after 12 noon next Thursday.
– I have advised the Manager of Government Business (Senator Douglas McClelland) that the Opposition has not yet considered this matter. We hope to do so tomorrow morning.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 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 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;
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
) it fails to restrain Government spending’.
– When the Budget debate was adjourned last Wednesday night, I had been referring to comments made by Senator Young in respect of the problems of newspapers and the cost of postage. Senator Young had claimed that the Government should have been more generous, and I pointed out that in fact that claim was a request for subsidies. I said that the Government, in settling the submissions from the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission had set aside $ 16.5m for benefits to pensioners and others, and that, consistent with the charters of the 2 Commissions, which had been approved by the Parliament and supported in this place by Senator Young, the Commissions had set out to recover as far as possible the cost of their operations. I also said that if the tariffs of the Commissions were left as they were last year, a subsidy of $348m would be needed which, as all honourable senators know, would be not only impossible but also inconsistent with the times. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has made it clear that the Government has set out on a policy of cutting back the increase in Budget outlays but at the same time has insisted on applying those welfare programs which had been promised, and in that general area it had kept its promise in relation to pension increases.
So we have an argument from the Opposition on the one hand that there ought to be greater subsidies and greater expenditures, and on the other hand that the Government should have set itself on a policy of restraint. During that debate I asked whether the Opposition proposed to reduce any of the tariff structures or wanted to reinstitute broadcast listeners and television viewers licenses. The Senate will remember that last year the Government decided to abolish those charges, and during this year’s Budget discussions refused to reinstate them. The abolition of those charges cost the Government some $67m in revenue last year. When I said that the Government would not recover the money needed by introducing listeners and viewers licences, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack interjected: Why not?’ I do not think that anybody would find the reintroduction of the charges palatable and so we have a situation where tariffs generally have gone up, but that is inescapable.
Senator Young complained about the cost of postage for registered publications, and I pointed out to him that in fact there was a subsidy. After receiving submissions from the Postal Commission, the Government finally agreed to provide a subsidy of Sim in the area of registered publications, but even allowing for that subsidy the result will still be an estimated loss to the Commission of $ 1 1 m. Although the Government went ahead with the subsidy proposals which had been put to me, typical charges still have risen from 3c to 6c for a small charitable organisation’s monthly newsletter; from 4.5c to 7c for a country newspaper, and from 11c to 14c for a medium weight magazine. As I have mentioned, even with the subsidy the Commission will lose $llm. Had the subsidy not been promoted by me and granted by the Government, the position would have been that a small charitable organisation’s monthly newsletter would have cost 12c; a country newspaper, 12c; and a medium weight magazine, 20c. Other subsidies amounting to $1.6m which have been made by the Government, as honourable senators will know, are for mail to and from members of the defence forces who are overseas in specified areas, for free postage of electoral office mail, for concessions on mail posted from the Darwin area, and for the free redirection of pensioners’ mail for the first month, which will cost the Government over $100,000. A subsidy of $13.25m also has been provided for the Telecommunications Commission to cover pensioner concessions.
In respect of other matters which have been raised during the Budget debate, I should like to remind honourable senators that my colleague,
Senator Douglas McClelland, spoke about the matter of subsidies for media services in country areas on the same night as I advised the Senate that the Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) was prepared to accept proposals from the industry. Dr Cass has said that he has invited the industry to make submissions to him. He has also indicated that at this stage his attitude would be that any financial support which he might recommend ought to take the form of a direct subsidy for the organisations concerned so that the amount of taxpayers’ funds committed, if they were so committed, would be capable of scrutiny and not disguised as a concession or as reduced charges.
On the question of the subsidies to which I have referred, no government could have faced an outlay of $348m because it would have had to cut back on a large part of its welfare policies. 1 have enumerated some of the areas which would have been affected had a subsidy of that magnitude been granted. The Postal Commission is required to assess postal charges so that it can meet its financial objectives, that is, in broad terms, to break even. If the postal services were to operate at a loss it would mean that the taxpayer would have to carry that loss. It is important to note that 70 per cent of the costs of the Postal Commission are attributed to wages, and in 1974-75 there was a marked increase in these costs of over $70m. In relation to telecommunication services, there are 2 principal causes for the need to adjust a variety of charges. These are the need to fund 53 per cent of capital expenditure from internal sources in 1975-76 and the need to meet rises in wages and prices of materials and equipment. This means, of course, that the Commission’s objective is being achieved in that the users of the service are required to contribute more to network development expenditure than before and the general taxpayer contributes proportionately less.
The financial charter of both Commissions is in accord with the recommendations of the Vernon Commission of Inquiry, as I have already mentioned. I should make the point that the financial problems of the Commissions, especially on the postal side, are not unique to Australia. Every comparable country is faced with the same problems, and many of these countries are adopting the same policies as those of this Government. As I said in answering a question earlier this afternoon, we would like to see all the parties concerned giving the greatest co-operation to the commissions, which have a great task and a very heavy burden to face up to. For example, in the United Kingdom a rate of 14c Australian is proposed. That figure becomes 31c Australian when it is adjusted to reflect the relationship between United Kingdom average weekly earnings of $66.05 and Australian average weekly earnings of $143.60. 1 mention also that New Zealand has had the advantage of price control having been applied since 197 1.
Most of us accept that the commissions not only have a responsibility to carry out the new concept, which was approved by the Parliament and by all the parties in this place, but also an obligation, in the eyes of the Government, to perform those functions more efficiently. It is unfortunate that the new commissions had to be formed at a time of general world inflation which makes their impact on the community harder. But I think the subsidies I have mentioned indicate that the Government has done as much as it can to provide subsidies for those purposes. I also mention, as other speakers on this side have mentioned, that the Government set out to restrict outlays in the Budget. In doing so, as many of my colleagues have pointed out, it has drastically cut back a number of things which it might consider to be socially necessary, but in the broad field of social and welfare commitment it has more than honoured its objectives by way of its education proposals and so on. The Opposition is trying to go one better, but is not providing any real solutions to the inflationary crisis.
In the latter part of my comments I want to refer to a most accurate description of Mr Fraser’s proposals. I refer to a report in the Melbourne Age of 29 August which in part stated:
Some of the areas in which Mr Fraser indicated he could get significant savings are patently absurd.
The article referred to the abolition of the Department of the Media, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Australian Legal Aid Office and so on. It referred to the proposal to cut the Advance to the Treasurer by $75 m as ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’. The article said: . . this is a contingency sum for unforeseen events such as the Darwin cyclone and is not part of the Budget outlays until the money is spent and approved by Parliament. Mr Fraser could save $200m by the sale of the natural gas pipeline from Gidgealpa to Sydney, and this may be a legitimate political objective. But it would seem a dangerous policy to finance tax cuts through the sale of capital assets. Perhaps the cut could be even bigger if Mr Fraser sold TAA?
The article continued:
But even if Mr Fraser could get $ 1 ,000m in tax cuts it may not have the desired effect of an acceleration in private sector growth.
The Australian Government has honoured to the full its commitment to preserve its general welfare policies. It is faced with a general recession which is certainly world-wide and it has taken active steps to stop inflation in the country in a way that seems to be necessary in the Budget context. That has been followed by what might be the more extravagant intentions to cut expenditure which have been criticised by a number of Australian newspapers.
I mentioned earlier the efforts we have made in all areas to meet promises. Perhaps I should conclude by mentioning what we have done in the defence area. Not only have we met the outstanding obligations of providing a system of wage adjustment as a permanent feature of the Services payments, which obligations were never met by the Opposition when it was in government, but also we have introduced commensurate conditions to those which apply in the Public Service and industry- the same amount of annual leave and other entitlements. We reinsti tuted the re-engagement bonus, we extended the eligibility for war service homes to serving members of the Services and we introduced many other improvements which were long overdue. We in this Parliament can all remember that many of us used to complain about the great delays which resulted from awarding increases to servicemen by regulation. On many occasions we had an unfortunate situation occasioned by the principles of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances- I am not complaining about its criteria- because those increases had to run the test of the retrospectivity principles of the criteria of that Committee. Great delays were experienced. We have cut all that out. In these years of Government we have caught up on equipment purchases. I suggest that the Budget which the Labor Government proposes is as good as any government could propose in these very difficult economic circumstances.
- Senator Bishop has claimed that the Government is doing something about inflation and that its Budget is designed to tackle inflation. The Government, from its very limited point of view, may believe that the Budget we are considering is tackling inflation; nevertheless we are concerned with an economy in which the problem of inflation not only is paramount but also has reached frightening proportions. That state of the economy has been brought about substantially by the policies of this Government. The figures for the Budget itself are eloquent of that position. They provide for total government outlays of $21.9 billion, an increase of 1 15 per cent in the nearly 3 years of Labor Government. They have increased not as a result of inflation but as a result of deliberate Government policies that the public sector should increase its outlays to that level, which policies inevitably have led to the serious state of inflation from which the economy now suffers and which we as a nation are now facing.
Despite the claims that have been made by Ministers, Government speakers and most recently Senator Bishop in this debate, I would have thought that his colleague Senator James McClelland, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, had painted the grimmest possible picture of the economy and the problem which we are now facing. Probably an even more authoritative opinion on the state of the economy and the problems of the nation is presented by the most recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on Australia which was issued as recently as July 1 975. This report makes it perfectly clear that the policies of this Government have caused the inflation from which we are suffering. I want to quote some key passages from that report because I believe they underscore in a very dramatic way the problems with which we of the Opposition are concerned. I quote from the beginning of the report where it states:
As in most Member countries, there was a marked weakening of demand and activity in Australia during 1974 and the early part of this year and unemployment rose to record levels for the postwar period. But despite the fact that the world oil price increase had only a minor direct effect, in Australia inflation accelerated- fuelled by rapidly rising wage costs- to the highest rate experienced since the Korean boom.
That points out very clearly that although the world economy has been affected dramatically by oil prices, in fact they had a minor bearing in Australia and the real problem of inflation in Australia has been the rapidly rising wage costs. It is quite clear that the Government failed to restrain those rapidly rising wage costs; in fact it was the policy of this Government from the day of its election to set the pace and to encourage the cost of wages. This policy now has got completely out of hand. Admittedly the Government now realises that wage costs have got out of hand but it must bear full responsibility for that situation. Turning to another section of the OECD report, it stated under the heading ‘Conclusions’:
The difficulties of the Australian economy over the last few years stemmed initially, in large pan, from the unsettled world economic conditions, but more recently domestic factors have become preponderant.
Later, the report stated:
But the authorities are faced at present with one of the highest rates of inflation among Member countries, essentially of a cost-push nature, which has had widespread effects throughout the economy and has led to policy impasses and resort to a series of specific measures.
It goes on then to deal with the Government’s policies. Admittedly it relates to matters prior to the Budget but it goes on to refer to those policies in these terms: . . there would be a risk, if present policies were persevered with, of a further acceleration in the rate of inflation. Should this occur, the task of reducing the level of unemployment may become more difficult and for this reason alone, it seems that priority needs to be given to controlling inflation.
The Government has said that the objective of the Budget with which we are debating this afternoon is to reverse those policies, it having learnt something perhaps from the type of advice given to it in this OECD report and almost unanimously, I think, by economists in the Treasury and throughout the academic institutions in Australia. We of the Opposition have analysed the Budget which the Government introduced and we believe it will have little or no effect in carrying out that objective. The reason we say that is because the Budget really does not tackle in a significant and effective way the basic problem facing the economy- the causes of inflation and unemployment. These causes emanated from the twin policies of this G overn ment, namely, greatly to increase government expenditure and, up to now, to encourage increases in wage rates.
Senator Bishop said that the Government has pruned its expenditure. No doubt it has pruned its expenditure compared with its level of outlays in its previous Budget and with that it may well have had under contemplation at the beginning of its Budget discussions. However, the fact remains that outlays have increased by 1 1 5 per cent in the life of this Government. The increase in outlays under this Budget as compared with last year’s Budget is 22.9 per cent. The Government’s outlays are based on assumptions that wages and salaries in the coming year will increase by over 20 per cent. Therefore the Budget seems to be predicated on the continuance of a very high rate of inflation.
Something has been added today to the gloom facing the nation due to the serious state of our economy. The serious state of the economy was very clearly pictured not only by the OECD report but was also outlined by Senator James McClelland, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, when he spoke on behalf of the Government in this debate some days ago. What he said then was further highlighted when he answered a question today about the Government’s forecasts in relation to unemployment. The unemployment figures released a day or two ago- the latest available- showed that seasonally adjusted the present number unemployed is 300 000. Senator James McClelland predicted this afternoon that by January 400 000 people actually would be unemployed. He said that the Government hopes that that figure will be steadily reduced during the early months of next year. These figures represent a rate of unemployment of 5 per cent, the highest since the Depression, and an inflation rate in Australia of the highest order since the Korean war. In 1950, early in the Korean war, we had a short, sharp increase in inflation. The really serious and depressing fact about our current rate of inflation is that it has been created by this Government and it seems that it is almost endemic for so long as this Government stays in office and fails to pursue any policies aimed at realistically tackling the problem.
The Opposition has made it perfectly clear in its criticism of this Budget and in the alternative budget that it put forward that the basic necessity as a major first step in tackling inflation is to reduce the level of government expenditure, a reduction in the total percentage of the government take out of the gross national product, and that percentage to the private sector. These moves would stimulate the private sector and restore its confidence. Funnily enough, this principle has been newly discovered by the Government. A few months ago it suddenly realised the importance of the private sector. Indeed, its former Treasurer, Dr Cairns, a most unlikely convert to this principle, some months ago realised the necessity of the private sector and means to restore confidence in it. Although the Government keeps saying, and in this Budget is saying, that it will restore confidence in the private sector, it does not understand the necessities of the moment. It does not understand how the private sector is to be given that necessary stimulation and restoration of confidence.
– Tell us about it, Senator.
– The Opposition is saying that some dramatic steps must be taken to restore confidence and to indicate clearly that the Government is genuine in its policies and in its intentions. Senator Button says: ‘Tell us about it’. Mr Malcolm Fraser has indicated clearly what those policies are. I do not propose to reiterate them today. I am sure Senator Button is not so indifferent to the Budget and to the policies of the Opposition that he has not clearly studied the alternative proposals that Mr Malcolm Fraser put forward.
Essentially what the Opposition is saying is that the Government should reduce Government outlays overall by 5 per cent- that it should reduce these outlays of $22.9 billion by about $ 1 ,000m. That would be a very modest diversion of resources from the public sector to the private sector. The Government should transfer that saving directly to the private sector, firstly by way of tax reductions of a meaningful kind and not of the relatively paltry sums that the private sector will save as a result of the new income tax rebate scheme and the re-arrangement of the tax scale. It should be a really significant shot in the arm for every person in the community, who would then be able to influence to a greater extent how spending is directed instead of spending being dominated by the Government. The balance of the saving achieved by a reduction in Government outlays should be used broadly to give a direct stimulus to private enterprise through the commencement of the implementation of the recommendations of the Mathews Committee.
That is the broad alternative strategy which is proposed by the Opposition. It is one which we believe, and which we have every reason to believe, would give the type of stimulus that the private sector requires and which would, in particular, demonstrate the bona fides of the Government in its claim that it wants the private sector to restore its hitherto important place in the Australian economy. It would also give the private sector the necessary stimulus to increase production, which has so dramatically declined. There is no way in the world in which a nation can meet the social demands that are made upon it except by way of an increase in the total wealth of the community. These social demands- social welfare, education and so forth- are recognised on this side of the chamber as well as on the Government side. That wealth can come only from a vigorous and expanding private sector; yet in the 3 years of this Government we have seen a steady decline in productivity. In the last 12 months productivity has been reduced to negative growth, which has been coupled with a stimulus to inflation about which I have spoken already. Inevitably these factors have resulted in a dramatic increase in unemployment to the record levels which we are now facing.
I turn to 2 aspects of the Budget which particularly concern me. First of all I wish to say something in response to Senator Bishop, the Postmaster-General, concerning the policies that this Government has pursued in relation to postal and telecommunications services. These policies have been the subject of debate in this chamber in recent months. I hope that I, on behalf of the Opposition, have made clear our policies in this area and have indicated how they really do differ from those of the Government. The Government has deliberately adopted the policy that the user should pay. This is not just a new stance; it is a deliberate policy of this Government. In respect of Government corporations, whether involved in transport or communications, the user-pay principle is paramount. Of course, the financial objectives which have been given to the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission by this Government are consistent with that principle.
I must challenge some remarks made by Senator Bishop when speaking in this debate last week, although he did not repeat them today, in which he said that the Opposition accepts the principle that the user should pay. In fact, he went so far as to say that the Opposition accepts the principle of the increased postal charges. He said:
The Opposition spokesman in this place -
That is myself- has affirmed the principle.
I was quite staggered when I read this allegation in Hansard. I made it perfectly clear in the debate which took place on the respective Bills designed to set up these Commissions that the Opposition did not accept the user should pay principle and that it did not believe that the postal and telecommunications services could be treated as purely commercial undertakings.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! There is too much audible conversation and too many meetings going on in the chamber. I call Senator Durack.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I should have thought that the Postmaster-General would be interested in what I was saying about his own remarks. Of course, it is pretty obvious that he is not.
- Senator, I am interested. I have just been asked for some papers for the Hansard staff.
– In the light of what Senator Bishop said, I should like to quote specifically the remarks I made on the Postal Services Bill. I said:
I think it is unrealistic Tor the Postal Commission to be given a financial objective of that character.
Senator Bishop’s statement that the Opposition had accepted these financial principles is directly contrary to the very clear statement I made during the debate on the Postal Services Bill. We have said all along that it is an unrealistic objective to impose on the Commissions the financial principles contained in the Bills.
– How is it that your Leader has not indicated subsidies?
– I am coming to that matter. The point is that the problems which the Postal Commission and Telecommunications Commission are facing are the result of inflation created by this Government. It has set up these Commissions and has given them these financial objectives in an unfavourable situation, which even Senator Bishop recognised today when he said that the Commissions were having to start off in very unfavourable economic conditions. He said they were unfavourable economic conditions created by the world economy. I have just quoted to the Senate what was said by the OECD which makes it quite clear that the unfavourable economic conditions which exist in Australia today are due to the policies of this Government. This Government is responsible for the setting up of these 2 new Commissions and it has set down the objective of the Commissions under these conditions. Therefore, it is perfectly clear that the charges which these Commissions are imposing are entirely a result of the policies that have been pursued by this Government both generally as far as the economy is concerned and specifically as far as the 2 Commissions’ financial objectives are concerned. The Government must accept full responsibility for the present situation.
I would like to turn to some specific features of the policies which are being pursued by these 2 Commissions. I will be dealing with these things in much more detail during the Estimates Committee hearings. Since this Budget session commenced I have been asking Senator Bishop questions concerning the staffing and salary policies in relation to these Commissions. I finally got some sort of an answer from him today although by no means a satisfactory one, because it is clear that under the Government’s guidelines, under the rules that are being laid down now through the Department of Labor and Immigration, very much closer attention should have been paid to the staffing levels that have been adopted by these Commissions. I just want to quote some information contained in a document that has been provided for the Estimates Committee hearings by the Telecommunications Commission. On page 7 it says:
Expenditures which may be described as ‘once only ‘ items in initially setting up the Commission embrace, in the main, accommodation and labour costs. These are expected to total approximately $5 m.
Clearly this is a policy of this Government in the setting up of these 2 separate commissions. In relation to the Telecommunications Commission alone this document uses the word ‘initially’. I do not understand this. Surely the initial cost is one which will continue from year to year because this Commission has had to get new premises and it says that it has had to increase its staff. It says that the costs are expected to total approximately $5m. The document goes on to say:
The re-organisation at top management level will lead to higher costs of about $ 1 m in a full year.
In the setting up of the Telecommunications Commission and the Postal Commission there have been significant increases in the top management level and also in the salaries that are being paid to these people. As far as the Telecommunications Commission is concerned, there has been an increase in executive staff of forty or 21 per cent compared with the situation which existed in the old Postmaster-General’s Department. The increase has not been so dramatic in the Postal Commission, but there has been an increase in the number of top management staff. The figures are provided in this report which is made available for the Senate Estimates Committees. Under the old Postmaster-General’s Department there were 45 Second Division officers. Under the new Commission there are 52 senior positions of equal status. So these commissions have started off by significantly increasing the number of people engaged at the top management level.
– Have you considered the fact that previously those 120 000 employees were catered for by the Australian Public Service Board in respect of matters involving staff conditions generally which these 2 new Commissions are taking over?
– That is one reason, but are you saying that over 40 new senior management positions are required because of that one factor? This is something about which I will be expecting to get more detailed information. It is quite beyond belief that this Government would create over 40 new positions simply because of that one factor. That may be a factor, but a time when there has been great need for reduction in Government expenditure, a time when this Government has had every reason in the world to try to cut the increase in costs to the bone, was not a time to increase the number of top management positions and top management salaries, which is exactly what has happened in the creation of these 2 new Commissions.
I would also like to know the costs involved in the new changes which are proposed. In the last edition of the A Australian Post Office News there is a beautiful centrefold showing the changes that have to be made in what I suppose one would call the public image of the commissions. There are going to be new designs for telephone boxes. Vehicles will be painted different colours and will display the names ‘Australia Post’ or Telecom Australia’. There are to be new designs, new postal bags and what have you. I wonder what all these changes are going to cost. Do we know what these changes will cost?
– Why do you not tell us what the Overseas Telecommunications Commission is spending on advertising- $ 1 m?
– I am glad you mentioned the OTC because that commission in fact reduced its charges; it did not increase them. Postal charges have gone up 65 per cent on average. Telecommunications charges have gone up 28 per cent on average. The OTC charges in fact have been reduced and they were reduced because of good management. The management policies of the OTC are the type that we on the Opposition side say are desperately needed by this Government and that is why we insisted on keeping the OTC as a separate body.
– It still has to spend $ 1 m to boost itself.
– It is spending money on improving its market and it has been successful. That is what these Commissions were supposed to be doing. They were supposed to have been set up and managed by commercial people. They ought to be seeking new markets and increasing their total revenue in this way instead of imposing these exorbitant new charges. I do not want to say any more in relation to the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I want to turn finally to the mining industry because if ever there has been one dramatic example of the failures of this Government and indeed its total misunderstanding of what the Australian economy is all about it is its treatment of the mining industry and its policies and lack of policies in relation to that industry. We have debated this matter often enough in this Senate to know what it is all about. I hope the people of Australia know that this Government has brought the mining industry, in the sense of its exploration and development activities, practically to a standstill. The mining industry in the area of coal and iron ore certainly has been able to expand, but it has been expanding from a basic position which was established under a Liberal-Country Party government. It was the policies of a LiberalCountry Party government which created the modern mining industry in Australia. Any success which that industry has had in the last year or two under this Government has been despite this Government’s policies and certainly not as a result of any encouragement by this Government.
I have received some statistics prepared by Mr David Fairbairn, a former Minister for National Development and a man who, on behalf of the Liberal-Country Party Government, was associated very closely with the development of the mining industry in Australia in the 1960s. They show that in those years 34 major projects were got under way by the Liberal-Country Party Government. No fewer than 20 new towns were developed in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania as a result of that Government’s policies. That is a classic example of the sort of decentralisation which all parties in Australia believe is desirable. The mining industry has provided that decentralisation in a most dramatic way. What has happened since 1972? How many new projects have been commenced since 1972? There is a complete blank, when one asks what new projects have been started.
– How many have been challenged in the High Court? How many are being held up by legal action?
– In a moment I shall come to what is happening in that respect. No new projects at all have been commenced since this Government came into office. How many projects have had to be abandoned or delayed during this time? What has happened to the Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd development? What has happened to Nabarlek? What has happened to the Western Mining Corporation Ltd discovery in Western Australia at Yeelirrie? What has happened, I ask Senator McAuliffe, to coal development in Queensland? What new coal projects have commenced under his Government? What has happened to project developments in Western Australia in bauxite and aluminium? Of course honourable senators from South Australia would know about Redcliffs. Many other projects in Western Australia, such as the great new Agnew nickel project, have had to be abandoned for the time being, as have further developments in iron ore.
This is the sorry picture of this Government’s policies. What has it done in this Budget to encourage the mining industry? It has imposed a new tax which has not been levied before by a
Federal government on the mining industry. I do not want to talk only about the effects the new coal levy will have on the coal industry. We know of the disastrous effects it will have in New South Wales and probably will have on projects in Queensland. But the introduction of this levy is a new principle as far as taxation in the mining industry is concerned. It is a levy on successful mining ventures in addition to the income tax and the State royalties which are paid. If the Government thinks that it will get mining development going again when the industry is paying not only State royalties and income tax but also the levy which is to be imposed on those companies which are successful in their export contracts, then the Government is exhibiting, as it has done, a total ignorance of what is required to get the industry back into development.
I turn to a matter which Senator McAuliffe raised with me, because it is very important. The honourable senator asked: ‘What have High Court challenges done in this field?’ In a dramatic form they have completely stopped any hope of further development of the north-west shelf gas deposits in Western Australia. There we have one of the most dramatic discoveries, apart from the Bass Strait oil and gas discoveries, as far as energy resources in Australia are concerned. A company spent well over $100m in the exploration of that area. When this Government came into office it put a complete freeze on the prospect of further exploration in that area because of its attitude to farm-out arrangements. It kept the companies in suspense, despite pleading from even the Labor Government which was in power at that time in Western Australia. This Government kept the projects in abeyance. Now Mr Connor is saying that because of the challenges which are being made in the High Court he will not discuss any further the possible development of these tremendous resources which are so vital for the development of Australia. That is a ridiculous attitude for Mr Connor to take.
The High Court has been asked simply to decide whether the Act passed by this Parliament is valid in claiming sovereignty for the Commonwealth Government over the off-shore area. The challenge has nothing to do with legislation under which the whole of this exploration was made in the north-west shelf. It has nothing to do with the laws under which the development of that area could take place. Because the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, is determined to get a stranglehold of his own and of the Government’s on this area of Australia, he is preventing any further development taking place until the High Court decides this question. This is despite the fact that I expect that the whole of this development could take place under legislation which is not under challenge. It seems that what Mr Connor intends to do- I think he will find great difficulty in doing this while the Senate remains with its present composition or with any likely changes- is, if he gets a favourable decision from the High Court of Australia, unilaterally to abrogate the laws under which all that exploration has been undertaken and under which the companies are fully entitled to expect that they would be able to develop the discoveries which they have made.
I believe that we should have a clear statement from the Government. Does it intend to honour the agreements and laws which have been made and the permits which have been given under those laws? Is it waiting to get the decision from the High Court which it hopes will give the Commonwealth Government sovereignty over that area? Does the Government then intend to repudiate the arrangements which have been made both with companies and with the State governments? That, I believe, is the only explanation for Mr Connor’s refusal to co-operate in the further development of the area in question. That is exactly the type of dead hand approach which has been imposed by this Government on the mining industry and particularly on the development of energy resources. If the company was given the go-ahead today- Western Australia desperately needs these energy resourcesit could use most of the resources in the Pilbara region or in the industrial development of Perth. Yet we have this dead hand approach of Mr Connor which is backed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). There has been much talk of the Prime Minister not supporting Mr Connor yet, if he does not support Mr Connor, why has he not given him the sack as he did Dr Cairns, Mr Clyde Cameron and several others? It is quite clear that the Prime Minister fully backs Mr Connor.
I should like to raise another matter on which the Opposition would like a clear answer. I was very disturbed to notice that in Mr Connor’s shopping list for his funny money was the gas pipeline from the north-west shelf which would not only bring the gas ashore to be utilised as required in Western Australia but also would carry it across to the eastern seaboard of Australia. Mr Connor apparently wanted such amount of gas left in Western Australia as he considered suitable for development. We want to have a clear statement from this Government and from Mr Connor whether he still intends, as a matter of policy, to go on with that pipedream. I think the consultants involved have clearly established it as nothing more than a pipedream. What is urgently required not only in Western Australia but in the whole of Australia in relation to these vast and vital resources is a clear decision from Mr Connor and this Government that they will permit the finders of these resources and the State government with which they have been dealing to go ahead with the development of these resources. As I have said, if the green light was given tomorrow it would probably be 5 or 6 years before these great energy resources could be utilised in the Pilbara region. It would probably be longer before they could be brought down and utilised in the southwest of Western Australia. I believe that as a result of the analysis of this Budget which has been made by many speakers from the Opposition, the amendment moved by Senator Withers has been shown to be fully justified. I give the amendment my full support.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.24)- I must confess that I speak from a place in the Senate in which I am not used to standing.
– Why did you move?
-I gave up my seat when I discovered that it was proposed to seat a new senator there. I was the last person to be informed by the officer in the Senate whose duty it is to inform me.
– You are elevated to the front bench.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! I ask Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to relate his remarks to the Budget.
-Yes, Mr Deputy President. I am quite happy to go on.
– I think we ought to congratulate him. He is on the front bench and he should have been there for many years.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order ! I think we have had enough of these exchanges.
– When I heard the Budget Speech delivered in the Senate I was reminded of a story which I believe was told by the late Sir Winston Churchill of when his father was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He heard all the experts tell him what was in the Budget and the reasons certain steps were to be taken but he was in a state of complete confusion. He finally said: ‘Well, is there anyone in the Exchequer who understands what this
Budget is about?’ Finally, there was a deprecating cough from one of the senior public officials who said: ‘There is an old man down in the basement who apparently understands it’. After a great deal of trouble they got him up and he explained in about 10 minutes what the Budget was about. Then he disappeared, he has never been seen again and no one has been able to understand a Budget since. That is about the situation with this Budget because it is beyond the comprehension of any honourable senator sitting on this side of the chamber.
– You used to say that about your own Budgets.
-Senator Keeffe, I think it comes clearly from the addiction that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has for travelling around in antique lands and looking at ruins. 1 think the last ruined empire to which he turned his attention was in Peru. As honourable senators will recall, the ancient capital was situated 10 000 feet or 12 000 feet above sea level. This was an ideal society. It had a welfare system and an elite group which surrounded the prime minister, the emperor or whatever his proper designation was. The rest of the community, of course, were people of a pretty ordinary nature. The empire probably decayed because the emperor surrounded himself with an inefficient elite. The tragedy, I think, of this Government is quite simple. The men who have grown up with their feet on the ground and who know what industry is all about have been shuffled away to the background. Instead of having in important portfolios, say, Mr Clyde Cameron who grew up around farms and shearing sheds, and others of the same background, they have been shuffled to the background. If people of that type are still holding their portfolios they are fairly lucky. The point is that they have been shifted away from the emperor’s throne. A new group has taken over which really and truly claims to be elitists. I do not think any of them have ever known what it is to be responsible for a payroll. I do not know.
One of the significant things about the Peruvian empire that so fascinated the Prime Minister was that its people never discover how to carry out even the most basic arithmetical sums. All calculations were done on 5 strings with 4 knots in each of them. I think that is about the way the system operates here at the present time. Numbers, values and money have become absolutely meaningless. Therefore, we have this tragic situation in which a government came into power with its simple arithmetical system of 5 strings and 4 knots in each string with which they could come to some sort of complicated answer with a reasonable degree of accuracy and holding the belief that this country was rolling in money. The most beautiful illustration of it, of course, was that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) believed that in the oil producing states they had caves full of greenbacks and all we had to do was to send some character along there and he could put his hands on bundles of dollar bills.
The Government came into power with the belief that this country was full of money. Of course it was full of money, but only as much money as the people were producing. The tax levels were of an order and nature that allowed people to retain a reasonable amount of money in their own pockets. The Government had to manage a country which has grown from 7.5 million people in 1950 to about 14 million people in 1972. The welfare systems kept pace with the growth of the wealth of Australia. Anyone who wishes to study- I will not take out vast graphs on this- the growth in Australia will know that the improvements in welfare and social services took place commensurate with the increase in growth in Australia. The other day Senator Button- I was listening to him- when referring to education said that the drive of the Government was to provide equal opportunity for education. He forgot that the beginnings of equal opportunity occurred when Sir Robert Menzies brought Professor Murray to Australia from the United Kingdom to advise on universities. He went from universities to secondary schooling. We subsidised parochial schools. We began to subsidise, quite heavily, schools of advanced education. We established additional universities. So today we have this enormous sum of money being poured out into the education field. Have we in fact established equal opportunity? Some disturbing illustrations have arisen in the last week or so showing what is the end product of these vast sums of money being poured into the educational system.
– Ask Kim Beazley.
-During the last month Mr Beazley has said that perhaps this system is not quite as good as it should be. The pathetic belief of the Government that is in power at the moment is that all problems of a social nature are soluble by money. They are not soluble by money. I do not think that the problem facing the education system is soluble by money. The problems faced in providing socalled equal opportunities are not soluble by money. What is the function of education? If it is to provide equal opportunity for everyone, let us declare it to be such. But the interesting matter that is coming out of this education system is a total miscalculation by people in the education field, in the school teacher profession, for example. It might be a good idea for some honourable senators occasionally to go and have a look at some of the people who are coming out of teacher training schools. These people believe that there is a new method of inculcating knowledge into children’s minds. Now what happens at a result of the attack that was first made by Professor McAuley in Sydney a month ago and of the subsequent attacks that have been made in the newspapers in the context of illiteracy amongst children in the Australian electorate? What happens now is that these people say: Well, it is not our fault. The fault lies in the homes because the parents are not teaching the children.’ We have that elegant phrase of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), that the teaching profession had not realised that there was an unearned increment in the family unit.
I suggest that in this honest endeavour- and it was an emotional, honest endeavour by the Government when it came into power- to reform matters in the welfare and social structure all over the place- in the arts, in education and so on- it completely forgot that the money to pay for these things had to be found. I recall that some 3 years ago Senator Wright, in a speech in a Budget debate, referred to what he described as the English disease. It was not received very well by some of my colleagues who are sitting opposite me at the moment. I turned up the Institute of Public Affairs Review, volume 29, No. 2, in which there is an article, beginning at page 44, which I recommend as reading matter for every Government supporter both here and in another place, because I think that the English disease is catching. I shall read some extracts from the article for the benefit of honourable senators who are sitting in the chamber at the moment. This is what the writer of the article had to say on page 45 of this publication:
Now the ordinary foreign observer of the British over these years is frankly, and rightly, puzzled. What on earth has turned this normally stable, somewhat apathetic, reasonable people into a chaotic, anarchic, deeply disturbed mass of conscientious, strike-prone, slow-going, irrational groupings?
That is the question that he asked himself. This article was written by a distinguished man from the London School of Economics. He is not the man whom Senator Steele Hall quoted a month or so ago. In the next column on page 45 of this publication he answered the question in this way:
Successive Governments expanded the State or public sector faster for consumption than for production -
When I heard the speech which ex-Treasurer Crean made in 1973 when he said that it was the intention of the Government to divert 40 per cent of the revenues into the public sector, my heart sank. The writer of this article went on to say: . . i.e., what we now call ‘the social wage’- so-called free’ education, health services, heavily subsidised public authorities’ housing- mounted astronomically, and were not covered by contributions. Taxes rose astronomically, on everything and on even moderate incomes. Yet the publicsector’s deficits remained uncovered, so more money was pumped out. Moreover, as the decades wore on, the capital equipment of the public sector’s industries and services ran down . . .
That is a fairly good diagnosis of the disease from which we are suffering in Australia at the moment. The figures that the writer gives of course are not relevant to Australia because qualitatively the figures are different in Australia. Then two or three pages further on in this article the writer says:
The latest figures show that total public spending in Britain, from having been 5 3 per cent of national income when 1 wrote in 1968, is now touching 60 per cent: i.e. Britain is now three-fifths a communist, or collectivist, or authoritariancentralised State. It is certainly such an economic system, though it still depends vitally for its economic lifeblood on a private sector undergoing progressive, if unintended strangulation. No wonder Parliament and Parties are in such bewilderment, disarray and impotence in the sixth or seventh, and latest, post-war British economic crisis.
This is the road which we have begun to traverse. This is the English disease to which Senator Wright very properly drew the Senate ‘s attention 3 years ago. The question is: Are we catching it here? I think that the honest answer must be yes, we have caught it. I recall that Senator Wright a fortnight ago also adduced other interesting figures. He demonstrated this bleeding of the private sector by turning his attention to the private income tax field. He said that the 1972 Budget showed that about $3,500m was collected from the income tax field. In 1 8 months the take had risen to about $6, 700m. This year the take from the income tax field is projected to be of the order of $ 10,000m. Inflation does not account for all of that. It means that the savings of the people are being sucked into the public sector from the income tax field alone.
I ask: What has to be done? There is more to be done yet. For example, I do not see the necessity for spending, on the estimate of the Prime Minister, a sum of about $5. 5m on the Australian art collection. Surely we can wait a year to buy something that it is not necessary to buy this year. Why should we have to spend $5m abroad just to buy another ‘Blue Poles’ or Woman V or some other monstrous thing like that? Why should we spend money on that awful debacle that took place here last week?
– Hear, hear!
-Senator Wood, I did not think that you were a sexist- are you? It was a debacle all right. There was a riot in Kings Hall. The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s efforts were put to work in demonstrating some cockroach scuttling up to the microphone and backing away again, uttering such cries of filthy four-letter words as I have never heard used except by gunners when they were running out of shells in war time. That is the best that I can say about it. The facts are that the Government’s overheads have to be reduced. The Government is not making an honest and effective attempt to reduce the overheads. Until such time as these overheads are reduced there is no possibility of the private sector being able to regain its feet. This cannot happen while this mass of sucking out of the profitability of the private sector continues.
Of course, the tragedy is the final one where, with all this embarkation into this area of vast spending, we end up with a deficit of $2, 500m or whatever it is- the figures are meaningless. Last year we budgeted for a deficit, and this year we are budgeting for a deficit. There is no escape from budgeting for a deficit this year, for the simple reason that if the Government had not budgeted for a deficit the level of unemployment would not be of the dimensions that it is at present; it would have been getting up near the 750 000 mark. What has to be understood- no one seems to be able to understand it- is that last year’s deficit and this year’s deficit have to be funded. It seems to me that those deficits will amount to about $6,000m. That money has to be found somewhere in the system in the current 12 months.
Finally, I should like to make an observation to demonstrate in a most dramatic way the sort of mess we are in at present. It relates to the question of overheads. It has been estimated by some of my colleagues that the moneys spent on Aborigines and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs during the coming year will be of the dimension of $9,000 for each Aborigine. I am not complaining about that. What I complain about is that it costs $4,500, for each Aborigine, to administer that expenditure of $9,000 on each Aborigine.
– Payments to the white middle class.
-Yes, that is what it amounts to. That is an example of the dimensions of the overheads that have to be cut down. It would be far better to abandon the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and give every
Aborigine that $4,500 to do with what he wants to.
The claim that the Government constantly makes, though it is weakening on this point, that we have imported our inflation is nonsense. A manufacturer whose name it would be improper of me to mention as to do so would be to embarrass him but who would be known to nearly every honourable senator who sits in this place was in my office last week. He is a man who has to find a payroll for thousands and thousands of workers. I said to him: ‘How do you see things?’ He said: ‘Apparently the Government cannot get it into its skull that I cannot make any prognosis about what the employment position is going to be in my industry unless I can calculate at least 9 months ahead what my sales should be, because it takes 9 months to get stock moving and raw materials coming in’.
– Are you talking about a gynaecologist?
-That is the gestation period- I suggest that it is a reasonable one- required by him to obtain raw materials, to get sub-contractors working, to start to fill out inventories and to get the flow going if he is to increase his production. He went on to say: ‘But there is no sign anywhere by which we can make a forecast as to what our sales situation will be in 9 months ahead ‘. That is the essence of the situation. He went on to say: ‘It is a most extraordinary thing that we have a country that possesses the 2 basic ingredients for a successful and profitable economy- massive supplies of protein and of raw materials in practically every dimension that is required in the private sectoryet in a period of 18 months the Government has brought the economy almost to its knees ‘.
It is not a question of debating whether we spend too much money here or not enough money there. What has to be seen and has to be seen clearly is that we have to bring about a psychological change in the thinking of the Government that you support, Sir, and support for proper reasons, so that it accepts that we cannot advance our social structure any faster than the wealth is created in the community and that once the demand in the form of welfare upon the productive resources of the community exceeds a given point- I suggest that it is reaching that stage now if it has not already reached it- the economy begins to sag. It is not for the Opposition to overcome the problem, but every man and woman in the other place and in this chamber who supports the Government has the responsibility to try to change the Government’s attitude towards the economy of this country, because all the Government’s aspirations in relation to social welfare will be meaningless unless we can get the economy back on to its feet again.
-I rise to support the Budget. This debate has been one of the most peculiar debates on a Budget that I have heard in the 10 years in which I have been a member of this Parliament. We have had severe criticism coming continuously from the Opposition but very few positive suggestions as to how the Opposition would solve the problem. We have also had a situation in which prior to the Budget being introduced the claim was made in almost every major speech by a shadow Minister on the Opposition side that the Government had to cut back spending drastically in the public sector. In almost every area in which we have either cut back spending or left it at the previous level we have been criticised by some spokesman for the Opposition either in this House or in the House of Representatives for doing so. I think it is appalling that the Opposition should tackle this Budget at the level of adopting completely negative attitudes rather than trying to make some positive suggestions as to how the Opposition would solve the problem if it were to become the government in the foreseeable future.
I was intrigued by some of the criticism that was made both in the Senate by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) and in another place in relation to expenditures listed in the Budget that are to take place at overseas posts. I believe that a large amount of the expenditure that in fact will be incurred on overseas posts should come under the scrutiny of a committee of this Parliament.
– But there has never been an occasion when an Opposition has put forward a more constructive reply to a Budget than there has been on this occasion.
-I heard Senator Wright speak the other night. One could hardly follow what he was saying most of the time. The only thing that I could understand was his comment that the Government was a bad government. The criticism that has come from the Opposition in relation to spending on overseas posts is interesting when compared with the answers given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in relation to the proposed expenditure. They show that the major cost factors in relation to expenditure at overseas embassies and chanceries and in other areas are, in the main, to be incurred on projects approved by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. The large amount of criticism on this subject has come about at a time when the expenditure approvals of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government have come to fruition. Let us take, for instance, the Bangkok chancery and residence, listed for construction at a cost of $5. 8m. That work was approved by the previous Government. The renovations and the electrical work at Australia House in London, which are to cost $477,000, were approved by our predecessors. The expenditure of $18. 5m on a chancery and accommodation in Paris were approved by our predecessors. The expenditure of $2m on a chancery in Port Moresby was approved by our predecessors. The expenditure of $4.4m on a chancery in Singapore was approved by our predecessors.
It has disturbed me and it has disturbed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, of which 1 am a member, to read in the 1974 annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the expenditure to be incurred in this respect. In my view some outrageous amounts are to be spent at overseas posts- a total of some $86m- on projects either already approved or to be approved in the near future. I will cite just one example at the moment. I refer to the $15m program for extensions to the chancery in Tokyo- just for extensions!
– When was that approved?
– A feasibility study is now in progress in relation to this matter, but it has not yet been approved. I hope that it will not be approved in its present form. That is what I am talking about. We had the position where the Committee of which I am a member quite recently conducted an investigation into a building that is to be constructed in Parramatta for 5000 public office workers. In addition to the office space that will be provided in that building there is to be a ground floor commercial shopping centre, a gymnasium, 2 theatres seating 750 and 400 persons respectively, a child-minding centre, a kindergarten and several other things. That building is to be part of the Civic Centre in Parramatta. As I recollect it, that figure was $9. 8m. We have an estimate by the Department of Foreign Affairs- which has not been approved, and I hope it will not be approved without much greater scrutiny- of $15m for extensions to a chancery. I suggest that at that price for extensions only it would be the eighth wonder of the world; we would be building a Taj Mahal in that city. I do not think a small country such as
Australia should out- Jones the Joneses and compete with great overseas countries in the construction of embassies, consulates and other buildings that are listed as having been recommended to the Government or already approved. There are some very strange figures here. For the new chancery and apartment block that is to be constructed in Paris the total cost is to be $ 1 9.2m. An official residence that is to be built in Lagos will cost $600,000. That is if these proposals are approved by the Cabinet and by the Parliament in general. A new chancery in Kuala Lumpur is to be built at a cost of $3.4m, and 3 staff houses are to be built in Vienna at a cost of $300,000-that is staff houses at $ 100,000 each.
These are matters that have been drawn to the attention of the Committee. What concerns me and other members of the Committee is that all these projects could be approved by any government, whether we or the Opposition were in government, and there would be no scrutiny of them by a committee of the Parliament. The Committee believes that these kinds of projects should come within the ambit of the Public Works Committee for examination. I know that this is not the first time the matter has been raised in the Parliament. Indeed, during the Labor Party’s period in Opposition, that suggestion was made in amendments to the Public Works Committee Bill in another place. The Committee is not suggesting that every time an overseas program is proposed its members should find themselves on an aeroplane going to Singapore, Paris or some other city to examine the site or the project. The planning for the projects is done in Australia. But I believe that large projects of this nature should be examined by some committee, preferably the Public Works Committee, firstly to establish the need, and secondly to scrutinise the plans and specifications that have been put forward. I would take a lot of satisfying that Australia requires an expenditure of $19m in Paris or that it requires an expenditure of $ 15m on extensions to a chancery in Tokyo. This is an aspect that has to be examined in the amendments to the Public Works Committee Act that it is hoped will come before the Parliament in the very near future.
Another matter that the Public Works Committee believes should be the subject of consideration relates to the system whereby the Committee is compelled to examine all government expenditure in the field of construction over $2m and is not able to make a choice as to what should be examined. In other words, the Committee believes that it would be proper for all construction operations of government to be examined selectively by it, including those of some of the statutory bodies that are now not answerable to this Parliament or to the Committee. We believe that those bodies should come within the ambit of the Committee. No doubt we all have seen in Canberra examples of buildings that should have been subject to some scrutiny by the Parliament through its appropriate Committee. I suggest, and I hope it is considered seriously, that we should forget the limitation of $2m and provide that the Committee can examine selectively certain projects that it believes are worthy of examination.
For instance, in the city of Geelong, where I live, Commonwealth public offices were built in 3 stages. Each stage cost under the required amount, so none of the stages was subject to scrutiny by the Committee. The 3 stages were built over a number of years and all were approved by the previous Government. I do not make any comment in relation to the approval. The offices were necessary, but now they are totally inadequate. There is a very large staff in the building without any canteen facilities and there is no possibility in the foreseeable future of including in that building sufficient canteen facilities for the persons employed there. Another Australian Government building will have to be constructed on another site in the city of Geelong because it is impracticable now to extend the existing building, or at least very little extension could take place on the site. 1 believe that it is the purpose of the Public Works Committee to examine projects at that level.
During the recess in November, I understand, the Committee is likely to be going to the Northern Territory for a week to examine the proposed construction of 6 schools, each of which will cost more than $2m and which will be almost indentical. The Committee is committed under the Act to examining these projects because they will cost more than $2m. I suggest that there should be a system whereby the Committee can be selective and can do spot checks if it believes that any department feels that the Committee is letting it off the hook in relation to a particular project. A situation has now been reached where, according to the 1974 Department of Foreign Affairs report, an $86m program will not be examined properly, or will not be examined at all, if the present system operates.
I hope that the Minister in charge of the Public Works Committee Bill, the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland), will take on board the suggestions I have made in relation to the proper functions of the Committee, to ensure that we do not have rash spending in areas where it is not necessary or where it could be deferred until such time as we are able to afford some of the luxuries that may be going into many of these overseas residences and chanceries that are listed for extension.
– He might be frightened that you would have to inspect the sites in Paris and Tokyo.
– I made it clear in my opening remarks that the Committee did not desire to do that in any circumstances and that the planning is done in Australia. The planning is done in this country by a committee from the Department of Foreign Affairs, and I think that committee should have to justify its planning. It may be necessary on some very rare occasions for the Committee to look at something overseas. If that is so, then I suggest that many more millions of dollars would be saved by the visit of one committee for one particular purpose than would be spent under the program that is listed in this document alone. If the Senate examined expenditures over the past years it might find that other outlays of a similar nature that have been made might not have been justified if a committee had had the proper oversight of that aspect of Commonwealth Government construction. I hope that these matters will be given serious consideration. I believe that I have indicated practical ways in which money could be saved, money could be spent wisely and money could be spent under the scrutiny of the Parliament to ensure that these things do not occur.
Another aspect of the debate that has intrigued me is the comments made by speakers for the Country Party- or the National Country Party or whatever the name is at the present time. I have not had time yet to read this morning’s newspapers; so I am not quite sure what its title is at the moment. We have heard from at least 2 speakers on the other side of the chamber what a terrible socialist government this is; that this terrible socialist government is doing everything to destroy this nation. When I think about the socialism that this Government practises, I wish that it was far more socialist than it is. In the history of Australia, whether it relates to this national Parliament or to the parliaments of the States, the party that has gained the most out of socialist legislation has always been the Country Party. It has always sought socialism in relation to its particular industries. It has gained that socialism on many occasions by deliberate decisions of the Parliament to give subsidies here and subsidies there. The Country Party wants free electricity, free telephone services, and many other matters to which I will refer upon the resumption of the sitting.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had mentioned in passing that the attitude of the Country Party to the Labor Party has been to declare us socialists at every level. I indicated also that in the history of Australian politics the people who have gained most from acts of governments which could be termed socialist have been members of the Country Party. Over many years they have received subsidies and the benefits of orderly marketing at all levels of production. The Country Party has always claimed that it believes in free enterprise but it does not believe in it in relation to the marketing of goods. When prices are high in the wool industry, the wheat industry or even the beef industry Country Party supporters believe the market should control the price and that should be the price which the grower gets. When the market drops dramatically they immediately appeal to the government of the day for subsidies to keep the farmers on their lands.
I believe there should be a form of assistance to the small farmer. I have been known as one of the rural rump in the Caucus and I do not apologise to anybody for putting in Caucus the cause of the small farmer. But I can appreciate the arguments that have been put up from time to time about the unfairness of some of the subsidy systems that have existed in Australia, because very often they have not helped the farmer who may be small but is very efficient in his production. The subsidy system that has operated in this country has always made the rich richer and the poor farmer has not developed his property very much further into a viable area when nature has taken a step towards drought or flood. The needy should receive assistance and we should have a system that is fair and proper. We have heard evidence in this Parliament recently about the amounts of subsidy- more than $50,000 over a period of years- that went to certain farmers in Victoria, one of whom was the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that was not required by him. That is one of the reasons why the subsidy system for superphosphate had to be looked at.
We are not the only government that has removed this subsidy because I can recall that the Menzies Government removed the subsidy some years ago at the behest of Mr McEwan, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. He removed the subsidy and gave valid reasons for doing so. It was reintroduced as a political gimmick because the farming community in Australia was in dire straits at that time in almost every one of its pursuits. The longer the present Opposition was in government the more the farmer suffered in every aspect of his operation. So much did the farmer suffer that the greatest march against a government by the farming community occurred in Melbourne when we were in Opposition. The farming community has tried to repeat it since. What did we see at the front of this Parliament House? One could have put the numbers who were demonstrating into a telephone booth and there would have been room for more.
In those days the Country Party’s philosophy was to tell the farmer to diversify when one industry was in trouble and to change to production of some other commodity that was paying well. We saw a classic example of that when at one stage of our history there was overproduction of wheat. At the behest of the Country Party the government of the day panicked and brought in a system of quotas whereby the small wheat farmer was on a quota which was less than he was able to grow the season before or the season before that. The big producers who moved into the market in order to undertake contract growing were equally cut down on a quota basis. Instead of letting the traditional farmer continue to produce, the then government cut back his quota. As an Opposition we violently opposed the move on the basis that markets should be sought in other parts of the world. We believed those markets were available. They were available; we proved that they were available. We also argued that this country could stand a full season’s wheat in the silos so that we could oblige the markets that we could obtain by proper negotiation.
We had the ridiculous situation that the government of the day would not trade properly with China. It sold wheat to China on occasions that suited it and at the same time it blackguarded that country from the platforms of this country and also in Parliament to the extent that China finally said: ‘We can get the wheat we require from Canada’. We lost the market for political reasons. I would suggest that some of the political reasons were the double dealings by members of the present Opposition and of the then Government who were telling fairy tales to the traditional wheat growers of this country about the availability of markets. It is my prediction that under a Labor Government the wheat market is assured for the next 20 years at least.
What did the then Government tell the wheat growers? It said: ‘There is plenty of money in beef. Go into beef. Senator Primmer will tell how wheat growers from the Mallee, the central part of Victoria and Wimmera were driving down in motor cars and buying for $40 any kind of calf that had any colour of beef in it. They were buying week-old calves for $40, putting them in the boots of their cars and taking them back to the farm to be able to produce beef. When that beef got to the stage that it was saleable the market had fallen- not because of the fault of any government. No government in Australia could have saved the situation for the beef industry. The simple fact was that for years there had been a great problem in the United States in relation to the marketing of beef by United States farmers. They were holding out from the market and we were cashing in on it.
Today we find that beef is almost unsaleable and in this situation no doubt members of the Country Party would frown on any suggestion that we should get very big contracts from those terrible socialist countries such as Russia and China. While we played around in a war in Vietnam and were offering insults directly from every platform the farmer was suffering because there was no market. One sees the whole hypocrisy of the Vietnam situation when one looks at the gentleman who received a large subsidy- more than $50,000- for superphosphate- not superphosphorus, as it was called here earlier today. He was a great believer in the Vietnam war and he believed that every young man in this country should be serving in it.
– Who was that, senator?
-I think he is the Leader of the Opposition; the latest Leader of the Opposition. This is very interesting because the Australian of 24 March this year contained an article headed: ‘Honourable grazier goes out to meet people carefully’. There are several quotes about what a great man is the present Leader of the Opposition. This newspaper report contains remarks made by the manager of his property and states:
Mr Russell Paltridge, manager of the Fraser property, described his boss as a good bloke. Not a country squire, but a genuine farmer with political interests.
He does a lot for the area and he ‘s well liked for it. During the Vietnam war he helped graziers who were battling to get their sons out of the draft’, Mr Paltridge said.
Mr Fraser had assisted poorer farmers or single parents to present a case for their sons not being conscripted. Mr Paltridge said that in many cases young men were necessary to the viability and continuation of small properties in the district.
This is the kind of hypocrisy we have from the Leader of the party that supposes it is going to be the next government. Of course, I tried to get every young fellow out of conscription and out of that war that I could because I did not believe in it. There was no hypocrisy about what I did. I did my best to stop the war. We saw the present Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament use his influence as a member of the Parliament and a Minister of the then Government to prevail upon the Government of the day to get his own kids out of the war while the kids of the factory workers had no way out and had to go to the war or to go to gaol under the legislation imposed by the parties represented by the people of the Opposition. That reveals the hypocrisy of the parties opposite. So much for the hypocrisy of the National Country Party and its attitude to the Labor Party. As I said earlier, it is a Party that wants everything for itself when it is in dire straits but it wants the free flow of private enterprise to operate when prices are good for its members. All we ask for in this place is some sincerity from these people. The Opposition Parties will not solve the problems of industry by continually knocking members and supporters of the Government all the time, by asking for a handout when its supporters are in trouble or by telling us that they do not need a handout when there is a good market.
I recall what happened with the Victorian Potato Board. It was not a very big Board but it operated successfully over a number of years so that the farmers who produced potatoes got a reasonable price for them. This went on for a number of years until suddenly there was a shortage of potatoes in New South Wales. Then we saw great semi-trailers moving into the Koroit area and into the Koo Wee Rup area in Gippsland and being filled with bags of spuds. They were then taken over the border under section 92 of the Constitution and sold for £10 a bag. This happened to such an extent that the Board was destroyed. Next year potatoes were selling for 9s a bag and people approached the State Government of that day and begged it to reintroduce the Board. This is the kind of philosophy that members of the Opposition have had. This is the kind of philosophy they will follow always. As far as I am concerned it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I hope this Budget is carried and I hope the National Country Party ceases to make these attacks when there is no justification for them. I often wish there were justification.
- Senator Poyser’s speech was typical of that of members of the Labor Party during this debate. They have to resort to personal attacks on people.
– You name one person I attacked.
-I heard Senator Poyser denigrate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). That was typical of the low strategy employed by members of the Government and their supporters during this debate. I deplore it and frankly I am disappointed in Senator Poyser. In a moment I will refer to a part of his speech with which I agreed. For the honourable senator to denigrate the National Country Party as he has done tonight purely and simply indicates that the Government has a very guilty conscience. When this Government took over from the partnership that had run this country for 23 years the inflation rate was less than 5 per cent. The policies adopted by the former coalition government, the partnership, served to elevate the rural industries to a high status and to a level which contributed very greatly to the economy of this country. This Government succeeded in destroying that situation in a matter of two or three years by poor and absolutely unpardonable administration.
I want to get down to one part of Senator Poyser’s speech with which I agreed. I refer to his remarks about overseas posts. I fully endorse that constructive part of his speech. I think it is disgraceful that we should allow $86m to be spent on overseas posts without some form of scrutiny of the plans. With respect to the Public Works Committee, I think Senator Poyser -
– Are you a member of that Committee, too?
– I am a member of that Committee and that is why I support what Senator Poyser said. I thought he made a useful contribution. He mentioned that extensions costing $ 15m are to be carried out to our embassy in Japan. He also mentioned that $ 19.2m is to be spent on an embassy and flats in Paris. These are large sums of money and they ought to be scrutinised by a committee of this Parliament. I think it appropriate that the Public Works Committee should be responsible to look at these things.
– Do you think it should do an on site inspection of these places?
– I believe there is some merit in that suggestion. All honourable senators who have travelled overseas and visited our embassies will recognise that people here in Canberra who design these buildings do so without real knowledge of the conditions which exist in other countries and therefore may well make mistakes. For example, I visited the Australian Embassy in Manila last year and the bedrooms were like little dog boxes. In a country like that you need ventilation. I think one has to inspect these houses to appreciate the conditions in which people live. I think there is great merit in a committee visiting these countries to examine the conditions that prevail.
– There would be a saving in the long run.
-I believe that is so. I think that on the last occasion when we debated the Public Works Committee Act in this House I mentioned the need to look at statutory authorities. An extraordinary amount of money is being spent by these bodies without the expenditure receiving proper scrutiny by this Parliament. It is obvious to me that the Public Works Committee ought to look at this matter. I recall that Senator Wright was one who advocated this extension of the Public Works Committee activities on that occasion. I referred to the National Capital Development Commission which had spent $98m in the preceding year without examination by the Public Works Committee. I think that if random selections were made by the Committee of various departments and statutory authorities, including overseas posts, there could well be a deterrent to departmental excesses which would assist in economies and I believe economies are needed in those areas.
Getting back to the Budget, the subject matter of this debate, I suppose there are a few people who would say that they will receive some benefit from personal taxation concessions. If one considers the case of an average wage earner on about $8,000 a year, with a dependent wife and 2 children, one of school age, that man will benefit on the face of the Budget by about $2 15 a year. A man of the same marital status on $15,000 a year could say, perhaps, that he will save about $377 a year. Of course, that is until he puts the microscope over the Budget and realises that if a man happens to enjoy a glass of beer and has 4 glasses of beer after work- I think that would be a reasonably average intake for a strong, hard-working man- they will cost him an additional 80c a week. If he smokes a couple of packets of cigarettes a day, they are going to cost him an additional 84c a week.
– Smoking is a health hazard.
– I agree with the honourable senator, but it is not possible to persuade the average working man in this country, or in fact a lot of other people, that smoking is a health hazard. I recognise that it is and I think Senator Mulvihill does too. Nevertheless, in spite of what we try to do to discourage such people from smoking they will do it, and it will cost the average person at least 84c or $ I a week extra. If a man buys a few bottles of beer to drink over the weekend that will cost him another 60c. If we look, too, at the postal charges, the petrol increases, and the additional pharmaceutical charges that have been suggested we will see that these tax concessions, reductions or rebateswhatever they are called- will be quickly eaten away.
I suppose the most frightening aspect of this Budget would be the anticipation of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) that wages in Australia will increase by about 22 per cent. This is significant because it implies a very serious situationthat the income tax also will rise by about 40 per cent. I thought that Senator Wright and others pointed out very clearly just what revenue is being raked in by the Government through taxation. I refer to a point which was highlighted by Senator Wright recently, that is, that pay as you earn taxation revenue will increase from $6,07 lm last year to an estimated $8,683m this year, an increase of nearly 30 per cent or $2,6 12m. It seems to me that this Government is reaping a colossal harvest from personal taxation and since coming to office has squandered much of this in a headlong rush to develop a welfare state. I submit that this is being done at a tremendous cost to the private sector.
Last year after wages and taxes were paid- I am glad that Senator Davidson agrees with me- the private sector lost no less than $500m. Probably the Government is very proud of this. We certainly feel very strongly about it. As many as 3000 small firms went out of business last year. I think this is an indictment against the present Government. I was interested in the editorial appearing in the Australian on 3 September, which described the interdependence of small businesses and large corporations. It referred to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, a firm that is not thought very highly of by the Government. The article stated, in part:
This interdependency has been brought home by two reports. BHP says that its performance in the first few months of this financial year has been ‘disappointing’, with falling sales leaving the company with $417.9 million worth of steel on its hands- an increase of 47.6 per cent.
This is where the small dependent businesses have suffered indirectly. Another part of this article states:
A survey by the Australian, also published yesterday-
That was 2 Septembershows that at least 3000 firms, mostly small, have gone out of business this year. They are not, of course, all connected directly or indirectly with BHP, but clear links exist. Many of the failed firms were in building and construction, and it is the slump in that sector which did most to cause the collapse in the stainless steel market that is of such concern to BHP’s directors.
The interdependence of big and small businesses is obvious. The thousands of small Australian firms, often described as the lifeblood of a competitive mixed society, comprise much of BHP’s domestic market. When liquidity and confidence fail them, when independent ownermanagers find themselves earning no more than a salary equivalent, the hurt they feel is quickly reflected in the BHP board room.
The editorial goes on to explain the pain caused to these people, having gone up to the top then to go down to the bottom. It describes as well how the small businesses prosper while the big corporations prosper. It points out that an economy measure which BHP had to adopt with respect to maintenance caused supporting industries to be put out of work.
– Did it say what the profit of BHP was?
– This is indicative of the way in which Senator McLaren and his colleagues have failed the business of Australia. They do not believe that profits are important and this is where they have got into so much trouble. They have written about $ 1,600m worth of treasury notes this year to try to get themselves out of their economic dilemma. I think that when we were in government $ 100 m worth of treasury notes was considered to be an extraordinarily high amount when we had to resort to such a course of action. Government senators have no right to question the businessmen who dare to run their businesses at a profit. The Government is a classic example of incapability to run anything at a profit.
– We have a right to raise the living standards of the workers.
– I should like to suggest to the honourable senator that if he were interested in the working people of Australia he would be interested in the private sector making a profit. Last year 140 000 jobs in the private sector were lost because of the disincentives and the disregard that the Government has imposed upon the private sector; during the same period no fewer than 70 000 jobs were created in the public sector. That is why we on this side of the House suggest that the Government’s business management is haywire. Such evidence demonstrates the
Government’s complete incompetence to run the business of this country.
– That is what Menzies said.
- Sir Robert Menzies has nothing to be ashamed of. He succeeded in bringing this country to a very high level of economic stability. Not only that, he was successful in bringing our image overseas to a very high level. This has been effectively destroyed by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). He goes overseas, insults the United States of America and makes flambouyant statements. I believe he is a disgrace to Australia. Forgive me, Mr President, for being distracted by my colleague from South Australia. He succeeds sometimes in getting under my skin. I am glad to say that in responding to his remarks I can point out a few of his own irresponsibilities.
– Disregard the policy statements.
- Senator Young makes a very wise interjection. Among the 3 000 firms that I mentioned were many building firms. This is of very great concern to members on this side of the House. I should like to refer briefly to the current housing situation. I suppose it is fitting to remind honourable senators opposite of one of the hundreds of promises given by our Prime Minister. In a radio broadcast on 5 June 1972 he said:
We intend through our program of land, housing and interest rates, to reduce the average cost of home ownership by between $4,000 and $6,000.
I have seen no evidence at all of this. In fact, I think the converse is true; that is, that housing costs have increased by at least that amount. Outlays for housing in this Budget have been reduced by $69. lm, or approximately 10 per cent of the actual expenditure on housing last year. The reduction in housing outlays will affect directly low income earners, the underpriviliged and most of those whose interests the Labor Party claims to represent.
On 9 July this year the new Minister for Housing and Construction, Mr Riordan, addressing a branch of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, stated that the Prime Minister had also indicated to the States that the Government would maintain at least the same level of expenditure under the States housing program as in 1974-75. Advances to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia certainly are unchanged, but the advance to Queensland has been reduced by $ 12.8m and the advances to Western Australia and Tasmania have been reduced by $4m each. On the basis of last year’s completions and allocations and allowing for a 20 per cent inflation factor- which I think is a conservative estimate- the loss in dwellings as a result of the Budget reductions will number 2000 in the case of the State housing authorities and 4500 in the case of the low income home builders. The total housing commencements currently are averaging 10 000 a month, which is 4000 a month less than the figures for the previous 2 years. In previous years the industry has demonstrated a capacity to produce about 160 000 homes in a full year, but the accumulated shortfall of dwellings by the end of December this year is expected to be about 80 000. A half-year’s production has already been lost and many contractors and tradesmen will never return to the industry. Average employment in the building and manufacturing support industries normally is 20 per cent of the total average employment. It follows that of the total Australian work force 50 000 people are at present unemployed in those industries. The availability of accommodation will become even tighter. The Budget will not alter at all the inflationary situation in the housing area, and it will produce more unemployment and further hardship to the people of Australia. 1 now turn to the rural sector which, I think, will be among the hardest hit by the provisions of this Budget. It would be as well to remind Government senators of another statement by Mr Whitlam in 1972. He said:
A Labor government will ensure the economic viability of primary industry with the emphasis on financial stability, security and confidence in the future.
I think that is about the biggest laugh of all.
– He was absolutely right.
– I think it is a big laugh, because what has happened since Labor came to office is that no sector has been more adversely affected by Labor’s policies than has the primary industry. The removal of the superphosphate bounty- information in respect of which this Government has chosen to use in a despicable way in recent times- the removal of taxation incentives for soil conservation, water conservation, pasture improvement and plant investment, and the inflation which is raging in this country and is being fanned effectively by this Government illustrate just a few of the impositions that have been applied to this important industry. I think this Budget king hits the people living in country towns and the farming areas of Australia. It was bad enough when postal and telephone charges were increased by up to about 80 per cent in some areas- the country people will be among the main ones who will be hurt by those imposts- but above all I think the fuel price increases will cause the most hardship to country people. The Government, in my view, should never have discontinued the fuel equalisation program, which was of great benefit to people living in country areas and in particular the remote areas of Australia.
– Do you agree with Doug Anthony’s policy on fuel and raising the price of fuel?
– It depends on what Senator Hall is talking about. He has probably been sucked in by the Labor Party’s propaganda. I thank him for the interjection. It will enable me to enlighten him on this matter. If the honourable senator is talking about the misconception which arose during the election campaign when he was elected to Parliament, I think that if he studies the statement which was made he will get a different view of what was intended. I believe that Senator Hall will agree with me when I say that the fuel price increases will be very damaging to country people. I suggest that the Government could well consider waiving the additional excise on fuel used in operating farm machinery such as tractors and so on. I think that would be some recognition of the importance of the rural industry to Australia and the need to do something to revive it from its present disastrous state. I also think that some consideration ought to be given to reintroducing the superphosphate bounty, which I believe would be of great help.
I would also like to refer briefly to the increased air navigation charges, which again have placed a burden on the third level aircraft operators. These increases will create a problem for many of these operators and I would not be surprised if many of them went out of business as a result of the increases. They also have been hit by other costs. I understand that air navigation charges amount to about $1,900 a year on an 8- passenger aircraft and about $1,000 on a 5- passenger aircraft. These increases are estimated to be between 15 and 20 per cent. These increases, in addition to other costs which have risen substantially over the last 12 months, are unfair to those aircraft operators. Pilots’ salaries, taking into account annual leave and so on, have increased over the last 12 months by 28 per cent; clerical salaries by 24 per cent; engineers’ salaries by 33 per cent on average and fuel costs by 14 per cent. I understand that the cost of spare parts increased by 10 per cent in July this year and further increases are expected very shortly. I am concerned also about the effect the increase in the price of fuel will have on the operations of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. I mentioned ‘ this matter last year in my speech on the Budget, which also increased air navigation charges. At the moment this Service, probably more than any other, is suffering as a result of inflation, the increased fuel costs and the navigation and postal charges that have been imposed by this Government. I recognise that last year the Federal Government gave $2. lm to the Flying Doctor Service over a 3-year period to assist in running this essential service for the people who live in the outback. I am concerned that, unless something further is done to assist this Service, it will be unable to continue to operate its 22 aircraft throughout Australia and will be in a very difficult position in respect of employing its 1 1 full-time doctors and about 130 full-time ancillary staff in all the States. It seems that the Government can find extraordinary amounts of money for Medibank but its appropriation in this area indicates to me that it is completely disregarding and discriminating against the people who live in the remote parts of Australia and who rely on the services of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.
– We assist flying optometrists.
– I had not noticed that. I suggest that Senator McLaren may well take notice of what I have said and try to do something to assist the people at Coober Pedy, Andamooka, Oodnadatta and other places who rely solely on this service for their medical treatment. Of course the honourable senator blithely disregards these things and seeks to introduce another subject to distract the Senate from the guilt which he has with respect to this matter.
– He could not see an optometrist if his eyes were open.
-That is an excellent idea. I think Senator McLaren and his colleagues should urge the Cabinet to give serious consideration to increasing assistance to the Royal Flying Doctor Service when it meets the Government in January next year. I want to refer to the fishing industry for a few moments. I suggest that in South Australia it will be affected if the Government proceeds with the decision which was foreshadowed some weeks ago in relation to the mercury level in fish. I realise that the Government acted on the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council whose findings were made in 1970-71. The Council believed that it was acting in a proper manner. If the Government proceeds with that recommendation I fear that many fishermen in South Australia will, as a result, suffer financially. I know that the Victorian Government has seen fit to establish 0.5 parts per million as a standard for mercury in fish. I believe that that is a retrograde step. There will be a damaging effect on the fishing industry of Australia. I have written to Mr Hamer asking him to review that decision in the light of more recent scientific and medical evidence. I forwarded to him and to the Prime Minister a copy of a report which was made recently in South Australia by a medical biologist. I add that before he compiled this report and made his inquiries overseas he was of the view that one part per million of mercury was a reasonable proposition. Having checked with Sweden, Japan, Norway, Canada and other places like that and having gone into the matter in a scientific way he decided that one part per million was quite safe. I know that the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) who is at the table at the moment recognises that this is a serious matter for South Australia. I know that the Premier of South Australia has made representations on this matter. The South Australian Cabinet not long ago reduced the level of allowable mercury in fish from 5 parts per million to one part per million. I have received a reply from the Prime Minister in response. to representations I have made. He said that he has deferred a decision pending further examination by the Minister for Science (Mr Clyde Cameron) and other Ministers concerned in this matter.
– Was that five or point five?
– It was 5 parts per million as the acceptable level in South Australia until a few months ago when the Government decided to reduce the level to one part per million. I believe that Italy accepts 7 parts per million as not being a health hazard. I know of 2 deaths which have occurred as a result of mercury poisoning. Fish, contaminated in that way, was ingested.
– We get it from reading a newspaper in Tasmania.
– I can understand that too. These deaths were as a result of chemical industrial pollution in Minymata and other parts of Japan. There is no other evidence to support the contention that one part per million is a health problem.
– Are not our figures based on World Health Organisation figures?
– If the honourable senator studies the World Health Organisation recommendations he will find them interesting because one part per million is acceptable. Usually, a sample of fish is taken. If 5 fish in a sample of twenty-five demonstrate a mercury level of one part per million that becomes a suspect area and the matter is gone into a little more carefully. If honourable senators look at this document they will find it interesting. I think they will find that if we establish one part per million it will be quite a safe standard.
– It may do damage and have some deleterious effect other than just in the victim.
– There is no evidence to suggest that. A lot of work has been done by the person to whom I referred as submitting the report. He is a medical biologist working in the Adelaide Hospital. He is an expert in contaminated food. As a matter of fact, I understand that his wife is on the staff of Mr Don Dunstan. So I suggest the Government ought to pay some regard to his report. The economic desperation of this Government has been revealed, I think, by the lengths to which it was prepared to go to raise funds from Arabian sources not long ago. I understand that the Government still would not be averse to pursuing that source of revenue. I also understand that Don Dunstan, who tried to wash his hands of the Federal Labor Government during the State election campaign, was anxious to get some money from overseas for his own purposes. He could not raise this money constitutionally. I understand that he certainly is by no means snow white in the whole exercise. He was anxious for money to be raised overseas by the Federal Government. It is quite obvious that the Federal Government attempted to do this through South Australian contacts.
– The honourable senator had better ask Mr Karidis about that.
-I could tell honourable senators a bit about Mr Karidis too, if they wanted me to.
– Why did you not when Mr Karidis was here? Other people failed.
– I left that to other people whom I thought knew a bit about the matter. I am afraid that I did not have a chance to be here at that time.
– The honourable senator missed a real show.
-Yes. I understand that the so-called gentleman attempted to whitewash Mr Connor. I suppose he was a little bit scared of his own position, in any case. I would have liked to ask him a few questions about his house building program around West Lakes.
– Why does not the honourable senator ask him outside the House?
– I might do that, but I am not going to go into that any further. I suggest that the Government is still on pretty sticky ground in that area. I remind the Senate of the technique used by communists in undermining Western civilisation. Firstly, they endeavour to disrupt the economy basis of Western democracy. It seems to be coincidental that this has happened in Australia during the last 3 years.
– What about the United States?
– I am talking about Australia which concerns me vitally. I think that a large amount of trouble with our economy is caused by disruption from communist dominated trade unions in Australia. I shall refer to an article which I received from Mr J. H. Leard, the managing director of Australian National Industries Ltd. I shall read a little of the article for the enlightenment of government senators.
– We have all read it. It is 6 months old.
-Have you? Well, it is very interesting to listen to it. I have found it most interesting. The article is not so old. I think it was issued only last week. It states:
A number of commentators have observed recently that many of the trends presently apparent in the Australian economy show a close similarity to the economic difficulties being experienced in Great Britain.
This was referred to earlier in the debate by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. The article continues:
Whilst there may be a number of causes of the current problems in Britain, there is a general agreement that one major cause of the difficulties in that country is the extent of industrial muscle being used by a section of a powerful Trade Union leadership which is not always concerned with, nor receptive to, the national interest.
There is general agreement that the proper functioning of a Government/free enterprise mixed economy requires a responsible and co-operative attitude between the representatives of capital, management, labour and Government.
– And the Press Gallery is reading yesterday’s newspaper.
– I am interested in the honourable senator’s comment. I think the Press ought to be concerned about these matters. I am certain that the members of the Press gallery will give this the appropriate currency in national headlines. The article states that there is general agreement.
– What are you grizzling about?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! There are too many diversions and digressions. I ask Senator Jessop to address the Chair. I ask that we do not have so many interruptions. I call Senator Jessop.
– I go on, despite the justified interruptions. The article states:
There is a general agreement that the proper functioning of a Government/free enterprise mixed economy requires a responsible and co-operative attitude between the representatives of capital, management, labour and Government in order to achieve the maximum economic prosperity for all citizens in any country . . .
There is, of course, a proper place in our society for a responsible Trade Union movement.
I recognise that, as we all do on this side of the House. The article states further:
We recognise this and support it. We also recognise that the vast majority of Australian employees and Unionists recognise the interdependence of labour, management and capital in the important process of creating the wealth of the Nation, lt is also clear that many of the Trade Union leaders in Australia today are responsible men.
It is becoming increasingly clear that in this country, there is a powerful and vocal minority within the Trade Union movement leadership which is attempting to use that movement for radical political, rather than industrial, ends and, in this regard, is quite irresponsible in its disregard for the laws of the land governing industrial relationships.
I think that the article which accompanies the preamble is worthy of incorporation in Hansard. It was written by a leading socialist intellectual, Mr Paul Johnson, for the New Statesman, of London, in which it first appeared on 16 May 1975.
- Senator Hall quoted that article a week ago.
– I am sorry that I did not hear Senator Hall quote it. I find it quite interesting that Senator Hall and I agree completely on the value of this article. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate the article in Hansard.
– How long is the article?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Jessop, will you give me a brief outline of what you are seeking to incorporate in Hansard?
– I am seeking leave to incorporate an article written by a leading socialist intellectual, Mr Paul Johnson. The article is entitled A Brotherhood of National Misery. It appeared in the New Statesman of 16 May 1975.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is it capable of being reproduced in Hansard
-There are no 4-letter words, or anything like that. I believe it is quite capable of being reproduced in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Jessop is seeking leave to incorporate material in Hansard. I am satisfied that it is capable of being incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted?
– No, leave is not granted.
– I rise on a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Hall, I asked whether Senator Jessop was granted leave to incorporate material in Hansard and leave was not granted. Do you wish to address yourself to a point of order following the refusal of leave?
– I was raising a point of order. Would it be proper for me to inquire how many pages of Hansard would be required to incorporate this article. I think it is a proper question to be asked. Otherwise, it would be in order for a person to ask for perhaps 25 pages of Hansard to be used in this way. I would like to know how long the article is. If leave has been denied, of course, my question is not in order.
– I appreciate the point which you have raised, Senator Hall. I think that it is quite proper for extensive material to be incorporated in Hansard. Obviously, if an article is too long it is neither practical nor appropriate for it to be incorporated. However, I gained the impression that while the article was of some length it was not too long for incorporation in Hansard. In any case, with respect, Senator Jessop applied for leave and leave was not granted for the material to be incorporated in Hansard. I ask Senator Jessop to resume his speech. I would be glad if he would address his remarks to the Chair.
– Read it out.
-I would like to read it but it might take a long time.
– It never worried Government supporters.
– I will read a few extracts from it.
– Read it all.
– Read it.
– We have not time to read it all.
-A11 right, I will read it. It is headed A Brotherhood of National Misery. It seems appropriate to read it to honourable senators opposite. It states:
People often assume that trade unionism and socialism are roughly the same thing; that a trade unionist is a socialist, and vice-versa; and that trade union and socialist activities are designed to secure the same objects. I would like to show that these assumptions have always been dubious and arc now demonstrably and flagrantly false. Indeed it is possible to argue that, in Britain today, the trade union movement is not only self-defeating, in terms of its own aims, but is a positive and growing obstacle to the accomplishment of socialist ones. Trade unionism is killing socialism in Britain, and it is time socialists did something about it.
First, then, let us ask ourselves: what is the object of socialism? The essence of socialism is not its method but its universality. It is based on the principle of general and equal benefit. It teaches that the wealth of a society should be administered in the interest of all; that every one of us, men, women and children, has an equal stake in our community, and equal duty to it- to do our best- and an equal right to share in its fruits. Socialism is not a programme for the industrial workers, or the manual workers, or any particular group of workers. It is not a programme for the working class. It is not a programme for any class. Socialism does not believe in classes. It is against particularism, group or sectional interest, and above all it is against sectional interests which organise themselves to exploit the rest of the community. Socialism expresses the essential unit and common humanity of society- our sisterhood, our brotherhood. That is why it is inseparable from democracy and why, to be true to itself it must work through a government responsible to a universally elected assembly. That is where all the essential decisions which affect the life of the community must be taken, and nowhere else. Any institution in a society which challenges this principle cannot be a socialist institution; indeed, it must be an anti-socialist one.
Now let us look at the trade unions. A trade union does not necessarily have anything to do with political morality. It is simply a pragmatic arrangement. It grew up within the capitalism system as a defence mechanism. In feudal societies, peasants protected themselves from the grosser forms of exploitation, or from new impositions they found intolerable, by rioting. Unable to change society, or to reorganise it on a more rational or equitable basis, they seized what weapons they could, killed, burned and looted. Sometimes they were mercilessly repressed. Sometimes they were appeased. No one has ever suggested that rioting for the peasants was a good way of rectifying social injustice. It was simply the only way open to them. In the emerging capitalist societies, labourers also used the riot. But they found it more effective to unionise themselves and develop the strike weapon.
The union was not a socialist instrument. It was not a political instrument at all. It was an economic function of the capitalist system, a defensive leaguing together of desperate and exploited men to enable them to meet the owners of capital on something like equal terms. Its great weapon, the strike, was essentially negative, destructive and despairing, like the riot. It might fail at appalling cost or, even if it succeeded, might damage those who wielded it almost as much as its opponents. It was used because there seemed no other way.
Riots and strikes were the inevitable response of classes excluded from any political part in the direction of their society. The enlargement of the suffrage introduced an altogether different perspective, and for the first time a socialist one. It now became possible to construct a political alternative to the existing society which, in turn, could exact legislation creating an economic alternative- one in which universality of benefit would be the paramount principle. Once the vote was secured, and the road to socialism lay open, the riot and the strike ceased to be the only weapons, and could be seen for what they were: methods socially destructive by their very nature, and therefore anti-socialist.
I will not read the whole of the remainder of the article. I have decided that perhaps I should spare honourable senators opposite -
- Senator Wright is getting restless.
– If honourable senators opposite interject too much I will be tempted to proceed to read the whole of it. I should like to refer to the part about the poor having to pay, which reads:
They are utterly helpless and terrified of the future. How can they react? What can they do, except die? It is a lie for trade union leaders to claim that their vast wage demands having nothing to do with the poor and unfortunate. They know perfectly well that combating inflation means a special effort had to be made to divert resources to the public welfare sector; that such resources can only come from the private sector via wage restraint, and that their current demands not only make it impossible to cushion the poor against want but will inevitably lead to actual cuts in the welfare services.
That rings true, does it not? The article continues:
Those extra notes in their pay packet come, almost literally, from the less privileged sectors of society.
It seems to me that the example set in Great Britain has been copied here.
– Read some more. You are convincing me!
-I would not like to stir Senator Cavanagh ‘s conscience to that extent. Here we have an indictment of what has gone on in Great Britain and what is going on in this country today. I believe that the socialist left wing, the communist wing or whatever one likes to call it has a technique that is designed to undermine our type of society. I have suggested that it is done by disrupting the economy of the country. I believe equally that it is intent upon undermining the moral standards in the community, thereby contributing to the destruction of the family unit, which is the basis of our way of life. I recall that in a speech some time ago- I think it was at a Red Square rally 3 years ago- Mr Brezhnev said that the United States of America would destroy itself by its moral decadence, drug taking and that sort of thing. That is the way in which the communists work. They undermine our moral fibre by encouraging that sort of thing. An example of how that is being promoted in Australia is what occurred on the Lateline program on 14 July. I was not able to listen to that program, but I have had many complaints about it. The subject that was being discussed was the subject of paederasty.
– Why do you not call it homosexuality as it is easier?
-Would you like me to define it for you, Senator Button? I think that it is denned as the seduction of young boys by dirty old men and not so old men.
– What does that have to do with the Budget?
– I suggest to Senator Donald Cameron that this is a matter of concern to me, to honourable senators on this side of the House and to many people in the community. That program was quite repulsive to a number of people who have approached me about it. I have obtained a transcript of it. It is a transcript of 6600 words. I will not ask for it to be incorporated in Hansard because I would not want to degrade that publication by having the 4-letter words and the objectionable expressions incorporated in it. The program concerned 3 homosexuals I suppose one should use that term. They were men in their thirties who involved themselves in sexual relationships with consenting boys. With them was a teenager who, since the age of 12 years, had enjoyed sex with men. He went on to describe some of the incidents that had occurred to him earlier in his life.
In my view that type of thing is disgusting, disgraceful and ought to be discontinued. I have asked the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to inform me who was responsible for the authorising of such a program and have requested him not to allow that type of program in the future. I am not sure whether this happened during the tenure of office of the previous Minister for the Media. Senator Cavanagh may be able to tell me who was the Minister for the Media on 14 July. If it happened during the tenure of office of the previous Minister for the Media I would be surprised if he did not do something about it. 1 noticed that Senator Young asked a question this morning about the use of 4- letter words on the radio. This matter is at present under the control of the Broadcasting Control Board, but there has been some suggestion that it ought to be removed.
– What ought to be removedthe Broadcasting Control Board or the 4-letter words?
– A question was asked this morning about whether there should be any restriction upon this type of thing. I suppose Senator Button subscribes to the view that there should be no restriction.
– Moss Cass said that the people should decide.
-That is right.
– And that they should turn off a program if they do not want to listen to it.
-That is also right. I suppose I should point out that in the introduction to this program the compere did say that some areas may possibly offend or even disgust some listeners and asked those ones to avail themselves of their democratic right to turn off the radio.
– But who is paying? Not those bastards who put that on.
– They are not fit to be borne by she-wolves.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator Jessop, I think that you should address your remarks not only to the Budget but also to the Chair.
-Yes, Mr Acting Deputy President. I was interested to read yesterday in the National Times reference to a Press statement that was made by Mr Nixon. I was not aware of it beforehand. I would like to read the article. It reads:
In a Press statement, Mr Nixon said there were too many pinkies or even out and out socialists in key positions in ABC news and current affairs programs’. He referred to the Lateline show and said that in 1974 its staff of six included a Maoist, an anarchist, ‘and an operator referred to as an ordinary communist’.
That substantiates my suspicions about the deliberate attempt to discredit and to undermine the morals of this country. I submit to the Senate that that is going on in Australia, and it is the responsibility of honourable senators in this chamber and of the Minister of this Government to see that sort of thing ceases.
-We are debating the 1975-76 Budget Speech which was delivered by the Treasurer, Mr Bill Hayden, nearly 4 weeks ago. Since I became a member of this chamber 1 have never witnessed such a succession of speakers during a Budget debate. The last Speaker, Senator Jessop, involved himself for nearly an hour filibustering in the most despicable manner that has occurred in my time here. The Opposition, for some reason that is beyond me and is known only to it, is deliberately deferring the passing of this Budget. Senator Jessop, during his contribution to the debate, referred to quite a number of matters, which were mostly incoherent or inaudible on this side of the chamber. The interjections from Senator Hall seemed to throw him completely off balance, and from then he rambled on, repeating comments made by the Press and referring to socialist writers, which I believe had absolutely nothing to do with the debate on the Budget. Senator Jessop did refer to the danger of inflation and wage increases. Other Opposition speakers also have referred to wage increases and the demands of militant unions as being the only ingredient responsible for the increased rate of inflation over the last 12 months. (Quorum formed)
I should like to inform the Senate of some of the current figures in Federal awards in this country, and Opposition senators might then realise why there is discontent and industrial unrest. That unrest is no fault of the employees; the employers mainly are responsible, as well as the system of arbitration with which we are forced to live. I refer, firstly, to the Metal Trades Award, in which the current rate prescribed for a fitter and turner or for a motor mechanic is only $1 10 a week. We all know that a motor mechanic or a tradesman fitter and turner has to do a 5 -year apprenticeship before he reaches a standard at which he can get that rate. A comparison with other Federal awards indicates that, even though a fitter and turner or a motor mechanic undergoes a 5-year apprenticeship training, at the end of that 5 years his current award rate is less than that prescribed for what are called semi-skilled workers.
I refer to the Transport Workers (General) Award, which prescribes for a 5-ton-truck driver a rate of $ 1 12.40 a week, or over $2 more than the rate for a fitter and turner. I think honourable senators opposite would accept that it does not take as much skill to drive a 5-ton truck as it does to become a mechanic or a fitter and turner. I am not saying that the rate for a truck driver is too high, but I am trying to show the inadequacies that exist in the arbitration system when the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission allows this to happen. Under the Building Construction Employees and Builders Labourers Award, the total weekly wage for a bricklayer or a carpenter is $141.90. Under the Australian Workers Union Construction and Maintenance Consolidated Award a grade 3 construction worker receives $107.80 a week. Those are some examples of Federal awards which have been fixed either by a commissioner or by the Full Bench of the Commission and which give higher rates of remuneration for semi-skilled and unskilled workers than for the most highly skilled and technical worker, that is, the fitter under the Metal Trades Award.
We have heard from the Opposition about wage indexation as though that is going to be a cure for all the problems of inflation. I refer the Senate to the time prior to 1953 when we did have wage indexation. In those days it was called by a different name; it was called the quarterly cost of living adjustment. The only difference between that adjustment and what was introduced by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in May of this year is that today the consumer price index is added to the total wage whereas prior to 1953 the quarterly cost of living adjustment was added only to the basic wage or what was sometimes called the living wage. The trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party vigorously opposed the suspension of the quarterly cost of living adjustments. However, the Liberal-Country Party Government of the day supported the suspension, as did the employer organisations throughout Australia. Both the Chamber of Manufactures and the Employers Federation strongly advocated in the court that the quarterly cost of living adjustments should stop, mainly because, according to their argument, they were inflationary.
It is my belief that no blame can be attached to the metal workers for wanting to restore their award relativity with other tradesmen in the country. For many years there was very little difference in the weekly wages received by a fitter, a mechanic, a bricklayer, a carpenter, a plumber or any other tradesman. As a matter of fact, when the works value case was conducted before Commissioner Winter in 1967, I think it was, a pattern was set which all other awards have followed since except those cases in which employers departed from what was set by the court and increased the rates of pay substantially. Whether it was done by consent through the commissioner or whether it was agreed to by the employer organisations, the result is the same. There is now a big difference between the rate for a fitter and turner and the rate for a motor mechanic or for other tradesmen.
I do not blame the unions for not tolerating this situation. Until there is a complete review of the whole of the wage structure I think we will have industrial unrest. I would like to see a complete revaluation of awards, guidelines set down and those guidelines carried out so that in future we do not see a disparity between the rates of a fitter and the rates of other tradesmen. I do not think all the blame can be sheeted home to the unions. The officials of the unions are acting only on instructions from their members and surely those tradesmen who have put in 5 years as apprentices are entitled to at least the same rate of pay as a truck driver, a carpenter and a third grade construction worker.
During Senator Jessop ‘s contribution to the debate he mentioned, as other Opposition senators have mentioned, that in the Budget papers an increase of approximately 43 per cent is shown in pay as you earn income tax. Those honourable senators failed to inform the Senate that wage increases are expected to amount to about 20 per cent and that it is likely that another 200 000 people will enter the work force between now and next year. Most of the anticipated 250 000 school leavers will be absorbed into the work force thus adding to the wage costs and of course pay as you earn income tax will automatically increase. The insinuation has been made by the Opposition that the new taxation schedules are responsible for that increase in pay as you earn income tax in the 1975-76 Budget. That is not the case. If existing income tax provisions had remained the revenue from income tax in the 1975-76 Budget would be much higher.
Senator Jessop also mentioned the fishing industry. I do not know how he worked that subject into the debate but a fair amount of tolerance is allowed during the Budget debate. Although he was correct in stating that all the States except South Australia have introduced regulations that the mercury content in fish should not exceed 0.5 parts per million, he did not tell the Senate that not one of the States is in fact policing the industry to ensure that the fish which are on sale are kept to the 0.5 parts per million mercury content. The only State which has policed this regulation is South Australia which now allows one part per million mercury content, which world experts accept as not injurious to the health of people.
Honourable senators on this side of the chamber have covered many aspects of the intention of the Budget, which is to reduce government spending, as it has done in many cases, and at the same time not to reduce spending to honour our obligations to introduce social welfare reforms. It is pleasing to note that on this occasion the standard rate of pension has been increased by a further $2.75, thus increasing the standard rate of pension to $38.75 compared with $20.50 when we came into power less than 3 years ago. Another benefit in the field of social welfare which is part of the Australian Labor Party’s policy is in health care. The national health scheme has been introduced. More than one million people in Australia out of the population of 13 ‘A million now have a health coverage which they did not have and could not afford previously. I believe that will be one of the monuments by which this Government will be remembered in the future. We have introduced a medical health scheme in which everybody participates, irrespective of income, and we have more or less abolished the iniquities that existed because under the previous method of income tax assessment amounts paid to the voluntary medical health funds were a tax deduction; therefore those on higher incomes had greater benefit than those on lower incomes. We have increased the amount to be expended on education over that spent during the previous 2 years. When we came into government the annual expenditure on education was approximately $250m. This year it is approximately $ 1,900m.
The only regret that I have about the Budget is that it was not possible to introduce a social welfare payment for the deserted father. I do not think there was any mention of such a payment by the Opposition this year, although I believe Senator Guilfoyle referred to the matter either during the Budget debate last year or during the debate on the social services legislation. I believe that deserted fathers should receive a pension similar to that received by deserted wives or widows. At one time it was very rare to hear of a mother leaving her children to the support of the husband, but today it is becoming common and the father of a young family has only 2 alternatives: He can either give up the children and let them go into the custody of the state, or he can give up his employment. On giving up his employment he does not qualify for any of the social service benefits. He cannot register at the Commonwealth Employment Office to receive unemployment benefits because he is unable to accept employment if it is offered and, of course, he does not qualify for any other social welfare payment. He cannot accept casual employment, particularly if the children are young, and he is unable to get domestic help to look after the children while he attends work. So perhaps in the near future, probably when a Budget is introduced by this Government next year, this matter will receive recognition and a provision will be introduced so that there is no discrimination against the deserted husband as there is today and so that he will receive a similar benefit to that received by a deserted wife.
I believe the Budget is a very good one under the prevailing circumstances. We on the Government side recognise that the rate of unemployment is too high and we also recognise that the rate of inflation is too high. However, I believe that inherent in this Budget are the ingredients to cure both those anomalies. I have much pleasure in supporting the Budget.
-In the Senate tonight we are discussing the Budget. In this Senate resides the power to make a decisive determination as to whether the Budget is passed or not. You would not believe it, Mr Acting Deputy President, if you looked at the vacant seats around me but the people entitled to occupy these seats have within their capacity the power to determine whether this Budget should be passed or not. People are being frustrated in this debate. There are 4 galleries in this chamber and one of them is representative of the media. The only impact that this debate will make upon anybody of concern in this country today, because the proceedings of the Senate are not being broadcast, is through the media and we provide one of our galleries to people who have the opportunity, and therefore the public duty, of reporting some of the facets of the debate. In all the 6 speeches that I have listened to in succession this afternoon and tonight, irrespective of from which side they came, there has been material that would be of public concern, but not for the profits of the flapping Press who want to make sales by means of satirism, sex or some peccadillo of minor importance.
Senator Poyser referred to the Public Works Committee and the mechanisms for controlling it responsibly. Senator Jessop referred to the abysmal degradation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission which will be asking us to vote over $ 100m for its support. Senator Donald Cameron made a most thoughtful introduction to his speech about the unjustifiably disparate rates of pay that our tribunals put up for various grades of workmen in the industries of the country. Not a word will be reported. The one solitary representative of the Press is reading a newspaper and not giving an indication of the slightest understanding while this chamber, more than half empty, acquiesces in this contempt and disregard. What do I care whether the Press reports me or not? I can get sufficient public recognition despite the Press. But what of the stability and purpose of this Senate, each of its members drawing grand emoluments not only authorised by statute but also supplemented by individual Ministers’ discretion? Unless we gather to ourselves a sense of purpose, democracy in this country will find itself without support of the people outside, who through their misunderstanding of the mismanagement that takes place in this place, still have confidence in the institution.
Tonight we are debating a critical Budget, a Budget more disastrous than any in my recollection which now goes back for 45 years to the time when I first took an interest in politics, yet there is this abysmal paralysis of interest and collapse of responsibility. I can illustrate how it started. We can begin to. assess the degree of the descent when I remind honourable senators of a policy speech in November 1972. The then Leader of the Opposition said in his policy speech designed to remove the McMahon Government:
Do you believe that Australia can alford another three years like the last 20 months? . . . Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who . . . created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years . . . the worst inflation for 20 years?
Inflation was then running at the rate of about 4.5 per cent and unemployment totalled between 80 000 and 90 000 persons. Inflation last year ran at between 16 per cent and 18 per cent and this year it is reckoned by people who have given this matter their attention to be running at something of the order of 20 per cent. There is a drop in company profits to the degree that even the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) recognises that if company profits are not supported employment opportunities will not be financed and unemployment will grow. Production is on the decline. Instead of there being an increase in the gross domestic product last year, we had a decline. Farm income, after being vaunted 2 years ago, within 6 months of when we went out of office, as being set for an all-time record, this year is almost certain to go lower than any figure since 1949, despite the inflation that has occurred since then and the increase in costs.
People like Senator Donald Cameron I applaud for bringing to our attention a proper consideration of the relativities of the industrial wage. My concern is mostly for the small farmer who Senator Poyser deprecated. I want the Senate to be reminded that the income of the small farmer today is about one-third of the wage that Senator Donald Cameron referred to for the fitter, the carpenter, the truck driver and others; it is about one-third of the salary of the secretary, paid out of the public purse, for every honourable senator who sits here; and it is one-third of the salary of each honourable senator’s research officer. So in those circumstances I would have thought that the predicament of this country is such as to galvanise the thought of anybody with a conscience for the future of this country to get together as a Senate and intensively debate and hear each other’s point of view. This Senate has the power to say whether or not any Bill that it presented to this Parliament shall be passed, including the Appropriation Bills which we refer to as the Budget and the Supply Bills which supply supplementary finance, as well as other substantive measures of Government policy.
That brings me to the abysmal ignorance of the Press. They read yesterday’s newspaper, print today’s, draw their salaries and exert their opportunities as members of the parliamentary Press Gallery. If they study the parliamentary process they show no symptom whatever of the beginnings of an understanding of it. We have a Government which has heaped up at present a program of Bills which it says are important for the improvement of this country. The Government says that each of those Bills is so important that it could reach the stage of being a double dissolution matter. There are thirteen such Bills. Never in the history of this country has there been a government so despised as to have that heap of its program defeated in this place or not allowed to pass. Government members sit there knowing that they do not have the confidence of the country, but they come before us and seek a huge appropriation that requires a deficit, unparalleled in the history of the country, of $2.7 billion. That Government does not have the courage to go to a double dissolution on any one or the whole thirteen of the measures that it has banked up. Yet the Press of this country talks about whether the Senate has the constitutional power or authority to pass a Budget- poor little scribblers who take their information from yesterday’s newspaper.
– You are talking to an empty gallery.
-It is better that we have a vacant gallery than a nonsensical one. They take their learning from yesterday’s newspaper and do not understand that as recently as 1900 this chamber was elected on a democratic basis, in sharp contrast to the hereditary basis of the House of Lords which by that time had been reduced almost to a position of complete impotence in respect of money measures, with the authority to reject any measure. This is a chamber with a democratic base and therefore it has the authority to reject any measure. Having such authority it has a duty to exercise that authority. I shall go on to interest Senator Georges, who is interjecting, with further argument. There are some members of this chamber who, not without some reason, complain of the adjuncts of the chamber not being sent here on a democratic basis. If the Government thinks that it can justify before the country the claim that its legislation is being improperly rejected, let it go to the country. The judges of the Government and of the Opposition should decide the issue.
The Government has stored up already 13 measures and we are now discussing another. What is the decision to be? Some complain we are delaying the decision. What little boys in kindergarten would essay to understand a Budget of these dimensions except by taking thought and giving it some consideration? This Budget provides for Government outlays of $21.9 billion - $2 1,915m - to be exacted from the Australian people and paid out by the great panjandrum who presides over the Treasury at the present time. Mr Whitlam I call to mind- he who conducted a scrimmage through his Cabinet. Somebody said that Mr Clyde Cameron was not dismissed. Do honourable senators remember that his successor, the worthy Senator James McClelland, was sworn in 2 hours before Mr Clyde Cameron could be persuaded to go to Government House? The Government claims that Mr Clyde Cameron was not dismissed. He is now the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs. This was done by the outfit that asks us to appropriate $21.9 billion.
– Million, not billion.
– You are putting too many noughts on it.
– Billion, pardon me. You know what I mean, Mr President. Honourable senators do not know what they mean. I am referring to $21 billion-$2 1,915m. Do I make myself clear? The honourable senators who are showing some concern about the hugeness of their proposal might take the humility to remind themselves that in 1971-72 the appropriation was $9,050m; in 1 972-73 it was $ 10, 1 92m. In the next year, 1973-74, it was $12,230m . That was the first Labor Budget. The next Budget, for 1974-75, was for $17,83 lm. This year it is for $2 1,9 15m. So these people, who reconstituted their Cabinet as recently as 8 weeks ago, have doubled the Australian outlay that was appropriated by Parliament in 1972-73, the year in which they came to office.
The people outside the Parliament will reckon with this Government for the way in which it is destroying their earnings and taxing their wages while pretending to represent them. The Government has created a situation of extraordinary irresponsibility- something which, when expressed in financial terms, is called inflation. Inflation is running at the order of 10 per cent. Yet the Government has the hide to call on the people to lend it money, knowing that it will repay it in clipped coinage and defaced paper. Such activity by a sideshowman on the regatta ground would result in imprisonment for 3 months for fraud and false pretences against the people. Such prospectuses are issued for government loans today; yet Government supporters claim virtue in reprimanding the stock exchanges and the speculating companies over the falseness of prospectuses. Sections of the Press, with their little bit of knowledge, blame this chamber because it submits the legislation to complete examination and shows up its deficiencies.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! We cannot have that clapping.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, it is not much wonder that in their relapsed state all honourable senators opposite can resort to is juvenile clapping. This Government has created the need for this huge government expenditure. It has encouraged the unions to think that all they have to do is to demand and it shall be given. There has been a passion throughout industry, a competitive demand for wages, ever since Mr Cameron took office as Minister for Labor and encouraged the unions to think that they had only to ask and Godfather Whitlam would bestow a cheque wherever it was required. Even a speech by Mr Whitiam, after he had about 2 months of Cairns’ treasurership, in January of this year, was reported as follows:
Excessive union demands had caused Australia’s unemployment and inflation crisis . . .
The report continued:
Honourable senators will note the comprehensive wisdom of the man oozing out on every occasion- due to wage claims and increases. ‘The cause of unemployment is, frankly, the excessive wage demands’, Mr Whitlam told the Young Labor Association’s conference. ‘You cannot blame Vietnam for the inflation in the Western world still. You cannot blame the oil crisis for the inflation in Australia. You cannot blame the take-overs and the currency rates for inflation in Australia now. You have to place the blame on wage claims’.
I have just quoted what Mr Whitlam is reported to have said on 26 January 1957- no, 1975- in an address to the Young Labor Association’s conference in Adelaide.
– Eighteen years ago.
-It was 1975.
– You said 1957 in the first place.
-Oh, the waffling Georges Georges. We do not know which way to begin his name. The point is that inflation has been self-induced by this Government’s almost maniacal encouragement of industrial wage claims and inflation now is such that it is absolutely driving the workman to destruction because of the fire that it is burning through interest payments, rates, income tax, travelling expenses and every item of food, drink and clothing that the workman has to provide for his family.
We have before us a Budget the first contribution of which is to put a tax on beer, cigarettes and petrol. It then places a tax on the export of coal. The coal industry is the one industry in which there is an upsurge. I remember when I came into politics in 1946 sitting in an abysmal Sydney office with acetylene gas lights. There was a coal strike on and the Chifley Government could not get a bucket of coal for Sydney’s lights. We came into office and got coal production going with mechanisation due to the genius of Senator Spooner, and we got the industry into full production. Then we promoted export markets through the overseas trading genius of Sir John McEwen. Now the strangler comes in and imposes a tax on coal. These are the indirect taxes which the Government in addition to its inflated wages, is imposing on the wage earner.
Wage indexation is sought as the parable by which the wage earner might be persuaded that he will get justice. I just think that indexation is one of those falderals of modern language. As Senator Donald Cameron said, it is only the quarterly adjustment of the basic wage previously and the total wage now, to adjust the purchasing power of wages to the current level of prices.
– What is your solution?
-I will tell the Senator what I think at the conclusion of my speech. Honourable senators opposite say that we should index wages. Do they say that we should index farmers’ wages? Do they say that we should index wages for professional men? Do they say that we should index wages for boot repairers and hairdressers? Why, they have almost gone out of business. They do not exist any longer.
– What about the lawyers, Senator?
– Forget the lawyers; their fees are outrageously high.
– Is that why you are so rich?
-Me so rich! You silly, silly fool! Having brought in indexation, what do Government supporters now say? They cannot even be honest about that. They cannot let an honest, genuine regimen of statistics determine the statistical index to index wages. They start to withdraw their own increments- the indirect taxes on beer, cigarettes, oil and so forth- from the regimen. Is it any wonder that the people are completely convinced of the incompetence of this incomprehensible Cabinet?
In the wages field the Government did not stop there. It created a salaries tribunal chaired by a judge. I do not know whether he has gone on to permanent employment under the tribunal that he himself is creating. He has 2 characters with him. About 25 determinations were laid before the Senate today. It is as if he is part of the arbitration system in the industrial field. So Mr Whitlam is to be indexed. The Government will have to find an index for Cameron. There is no need to do so for Cairns because he is no longer a Minister. Fancy a salaries tribunal under the pretext of indexation making a determination for quarterly adjustment of the salaries of judges at the rate of $30,000 to $40,000 a year, the salaries of heads of departments at the rate of $30,000 to $40,000 a year and the salaries of members of Parliament at the rate of $20,000 a year with untaxed salaries and ministerial supplements. This Government did one thing to its credit today. It initiated an immediate disapproval of that tribunal’s performance. For my part, the tribunal ought to take the judgment of the Parliament and say: ‘We disappear’. It can no longer operate on the basis of giving these increments to people on that salary range- that is judges, heads of departments and members of Parliament- as if it is indexing the wages of people employed in industry. For my pan, I am all for a proper assimilation between wage rates, not only between the fitter, the driver and the carpenter.
– And the lawyer?
– Lawyers, of course.
– Not doctors?
– Not on the same basis, but a relative basis. The insanity began 10 or 12 years ago- it was not called indexation- when annual increases on a percentage basis were given. The percentage basis applied to the fitter on $5,000 and to a high executive on $20,000. It was an absurd proposition to adjust the increase. Until this country can disabuse itself of the idea that, just because a year passes, there should be an increase in anything we will never regain a sensible and responsible economy. From the levity and disinterest on the part of some honourable senators here and outside one would think that this was an ordinary occasion. Last year when this Government budgeted for $500m as a deficit we were appalled. That was the highest deficit in the history of the country. This year the Government achieves a deficit of $2,500m and everybody goes to sleep in acquiescent somnolence. No concern is expressed at the idea. They say: ‘Let us make the next one $2,700m’. There are people who find mirth in that situation. As someone said: ‘They are ringing their bells now, but they will be wringing their hands very soon ‘.
– Who was it who said that? That is a quotation I would like to have written on my heart.
-I rely on the historical.
– It was Chatham.
-My leader says it was Chatham.
– Yes. It was Chatham, Pitt the Elder.
-There you are, it was Chatham. The next thing was that the Press, in its purity, allowed the Hayden Budget to be presented as a tax reduction Budget. He said: ‘We brought in a rebate system. It is the greatest reform in personal income taxation’. I forget since when he said, but he said it was the greatest reform. Poor man! If he had been honest he would have said: ‘We are resurrecting the corpse of the wartime finance when the Labor Government resorted to these rebates to cushion and camouflage the excessive wartime taxation rates’. A Liberal-Country Party Government repealed those rebates and substituted deductions in 1951. This rebate system is vaunted and such is the principle of the Press, such is its knowledge that it cannot see anything other than to report Mr Hayden as having brought in a reform involving personal income tax reduction.
Mr Acting Deputy President, the payasyouearn taxation system, as you know, is levied on all salary and wage earners. The wage earners are by far the greater proportion. This section of the community in 1972-73 yielded through taxation an increase of $272m which was an increase on the previous year of 9 per cent. That is the year our Government went out of office. That was our Budget. The first Budget which the Whitlam Government brought in- the Crean Budget- increased this yield from $3, 161m to $4,238m which was an increase of $ 1 ,077m or 4 times the previous increase. That was an increase on the previous year of 34 per cent. If the Government can feed on the wages of the earners which it pretends to represent, next year it will bite them deeper and the Press will publish figures plainly showing that the ordinary folk are buying a newspaper at 10c or 12c an issue which used to be purchased at tuppence. In 1 974-75 the increase in the yield was $ 1 ,733m, an increase on the previous year of 40 per cent. This year, when the Press lend themselves to the pretence that this is a reduction Budget, the yield goes up by $2,6 12m which is no less an increase than 43 per cent. Four years ago our increase was 9 per cent. In the first year of the Labor Government it was 34 per cent; in the second year of the Labor Government it was 40 per cent; and this year it will be 43 per cent. Each of those figures is cumulative. That is the increase on the previous year.
The people who earn the wages will look at the false pretences in the print of the newspapers which show addled figures by Mr Hayden. I will make a concession that it is not a deliberate falsehood but just pitiable misunderstanding. In 3 years of Labor Government the wage earners’ taxation increases for the first year were $ 1,077m, for the second year $ 1,733m and for this year $2,6 12m. To show that Mr Hayden ‘s figures need a little examination I suggest that honourable members turn to his tables which he put forward to us. If they have the patience to go not to the first tables but to some of the latter ones such as table No. 7, they will see that in Mr Hayden ‘s own figures he computes the assessment of a taxpayer who has 2 dependent children. This taxpayer is in the typical bracket of $7,000 to $9,000 a year. Honourable senators will find that if his allowances are equal to 10 per cent of his net income, even on Mr Hayden ‘s figures his income tax under the Hayden Budget will be increased if he is on $7,000 a year by 4.7 per cent; if he is on $8,000 a year by 3.3 per cent; and if he is on $9,000 a year by 0.7 per cent. I ask honourable senators to take another sample from the last table that Mr Hayden condescended to give us, table 9. The income tax of a taxpayer with no dependants on an income anywhere between $4,000 and $14,000 under the Hayden Budget is increased by variable amounts from 0.6 per cent to 1 .2 per cent. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard this table of pay-as-you-earn yield which I have shown to Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Leave is sought for the incorporation of material in Hansard. The Chair is satisfied that it is capable of being incorporated. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I seek leave also to incorporate those 13 lines of Mr Hayden ‘s table 9 to which I have referred, as verification of the increases.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I have had a further table prepared by officers of the Taxation Office to which I shall refer. It is a table which was not vouchsafed to us in the Budget. It refers to the case of the husband and wife who have no dependants and who are both earning. As honourable senators know, with the cost of house building today and the inflation rate nearly every young married couple is driven to the work force. The combined tax of a husband and wife, each on $5,000 a year, under this Budget increases by 28.6 per cent. If they are on $7,000 a year each their tax goes up by 23.9 per cent; if they are on $9,000 a year each the increase is 10.4 per cent; if they are on $ 1 1 ,000 each it is 2.5 per cent; and on $ 1 3,000 each it is 4.4 per cent. As they go into the higher income bracket the workers’ party, the workers’ Government shades down the increase in tax. Both parents of families who are struggling to get a benefit for their home and their kids and who go to work are sustaining increases of that sort. If we suppose that the husband gets 60 per cent of the joint income and the wife 40 per cent and they together bring in $10,000 a year, that is, $6,000 for the husband and $4,000 for the wife, the increase in the tax that the Hayden Budget will impose on them is 38 per cent. Rather than trouble the Senate more with details of statistics in this document which has been prepared by the Taxation Office, I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard. It has been shown to Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Wright is seeking leave for the incorporation of a third document in Hansard. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– So, on every item upon which the Hayden Budget can be examined, its claim to represent a reduction of taxation is false except in a few cases that are set out in Mr Hayden ‘s tables. To show how fraudulent they are, we remind ourselves that the Budget is constructed on an anticipated increase of 22 per cent in wages during the year. Even on Mr Hayden ‘s tables an income earner who earns $7,000 a year, with a dependent wife and 2 children, will pay $570 in tax. That represents some deduction on his present tax; I believe it is $100 or $200. If that income earner goes on through the 12 months, gets his 22 per cent increase and then is earning $8,564 per annum, his income tax goes up from $570 to $1,117. That is $300 to $400 more than the present tax on his present salary. So, for the gift of inflation of 22 per cent for the year, he gets a huge increased burden of taxtwice the tax that is shown on Mr Hayden ‘s table.
If on those facts, with the country at its peril, we have a Government supine and despicable enough not to test its policies with 1 3 opportunities and 1 3 causes to go for a double dissolutionand to make those old senators who are blamed for having the nerve not to pass these excellent Government Bills go to the country with the Government- what should be the decision of the Senate with regard to this appropriation? After we have examined it in detail and found the scurrilous detailed items by which extravagance and worse is being supplemented by Government appropriations, the decision of the Senate will be registered. If the Budget is not a proper occasion to get the Government to the country, for my part- the Senate having the inalienable constitutional authority and therefore the responsibility to reject every Bill that we think is contrary to proper responsibility- the Government should go to the country, and the sooner the better, not for us but for the relief of the people of Australia.
-This Budget can be nothing but a cruel and useless hoax. It was prepared at immense cost which can only fuel inflation. Last July the Government was given sufficient funds to last it until next November, but already the Government has spent more than that and its departments are asking for credit from their suppliers. The Government will now have to ask for more money in order to carry on, so how can this Budget bear any relationship to reality or reason? As I say, it is a cruel, costly and useless hoax. Far from reversing our inflation, it will feed it as taxes have again been increased, as shown by the threefold increase in pay-as-you-earn tax that people will have to pay and also, as shown by the reversal in taxes paid by companies and selfemployed people and the taxes paid by employed people. Now, wage earners are paying much more in taxes than companies and selfemployed people. The position used to be just the opposite; that is, wages and taxes have gone up but business profits have come down. That reversal is indicative of the massive fall-off in profits of the private enterprise tax-paying sector. When profits fall taxes also fall, which is a fact that the Government would do well to remember if it wishes to pursue its withering policies.
If the Government thinks that it can feed and grow on the fruits of inflation it is living in a fool ‘s paradise. The Government has used inflation as a weapon, and very effective one, to destroy our means of exchange- our money. It is a weapon which disrupts families, initially by forcing mothers out to work for money and then by undermining the basic security of the home. Inflation has been a devastating weapon in cruelling the business community. How can anyone budget to develop a business when there can be no accurate projection of costs? Private enterprise, because of the competition between firms, operates on a small profit margin and not a large one, as the slothful socialists suppose. When the massive armament of big government is turned on the delicate flower of private enterprise it rapidly wilts. That is what has happened in Australia. Our private enterprise is struggling to survive. Governments do not create wealth; they consume it. This Government is consuming the people ‘s wealth and to no useful purpose. We are being researched, investigated, controlled, planned for and directed beyond all bounds of reason. This Government has abrogated its duty to govern to a fungating plethora of commissions. The administration of the country is constipated by the impaction of nearly 50 costly commissions, nearly all of which are unnecessary, and the pipeline could do with a good enema.
Mining men have been the front row men in the development of any country. They were the front row men in the development of this country. But look at mining now, and the drilling for oil and gas! Those industries are recoiling punchdrunk from the belting that this Government has given them. On top of that no new ventures have been started in Australia, which is a country that is an Aladdin’s cave of sparkling resources. What chance would we have- a huge country with few people and massive resources- if we were dragged into the World Court to defend our position against a small country with a huge population and no resources? We would be ordered to exploit them, perhaps even by using overseas manpower. What would be said then about foreign ownership, conservation and environmental protection? How much say would we have, particularly when this Government has run down our defence forces to brooding impotence?
Our drastic unemployment situation, which is already 3 times that which would be considered acceptable, is about to double shortly in spite of the fact that special wasteful, unproductive government schemes are hiding 40 000 unemployed. If the figure reaches half a million- 8 per cent of the work force- the situation will be far worse than we had in the Great Depression. Female unemployment is far worse, being already up to 6 per cent. The position is grossly understated because the Government does not include in the figures women married to an employed breadwinner. The Government must take action to start to remove itself from the economy and let us get on with our own business. The Government should not be doing for people things that they can do for themselves. It should concentrate upon its proper roles of defence and the maintenance of our laws and rights instead of neglecting our defence and attacking our laws and individual rights. The huge tax rip-off that the Government has literally stolen from the people has been frittered away in the pursuit of social reform, which I submit is not a proper role of government.
– What is the proper role of government?
– Defence and law, which are the only 2 things that the Government has neglected. The massive reduction at this stage in the expenditure on research, particularly medical research, is an inhuman act. Not only will we be robbed of the fruits of that research but also we will be lining ourselves up with the socialist states- both the big ones- in this world, which have not produced one new medical or pharmaceutical advance in the last 50 years.
– Are you saying that the Soviet Union has had no medical achievements?
– None at all. When the effects of inflation are taken into account many of the existing research projects will be scrapped. The Government’s standstill in university financing will scrap many of the existing projects in this respect. The constriction, rejection or nonacceptance of many other projects will be inevitable. Many research workers will lose their jobs. Effective research teams that have been built up over years will be broken up. Equipment into which large amounts of capital already have been invested will go unused or under-used owing to the lack of staff. The effect on the morale of the research workers will be shattering. Their prospects of a career in research in Australia have been discouraged. They will seek work elsewhere in more hospitable countries and be lost to Australia.
As a direct result of this Government’s restructuring of the economy in favour of government enterprise, if one can call it that, and opposed to private enterprise we are breeding a race of bludgers and parasites who are waiting on government handouts. Hundreds of these young Australians are living on the Gold Coast in multiplehire flats, smoking pot and fornicating on the foreshores. Hundreds of young Australians are doing the same thing in north Queensland, claiming that they are on government scholarships. Hundreds of young unemployed Australians are at Coota Beach on the island of Bali providing sordid entertainment for American tourists. Thousands are being overpaid social welfare- often by computer mistakes- and pensioners are being asked to make repayments of money that they thought was theirs.
How can we expect honesty and responsibility from the people when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself spends millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money on the ordinary maintenance of his 2 official residences in Australia and junketing around the world? We have a Prime Minister who sanctions the irresponsible expenditure of the taxpayers’ money on unwanted paintings that have offended most of his mandate, a Prime Minister who sanctions irresponsible expenditure on Aboriginal affairs to the detriment of Aborigines and the disadvantage of others, a Prime Minister who sanctions irresponsible expenditure on sordid films and proposes unhealthy law reform on incest, abortion and homosexuality, a Prime Minister whose every attempt to subvert our Constitution -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. If we are to listen to this type of language coming from Senator Sheil at least it ought to be impromptu, spontaneous and coming directly from him instead of his reading, as he has done for the last 10 minutes, from a speech, which is not permitted under the Standing Orders. If he is to accuse the Prime Minister of all sorts of odd behaviour then he ought to look at the terms that he has used tonight from that written speech. My point of order is that he ought not be permitted to continue to read his speech.
– I will allow the honourable senator to refer to his copious notes.
– He ought to table them, too.
- Senator McLaren is quite welcome to them. He can read what is contained in them in Hansard tomorrow. The Prime Minister has had every attempt he has made to subvert our Constitution by devious means or referendums thwarted or rejected.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I do not think that we should simply snub the Standing Orders. Standing order 406 says that no senator shall read his speech. You have said that Senator Sheil may refer to his copious notes, but it is obvious that he has not uttered one word that has not been written in his notes. The purpose of the standing order is to prevent a repetition of what now happens in another place, where a member can get up and read a speech that has been prepared.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has provided me with the following answer:
The membership of student bodies and the use to which their funds arc put are matters for determination by the governing authorities of those bodies. It has not been the practice of this and previous governments to interfere with the rights of Australian universities and the organisations within them to manage their own affairs. I am not in a position to provide the honourable senator with the information sought in questions (2), (3), (5) and (6).
Universities in the States are creations of the Crown through the State. The fact that the Australian Government provides them with funds and pays student fees gives it no constitutional authority over them whatsoever. The University over which the Australian Government has constitutional authority is subject to legislation in the Australian National University Act. Nothing in that Act means that an
Australian Government has ever taken power to intervene in the affairs of the University or student organization.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Prime Minister’s reply to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives on 26 May 1975, as recorded at page 2755 of Hansard.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
How many of these officers have held their present position for
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Of these officers
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There is apparently some misunderstanding current that the Australian Tractor Testing Station at Werribee, Victoria, is an Australian Government instrumentality. This is not so.
The Station was established at the Victoria State Research Farm at Werribee by the Australian Agricultural Council in 1954. It operates under a formal Agreement between the Australian Government, the six State Governments and the University of Melbourne. Under the Agreement the Australian Government agreed to provide a grant, equal to the total State contributions, towards the costs of the Station.
The answers to the specific questions are-.
1 ) The decision to terminate the activities of the Station was made by the Australian Agricultural Council in February 1975, not by the Australian Government. The Ministers who form the Council agreed that the service provided to rural producers by the Station was not commensurate with the costs involved. Over the 21 years of operation a total of only 85 tractors have been tested.
The Australian Government does not propose to engage directly in the testing of tractors or ancilliary equipment.
This is not a matter for consideration by the Australian Government.
I have been informed that the members of the Working Party established by the Australian Agricultural Council to inquire into the operation of the Station visited Werribee and held discussions with the Officer-in-charge and the testing officer. Written submissions were received from the Australian Farmers Federation, the Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia and the Officer-in-charge of the Station.
Compulsory tractor testing is not required under legislation in any State. All tractors tested were submitted voluntarily by the tractor industry. Regulations in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia require that safety frames for tractors meet specified standards and some testing was undertaken at the Werribee Station. Imported frames that have been tested overseas, and meet the State specifications, are acceptable.
The setting-up of a safety testing facility is not expensive and the Australian Government does not propose to provide finance to the States for this purpose. Under the terms of the Agreement, the Victorian Government has the option of purchasing, at a cost agreed by the Australian Government and the States, the buildings and improvements at the Station. I understand that it is likely that Victoria will exercise this option and may continue the testing of ancilliary equipment under the auspices of the Victorian Department of Agriculture.
Tractor testing in Canada and the United States of America is undertaken, not by the Federal Governments but only by some State or Provincial Governments. Similarly in Australia this type of activity could more properly be undertaken by the States.
asked the Minister for Police and Customs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions: (1), (2) and (3) The current general economic situation means we must defer the introduction of new triennial programs until 1977.
Accordingly the Commissions have been asked to review their recent reports in the light of the 1975-76 situation and to make recommendations by March next. During the interim period to December 1976 we will continue the programs of the education Commissions and I expect soon to be able to announce details of these programs for the whole of 1976.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs has been provided with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) Department of Science and Consumer Affairs: 2
Metric Conversion Board- 2
(a) Department ofScience and Consumer Affairs: 1 Journalist, Grade A-salary $13,159 1 Journalist, Grade A- salary $12,862 (on secondment to the Bureau of Meteorology from the Department of the Media)
1 Senior Media Liaison Officer- Journalist, Grade A2-salary $16,537 2 Journalists, Grade A 1 -salaries of $15,397 each 3 Journalists, Grade A- two on salaries of $13,159 each and one on salary of $12,565
Metric Conversion Board
I Director of Public Relations- Journalist, Grade A2-salary $ 1 6,537
I Journalist, Grade A- salary$12,565
Both journalists are on secondment to the Metric Conversion Board from the Department of the Media.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
Hobart Airport Generating Equipment
– On 4 June, Senator Marriott asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction the following question without notice:
Is it a fact that the Department of Housing and Construction let a contract to a Victorian based firm for the installation of new electric generating equipment at the Hobart Airport on a tender which was $9,000 greater than that of a Hobart based contractor? Is the Minister able to inform the Senate of the reason for this discrimination against Tasmanian industry being permitted.
The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 22 February 1975 tenders were invited by public advertisement in Victoria and Tasmania for the supply, delivery, installation and testing of a Diesel Alternator Set of 150 k.w. capacity for Hobart Airport. Tenders closed on 18 March 1975 and five tenders were received. The lowest tender was $50,486 submitted by a firm in Hobart and the successful tender was priced at $59,537 submitted by Melbourne firm.
After receipt of all information required to be lodged with the tenders, the three lowest tenders were analysed and it was found that the two lowest tenders did not comply with specified requirements.
The lowest tenderer was advised in writing by the Department of Housing and Construction why its tender did not comply with the specification in respect of-
a ) engine power at specified maximum speed
All of the aspects mentioned in the advice to this company are critical in relation to the installation, as air safety is involved.
Although there is some marginal technical noncompliance in the governing characteristics of the accepted tender, it does comply strictly in the most important of the governing characteristics. The tender accepted is in fact an improvement on the specification in that the tenderer offered Automatic Voltage Regulators for the manual regulators specified.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750909_senate_29_s65/>.