30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 1 9 citizens of” Australia:
To the Honourable the President and member of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That elections provide the opportunity for people to take part in government; and
That the requirement now in force for electors to mark preferences for all candidates on Senate ballot papers is an unacceptable interference with the democratic rights of the people.
Your petitioners therefore pray the Senate to take the necessary steps to make appropriate changes in the Australian Electoral Act so that our right to freely chosen representatives will be established.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Omega Station in Australia
– I present the following petition from 1 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Omega is the only worldwide navigation system, whose continuous Very Low Frequency signals can be used by submarines to determine their position, while remaining completely submerged.
That in particular the missile-firing submarines of the U.S.A. can improve their destructive potential by using Omega signals.
That it represents a major escalation of the arms race, and directly involves Australia even further in nuclear war strategies.
That therefore an Omega station built in Australia would be a prime nuclear target.
That such a station would therefore represent a further deterioration of Australia’s independence and initiatives towards a non-aligned and peaceful foreign policy.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will reject any proposal to build an Omega station on Australian soil.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 29 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any one year would:
Be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
Find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
Require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 2456 electors of Queensland:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Queensland respectfully showeth:
That the three service cadet forces have great value in the development of the youth of Australia.
That the disbanding of the cadet forces will disperse accumulated expertise and interest of those involved, and in some cases negate the efforts of many people over many years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) Mr President, I claim to have been misrepresented by a newspaper and I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In this morning’s issue of the Australian newspaper, in the course of an article written by ‘Our Political Staff’ and headed, ‘Caucus to curb Whitlam ‘s power’, the following paragraphs appear:
Many Labor MPs believe Mr Beazley ‘s decision to resign now was rash. One of Mr Whitlam’s strongest critics, Senator John Wheeldon, who is also considering resigning, has attacked Mr Beazley ‘s decision.
Senator Wheeldon feels Mr Beazley could have waited until after the Victorian elections.
I have not discussed this matter with anybody working for the Australian or for any other newspaper. I have not in any way criticised or attacked Mr Beazley to anybody from any newspaper or in any other circumstances.
-Mr President, I seek the indulgence of the Senate to explain a matter of a personal nature on which I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Last night during the debate on the Loan Bills Senator Hall claimed that certain remarks in relation to land commissions in South Australia which I had made during the course of my speech earlier constituted a denial of the value of land commissions and, indeed, my political heritage. His claim is not correct. I referred to land commissions in the context of delays in obtaining the steady and even supply of building land on the market. The introduction of the Land Commission in South Australia has contributed inter alia to a slowing down in this supply due to some doubt amongst developers as to its real purposes and intentions. In the area of low cost social housing, I acknowledge Senator Hall’s comments as to the value of the South Australian Housing Trust.
- Mr President, I rise to order. The honourable senator obtained leave of the Senate to make a statement to show where he was misrepresented. Because apparently Senator Hall said something that was not true or which placed Senator Messner in a false light, the honourable senator has received leave of the Senate to make a statement. He has not obtained leave to justify some point or to debate the matter and show that his argument was the correct one. I respectfully suggest that the new senator has a lot to learn. He will feel he has been misrepresented in this Senate on many occasions and he will simply have to learn to take it. If he was misquoted then he has received leave to make a personal explanation. But he cannot now seek to justify something that was proved to be incorrect in the course of the debate.
– Order! Senator Messner claims to have been misrepresented. He is making a personal explanation in this matter. I call Senator Messner.
-Thank you, Mr President. I shall be very brief. I support the activities of the South Australian Housing Commission and of the South Australian Government in regard to social housing. It is in that area that I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Hall. I believe that that support does not challenge the truth of my assertion that the Land Commission’s activities have caused shortages in the supply of average-price blocks of land in the metropolitan area.
– My question is directed to Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister will recall my question of 3 weeks ago concerning a decision by the Government not to proceed with the allocation of $75m to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. Is the AIDC in the process of negotiating a similar amount from Japanese sources and, if so, does this suggest that the Corporation does in fact need this additional capital? When can I expect an answer to my previous question? Will the Minister provide the Parliament with a clear statement of the current requirements of the Corporation for additional capital?
– I can remember the question asked previously by the Leader of the Opposition. I think I said at the time that I had heard some comment or had read some reference which was made to talks being held by the Australian Industry Development Corporation with the Eximbank of Japan concerning obtaining loan funds from that Bank. I cannot go beyond that at the moment except to say that I shall once again ask the Treasurer to obtain the information which has been requested.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that a family with 4 children would receive child endowment of $5.75 a week and yet if, due to divorce, the family were divided into 2 groups with each parent looking after 2 children, each group would receive only $1.50 a week- a total of $3. In other words, at a time when the need for endowment is greater, less is actually given to each parent. Has the Minister any plans to remedy this situation?
– What has been stated is largely accurate, although it should be stated also that if there were a separation of a temporary nature with a family of 4 children an amount representing endowment on the children who remained with the parties would be paid to them. If the separation were of a permanent nature then what has been stated in the question is accurate, that is, $1.50 would be paid to each parent if each of them had 2 children with him or her. I cannot claim that I have given any consideration to this particular matter. It was drawn to my attention earlier. I can only say that what has been stated is the existing state of affairs. The matter is worthy of some consideration. I remind all honourable senators that at the present time a review of all benefits is being undertaken by the Income Security Review Committee. This matter could well be drawn to that Committee’s attention.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Is she aware that the National Conference on Adoption which was held in Sydney in February gave total support to the placement in Aboriginal families of all Aboriginal children available for adoption or fostering? Can the Minister give the Senate an undertaking that she will support the setting up of Aboriginal-run and controlled agencies in the States and the Territories to facilitate the placement of such children? I directed that question to Senator Guilfoyle but I think I should have directed it to Senator Carrick.
- Mr President, the question referred to the adoption of children. I was aware of the adoption conference and of some of the matters that were considered by it and some of the recommendations it made. I remind the honourable senator that adoption is a matter for the State governments in Australia. I am sure that the recommendations of the conference were drawn to the attention of the State governments. I can only say that what has been said is a statement of the conference’s recommendations and that I assume that due weight would be given to those recommendations by the appropriate bodies.
– I wish to ask a short supplementary question of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I think that maybe the Minister missed the point of the question. The real crux of it was whether she would seek to obtain an undertaking from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that he will support the setting up of Aboriginal run and controlled agencies in each State and Territory to facilitate the placement of such children.
– I will refer that aspect of the question to my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I reiterate that the adoption of children in this country is a matter of State government activity.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the considerable doubt and confusion being expressed by machinery dealers and purchasers over the way in which the investment allowance is to be implemented in regard to farm machinery purchased on hire purchase? Can he explain to the Senate how the allowance will operate in regard to purchases of this kind?
– Under a long-standing practice followed by the Taxation Office taxpayers who acquire plant on hire purchase are permitted to claim deductions for depreciation on its capital cost in the same way as if they were outright purchasers of it. Similarly the deduction for the former investment allowance was made available for eligible hire purchase plant against income in the year in which the plant was first brought into use or installed ready for use by the taxpayer concerned.
Under legislation which is to be brought down during the current sitting and which will introduce a more generous and widely-based investment allowance it can be anticipated that the deductions for eligible plant acquired on hire purchase will again be available in the same way as if the plant were owned by the taxpayer concerned. The deduction will accordingly be allowable on the capital cost of the plant but not in respect of hiring and interest charges which would also be borne by the hire purchaser. As in the past, one would expect a deduction to be allowable against income in the year in which the plant in question is first used in the production of assessable income or is installed ready for such use.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that the retrenchment of Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority members employed on the Hobart waterfront is imminent? If, as a result of restructuring, ASIA members are to become redundant, how much advance notice will be given, when will the position be decided and what steps will be taken to find alternative jobs for the persons concerned, bearing in mind the difficult employment situation, especially for people in the late 40 to early 50 age group? If jobs will not be found, will a system of severance payments such as applies to waterside workers be instituted? In view of the assurances given by the previous Government that there would be no retrenchments and no postings to other States and the present uncertainty now as to the future, can early steps be taken to allay the fears which presently exist in the minds of ASIA personnel as to what is to happen to them?
– If the honourable senator looks at an answer which was given by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in the House of Representatives yesterday to a question of the same character he will see that the Minister indicated that the matter is giving him great concern, that it is currently under investigation and that, in particular, members of the Clerks Union are not members of the Public Service and therefore comprehended within the provisions which he has in mind. I do suggest to the honourable senator that he should look at the answer which was given yesterday. I think he will find in it far more information than I am able to give him in a representative capacity today.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I ask: Has the Government considered the Jackson Committee report? If it has, is it the intention of the Government to make a statement as to its attitude to the report to enable the Parliament to debate the controversial recommendations contained in it?
-The Liberal and National Country Parties when in Opposition considered the report very carefully. In our policy statement for the election we made it clear that we had done so and that we saw a great cause for careful study of that report. We said that we would produce in due course a White Paper dealing with the general area of the report. We are currently in the process of getting ready to do so. We are seeking information from people who have an interest in this matter. We intend in due course to table the White Paper in the Parliament. We are having particular regard in the construction and the approach to the whole matter of the interdependence in Australia of the various sectors one upon the other.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that as a result of complaints made by a number of citizens in the Northern Territory an inquiry is being held into postal services to remote areas of that Territory? If this is a fact, will the Minister give an indication whether any decisions have been reached and what these are? If it is a fact and no decisions have been reached will the Minister indicate when they can be expected?
– I am not aware of the details but I shall seek them out and let the honourable senator have a reply.
-The honourable senator has got me back into the lamington argument. I understand the problem he has raised. The Minister has really only a general supervisory power over the 2-airline system and within that system it is competent for the operators, if they wish to do so, to improve the standard of their meals. If the standard of one improves more than the other it is competent for the operators to have a discussion with the Minister for Transport about which operator should either come up or go down in meal quality. I cannot speak with any personal knowledge of Sunday bread in South Australia, but if it is like Saturday bread in some other places I recoil in horror at the thought.
– My question which I direct to the Minister for Education refers to the report on post-secondary education in Tasmania which was tabled in the Senate yesterday. In view of the fact that Premier Neilson has announced that the State Government in Tasmania agrees in principle with the recommendations of the report, when can we expect a decision from the Federal Government announcing its attitude to the report and whether the necessary financial resources will be available to the Tasmanian Government to carry out those recommendations?
– This is, of course, the primary responsibility of the State Government in Tasmania, since it has the constitutional responsibility over tertiary institutions. The Commonwealth Government has that very minor function, the financing responsibility. I have not as yet nor has, I think, the Prime Minister received a formal communication from the
Premier indicating his acceptance of the report, although I understand unofficially that what the honourable senator says is correct. When that report is received it will be given early attention. It will be the intention of the Federal Government to provide for Tasmania the highest quality tertiary institutions both in the north and in the south that we can possibly achieve.
-Has the Minister for Science seen a statement attributed to Sir Macfarlane Burnet, a former Chairman of the Commonwealth Radiation Advisory Committee, in which he said that solar energy could be developed as an alternative source to uranium within 10 years. In view of the doubt with respect to radiation hazards associated with the mining and transport of uranium, and the disposal of uranium wastes, together with the problems associated with the accumulation of fissionable plutonium, has the Government any plan to coordinate a program of research into and development of alternative energy sources?
– I have noted the comments by Sir Macfarlane Burnet in today’s Australian. There are environmental disadvantages attendant with the by-products of nuclear fission. The policy of this Government calls for the use of solar, tidal and sea-wave energy to be developed, as well as biological sources. It might be noted that 170 million million kilowatts of solar energy lands on the earth at any one time. Australia, through its earlier work, is a world leader in research and development in the solar energy field. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which comes under my portfolio, has carried out studies in solar energy research for some 25 years, and recently has created a Solar Energy Studies Unit. The CSIRO has developed solar water heaters. Some 20 000 of these heaters are installed in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory at present. The CSIRO currently is developing desalination stills, airheating systems and kiln drying of timber processes.
For the honourable senator’s information I mention that last Friday I opened a new experimental high temperature solar water heating research facility at Highett in Victoria. It is hoped that this facility will be able to produce steam for industrial uses at temperatures up to 120 degrees centigrade. The French have built solar houses in the Pyrenees, and there have been solar houses in the village of Odeillo for 10 years. The CSIRO also is investigating wind, tidal, wave and geothermal power, and studies are being undertaken into biological sources, such as the production of methane and other gases from organic materials. It may be possible in the future to obtain energy directly from plant forms, and this is being examined. I hope that this general outline of what the Government is doing in the way of research in the energy field will satisfy the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, refers to the recent GarlandBranson case. Was not Magistrate Kilduff bound by the Australian Capital Territory Court of Petty Sessions ordinance? Did not Mr Kilduff contravene sections 91 to 94 of that ordinance in finding a prima facie case against Garland and Branson and then discharging them? Was he not constrained by section 92 of the ordinance to charge the accused after he had found a prima facie case against them? Has the AttorneyGeneral received departmental advice that Magistrate Kilduff erred in the procedure which he adopted, as alleged in today’s Canberra Times? Will the Attorney-General correct a miscarriage of justice, if it has occurred; and, if so, how?
– I am very surprised at the tenor of the honourable senator’s question. This Senate is a place in which there is freedom of speech and, of course, a question directed, as the honourable senator has directed her question, to the conduct of a magistrate who declined to commit a person for trial is in order. However, it seems to suggest that the honourable senator regretted that a person was not committed for trial. I am not aware of what advice might have been received by the Attorney-General from his Department. However, I know the provisions of the ordinance under which the magistrate acted. The magistrate is expressly given a power under that ordinance. Where, because of the unworthiness of the witnesses or the slender nature of the evidence, he does not believe that a person would be convicted if he were placed on trial, he has an obligation not to commit that person for trial. On the face of what the magistrate said, I would have thought that he acted consistently with the terms of the ordinance. Whilst the construction of that particular clause of the ordinance may be a matter for academic debate by lawyers, I think it is totally regrettable that this place should be used as a forum in which to ventilate thoughts that a man who was not committed for trial should have been committed in some way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and refers to the resignation of education staff in the Northern Territory and the current non-replacement of such staff. What is the Minister’s attitude on this matter?
– The Senate will know that the Federal Government has placed staff ceilings on all departments. Within those staff ceilings there are certain sanctions on replacement of persons who resign, subject to the right of Ministers and their departments to make special pleadings. Within that rigidity there were some difficulties, particularly in the Northern Territory in relation to the non-replacement of people such as Aboriginal teaching assistants, ancillary staff in community schools and industrial staff. I am happy to report that I have made approaches to the Public Service Inspector in this regard and those restraints have been lifted consistent with the overall staff ceilings. The Government therefore will be able to go ahead and recruit more ancillary staff and teaching assistants, which is very important in the Territory.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and relates to the subject matter of questions asked in this place by Senator Devitt and in the other place by Mr Keith Johnson. I preface my question by saying that the answers were unsatisfactory, as were the questions, both of which missed the point. Is the Minister aware of a letter dated 4 April 1975 written by a former Minister for Labor and Immigration to Mr B. J. O’Connor, the Director of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, in which the Minister said:
I would like the staff to be informed -
That is the staff of the Stevedoring Industry Authority- that whatever arrangements for the industry the Government ultimately determines, employees of the Authority will be continued in employment on terms and conditions no less favourable than those provided in their employment with the Authority.
Is the Minister aware that this clear undertaking was passed on to the staff by the Director of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority? Is he also aware that on the basis of that guarantee the staff have continued loyally in the employment of the Authority? Is he further aware that a similar guarantee was also given by the next Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland? What is the current Minister going to do about upholding those guarantees given to the ASIA staff by the Government concerned?
-The honourable senator will appreciate that in this place I represent the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister recently received the Northrop report, which was commissioned by the previous Minister for Labor and Immigration. The report advised the Minister on what could be a complete restructuring of the whole of the labour situation on the waterfront. That report is under consideration. I think the Minister indicated yesterday in his answer in the other place that he was well seized of the problems of the members of the Federated Clerks Union employed by the Stevedoring Industry Authority. I am quite sure that if the facts are, as has been alleged- that undertakings were given by previous Ministers- those undertakings will be most carefully weighed before in any general restructuring they are not honoured. I cannot say and I do not think the honourable senator would expect me to say on behalf of another Minister whether or not those undertakings will be honoured. I think the Minister has demonstrated his concern. He is very concerned about the position of these employees.
-ls the Minister for Social Security aware that social workers employed by the Department of Social Security in rural areas have not been receiving payment for travel for some months, thus inhibiting their ability to help people in need in isolated areas? Will the Minister consider reintroducing these payments to enable the social workers to perform their functions adequately?
– It will be understood from the text of the honourable senator’s question that there were restraints in government spending which related, in some cases, to travelling expenditure. I made representations to the Treasurer in respect of many of the functions of officers of my Department, whether they be field officers, social workers or welfare workers. It seemed clear to me that they would be unable to perform their functions if in their cases we strictly implemented the requirement to curtail travelling expenditure. As I understand the position, my Department was able to secure sufficient funds to enable those functions to be undertaken adequately. I will check on withholding of travel payments from social workers employed in certain rural areas. I assure the honourable senator that it is a matter which has had my attention. I will follow up his query.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to the Minister’s answer to a question asked by me on 3 March 1976 concerning the continued implementation of the Australian Heritage Commission Act when the Minister assured the Senate ‘that the Government is committed to the objectives of the Australian Heritage Commission’. Whilst I do not understand what the Minister means by the objectives of the Commission, I do understand the establishment, functions and powers provided under Part II of the Act. I therefore ask: Is it a fact that only one Commissioner, Mr David Yencken, has been appointed and that consequently the Commission cannot yet meet? Secondly, is it a fact that no employees of the Commission have been appointed under the Act? Thirdly, bearing in mind these delays in the implementation of the Act by the previous Government throughout 1975, what immediate action is to be taken to make operative the Australian Heritage Commission, which was supported by all parties in the Parliament and which was part of this Government’s election policy commitment?
– It is a fact that the Chairman has been appointed and that he is the only member of the Australian Heritage Commission who has been appointed. Secondly, it is a fact that no members of the staff of the Commission have been appointed because there is no Commission to appoint them. The Chairman is being assisted by officers of my Department. As to the honourable senator’s third question, that is, about what action is being taken, I think I indicated in the answer I gave on 3 March that the Government is giving detailed consideration to problems which have arisen in seeking to avoid duplication and unnecessary expense. As soon as I am in a position to do so, I will make a statement.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs which relates to passport control. I ask: Do former well known New South Wales residents, Alexander Barton and Thomas
Barton, at present resident in Paraguay, possess Australian passports? If so, when were these passports last renewed?
-Neither Alexander Barton nor Thomas Barton possesses an Australian passport. Their passports were handed to the Australian Embassy in Brasilia in January 1974. They were cancelled on the authority of the Acting Minister for Labor and Immigration on 5 February 1974.
– Is the Minister for Science aware of the problem which European carp are causing in Australian waterways? As this fish is now rapidly spreading through the Victorian river system to the point where the famous Murray cod is almost a fish of the past, can the Minister indicate whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation can take any action to try to eradicate this menace?
– I thank the honourable senator for the question. The presence of European carp in Australian inland waters is of serious concern to fisheries and water authorities, to anglers and conservationists, and to the public generally. Carp are known to exist in water habitats in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. More importantly- and the honourable senator’s question raises this most important matter- European carp have recently been reported in Tasmania and in Lake Burley Griffin. Because of the migratory patterns of the carp, they may reach all Australian States. Because of their feeding and spawning habits, they damage native aquatic flora and fauna and can seriously affect water storage systems, especially those used for human consumption.
The Australian Government has no responsibility for fresh water fisheries except in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Fisheries Council is undertaking research into the European carp. The Victorian Director of Fisheries has collected information on overseas research during visits to study this problem. The Victorian Government has set up a program with the United Kingdom to find a virus sensitive to European carp. The Governments of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have at present a joint research program and are in the process of preparing a situation report on this type of fish. Although the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is not involved in fresh water fisheries research, it would be prepared to consult with and to advise an interstate group if it were requested to do so. I ask the honourable senator or any other authority that may be interested to raise that matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Child Care Matters. Arising from the Minister’s statement on expenditure on children’s services, could she advise how many new pre-school centres have been funded this financial year? How many pre-school centres are having 75 per cent of staff salaries funded because they have agreed to expand their services? What guidelines for such expansion of services have been set with which pre-school centres must comply before such funding is made available?
– I am unable to give the details of the numbers of new pre-schools or the numbers which are eligible for the new range of funding at 75 per cent if they do integrate their services. The guidelines briefly are that they will be eligible for 75 per cent funding of salaries if they provide not only a pre-school service but also an integrated child care service. I will obtain for the honourable senator the numbers of the new schools and those which are now eligible and will give her that information as soon as possible.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President.
– I call Senator Melzer.
– Will the Minister tell me what she means by ‘integrated services “?
– The honourable senator would have some knowledge of this matter as it was a policy of her Government before the change in government late last year. The new arrangements for funding, to take effect from 1 January, were that programs which involved pre-schools would receive 75 per cent assistance in funding from the Federal Government if they integrated their services. That meant that they would not only use the facilities for pre-school services but also use whatever opportunities were available to expand those services to pre-school hours, after-school hours and to holiday programs- in general, to programs for children. The range of opportunities for doing this would be different in many instances. But it was the policy of the former Government to introduce a more comprehensive service for children than simply a pre-school service which had been the predominant area in which the Federal Government had become involved with the States prior to this year.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to an article concerned with Medibank which appeared in the Australian Financial Review of 16 March in which it was claimed that fees in private hospitals as compared with fees in public hospitals were ‘disproportionately high’? Is it claimed in the article that the cost of a single room in a public hospital is $30 a day? Is the statement misleading in that it grossly underestimates the daily cost of providing public hospital beds? Is not the daily bed cost in Sydney teaching hospitals now of the order of $ 100, not $30 as claimed? Will the Minister agree that the figures demonstrate only that the charges to patients in public hospitals are heavily subsidised and that private hospitals charge fees closer to actual costs?
– I did read briefly the article to which the honourable senator refers. I took it that where it spoke of a $30 daily bed cost in public hospitals it meant the net cost to a patient, understanding as I do that people in those wards receive a subsidy of $16 a day under the Medibank arrangements. What has been drawn to our attention is the fact that there is a difference in costs between public and private hospitals. This perhaps highlights the concern that many of us on this side of the Senate expressed when we were talking about the whole Medibank program and we drew attention to the difficulties that private hospitals would have in maintaining the services they wanted to provide. The honourable senator mentioned a bed cost of something like $100 a day as being more appropriate than $30 a day. From my reading, in some cases it is more than $100. It should be stated that the Medibank arrangement with the State governments for public hospital accommodation is that the charge will be $20 a day for a multi-bed private room and $30 a day for a single-bed private room. I can say only that the article could mislead people into thinking that $30 is the total cost in a public ward, when in fact that is the net cost. The remainder of the question could be referred to the Minister for Health who, I am sure everyone understands, is at present reviewing the whole of the Medibank operation.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, arises from the answer he gave to Senator Ryan on the decision of Magistrate Kilduff. Was the magistrate’s failure to commit Messrs Garland and Branson for trial based not on the provisions of the ordinance that permit discharge of defendants because of flimsy evidence or evidence which it is thought will not be believed, but on the magistrate’s difficulty with the construction and interpretation of section 156(b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act? If it was due to difficulty with the construction and interpretation of section 156 (b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, will the Government give some attention to that section in order to see that in future candidates at elections who have money to give to opponents in those elections will know their full entitlements under the law?
– I think all honourable senators would acknowledge that, where charges are laid, persons are brought before the courts and the processes of the courts result in those persons not being committed for trial, or their being acquitted, we should applaud our system of justice and recognise in those circumstances that justice has been done. The AttorneyGeneral said yesterday that as far as he was concerned no further action would be taken in this case. Why should honourable senators opposite feel that that is not a satisfactory outcome? As far as I am concerned, the aspect of the magistrate’s judgment which we all ought to recognise is in his final words, where he said:
Whatever might be the academic questions which hereafter will be argued and whatever might be the true meaning of section 156 of the Electoral Act, which has existed for many years with no other prosecution ever being attempted under it, to my way of thinking are matters that ought to be confined to law journals and substantive motions and not made the occasion of questions in the way in which they are asked today.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations bring to the notice of his colleague the serious situation which is developing in respect of wool sales because of the dispute between the Federated Storemen and Packers Union and the wool stores? In view of the importance of the wool industry to the economy of many country towns and to the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people, will the Minister see that every effort is made for an early settlement of the dispute?
– I am not aware of the details of this matter. I am sure that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is aware of them. I shall bring the matter to his attention as requested.
– Has the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development seen reports that Australia proposes to order the United States guided missile system which has the capacity to launch missiles with nuclear warheads? Is there any relationship between this decision and the proposed sale of uranium by Australia? Further, can the Minister assure the Senate that no uranium export licences or mining leases will be granted before the Ranger uranium inquiry report is received and a public debate ensues?
– I can certainly say that any government approval for the development of Australia’s uranium resources will await the findings and the recommendations of the Ranger inquiry. This has been made clear by numerous members of the Government. I think the Minister for National Resources is the member who last made that statement. As to the other questions asked by the honourable senator, I have not seen the reports but I suggest that if he wants a considered answer he should put the relevant parts of his question on the notice paper.
– I ask this question of Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade or as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Having regard to the very poor market for export meat, can the Minister advise whether any progress is being made in the export of live cattle to Indonesia and other countries in the eastern area in particular which require cattle but which are not buyers of slaughtered meat?
-I do not know the latest position with regard to the export of live cattle. I know that we have generated quite a large export of live sheep, particularly from Western Australia. At one stage we appeared to have some opportunity for live cattle export but sometimes these things look better on paper than they turn out to be in reality. What I shall do in relation to this question is to get more information from the Minister for Primary Industry. I know that some attempts are being made- I hope with success- in Tasmania to generate what I might call a stud farm operation for the export of cattle. It seems to me that that would have a great deal of merit. I shall take the question further and get more information for the honourable senator.
-Will the Minister for Social Security confirm or deny that officers of the Department of Social Security have asked social workers to advise the transfer of long term beneficiaries of the unemployment benefit to the invalid pension. If such a practice exists, does the Minister agree that it would be psychologically damaging to young people to be on an invalid pension instead of the unemployment benefit, particularly in decentralised rural areas where employment opportunities are limited? Is the aim of this exercise, if it is being practised, to lower unemployment figures which are rising rapidly as a result of the reckless cutting and slashing of employment opportunities by the Fraser razor gang?
– I feel confident that officers of my Department are not endeavouring to transfer people from the unemployment benefit to the invalid pension. There are 2 different series of tests which would be applied to those pensions and benefits. It would be inappropriate to suggest that there could be an interchange between them. The remainder of the question, which suggested that such a device would be used to lower unemployment figures, also overlooks the fact that the unemployment benefit is paid to people on a work test. Sometimes we find a drop in the number of unemployment benefits paid which is not related directly to unemployment figures such as we saw in the most recent month ‘s figures which were released.
I can only think, especially in view of the final remark which was attached to the question, that it is political. I can assure the Senate at this stage that I have no knowledge of such a device being used. I will certainly make an appropriate inquiry bearing in mind, as I say, the political context of the question and the way in which it was directed to me.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is any further information available in relation to the source of the funds subscribed to the first issue of Australian savings bonds? If so, can that information be made available to the Senate?
– I have previously given in the Senate, the approximate situation. The total amount subscribed was about $759m for Series One bonds. I think there were about 122 000 subscribers and that the average subscription was about $6,250. The indication clearly is that the funds came from a wide range of small subscribers. The actual classification of the final subscription item by item is not yet available to enable us to identify whether any large amounts were subscribed by major institutions.
-Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that because of cuts in expenditure and ceilings on employment within the Public Service the National Library has been forced to curtail its film lending facilities even to the point of the curtailment of teaching aid films to educational institutions? Will the Minister take this matter up in an attempt to have the situation remedied?
-I am prepared to look at the particular problem which the honourable senator has raised. If he likes to provide me with further information, I will look at that also.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory indicate what provisions exist in the Australian Capital Territory with respect to the disposal of waste materials? In particular, can he say whether there are special provisions dealing with toxic waste materials which could in any way endanger the community? Finally, will the Minister undertake to ensure that this matter is kept under careful review in the interests of the people of the Australian Capital Territory and perhaps some people who live beyond the borders of the Territory?
-The disposal of factory and industrial wastes is covered by the Building and Services Ordinance and the Canberra Garbage, Water and Sewerage Regulations which apply in the Australian Capital Territory. I am advised that with the exception of oil and radioactive waste, liquid wastes may be disposed of through the sewerage system, although an industry that gives off large amounts of solids in suspension is required to install sludge traps to trap the solid particles. The limits are set out in the sewerage regulations. The Department of the Capital Territory had advised me previously that the practice of utilising the sewerage system is possible in Canberra because there is very little industrial activity in the Territory and no heavy industry or noxious trades exist. Liquid wastes given off generally can be coped with by the existing sewerage system.
The position is different in the larger industrialised cities where large amounts of noxious non-water based effluents require separate treatment. Industrial sludges in the Australian Capital Territory are disposed of in special sawpits. Oil is recycled in Melbourne and some motor car bodies are recycled in Sydney. Non-recyclable solids are disposed of by sanitary land fill. Special legislation to cover the disposal of radioactive material is under consideration by the Minister for Health. If the new senator requires any further information relating to this important matter in the development of Canberra is available, I will obtain it for him.
– I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce: Is the allotment and amount of import quotas to individuals or companies in respect of made-up garments open to public scrutiny? If the answer is in the negative, will the Minister make available to a select industry panel information showing who the recipients are and what volume of quotas they have received. If not, why not?
– This information is not normally available. I shall give consideration to the proposition put by the honourable senator. I advise him also that there are industry councils within the Department of Industry and Commerce. There is one which deals with this particular area and generally it would have access to the kind of information that the honourable senator seeks.
– I ask the Leader of the Government: Having resurrected the system of imperial honours, does the Government intend to follow the precedent which evidently was established by a previous Liberal Government to offer Orders of the British Empire as an optional alternative to monetary payments to people who surreptitiously have supplied services to the Liberal Party?
-No response, Mr President.
– I ask the Minister for Ad ministrative Services whether the Government will give an assurance that future electoral redistributions will be based on the 10 per cent electoral tolerance which was introduced by the Labor Government in 1974?
-Mr President, it is not the custom to answer questions on policy at question time.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, follows questions asked by Senator Ryan and Senator Cavanagh this afternoon. Will the Minister confirm for the benefit of honourable senators that the Crown does not intend to appeal against the magistrate’s decision in the Garland-Branson case, despite the fact that the magistrate said that evidence put to the court established a prima facie case? Will the Minister table in the Senate the full documented grounds for the magistrate’s decision? Finally, will the Minister inform the Senate whether the decision in the Garland-Branson case established a precedent that will make election corruption and bribery a respectable profession in Australia?
-One of the things that the Labor Party and, I suspect, the honourable senator who asked the question, will not appreciate is that the people of Australia do not like this place being used to make accusations of crime against a man who has just been placed before a magistrate who has not made a committal. The Government does not propose to appeal. The Attorney-General made that quite clear yesterday. The magistrate said that, consistent with the law- consistent with the ordinancehe did not believe a jury would convict. He said that he therefore was not going to commit the parties to trial. In response to the honourable senator’s request, I state that I have with me the transcript of what the magistrate said. I table the transcript so that the honourable senator can read it and be better informed.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether, in relation to the 1975 double dissolution election, the Government intends to take any action to enforce compliance with the provisions of sections 151, 152 and 153 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act relating to the submission of returns by candidates of expenses involved, returns of expenses by political organisations involved and the submission of returns by newspaper proprietors?
-I am informed that the first breach of these sections of the Commonwealth Electoral Act occurred in 1904. I intend therefore to act similarly to my predecessors in this office over the past 71 years. I think that it would be more than passing strange if, after 74 years of ignoring these sections, suddenly persons were proceeded against for non-compliance with them. In any event, the Act most probably will be put under review. I shall follow the longstanding practice. I understand that it has been reported in a newspaper that my predecessor in referring to a return under the Electoral Act told one of his colleagues to ‘tear the thing up’.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and refers to the practice adopted by a few- I repeat ‘a few’private employment agencies of insisting that a job seeker pay a fee before any information is given about job vacancies. Reputable agencies usually recover their service costs in other waysfor example, by imposing a charge upon the employers. Will the Minister ask the Commonwealth Employment Service to investigate this matter with a view to assisting unemployed persons, who generally do not have such fees available? Secondly, will he also make inquiries as to whether information from these private employment agencies is used in any way to penalise unemployment beneficiaries?
– I will refer the question to the Minister and ask him to provide a reply.
-The Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will be aware that many men and women presently training under the National Employment and Training Scheme are about to be forced to take a wage cut- in fact, a cut of approximately $68 or $70 in their weekly income. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether this drastic action has been taken by the Government because some people supposedly have abused the scheme? If so, could this abuse have been encouraged by publication in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 29 October 1974 and in other newspapers throughout Australia of remarks reportedly made during an address at a fund-raising dinner for the Liberal Party of Australia, which read: ‘I do not know if you have your wives in the NEAT scheme yet. But you should have. There is no easier may of making $5,000 a year’, and which were attributed to a Liberal Party spokesman, Mr Malcolm Fraser?
– It should be remembered that the NEAT scheme when it was introduced by the previous Government was designed to assist the people who were unemployed but willing to work and unable to get work to acquire a new skill and, as a result of the acquiring of a new skill, to gain employment which, without it, they were not able to obtain. In its concept- and it was a concept introduced by the former Government- it was applauded by the then Opposition, but the former Government did not administer it well. It was so administered that people who were not genuinely unemployed took advantage of it. People went into the scheme and gained sums of up to $96 a week whilst they were undertaking training and they really had not been genuinely unemployed beforehand. The Fraser Government indicated when it was in Opposition that when it took office it would means test the scheme and made it sensible so that it really benefited those people whom it was designed to benefit. That is what the Government has been doing by its recent changes.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory been drawn to a report in the Australian newspaper of 16 March that 1 1 per cent of all males 17 years and over in Darwin have been charged with drink-driving offences and that many other drinking drivers escaped detection? Does the Minister agree that alcohol is the major identifiable contributing factor to the road toll throughout Australia and that it is a potentially remediable factor in road deaths and injuries? In answering a previous question from me did the Minister inform me that alcohol was a major factor in Darwin in 1 975 in one-sixth of all crashes and one-quarter of the single vehicle crashes? Did he further inform me that only one of the 4 breathalyser units available in Darwin was in fact operative? Does the Minister agree that there appears to be an urgent need either for more units to be available or for more of the available breathalyser units to be made operative?
-My attention has been drawn to the report in the Australian and to the question on notice to which the honourable senator has received a reply. I think all honourable senators agree that alcohol is a major identifiable factor in the road accidents these days not just in Darwin but throughout Australia. In answer to a question on notice from Senator Baume the Minister for the Northern Territory advised that charges relating to alcohol were laid in respect of 17.3 per cent of all accidents and in 26.3 per cent of all single vehicle accidents in the Territory. The Minister also advised that only one of the 4 breathalyser units in Darwin was operative. I am unable to express an opinion as to whether more breathalyser units are required. However, I shall draw Senator Baume ‘s concern to the attention of the Minister and provide further detail as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources aware that the continuity of employment of those engaged in the production of iron ore pellets at the Savage River mine in the north-west of Tasmania is under threat because of the slump in demand for this type of iron ore by Japanese steel makers? Will the Minister for National Resources have a survey made of the present total exports of iron ore to Japan from all sources, including Western Australia, with a view to allocating a quota of Tasmanian iron ore adequate to keep the Savage River mine in operation?
-I will pass the honourable senator’s request on to the Minister concerned.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services. I preface it by informing him that a former Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Kennelly, has been in the precincts of the Parliament in the last 2 days. I ask the Minister whether he will inform me of, or if he has not the information, obtain for me, the numbers and names of former members of the Australian Parliament who have also served in a State Parliament but have not had the time of their State service credited to their time of service for the purposes of their entitlement to parliamentary superannuation?
-I do not have the information at hand, but I will obtain it for the honourable senator.
– Earlier in question time today Senator Robertson directed to me, in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, a question relating to some stated difficulties of postal delivery in the Northern Territory. He asked whether an inquiry was being held. I have obtained certain information which I now convey to the honourable senator. I am advised that no special inquiry is being undertaken at the moment into the Northern Territory postal services, other than as part of a nation-wide review of services by Australia Post. At present a very special effort is being made by the Post Office to deliver the mail because, as the honourable senator will know, of particular climatic difficulties- including unusual weather in the wet season- and geographic difficulties. If the honourable senator gives to me any specific items of difficulty that he would like to have investigated, I will convey them to the Minister concerned.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974-1975 I present 15 agreements made under the provisions of that Act relating to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Home Savings Grant Act 1964-1975 I present the annual report on the administration of that Act for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present reports by the Industries Assistance Commission on sheets and plates of iron or steel import restrictions and precision ground steel ball bearings tariff quota.
– I seek leave to table the report of the Australian delegation to the sixty-second conference of the InterParliamentary Union held at London in September of last year.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the report of the Australian delegation to the sixty-second conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held at London from 4 to 12 September 1975.
Motion (by Senator Baume) agreed to:
A Select Committee be appointed for the purpose of completing the consideration of a matter previously referred to, and considered by, the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Social Environment, appointed during the previous Session, namely, the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites, and reporting to the Senate upon that matter.
The Committee have power to consider the Minutes of Evidence and records of the former Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Social Environment relating to the matter referred to in paragraph ( 1 ).
The Committee consist of six Senators, three being members of the Government, nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and three being members of the Opposition, nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
The Committee elect a Government member as Chairman, who may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be Deputy-Chairman. The member so appointed shall act as Chairman at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
In the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, shall have a casting vote.
The quorum of the Committee be three.
The Committee have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, and to meet and transact business in public or private session.
8 ) The Committee report to the Senate by 3 1 May 1 976.
The foregoing provisions of this Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
-Mr President, I ask for leave to move a motion for the appointment of myself as a trustee of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Mr President, I move:
This is in lieu of ex-Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who retired in the last Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr President, I ask for leave to move a motion for the appointment of Senator James McClelland to the Council of the Australian National University.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Mr President, I move:
I inform the Senate that 17 July 1977 is the date on which, under the Act and pursuant to previous resolutions of the Senate, the present place now vacant expires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Australia-Japan Foundation Bill is to set up the Australia- Japan Foundation as an independent statutory authority comprising a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 15 members. The functions of the foundation, which are set out at clause 5 of the Bill, will include the promotion of the study by the people of Australia and Japan of the language, culture, social and political institutions and the economic and industrial organisations of each other’s country. Clause 6 of the Bill sets out the powers of the Foundation. These include the power to perform its functions in Japan as well as Australia, and it is envisaged that when the Foundation has been established it will open an office in Tokyo in order more effectively to carry out its task of bettering and deepening Australian and Japanese relations. The staff of the Foundation shall be persons appointed or employed under the Public Service Act 1922-1975.
This Bill marks an historical step in the evolving relationship between Australia and our greatest trading partner, Japan. It is the policy of this Government to deepen and broaden the relationship which already exists between Australia and Japan. For too long Australians have looked upon Japan in purely economic terms and no doubt our Japanese counterparts have looked upon us with the same eyes. The time has come when we must humanise this relationship and build into it knowledge and awareness of each other’s culture, history and aspirations. This can best be done by the sort of person to person contact and the in-depth research which the Foundation will promote. In November 1974 Australia and Japan signed a cultural agreement which was a first step towards the expansion of cultural exchanges and the promotion of mutual understanding between the two countries. The establishment by this Bill of the Australia-Japan Foundation will be a further and substantial step towards the same ends. It will provide for a continuity of contact and for a depth of contact which a cultural agreement, however broadly it is worded and however high its aims may be, cannot match.
In his second reading speech to this Bill in the House of Representatives the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) paid tribute to two distinguished Australians who have been associated with the genesis of the Australia-Japan Foundation. In commending the Bill to this House I think it appropriate for me to endorse the Prime Minister’s remarks. Sir John Crawford was appointed by the previous Government to chair a committee which looked into the need and the necessary structure for the Australia-Japan Foundation. This Bill is in large measure built upon the recommendations of the Crawford Committee report and in that regard the Foundation will be a credit to Sir John Crawford and to the other distinguished members of his Committee. Mr K. C. O. Shann, Australia’s Ambassador in Tokyo, was also heavily involved in the conception of the Australia-Japan Foundation.
Much credit must be given to Mr Shann for his efforts in fostering a broader and more comprehensive understanding between Australia and Japan.
It is an indication of the importance which this Government places on Australia’s relations with Japan that this Bill was amongst the first Bills introduced by us in Parliament after our election to Government last December. It is an importance which will be reflected in more ways than in the creation of this Foundation, but the Foundation is a first and necessary step in the creation of the bridge which we hope to build between our two peoples. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales)Minister for Industry and Commerce) (3.56)- I move:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament for the Commonwealth to undertake borrowings overseas for an amount not exceeding the equivalent of US$32.4m ($A25.7m) to be on-lent to Qantas Airways Limited to assist in financing the purchase of its twelfth Boeing 747 jet aircraft, spare parts and related equipment. The aircraft is estimated to cost approximately US$42. 7m ($A33.9m) and is scheduled for delivery in July 1976.
Loans arranged in the name of the Commonwealth under the present legislation will, as on past occasions, be on-lent to the airline on the same terms and conditions as the funds are borrowed by the Commonwealth. As the airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreements, there will be no net charge on the resources of the Commonwealth.
Over the last 8 years the Commonwealth Government has raised 12 loans to assist Qantas in financing the purchase of 9 of its 1 1 aircraft in the Boeing 747 jet fleet. These loans, representing a combined commitment amounting to US$253.7m were authorised by Parliament under the Loan (Qantas Airways Limited) Act 1968 and under each of the Loans (Qantas Airways Limited) Acts of 1968, 1971-1973, No. 2 of 1971-1973 and 1974. The most recent borrowings were arranged under the authority of the Loans (Qantas Airways Limited) Act 1974 and were applied to the financing of Qantas’ ninth, tenth and eleventh aircraft in its Boeing 747 fleet. The seventh and eighth aircraft were financed by Qantas from its own internal resources.
Overseas borrowings undertaken by the Commonwealth on behalf of Qantas involve specialised financing arrangements to accord with the particular financing requirements of the airline.
A common element in past financing arrangements for the purchase of additional aircraft by Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines has been the participation of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Eximbank). Eximbank specialises in providing credit facilities to assist the financing of exports of United States capital equipment. In keeping with past practices, a preliminary commitment has already been obtained from Eximbank to provide a credit facility amounting to US$16,185,200 ($A12.8m) which is equivalent to 40 per cent of the United States purchase cost of the aircraft.
The proposed credit, carrying an interest rate of 9.0 per cent per annum, will extend for a period slightly in excess of 10 years and will be repaid in 10 approximately equal semi-annual instalments extending over the last 5 years of that period. I should mention, however, that should Qantas decide to accept a credit for less than 10 years, an interest rate of 8.75 per cent per annum will apply. Either way, the offer of a preliminary commitment by Eximbank to provide funds does not bind the Commonwealth to accept that offer. Should, for instance, a more favourable loan offer be available from an alternative source, the whole of the financing requirement may be obtained from that source.
If, as has been past practice, Eximbank finance is employed, the remaining 40 per cent of the total overseas financing requirement for Qantas, US$ 16.2m ($A12.8m), will be obtained by seeking competitive offers from leading overseas banks and underwriters. It is expected that the borrowings will be finalised by July 1976. The balance of the financing requirement, US$ 10.3m, will be provided by Qantas from its own resources.
I should mention by way of explanation that Parliamentary approval for the borrowings has been sought in advance of actual requirements in order to ensure sufficient flexibility in arranging for the borrowings to be undertaken at a time when market conditions are favourable whilst still ensuring that the scheduling of the loan may take place as near as practicable to the delivery date of the aircraft. This ensures that, to the greatest extent possible, overall servicing costs on the borrowings are minimised.
The precise terms and conditions of any borrowing to be arranged for Qantas will, as usual, be subject to approval by the Loan Council. The amount to be borrowed is included in the Commonwealth’s loan program for 1975-1976 which was approved by the Loan Council in June 1 975. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for the Commonwealth to undertake a borrowing or borrowings overseas for an amount up to the equivalent of US$9,302,400 ($A7.4m) to be on-lent to the Australian National Airlines Commission (Trans-Australia Airlines) to assist in financing the purchase of its seventh Boeing 727 jet aircraft, spare pans and related equipment. The aircraft is due for delivery in November 1976. The total cost of the aircraft, spares and related equipment is US$1 1.628m ($A9.3m) of which US$2.3m ($A1.8m or 20 per cent of the purchase cost) will be provided by TAA from its own resources. The amount to be borrowed is the equivalent of 80 per cent of the total of the aircraft, spares and related equipment and represents the amount of loan finance normally sought jointly from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Eximbank) and from other commercial sources overseas.
As with all Commonwealth borrowings undertaken on behalf of the public transport authorities, overseas borrowings by the Government on behalf of TAA require specialised financing arrangements to meet the airline’s particular needs. As part of the arrangements to meet those requirements a preliminary commitment for an offer of credit has already been obtained from Eximbank on terms which will enable the airline to comfortably service the loan over the earning life of the aircraft. The Eximbank otter is for a 10-year credit amounting to the equivalent of 40 per cent of the United States area cost of the aircraft (US$4,392,400 or $A3.481m approximately) at an interest rate of 9 per cent per annum with 10 semi-annual repayments to be made during the last 5 years of the loan. As with all Eximbank preliminary commitments, the Commonwealth is not bound to accept the offer if, for instance, a more favourable loan offer becomes available from an alternative source.
If, as has been the past practice, Eximbank finance is employed, the remainder of the overseas borrowing requirement- US$4.9 lm or 40 per cent of the total purchase cost- will be obtained by seeking offers from leading overseas banks and underwriters. On current indications the loan will not be sought or negotiated until early in 1976-1977. This will permit sufficient flexibility in arranging for the borrowings to be undertaken at a time when market conditions are favourable whilst still ensuring that the borrowing may coincide, as near as practicable, with the expected delivery of the aircraft. This ensures that, to the greatest extent possible, the overall servicing costs of the borrowing to TAA are minimised.
This is the twelfth occasion on which Parliament has been asked to approve overseas borrowings on behalf of TAA. The last occasion was the Loans (Australian National Airlines Commission) Act 1974, which approved borrowings of an amount up to US$1 9m to assist TAA in financing the purchase of its fifth and sixth Boeing 727-200 aircraft. As on those occasions, this Bill provides the Commonwealth with authority to undertake the necessary borrowings and to on-lend the proceeds to the airline on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer. Those terms and conditions will, as in the past, be identical to those under which the Commonwealth borrows the funds and, as the airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreements, there will be no net charge on the resources of the Commonwealth. The precise terms and conditions of any borrowing to be arranged on behalf of TAA will, of course, be subject to approval by the Loan Council. Amounts to be borrowed will be included in the Commonwealth’s loan program for 1976-77 to be submitted to the Loan Council at its next meeting which is expected to be in June this year. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
FINANCIAL AGREEMENT Bli. I. 1976
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Financial Agreement Bill is to approve the execution of an agreement dated 5 February 1976 entered into by the Commonwealth of Australia and the 6 State Premiers to amend the Financial Agreement. The Agreement is attached as a schedule to the Bill. Section 105A of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth may make agreements with the States with respect to public debt of the States, and further provides that any such agreement may be varied by the initiating parties.
The Financial Agreement was entered into under section 105 A by the 7 governments in December 1927. It provided for the assumption by the Commonwealth of State debts on terms set out in the Agreement and established the Australian Loan Council to co-ordinate and regulate future Governmental borrowings. It also provided for standard sinking fund provisions on State debts. The provisions of the Agreement have been amended several times by subsequent agreements.
The present amendments are principally concerned with the assumption of liability by the Commonwealth Government for $ 1,000m of State debt as envisaged under the States Grants (Debt Charges Assistance) Act 1970 but they also up-date and streamline the operation of other provisions of the Agreement. These amendments encompass new and simplified sinking fund provisions on State debt, greater flexibility in Loan Council procedures, and the removal of certain obsolete provisions from the Financial Agreement.
Takeover of Debt
The States Grants (Debt Charges Assistance) Act provided financial assistance to the States to meet interest and sinking fund contributions on $200m of State debt in 1970-71 and on an additional $200m each year until, in 1974-75, the Commonwealth Government provided a grant to meet the debt charges on $ 1,000m of State debt. At the time that Act was introduced it was envisaged that the debt concerned would be formally transferred to the Commonwealth Government in June 1975. However, the Act itself made no provision for the formal transfer of the debt which requires legislative approval by the Commonwealth Parliament and all State Parliaments. It was agreed by the Australian Loan Council at its meeting in June 1974 that assumption by the Commonwealth Government of liability for the $ 1,000m of State debt should be effected by amendment to the Financial Agreement. The securities to be taken over by the Commonwealth Government are set out in a schedule attached to the amending agreement.
Sinking Fund Provisions
The Sinking Fund provisions of the 1927 Financial Agreement provided for contributions in relation to State debt outstanding at 30 June 1927 as set out in the Agreement. Contributions on new debt were based on each loan issued on behalf of the States since 1927, involving voluminous and complex calculations on behalf of each State each year. The contributions on debt outstanding at 30 June 1927 were due to cease at 30 June 1985-86 for New South Wales-and the new provisions take into account the reduction in contributions which would have been consequent to this.
The new rates of contribution have been calculated to provide Sinking Fund receipts comparable to the projected amounts payable under the previous arrangements and no State will incur any extra costs compared with those arising under the previous arrangements. More specifically the new Sinking Fund arrangements on State debt provide for specified contributions by the Commonwealth and State governments for 1975-76 adjusted in subsequent years until 1984-85-1985-86 for New South Wales-by a percentage of the difference in net State debt outstanding at 30 June of the year preceding the contribution and net debt outstanding at 30 June 1975. As from and including 1985-86-1986-87 in the case of New South Wales- annual contributions payable by each State will equal 0.85 per cent and by the Commonwealth 0.28 per cent of net debt of each State outstanding at the preceding 30 June. This avoids the complexities inherent in Unking Sinking Fund payments to the securities issued in each loan on behalf of the States.
Accounting procedures for expenditure under the new Sinking Fund arrangements have been greatly simplified with all cost, such as brokerage and commission, associated with the repurchase or redemption of State debt being a charge on the Sinking Fund.
Other provisions remain substantially the same as previously. The States may make additional Sinking Fund contributions if they wish. Some States contribute at a rate to extinguish the debt incurred in connection with a wasting asset over the life of the asset.
The National Debt Commission will continue to control the State Sinking Funds but can arrange with a State to act as its agent in making payments to bondholders. The new provisions will provide for effective and relatively simply calculated payments for the retirement of State debt.
Loan Council Procedures
Some amendments have been made to the Agreement to expedite proceedings of the Australian Loan Council. These provide that the nomination by a member of the Loan Council of a substitute Minister as his representative will now include any person acting in that capacity for the time being, and that decisions by the Loan Council on the amount and allocation of government loan programs can now be made by correspondence without the necessity to hold a formal meeting to endorse the decision.
The amending agreement provides for the omission of several clauses in the Financial Agreement which no longer have force. Also included is a provision for retrospective effect of the agreement from 30 June 1975. The agreement cannot be operative until legislation to approve its execution is enacted by all Parliaments. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the National Debt Sinking Fund Bill is to amend the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966-1967 to take account of State debt which will be assumed by the Commonwealth under the proposed amendments to the Financial Agreement and any other agreement approved by Parliament. This proposal is of course closely related to amendment to the Financial Agreement to be ratified by the Financial Agreement Bill 1976 which is before the Senate. The Bill redefines debt of the Commonwealth to include debt of the States taken over by the Commonwealth and provides that these debts be taken into consideration in calculating the Sinking Fund contribution on Commonwealth debt. It also provides that Commonwealth Sinking Fund moneys may be applied in the retirement of this debt.
A new sub-clause has been introduced to bring accounting procedures in relation to the Commonwealth Sinking Fund into Une with procedures for State Sinking Funds which the Financial Agreement Bill is designed to establish. In effect this provides that the full cost of repurchase or redemption of securities may be met from Sinking Fund. Furthermore, securities repurchased or redeemed from the Sinking Fund will be deemed to be cancelled from the date of repurchase or redemption.
The opportunity has been taken to amend, in the schedule, the expression of the Act to conform with current practice by omitting repetitious phrases where they occur and substituting numerals for written numbers. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Senator Knight:
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to:
To His Excellency the Governor-General
May it Please Your Excellency-
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our most
Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Harradine had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply. viz.: ‘and the Senate is of the opinion that your advisers having declared their intention of taking particular care over the special circumstances of the less populous States, should obtain the approval of those States prior to the implementation of your advisers’ new approach to Federalism’. and upon which Senator Brown had moved by way of amendment to Senator Harradine ‘s amendment:
At end of proposed amendment, add ‘The Senate is also of the opinion that, because of the financial plight of local government organisations throughout Australia, your advisers should take action immediately to re-institute hearings by the Australian Grants Commission for the purpose of assessing appropriate untied and unconditional grants to local government’.
– Like a good batsman in a cricket team I now appear at the crease for the third time in a row and I am still not out. It will be recalled that last evening while speaking in the AddressinReply debate Senator Cormack on his own admission deliberately set out to whittle away my time. He was successful in doing so and I have only 3 minutes left today. I want to refer further to the Governor-General’s Speech where it said that the Government proposes to introduce to the Parliament amending legislation to increase social service pensions and benefit rates every 6 months in accordance with movements in the consumer price index. As time is not available to me to elaborate on it, I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard 2 documents which have been provided by the research section of the Parliamentary Library, setting out the increases in the single pension rate, seasonally adjusted from 1969 to 1975 and a comparison of single age and invalid pension benefits with average weekly earnings in Australia for the period 1944-45 to 1975-76.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– It will be recalled that I was talking last night about inflation and that I commented on statements that had been made by the present Government when in Opposition to the effect that the inflationary rate under the Labor Government was the highest for 40 years. When I explained to the Senate that that was not true, Senator Cormack disputed it. When I then quoted from a further document provided by the Parliamentary Library Statistical Service he claimed that it was rubbish. I gave an undertaking to table that document and I now seek leave of the Senate, as I have concluded my speech, to table the document so that Senator Cormack can have a good look at it. He may then see fit to make an apology to the people in the Parliamentary Library who compiled this document because he will see that it certainly is not rubbish.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Address-in-Reply debate is one of those occasions in parliamentary life when discussion takes place relating to the establishment and arrival on the scene of a new Parliament. In this case it is not only a new Parliament but also a new government and new leaders, and I want to renew my congratulations to those who have been entrusted with leadership and, not the least, my congratulations to the President. I confirm those congratulations which I expressed immediately after his election to the chair. Likewise, I extend my congratulations to you, Mr Deputy President, on your election as Chairman of Committees. Your return to that office gives us a great deal of pleasure. We wish both presiding officers well. Similarly I extend congratulations to those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches during the course of this debate. There is another to be made later today. The arrival of new senators in the Parliament is always an occasion of interest. Their role as speakers in the debates gives us further interest. Their maiden speeches are an occasion which we share with all of them because it is an experience which we have all had. We certainly wish them well.
The first session of the new Parliament commenced with the Address-in-Reply debate. Reference was made to the election which was held at the end of last year. That election represents an event of some historical significance. The circumstances surrounding it will be argued for ever. What I believe is of more importance and of greater significance is the result of that election. Whatever interpretation the community or the writers may put upon the result of that election, it contained clear warnings to governments and political parties for the future because it became perfectly clear that the style of government of the Whitlam Administration was certainly not acceptable to the people of Australia. It is true that the initial bursts of the Whitlam Administration were spectacular. I suppose it would be true to say that that Administration brought to its supporters a great measure of excitement. We gained the general impression that there would be an emphasis on certain life styles and certain international relationships, all of which were opening up what was described as a new Australia. But as time went by and as the massive spending of government funds was evident, however apparently attractive that seemed, a great deal of concern was caused to the Australian people. That massive spending of government funds took no account of the fact that if one wants to spend a great deal of money then one must take steps to replenish the source of supply. It is my view that the Whitlam Administration spent a massive amount of government funds without giving any attention whatsoever to the replenishment of the source of supply and the development of the resources from which such funds must come.
Sad to say, when this sort of thing happens in a community an atmosphere of irresponsibility seems to arise. Side by side with that spending we had excessive inflation hitting the country. We had an enormous number of unemployed and an increasing amount of Government interference and domination with a great multiplication of commissions, committees and inquiries to the extent that I think the people became frightened by the prospects ahead. This eventually meant a vote of the utmost severity. Indeed, it was the most severe vote in our history. The Whitlam Government was swept from office and the Fraser Government was elected. Naturally, I am interested in the results in South Australia, especially the Senate results. These results reflected something of the climate that was experienced in the rest of Australia. In South Australia the Liberal Party secured 5 1.4 per cent of the Senate vote as opposed to 40.6 per cent secured by the Australian Labor Party. Significant in this result was the fact that for the first time in over 20 years in South Australia we were able to return, as a first elected senator, a candidate from the Liberal Party, not from the Labor Party.
In reviewing the return of honourable senators for any given State naturally we are appreciative of the support which has been given. In this connection, I again refer appreciatively to those Liberal Party candidates who contested what we describe as Labor-held electorates. Such candidates were not able to share in the wonder of the victory which we had at that election. It must be recognised and made public that candidates and workers for the Liberal Party in the Labor-held seats in South Australia did a great deal in attracting a large number of votes for Senate candidates. Of course they could not win the House of Representatives seats but they contributed materially to the fact that for the first time in many years the Liberal Party has been able to bring into the Senate from South Australia 3 long term senators. I mention this because it will materially influence the result of the next half Senate election. This will give the Government parties a singular advantage at the next election and for some considerable time to come. All of this may be well known but it imposes an extra degree of responsibility upon the Government. From what has been done and achieved already I am certain that the Fraser Government will maintain that responsibility.
Among the many lessons which these months have taught us is the fact that while Australia is a country blessed with great resources, it is not in a position to say that it has resources which are totally unlimited. This may be obvious to us all but I am quite sure that for the last 3 years the Australian people were lulled into some acceptance of the fact that there was absolutely no limit to the distribution of funds and of financial resources. Now there is a realisation that there must be greater productivity and more attention to the production of more resources. Until these resources are produced, until there is a control of inflation with funds flowing again and until the funds are replenished at the source, both the people and the Government will have to make some judgments.
Some of those judgments concern what can be afforded and what cannot be afforded. We now have to live in a society where we no longer have funds and services, if I may say so, thrown at us in reckless abandon. Rather, we have to live in the hard world of making a decision as to what we can have and what we have to do without. A responsible government simply cannot let this unanswered situation continue. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech does well to make a number of points in this regard. Honourable senators will recall that during the course of addressing the Parliament His Excellency said, in part:
The total wealth of Australians will be expanded by the encouragement of enterprise, and by the re assertion of the Government’s role in establishing an appropriate legal framework for economic life.
In short, this means that appropriate measures will be set up for the development of resources and the encouragement of their production. In the second instance His Excellency said:
Unless inflation is brought under control there will be no adequate employment opportunities, no soundly based return to prosperity.
Again, this means that unless there are adequate employment opportunities there will be no prosperity in the country and no adequate funds. Unless the climate is provided for adequate employment opportunities then there will not be the development and production of resources which are so important to our overall wellbeing. In the third instance His Excellency stated:
An important contribution to economic revival and the expansion of job opportunities will be made by the Government’s policy for Australia’s resources. The prime objective of the Government’s national resources policy is to return resource development to its proper role in the nation’s economy . . .
The development of business confidence and of resources and the confidence to develop those resources becomes essential and urgent.
This is so not only if unemployment is to be remedied but also if life styles are to be bettered and if people are to be in a better position in which to make a judgment or a choice regarding what can and what cannot be afforded. Business and economic confidence, the control of inflation and an improvement to the unemployment situation will combine to enable Australians not so much to have more but rather to do more for themselves and for others as the opportunity is provided. The development of such areas as manufacturing industry is essential if the nation’s resources are to be replenished. After all, manufacturing industry employs directly about onequarter of the work force. Manufacturing industry is responsible for about one-quarter of the gross national product. I suppose most importantly, it is the base which is related to an enormous range of tertiary industry. On top of that, manufacturing industry supplies about 20 per cent of our exports.
It is true that our primary and rural industries are of basic and tremendous importance and bring into Australia vast amounts of export income. But in the context in which I am speaking this afternoon, their very nature means that they do not directly employ an increasing number of persons of the work force. Furthermore, as Australia is a heavily urbanised society with increasing populations in the metropolitan and similar areas, it follows that attention must be given to the business and the manufacturing industries so that they can provide a whole range of employment opportunities and, I suppose more importantly, provide the kind of services that they are able to provide to both the rural community and other communities in our society.
As has been outlined in policy speeches, in statements made in the Parliament and in legislation which has been before the Parliament and which is currently before us, the Government is already taking steps to stimulate investment and productivity, particularly in the manufacturing sector. It carries a heavy responsibility. It is endeavouring to undertake that responsibility. The Government must and will undertake it. While the Government’s record since the beginning of the year has been quite a good one, there are still a number of problems which remain. Some of these include what we might call our high domestic cost. Indeed it is an increasing cost structure. There are always limitations in this area. Australia’s own domestic market, because of its size, has an effect on efficient operation.
Additional difficulties seem to have appeared as a result of a survey conducted by the Department of Manufacturing Industry. Some of these appeared in the Press. Honourable senators will know that the report has been distributed today. Unfortunately, it forecasts increasing prices on a wide range of household and similar goods. However, most industries involved in the report indicate that the price increases are inevitable because no longer can they go on absorbing further cost rises. All of this means that the problem of economic management grows. But choice and judgment remain with us. However, overriding all of this the guidelines and the Government measures give encouragement. If the theme at this stage is one of choice and judgment there remains the very difficult situation as to the areas in which the nature and extent of that choice will operate. The agonising situation that the present Government faces is that following an Administration which widely distributed and lavishly bestowed funds, unfortunately now the Australian community is still waiting for funds and is still waiting for handouts. It has to be reminded that the stage has been reached where it must undertake its own disciplines and make its own judgments. In these judgments many areas, many communities and many statutory bodies and authorities are affected. It is human nature that all communities, bodies, gatherings and statutory authorities regard their areas as being of the utmost and basic importance. I do not have time, nor would it be appropriate for me, to give a list of these organisations. Of course, at the end of a very long and wide ranging Address-in-Reply debate, one is left with the choice of selecting one or two areas in which one may be involved, connected or interested. That is what I would like to do in the next few minutes. I do not suggest that the 2 areas to which I will refer are the most important. But they are areas of activity which are in full flight and which are affected by the restriction of funds which is now occurring. They are affected by new economic and other approaches. Of course, the only observation that one can make in this regard is that one hopes such restrictions, whilst they may temporarily curtail activities, do not place the organisations concerned in a situation which means that any recovery later on will be more expensive than the curtailments which are being undertaken now.
I want to say a few words about the area of development assistance. I choose it for 2 reasons: Firstly, as I have just indicated, I have some involvement in it. But secondly, and more importantly, is the fact that if we believe in the principle of development assistance- I know the Government does- this is affected in its effectiveness by resource development and by the increase of resources within the Australian situation. Also, it is affected by the fact that the Government creates a climate in which resources are enabled to expand and grow. Therefore, Australia’s role in development assistance becomes not only more effective but also more valuable. Honourable senators probably will be aware that the Government has decided to abolish what is known as the Australian Development Assistance Agency. It has been decided to abolish it as a separate organisation and to merge its functions and personnel into the Department of Foreign Affairs. This has caused some disappointment particularly among people who are interested in the matter of development assistance and among those who work for the non-government agencies. The 1974 annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs refers to the setting up of the Australian Development Assistance Agency and states:
For the first time in the lengthy history of Australia’s aid program, its various components nave come under the direction of a single authority.
The existence of the Agency could be said to have indicated Australia’s long term commitment to giving support to the developing countries of the region. To many of these countries, the Australian Development Assistance Agency symbolised that Australian development assistance was basically humanitarian and that our development assistance was given without political strings attached to it. It is true to say that the restructuring of the aid organisation should not be taken to indicate that the Government’s commitment to development has in any way weakened. Indeed, statements by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in recent days have given explanations in relation to the Government’s purposes. It needs to be recognised also that any program of development assistance needs to be totally and absolutely linked with foreign policy and the functions of the Department of Foreign Affairs. If the new bureau is to be given an appropriate status within the structure of the Department of Foreign Affairs, one would hope that it would project an understanding of the problems of development assistance more effectively into our foreign policy and our foreign policy thinking. If this happens, then the Government’s decision to abolish the Australian Development Assistance Agency might be argued to have been justified.
However, from time to time we need to remind ourselves of the special significance to Australia of the problem of underdevelopment in its broadest sense. Honourable senators will be very well aware that Australia, like other countries which are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is grappling with the problems of inflation and recession. While this is going on, the situation in the poorer countries, particularly the non-oil producing countries, is becoming pretty desperate. There are some 42 of these countries described as the countries most seriously affected because of the world economic crisis. I think we could bear in mind very well that the most populous of those 42 countries are not very far away from Australia. This leads me to make the observation that, humanitarian considerations aside, the grim social and economic conditions in most of these countries that make up South and South East Asia- in fact, most of the countries along the littoral of the Indian Ocean- carry clear implications for the basic security of the region. Of course, this includes Australia. The security of this country and of this region is of vital importance to us. There are reports of the decline of Western style democracy and of continuing corruption and of political instability. All of these follow certain aspects of declining economic expectations. I think that we have to recognise as a people and as a government we must come to grips very strongly with what has been simply described as the widening gap between the haves and the have nots.
I leave that there at this stage and make the observation that Australia’s aid has grown steadily over recent years. It has grown because the Australian nation has been able to develop its resources and has been able to make appropriate contributions. We make a large contribution to Papua New Guinea. All honourable senators know that the contribution made by Australia does not lead to any significant improvement in the economies of this widely spreading group of developing nations to our near north and of South East Asia. But I think it is true to say also that Australia’s performance, as a nation that is concerned, that is committed and that, indeed, is a developed nation, is of the greatest importance and significance. However vexatious our own economic problem may be, we need to bear in mind that it is insignificant compared with the problems of the countries near to us. So in any cutback or in any deferment of Australia’s aid program we need to recognise the necessity not only of our own economic management but also of heeding the clear warning that Australia’s economic problems now could be nothing compared with the problems that will emerge if we neglect our particular and appropriate responsibilities. I have only one other word to say on this and that is that I hope the Government will take steps to encourage the voluntary and non-government agencies by way of some forms of assistance. After all, we believe as a government in self-help and we believe in providing the opportunity for people to do more both for themselves and for others. I make a further plea to the Government on behalf of the voluntary agencies in this field. I ask that the Government look at the situation and encourage more people to do more in this field and not leave everything to the Government.
The only other factor that I want to talk about in our discussion about resources is that we should never overlook resources other than those that grow in the soil or that are obtainable from the ground, or are manufactured. Throughout the world today a system of information is being recognised as a crucial national resource. I put those words at their highest meaning. It is a crucial national resource with a key part to play not only in industry, science and technological development but also in the diagnosis and in the solution of the many social and human problems and in improving the quality of life. From my own reading and association I pass on the confident prediction that the leading countries in the future will be those with the most effectively organised information resources. Honourable senators will recall the STISIC report and will remember the recommendations it contained concerning the establishment of information resources and of library-based information resources. Indeed it contained a recommendation for the establishment of a National Librarybased information authority and for the promotion of a range of networks of information services.
I for one responded enthusiastically when I noted in the Liberal Party policy statement made prior to the general election the line that indicated that the Liberal Party would establish a national information office to monitor, store and disseminate information and other data. The policy statement stated that the office would be encouraged to develop necessary ancillary services and would publish regular catalogue material. The policy document went on to point out that the office could usefully be a part of the National Library and could work in close consultation with other libraries and appropriate bodies. Obviously it arises from my membership of the National Library Council that I place some emphasis upon this. Indeed, when we appointed the Director-General of the National Library his job was to advise not only the Council but also the Government on the development of the necessary networks for science, technology, the social sciences, the humanities and the arts. I think honourable senators may be interested to know that by ‘network’ is meant a group of organisations which is able and willing to collaborate to improve library-based information services in making them available to all levels of the Australian community by acting as public access points or as focal points providing nation wide services.
But honourable senators do not need me to tell them that this sort of program has had a reduction not only in funds but also in staff content. The National Library Council considered whether it should defer one of its feasibility studies until staff resources were available. However, as a result of advertising and of submissions which were received, the Council was convinced that it should not let up on the program of development of its information services, so other plans were put in train in order that that program could be maintained. Indeed, use was made of the pilot on-going studies so that the information dissemination program could be maintained until a stage when further funds were available to allow it to go ahead in a greater and larger way. A reflection of this is that the National Library Council has been extended to include representatives of all major industrial, scientific and other interests.
Recently in my capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Council I had the privilege of presiding over a meeting of some 300 experts drawn from the Federal Government, State governments, industrial, academic and other organisations in all States to consider the next step in developing information services. I was very pleased that our Minister, Senator Withers, came and expressed his support for the development of resource sharing networks and that he laid emphasis on the importance of the cost effectiveness of developing information services. He took the opportunity also to point out that there were some Government priorities in relation to the allocation of funds. This factor was appreciated but nevertheless the Council is pressing ahead with the development of its information services. Not only it is receiving support from the Government but it is also responding to the Government’s initiative. It is concentrating on the provision of services to industry with the support of the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and, even more importantly, with the support of a vast range of industrial and other agencies throughout Australia. It is receiving support also from private organisations such as the Australian Mineral Foundation Incorporated in Adelaide. Recently the inauguration of the first pilot on-line library-based education information service, linking Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, took place. Such a service is going to be of great value in assisting the cost-effective development of education.
While this matter is just something of interest, I believe it to be a matter of importance. It will be seen that it is very much related to the development of manufacturing industry and the whole range of national resources. So while the Address- in-Reply debate may be designed to cover a wide range of discussion and there may be more pressing matters than the one I have discussed, I believe that if a nation is to do things for its citizens, whether they be in the economic, social, educational or in any other sphere, they can be done, sponsored and maintained only by a growth in the nation’s total resources. The ability of any nation to achieve a satisfactory rate of economic growth and resources development depends upon its ability to develop the resources. That in turn depends on the climate of development which can be and is being provided by the present Government. Australia is a fortunate nation. It has natural resources, an educated population and it can pursue all these goals. But the mere existence of all these favourable attributes does not guarantee that that growth will take place. We have to develop the capacity and the willingness to invest in the transformation of our resources into goods, services and activities. So I take the opportunity of making these few observations in the Address-in-Reply debate. While it is a long debate, the motion moved by Senator Knight has my support.
-I open my remarks in this debate by extending congratulations to yourself, Mr Acting Deputy President, and to the other office bearers who were elected, including the President. I offer my congratulations also to those who have made their maiden speeches in this chamber during this session. I think we should be remiss if we did not remember those who were here during the last Parliament and who are not with us today. I rise to support the amendment that was moved at an earlier stage in this debate by my colleague, Senator Brown.
Before proceeding to the main section of the debate I feel that I must pass a couple of remarks about the contribution that has just been made by Senator Davidson. I am not quite sure why he was so excited about the change in the voting figures in South Australia that he noted on the occasion of the last election. I think it was probably because it is very many years since the Liberal and Country Parties captured the first position in a Senate ballot in terms of votes recorded. It is probably because of a sense of patriotism that he has come into this chamber today wearing a sparkling new red, white and blue tie. In the end result, I think that Senator
Davidson’s excitement could be extremely short lived, particularly if he is looking to repeating the performance in the next half-Senate election.
It was Disraeli who said somewhere around 100 years ago that a conservative government is an organised hypocrisy. I think we have seen this in terms of the actions of the Fraser Administration from its days as a caretaker government right up to the present time. It has indulged in the practice of taking money from those in the community who are least able to afford it in order to feather the financial nests of the multi-national mining groups, the Australian businesses which are mismanaged or suffering from poor management and the wealthy graziers. Before and during the last election campaign clear and unequivocal statements were made by the Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia and his shadow Cabinet, which formed the caretaker Administration, that social programs would go on as usual. In another debate in this session of the Parliament I propose to produce a number of interesting documents in that respect. Clear statements were made that there would be no cut-backs in the expenditure on Medibank, social security, Aboriginal affairs, education and so on.
Within days of the appointment of the new Ministry- one of my colleagues on this side of the Senate mentioned this quite recently- the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) announced a tightening-up in the payment of unemployment benefit. Nobody wants to see any rip-off occur insofar as the taxpayers’ funds are concerned; nor do we want to see the sort of legislation by way of regulation that has been introduced in this instance, whereby a whole new type of work test is being applied and whereby a prospective employer can in many instances be the person who decides whether the weekly income coming into a home in which the breadwinner probably has four or five dependants will come in by way of social security payments or wages. If an employer does not like the type of haircut or the style of dress of a person he can refuse to employ that person and that person can then be deprived of social security benefits. These days the tendency is towards dressing informally, but a young lady who presents herself for an interview dressed in that manner can be placed in the same embarrassing, humiliating and unfortunate situation. The war on those whom the Liberal and Country Parties have described as dole bludgers ought to extend as well to those in society who are earning good incomes and are mainly Liberal and Country Party supporters and voters. I do not have the time available to introduce them into this debate, but I do have signed documents from the wife of a grazier in Queensland who has made very strong statements about the rip-off of taxpayers’ funds by a number of graziers in some parts of my State and in other parts of northern Australia.
The other point I want to make while I am talking about this aspect is that in the old days of the Labor Government- it was a good government, in spite of some of the statements that Senator Davidson made a few moments agothe people who administered the various government departments had a greater freedom to take action and a greater opportunity to express themselves. On many occasions they gave rulings in marginal cases as to whether people were entitled to receive the unemployment benefit or some similar sort of social security benefit. Many of the officers today live in fear of what will happen to them if they dare to make a decision. The end result of this is that many people, including age pensioners, are being forced to live in suspense for weeks and sometimes for a more lengthy period before a decision is taken as to whether they are entitled to their payments. Frequently they are marginal cases. Frequently the kingmaker at the top is able to rule that they are in fact entitled to their payments.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his supporters said during the last election campaign that they would support wage indexation. That was a very hollow promise indeed, because when the first occasion came up for a review of the wage situation the Fraser Administration fought tooth and nail in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to prevent the implementation of wage indexation in the proper spirit in which it was drafted by the preceding Administration.
– It stated the indexation guidelines.
– I do not think that any great attempt has been made in any of the contributions that have come from the other side of the Senate to restore any confidence in the system of wage indexation. To excuse its nonimplementation on the basis that one is getting outside the guidelines is a rather petty way of approaching the matter. On the other hand, of course, within a matter of weeks the superphosphate bounty was restored. We must remember that the small farmer will not benefit from its restoration. Only the multinational organisations and the big organisations will do so. I suppose the Prime Minister is a prime example- if I may use those words- of somebody who has been able, by the stroke of a pen, to add an extra $5000-plus a year to his income from his property and his parliamentary salary and all the other perks of office as a result of the money that will flow indirectly to him because he was able to restore the bounty on the superphosphate that is used on his own property.
– How many tons would he be able to buy for $5,000?
– It is a very petty way of doing things. Honourable senators opposite take money from other people but they are quite prepared to feather their own nests and line their own pockets. Let us face up to the facts. The Minister for Social Security has produced a program in another area for the total abolition of the funeral benefit that formerly was payable. It should be remembered also that in the early balmy days of the Fraser Administration she took away the hearing aid concession, and that subsequently it was restored. A big attempt was made to reintroduce licence fees for radios and television receivers. That was considered to be electorally unpopular, but they will be reintroduced and become law some night while we are all asleep. A Press statement released at that time by Senator Guilfoyle in relation to the funeral benefit said:
This benefit would be abolished at an annual saving of some $1.7m. Senator Guilfoyle said this benefit appeared to be of little significance particularly as the Government had decided to continue the payment for 12 weeks of the combined married rate of pension to the surviving partner in cases where a married pensioner died.
The latter benefit was introduced, of course, by the Labor Administration and as a result of Labor Party encouragement. The taking away of the $40 that is currently payable is meanness of the first order. It will not affect the Minister or any of her colleagues as they are all wealthy enough to afford to have a gold coffin and a ceremonial burial when they pass to that upper house in the great blue beyond where they will never again have the opportunity to defer Supply. I believe that this matter ought to be reconsidered by the Government. It is a matter of very great significance to one of the most disadvantaged groups in our community. If it is not restored, the organisation of the Liberal Party in government and out of government is meaner than I thought.
One point of warning that I ought to give at this point in time is that it is the intention of the Government not to provide in the Budget to be introduced later this year for any increase in the genera] rate war pension. The Government is planning its Budget strategy now. Senator Davidson wears a red, white and blue tie and many honourable senators opposite are most patriotic, particularly when the drums are thumping and they do not have to bear a rifle; but many of the people who took part in World War II and the war in Korea are today suffering from the disabilities that they experienced during that period of their war service. To deprive them now of a continuing increase in the general rate war pension would be one of the most unpatriotic things and one of the most selfish things that honourable senators opposite could do at this point in our history.
The Government ceiling on Public Service appointments has prohibited the employment of thousands of youngsters throughout this nation. I do not know what the Government will save as a result of this restriction. Many young men and women who have a tertiary education probably are unable to obtain a job in society. It is a very frustrating and heartbreaking affair indeed, not only for the young man or woman concerned but for the parents as well. The number of young school teachers I notice who are now getting jobs around Parliament House is amazing. Young people who are very well qualified, in some instances with at least 2 degrees, are working around the city in labouring jobs. I know the Government is very proud of what it has done in this area but it should think again about this aspect.
In the Attorney-General’s Department legal aid is to be scaled down by $2m and $1.5m is to be taken from the budget of the Family Court of Australia. The only people who need the services of the Australian Legal Aid Office are those who are not able to afford legal fees. There is no reason at all why, for the sake of saving the money in the morning tea tin, the Government has deprived members of another section of the community who need the assistance to obtain cheaper or free legal aid in order to help themselves. One of the silly things the Government did- no doubt caused by the establishment lawyers in this town- was the abolition of the Government Conveyancing Service in this city. This service was paying for itself. During 1 975 the service assisted in 1017 transactions. But a cheap conveyancing service of course is not approved of when some members opposite, particularly the lawyers, see their starving lawyer friends around Canberra being denied these extra conveyancing fees.
The overseas area is another point I think we ought to take into consideration. The Government has pruned down the Australian contribution to international aid. The poor in our neighbouring countries looking for help from a wealthy Australia, especially when they are stricken by famine, flood and other natural disasters, will be able to say: ‘The people who have something to give us have decided to prune it down’. I recall some considerable time ago Mr Snedden saying, when he occupied one or other of his portfolios and before he narrowly won the speakership in the other House, that overseas aid had reached one per cent of our national income. When one analyses the figures one finds that such aid barely reached .5 percent.
The Minister for Science (Senator Webster) has announced other severe economic cutbacks in his Department. It does not matter how much government supporters try to camouflage the cutbacks. Amongst the first areas to suffer was the Bureau of Meteorology. The Government will save $lm in a full year. No wonder cyclones sweep in around the northern coast undetected when some of the cyclone detecting agencies are not manned because the Government is saving a lousy few cents. I think one of my colleagues from the northern areas raised this matter only a few days ago.
– You are raising cyclones all the time and getting nowhere.
-This is quite true. There is no need for the Minister to raise economic cyclones and deprive people of predictions. It is a very shortsighted policy. The Government will be saving $ 1 m in this area. But what happens if a cyclone comes in undetected? Already in the cyclone season damage in Queensland has amounted to something like $15m. It is a very shortsighted policy.
– We note your economic wisdom.
– I think your political sarcasm is rather misplaced. Probably there will be a time when the Minister will have to eat those words and I hope it is in the middle of a cyclone somewhere. The great defender of the country people, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. J. D. Anthony, rapidly becoming known around the mineral market places of the world as uranium Doug, has apparently used his powers of persuasion to sell most of our coal and most of our natural gas. I know that another famous member of the National Country Party said: There is no need to worry about posterity. We will worry about ourselves today’. They are the sort of people who are totally unconcerned about the children they have reared and about their descendants. The rake-off for the Government in the case of the Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd sellout ought to be somewhere between $22m and $24m. This is apart from other little financial gains the Government has made in other areas.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs expenditure has been cut back. The Department is heading for a tragedy. I am informed that the Derby based employment officer is to be made redundant. The officer’s vehicle has already been withdrawn from the area. There are rumours that he will be transferred. Port Hedland officers in the north-west have been restricted to visiting only those areas they can reach on a day trip. This is a nice time to abandon the Aboriginal people of the Kimberleys. I mentioned many other points earlier in this debate which I hope to use in a debate in this chamber this week or next week.
On the credit side, of course, we should look at the fact that as a result of the changed administration we now have 4 national anthems, 2 sets of honours and 2 governments. An InterParliamentary Union delegate talking to a conference in some other country can of course refer to the Government of Australia as the Australian Government, but if he is in Australia he has to refer to the Government as the Commonwealth Government. It must be very confusing to people we meet at conferences in other countries to hear us talk about the Australian Government and then to discover, when they come to Australia, that it is not the Australian Government at all, it is the Commonwealth Government.
– The Constitution says that it is the Commonwealth of Australia.
– The honourable senator is a great constitutionalist, but I have seen him commit some sins of omission and whathaveyou around this place. I am not referring to his personal sins; they are his own private business. I refer now to the amendment which the Opposition has moved to the Address-in-Reply. The amendment states that because of the financial plight of local government organisations throughout Australia we feel that the Australian Grants Commission hearings ought to be continued. This Government, in its penny-pinching way, has ceased the hearings of the Australian Grants Commission. Page 62 of the Grants Commission’s second report of 1975 on Financial Assistance to Local Government states:
– Most clear and inspiring.
– The deep voice coming from the other side is that of Senator Wright who thinks that if this sort of assistance is to be given it should be given to Tasmania only. Other deprived areas of Australia need this type of money. A small local government authority struggling in the arid areas of the north -
– Did you say ‘ arid ‘ or ‘ Arab ‘?
– The donkey bray coming from Senator Wright hardly adds to his dignity. These sums of money are needed not only for the purpose of carrying out some development but also for providing employment in areas of this nation where it is much needed. The list of grants made in the year 1974-75 1 believe is a matter for the historical record. I suppose these sorts of grants will continue but not in the way they were made by the Labor Government. They will be given to the Premier of the State. When it comes to Premier Bjelke-Petersen of Queensland not one penny of it will be spent north of the Kingaroy line; every penny will be spent south of that line. A few crumbs may go to some of the provincial cities. I have a table showing the grants made. Because it is probably the last time they will ever be seen I think they ought to go on the historical record and I seek leave to have the table incorporated.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-Thank you. Time is running out. I have a few points I want to wind up on. Let us face up to a few facts. I think that another Minister got quite excited recently when he was endeavouring to attack the Opposition. He said that we were making ill-founded complaints, and so on. The breakdown in democracy in Australia commenced during the 1950s when, by an act of political charlatanism, the then Prime Minister created a grand hoax by introducing the Petrov affair.
-Back to the 1950s.
-There was the Petrov affair, the Hursey affair, and a few others. If honourable senators opposite do not like to hear the facts of history it is bad luck, but if they remain quiet and listen they will be reminded of those facts. In 1963 the same Prime Minister ordered the FI 1 1 aircraft to prevent an invasion, he said, of Australia by the Indonesians. Of course, each of those ploys resulted in the return of conservative governments. In 1967 we were going all the way with LB J, but on 17 December of that year Prime Minister Holt disappeared. The next to go was John Gorton, a great Australian even if he was a second rate politician. It was of more than passing significance that both Holt and Gorton were involved in deals with the multinationals, the Esso group of companies in particular. They were the people who at that time were applying pressure to obtain their own set of price fixing standards. That is the way in which they operated.
With the aid of a contrived scandal and with Fraser operating as the hatchet man, Mr Gorton subsequently disappeared forever as a political force. An aide memoire was published at that time. Although it is incorporated in a Senate select committee report, I believe that it also should be written into the historical record of the Senate. The first paragraph of that aide memoire reads:
For the period between now and September 17, 1970 BHP and Esso will forgo the entire ‘margin of assistance’ of A67 cents.
Then it proceeds to set out the manner in which the price would be organised, so far as one or two companies were concerned. Other companies were producing oil in this country but they were not called into consultation because the bigger companies, the big multinationals were dictating the policies at that time. Mr President, I seek leave to have this aide memoire incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Could we have a look at it? What is it?
– Has the honourable senator not read it? He has read it.
– Leave is granted, subject to Hansard and myself checking the document and looking at the whole matter. Under those conditions, is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Additionally, for this period, A5c per barrel discount will be deducted from this base price.
The quality differential between the reference crude and the crude actually produced would be determined by continuing to apply the modified ‘ Nelson method ‘ as outlined in Appendix G of the Tariff Board’s Report of 1965 and this value would be added to the base price. If Gippsland crude should turn out to be evaluated at the same quality as Moonie, this would result in a crude price of SA2.42 per barrel f.o.b. Long Island Point in the customs port of Westernport.
Based on preliminary estimates of production quality of Gippsland crude, which includes liquids (other than LPG and ethane) produced in association with natural gas, the formula might result in a quality differential some what higher than for Moonie, but the actual quality and therefore differential can only be determined after production testing.
From this parity price is to be deducted a factor for transportation which will represent the average delivery cost (excluding wharfage) of indigenous crude to the refiners by the most efficient possible means, including the use of pipelines where economical, largest size most economical vessels, backhaul arrangements, exchanges, etc. The price resulting from the parity price reduced by trie freight factor, both as caluated above, shall be the price f.o.b. at the customs port at the refining center nearest to the producing field (in the case of BHP/Esso Gippsland basin crude this would be Long Island Point in the customs port of Westernport) and will be firm for the five year period.
In particular for the periods covered in (a) and (b) above, a suitable allocation procedure will be established now to provide petroleum produced in Australia with priority access to the Australian market.
The allocation of Australian crude to refiners/marketers should be on an equitable basis. In this connection it is noted that production from the Gippsland fields are expected to reach 240 000 b/d by mid 1970 and will perhaps increase thereafter. Therefore the system devised for the period covered in (a) should provide flexibility to allow for 300 000 b/d. (Note: these figures do not include Barrow or Moonie).
If insufficient suitable feedstocks for the manufacture of lubricants and bitumen can be obtained from Australian produced crude, the refiners should be allowed to import the minimum quantities of suitable quality feedstocks. The intent of such imports is that the volume be limited so as to contain the least amount of ‘by-product’ materials to ensure that Australian crudes are utilised to the maximum extent.
Fuel oil requirements in excess of the volume of fuel oil realised from indigenous crude determined in accordance with the modified ‘Nelson method’ plus any fuel oil volumes produced as ‘by-products’ from the feedstocks imported for lubricants and bitumen could then be imported. This is not a real problem because the situation will only arise in the longer term. Even if new fields are found in Gippsland, they probably could not be brought into production before 1971. Therefore, imports of heavy crude must continue for some years. By the earliest time that imports of heavy crude for the production of fuel oil could be stopped, the demand for light products will have increased sufficiently to ensure that there is no idleness, loss, or excess capacity, in the present existing refineries. In fact, it seems that most, if not all, existing refineries will require expansion to meet the growth of the lightproductmarket.Astheyexpand,theywillalsoadjust their plant to take advantage of the greater use and higher quality of indigenous crude and the alteration in the balance of products required by the market because of the introduction of natural gas.
Of course, to the extent that local production falls short of demand after due allowance for the above mentioned feedstocks, importation of foreign crudes will be required.
It will always be necessary to have the utmost cooperation from the refiners to assure maximum utilisation of Australian crude. To comply with the above policies it is incumbent upon processors to provide the facilities required to process indigenous crude.
It is noted that Government approval may be required for steps necessary to assure the availability of coastal tonnage to permit the refiners to move Gippsland crude from Long Island Point to their refineries. This may involve importation of several vessels.
The Government will call a conference of the producers and refiners/processors to finalise these matters.
PRICE DETERMINATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH AIDE MEMOIRE PARAGRAPH (b)
Esso-BHP submit that the price of Gippsland crude f.o.b. Long Island Point calculated according to the agreed formula and assuming that it were of Moonie quality would be made up as follows:
Our calculations where necessary were carried out in US$ and the results converted to $A at the rate of$USl.l 148 per $A1. This rate of exchange is the average of buyer and seller rates quoted by the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia on 9 September 1968.
The following method was used to calculate this value of crude based on Import Parity as at 9 September 1968, for crude oils imported into Australia. Import Parity has been calculated at $A1.96/barrel, and is a composite of the items detailed below:
In the above calculations data on crude slate for the year 1 967 were used as being the latest period for which complete information is publicly available.
The following transportation rates have been used:
Long Island Point to Perth $0. 1 9/Bbl.
Long Island Point to Brisbane $0. 1 4/Bbl.
Long Island Point to Sydney $0. 10/Bbl.
Long Island Point to Adelaide $0.09/Bbl.
Long Island Point to Westernport $0.0 1 /Bbl.
Long Island Point to Geelong and Altona $0.05 /Bbl.
MODIFIED NELSON TECHNIQUE
9 September 1968 Basis
The calculation was carried out as defined in Appendix G, pp 43-46 of the Tariff Board Report of 23 July 1965. The only significant changes made are those concerning product prices freights and product quality.
Crude distribution shown is based on actual 1967 imports. Crudes listed account for 93 per cent of imports, results for remaining 7 per cent assumed equal to average shown.
Product prices are based on Ras Tanura posted prices and product freight to Brisbane (Intascale Flat) as of 9 September 1968.
– I take a point of order, Mr President. I take it from the document that Senator Keeffe has in his hand that this aide memoire is a quite lengthy document.
– It is of about eight or ten pages.
– I put a qualification on the incorporation of the document. It will be incorporated in Hansard in accordance with what Hansard and I determine.
– With due respect to you, Mr President, you may approve or disapprove of the incorporation of the document, provided that it is capable of being incorporated in Hansard and that there are not offensive words in it. There may be in the document some political connotations at which honourable senators on this side of the chamber may wish to look. I reserve the right to reject the document if that is acceptable to you, Mr President.
-The Minister is getting very touchy. He himself criticised this aide memoire at one time. I thought he would be delighted to have it included in the political record.
– There is more to come, too.
– Yes, there is more to come. After this there was the election of Mr McMahon, the caretaker Prime Minister, who was deposed by Mr Whitlam and the Labor Party in December 1972. After that followed 3 years of Labor Government. During this period many great social reforms were introduced, in spite of continued Senate harrassment. That era of Labor government ceased on 1 1 November 1975- Remembrance Day. In spite of the protestations coming from honourable senators opposite and in spite of their statements that they have never received overseas funds for election purposes, Mr Keegan, a member of their own Party, says that they have been getting those sorts of funds. It is bad luck that he made his statutory declaration; it is very embarrassing for honourable senators opposite at this time in history. There is no doubt that the Central Intelligence Agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and several individuals were deeply involved in the conspiracy to depose the Labor Government last year. Honourable senators opposite laugh. I know that some honourable senators opposite have been lulled into a state of false security because they do not think that such a thing can happen; but other honourable senators opposite are up to their pink ears in this matter. They know that it is happening and they know that they are a part of it.
– Where does the KGB fit into your picture?
– Honourable senators opposite probably have some KGB agents in their desks, too. They should not be too sure that that is not the case. How did they catch up with Mr Petrov if they were not collaborating with the KGB? The Governor-General probably was only a pawn. I think that he was only a pawn, as far as honourable senators opposite were concerned, in the multi-national power game.
– A point of order, Mr President.
– I am not going to break that standing order.
– The standing order is quite clear. Reference to the GovernorGeneral may not be used in debate in the Senate. Senator Keeffe has offended against that standing order, and I think that he should be pulled into gear.
- Senator Keeffe, you must not use disrespectful language in respect of the Governor-General. I ask you to withdraw your reference to the Governor-General.
- Mr President, it is only Senator Sir Magnus Cormack who is a little bit touchy about this. I am not quite sure what he regards as being disrespectful. I suppose that one must never use the words ‘Governor-General’. I suppose that I must never say ‘John Kerr’; that is probably offending against decency, too, Mr President, may I ask the honourable senator whether he can produce secretly, on a piece of paper, some name that I can use so that the honourable senator and I will know about whom we are talking. This is getting ridiculous.
- Senator Keeffe, you will withdraw the disrespectful reference to the Governor-General, which was mentioned by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack when he took his point of order.
– I would be delighted to withdraw it, but I do not know what word I used.
– Thank you. Proceed.
-Thank you, Mr President. I am not casting any aspersions on your rulings, but I am casting aspersions on the judgment of the honourable senator opposite. Let us say that the other people involved in this affair were the front men, the sick front men, who were obsessed by greed for power and money and who were manipulated by the multi-national financial power brokers. I refer to the Bjelke-Petersens, the Lewises of recent short memory, the Courts and the others who are prepared to do the job of those who want them to do it. I say this with great respect, and I hope that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is listening: If the GovernorGeneral were in a situation where he could be a brave man, he would resign. Then he could tell the true story of what went on. Unfortunately, I do not think that that will happen, but I suggest that that would be the appropriate thing for him to do.
I make one further forecast: The present Prime Minister will not be in that position in 1 8 months. He will be removed from that position not necessarily by electoral defeat but by the political back-stabbing to which the members of his own Party are now subjecting him. Let us remember what happened recently when the Prime Minister told the members of Cabinet: Everything stays in this room’. Before the members of Cabinet got across the Kings Hall that message was being broadcast on the transistor radios. All the members of Cabinet had to shunt back into the Cabinet room to get another lecture. Those sorts of things are happening. They are not confined to one Party- in spite of all the protestations from honourable senators opposite which might appear to indicate otherwise. I support the amendment moved by my colleague to the previous amendment that was moved to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to if-e Governor-General’s Speech. I hope that out amendment will be carried.
– Before I call on Senator Lajovic to speak, I indicate that this will be Senator Lajovic ‘s first speech in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to extend the traditional courtesies to him.
- Mr President, I am honoured to be able to congratulate you on your election to the highest office in this Parliament. I feel privileged to serve under your guidance, and I would like to thank you for your personal help during my first weeks in this chamber. I also would like to congratulate Senator Drake-Brockman on his election as the Chairman of Committees. I believe that I am the last of the newly elected senators to make a maiden speech, and I have a more difficult task as I am following a series of excellent speeches given by the newly elected senators. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them on the contributions they have made to this chamber. There are moments in a person’s life which are never forgotten, moments which remain in one’s memory for ever and which are usually those when one feels most humble and at the same time proud. Such a moment for me was my election and admittance to this chamber which, according to the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, is one of the most powerful upper Houses in the world. That was the proudest moment in my life, and I am convinced that it was at the same time a proud moment for every newcomer to this country. It was also a moment of recognition of the fact that Australia is a country of a fair go, a fair go for everyone, regardless of his origin, a country which millions of migrants like myself have adopted as their home and as the home of their children and their children’s children.
My first recollection of Australia goes back to my school days. A professor of geography who insisted that we learn the official name of each country we were studying told us that Australia’s proper name was the Commonwealth of Australia. The whole class- all of us, who had never heard an English word before, and particularly something like Commonwealthlaughed. Those close to the professor were showered by his pronunciation of th something which I am still not able to pronounce properly and most probably never will. The Commonwealth of Australia became my choice and my adopted homeland. We all know that the word Commonwealth’ describes an idea which embodies a whole philosophy- wellbeing for everyone, regardless of origin or class. According to Hobbes’ Leviathan a Commonwealth arises as a result of a group of equal and free individuals abdicating some of their rights, powers and freedoms in favour of a single body, in return for certain safeguards which singly they could not provide for themselves. As an example, collective defence of property is better than individual defence.
In the context of the Australian Commonwealth, the parallel occurred when the individual States abdicated certain of their rights and transferred them to a single separate body, namely the Federal government. In all such contracts the interests of all parties, both the weakest and the strongest, should be protected. The creation of the Senate, a House where the States are represented equally, helps to ensure this. Further, that a State is small in population does not mean that its contribution to the wealth and growth of the country is less. As senators, our job is to ensure that the interests of the States are both promoted and protected in the processes of government in this Federal sphere. One of the fundamental determinants of the prosperity of all States is the Federal Government’s management of Australian resources. In the development of any country, resource endowment is of critical importance, and one of a country’s primary resources is its population. This factor constitutes a variable in all growth equations and considerations. To determine an appropriate rate of population growth, let alone some ideal absolute, is a problem most developed and developing nations face, and Australia is no exception.
Zero population growth is a trendy name and a trendy concept. I believe that Australia is approaching the critical point of zero population growth. There are many countries in the world which are envious of our success, but is it a success? Post-war growth in Australia has been declining. Our annual population growth rate since 1945 has fallen from 3 per cent to as low as 1.35 per cent in 1973. Without immigration, that low figure would have been reached a lot sooner. The factors which promote population growth fall into 2 categories. Firstly, there are what I shall term natural factors, the birth and death rates. Australia’s infant mortality rate is amongst the lowest in the world. Further, life expectancy is very high. However, those factors are offset by the birth rate, which has been declining steadily since the post-war baby boom. That trend is not exclusive to Australia but is characteristic of most of the developed world. In 1971 the birth rate was 21.6 per 1000 of population, the highest since 1963. But the rate in 1972 showed a marked decline and in 1973 was down to 18.81 per 1000, the lowest rate for over 30 years. What I believe should worry all of us is that there is a likelihood of a further decline in the ensuing years. Not only will that be of social import but also its effect on the potential labour force and thus on economic growth considerations must give rise to a lot of concern. One example of the severe economic consequences will be the imbalance of the age structure within the work force.
The second factor relating to population growth is immigration. The significance of that factor is easily seen and has been noted already. From 1788 until 1973 the population of Australia grew from some 300 000 to 13.1 million. About 35 per cent of that growth was from immigration and 65 per cent from natural increase. Directly and indirectly, immigration has been responsible for about 59 per cent of this nation’s growth since 1947. It is interesting to note that the National Population Inquiry, which was commissioned by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government and conducted under the leadership of Professor Borrie, acknowledged in its report the positive nature of the contribution of immigration to Australia’s economic growth. After considering the costs and benefits of immigration, the committee’s final assessment was that the past benefits of immigration far outweighed the costs, especially in view of the role of immigration as a supplement to the Australian work force. The committee therefore concluded that Australia should continue its active immigration policy.
That recommendation from the Borrie committee can be further substantiated when other benefits of immigration are considered. Migrants have brought with them many skills which constituteand I emphasise this point- a costless benefit to the Australian economy. The following figures illustrate that point: As at the 1971 census, 27 per cent of the labour force- 39 per cent of employees in the manufacturing industry, 34 per cent of architects, engineers and surveyors, 40 per cent of physics scientists, 29 per cent of doctors and dentists, and 3 1 per cent of draftsmen and technicians- were born overseas. The contribution to Australia is thus evident. Against this must be acknowledged the burden the immigration program has placed on Australia’s resources. To achieve a balance we must estimate whether Australia can assimilate a further program of immigration in a social and economic context.
The Borrie report stated that a new flow of 100 000 migrants probably would be manageable in terms of both environment and resources. But the actual figure for immigration probably will be closer to 50 000. Therefore, Australia’s projected population in the year 2000 should be in the order of 17.5 million, based on both immigration and natural trends. This figure, calculated by the Borrie Committee, is in rather significant contrast to a figure of 22 million previously calculated. Borrie ‘s analysis thus has enormous significance because most current public and private enterprise planning is based on expectations of fertility and immigration much higher than Borrie ‘s. It is felt that the trends Borrie uses are not trends at all, but temporary fluctuations from a norm previously established in the 1960s. The population projections are thus considerably higher. A cursory glance at the statistics, however, seems to support Borrie ‘s argument that indeed we must accept a population total which probably will be some 4.5 million less than previous forecasts.
At this stage various questions spring to mind. They fall into 2 categories. Firstly, what should be the future of expenditure and plans formulated within the framework of the previous forecasts; for example, for education, growth centres and so on? Will that expenditure be justified? Secondly, will the 1 7.5 million constitute the ideal population base for Australia in terms of resource utilisation, exploitation and the environment. If it is not appropriate, then action will have to be taken to correct this discrepancy. It will involve consideration of immigration, decentralisation and environmental policies. Long term planning will be necessary, however. If, for example, the population figure required for an effective work force is dependent on supplementation from immigration, then a plan to provide for the assessed desirable level of immigration should be formulated well in advance.
However, before proceeding with this, I should Uke to expand on the implications of expenditure plans which were formulated using the previous forecasts. The main immediate concern in this dimension is the issue of growth centres and decentralisation policies in general. If the Borrie projections are correct, then all areas in Australia can expect lower growth rates than previously anticipated. However, the greatest relief will be experienced in the major cities, since they have absorbed more than their share of natural increase and most of the post-war immigrants. To achieve the growth centre targets -estimated populations of 300 000 for AlburyWodonga and 300 000 for BathurstOrangewould mean even greater cut-backs in the growth of Melbourne and Sydney, since the 2 largest capital cities were expected to supply most of the migrants required. However, expenditure proceeded on the basis that the figures are not correct and that the previous estimates were the correct base. Land buying, infrastructure growth and educational provisions proceeded on this basis. Review, therefore, obviously is required to rationalise this expenditure in the light of the Borrie report. Such an argument has validity. Properly planned growth centres well away from the capital cities may indeed be a viable means of providing for some of this growth. But the question is: Do the people wish to move to these new areas? This cannot be wholly supported by the statistics available. Internal migration figures do not support this assertion. Between 1954 and 1961 the population of rural areas increased by less than 3 per cent and only 17.8 per cent of Australia’s population was living in rural areas. This was the lowest in Australia’s history. The population of the metropolitan areas grew by 21.1 per cent between 1954 and 1 96 1. The growth centre controversy should be resolved. Official opinion, as expressed by the State and Federal governments, appears to endorse the continuance of the program at a more sensible level, particularly as regards expenditure.
The second consideration involves a discussion of the ideal population figure for Australiaideal both in relation to resource utilisation and economic growth and in terms of the environment. What may be even more important is the quality of life. The Borrie report offers no suggestion on this matter. It only goes as far as suggesting that the figure of 17.5m should pose no problem as to economic capacity or environmental deterioration. It does not discuss the most appropriate population for Australia now or for the year 2000. The concept of an ideal population must be seen, I feel, in the framework of population distribution and concentration ratios- rural to urban populations. It is popularly asserted that urbanisation is subject to the principle of diminishing returns, and the ratio of rural to urban population in Australia is within this specification. The trend clearly is for cities to grow at a faster rate than their rural counterparts.
However, one must cope with the fact that there is a movement from the country to the city or from smaller to larger country towns. This movement of people, who seek education and a higher standard of living, is taking place within the context of the declining position and potential of small country towns. The latter have little to offer, let alone to attract large numbers of people. A recent article in Horizons states:
Future growth will depend on artificial stimulation or a discoveryofanaturalresource.Onlystimulationcangive realhope.
If we could discover a viable means of stimulating these towns, many problems would be solved, including that of growth centres. To justify a policy of decentralisation on a basis of a deterioration of quality of life is difficult in the light of the rural to urban drift that has occurred in Australia. This lack of propensity for living in the country- reflected both in the lack of immigration of people to country areas and, moreover, in their movement to the cityperhaps reflects an ignorance of the fact that the country life is better or that the city is that bad. Perhaps a population used to living in the city is indeed urbanised and accepts the quality of life prevailing as the norm, and believes that migration to cleaner air, less noise, yet maybe fewer employment opportunities and less of the city life and activity may constitute a decline in the quality of life of those people.
This appears to raise 2 points. Firstly, we should recreate the advantages of a city in these areas. Those advantages include cultural and economic opportunities. Secondly, we should educate people on the existence and benefits of such a move. Both seem good ideas. However, we must be careful not to recreate the disadvantages of a large city in these areas. This would be self-defeating and unjust to the previous residents of these chosen areas.
Yet the overall trend to urbanisation, one which is caused by the historic concentration of technology and educational facilities in the major cities, is primarily responsible. The following figures prove the trend of movement from the rural areas to urban areas. In 192 1, 68 per cent of the population of New South Wales lived in the urban areas while in 1971 88 per cent of the population of New South Wales lived in urban areas. My own State of New South Wales is exemplary of all these problems and dilemmas. The trend of its population growth and the pattern of distribution of the latter indicate this fact. New South Wales is highly, and increasingly so, an urbanised State. Further, these areas constitute all the characteristics of urban sprawl. Integral to the whole decentralised program, a growth centre policy was instituted to relieve and to reverse this trend.
I come now to the Liberal philosophy which stated that each individual has his or her free choice of what to do and where to live. That leads to the question: What should be the nature of our society? What kind of a society do we really wish to live in? Those allied to a Liberal philosophy feel that the most desirable society is one in which people’s individuality is protected and promoted, where the wishes of the majority are expressed by the Government which thus serves the people. This philosophy involves a commitment to a situation of equal opportunity, a state where all individuals are free to choose, free to learn and, moreover, free to succeed. Welfare and educational policies for example are surely directed towards this end. Mr President, equality is not equal to happiness; such a platitudeneglects the happiness to be discovered in the pursuit of the individual, his talents and his ambitions.
The Liberal philosophy can be applied to any problem. That already discussed- the question of population and quality of life- is just one area. The expression ‘quality of life’ can mean very different things to different people. Is the quality of life that quiet, serene life in a small country town or, perhaps, in a lovely homestead in the countryside? Or does quality of life mean a 2-car home with a swimming pool and evenings spent watching television, or perhaps in a club? Or does quality of life mean opera, theatre, concerts, art galleries and reading books? Each individual has his or her own set of priorities- environmental, social and so on- which must be weighed up. The role of the Government in this sense is to provide opportunities and education in respect of the existence of these facilities.
It is important, therefore, that each individual, having a particular vision of what are his or her needs and priorities in life, can help to decide the nature of the alternative available. The latter amounts to the foundation of a certain type of society, our kind of society, not a kind of society where a small elite- an all-knowing and allpowerful elite- will tell us what is best for us. Mr President, you cannot fit people to a system; rather the system should fit the people. As His Excellency noted in his Speech:
The Government is not concerned with power for itself. It is the servant of the Australian people. Its purpose is to work with people to create an Australian democracy, which will be an example to the world of what a free people can achieve.
Mr President, I commend the motion to the Senate.
-Mr President, the Senate is debating the AddressinReply and an amendment to that AddressinReply which deals with the question of the reinstitution of the Grants Commission for the purpose of local government and direct grants to local government. Before I deal with that matter in any detail I should congratulate Senator Lajovic on his very thoughtful speech which he concluded to the Senate a few moments ago. Personally, I found it refreshing that note of modesty and integrity which crept into his speech when he said that he had difficulty in pronouncing certain words in the English language. There are other honourable senators in this chamberSenator Wright and Senator Withers come to mind- who have the same sort of difficulty but never made the same sort of admission. It is most refreshing indeed to hear that sort of comment in the Senate.
The purpose of the amendment is to raise the question of the importance of local government initiatives and the importance of the fact that local government is close to the people. The attitude of the party which I present in this debate was made quite clear in 1974 on this question of the role of local government in Australia. Let me quote that attitude:
Under a variety of programs the Government has provided local government with the funds to undertake a range of activities previously inadequately carried out or totally neglected.
There is a reference to the Australian Assistance Plan and other activities. The quotation continues:
We deliberately have made and shall make local government a vehicle for our legislation on aged persons homes and hostels, sheltered employment, handicapped children, Meals on Wheels, home care and nursing, nursing homes, and homeless men and women. These are all activities which cannot be closely regulated from the centre and are best planned and implemented by local government working with local communities. They justify assistance from the nation’s finances but not increases in rates.
In order to illustrate some of the problems of local government which are foreshadowed in the statement which I just read and which have been discussed here in the Senate from time to time, I will refer to my own State of Victoria. I am a Victorian senator and, as such, my concern is with Victorian issues. It is appropriate that I should do so at this time because the problems which the people of Victoria face are live and real ones that are symptomatic of the problems which people face throughout Australia in considering the role of local government.
In the State of Victoria the rates go up and up and up. People are asking themselves now: What is being given in return for these very big increases in rates which are occurring constantly in Victoria? On the other hand, municipal councils are under threat of bankruptcy because they just cannot increase their rates any further. They cannot increase their rates because they realise that in Victoria the dream of home ownership is becoming a nightmare with the level of rates which is presently being imposed. That is what this amendment to the Address-in-Reply is all about.
Let me illustrate with some of the examples from my own State which have occurred in quite recent times. Last month, the Municipal Association of Victoria complained to the Victorian Government that Victorian councils could not finance road works any longer because insufficient funds were available from the State Government. The result of that state of affairs, it claimed, was a breakdown in services, and unemployment, in the municipal council area. The importance of municipal activity in road making and the importance of the role of local government in this respect cannot be over-estimated in a place like Victoria, when one considers the fact that the Victorian railways have almost completely broken down in terms of the delivery of service to the people of that State. More and more rail commuters, people who normally travel by rail from places like Frankston, Eltham and Dandenong, will be forced onto inadequate roads if municipal councils cannot provide the services. These are roads which are already crowded and which thousands of Melbourne commuters, sitting in cars at this point of time in traffic jams, know are crowded because of the inadequate services delivered by the Victorian Government. The Federal Labor Government offered to take over the Victorian Railways but Mr Hamer said: ‘No, we do not want you to take over the Victorian Railways because the Victorian Railways are a State responsibility’. Let us look at how that responsibility is being carried out. Let Mr Hamer be reminded that if he accepts the responsibility on behalf of his Victorian Government he should discharge it.
– I rise to order. It seems to me that the present address which the Senate is receiving is about next Saturday’s election in Victoria and not the amendment to the motion which is before the Senate. I would have thought that the honourable senator should be brought back to the motion before the Chair.
-I was speaking of the responsibility of local government and how that responsibility could not be discharged because of the inadequacy of finance made available to local government. I was saying that this was affected by the failure to provide other services, a matter totally inter-related to the subject before the Chair. What I was saying about the delivery of services is that if Mr Hamer accepts the responsibility for the Victorian Railways, let the responsibility lie where it belongs.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- There is no substance to the point of order.
– Last week in the municipal area of Frankston trains were one hour and 25 minutes late. Eighty peak services were cancelled. In Broadmeadows and Williamstown there were delays of 50 minutes, as was the case in the municipal district of Eltham. Additional responsibilities were imposed on local government there because the train services either broke down or were otherwise delayed. This is symbolised by the clocks on Flinders Street railway station which are still manually operated, as they were 70 years ago. A vast number of men are employed on the manual operation of clocks. It is symptomatic of what has happened on the Victorian transport scene in the last 20 years. It is because of the plight of local government in Victoria that the question of railways becomes relevant.
Let me refer to some other examples of the problem which local government in Victoria faces. I refer to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, composed as it is of 53 commissioners from local government councils. Last week I was in the electorate of Diamond Valley, or rather the State electorate of Bundoora. In that electorate the complaint of the people is that it takes four or five years to get sewerage facilities and at greatly increasing cost each year. At the same time they are paying increasing local government rates. There is a totally inadequate system operating. There is a complete breakdown in the provision of sewerage facilities, and the aspirations of the people who live in suburbs like Bundoora and West Heidelberg for a better way of life, as Senator Lajovic put it, are being completely frustrated by this breakdown in the delivery of services by the Victorian Government. One council that comes to mind when talking about the plight of local government in Victoria is the Mordialloc City Council. The Mordialloc Council has a particular problem and should receive special attention from the Grants Commission because it has in its municipal area the most highly polluted creek in Australia.
– The Grants Commission is not going to operate this year.
-I understand that, and that is the purpose of the amendment. As we saw it, the purpose of the operation of the Grants Commission was to enable it to look into the specific problems of local councils, such as the Mordialloc Council, which are not being solved at other levels of government. Last week there was published by Dr David Smith, a lecturer in marine chemistry at the University of Melbourne, a survey which showed that the level of toxicity in Mordialloc Creek is close to the levels which existed at Minamata in Japan where thousands of people died or were crippled as a result of heavy metal poisoning of the water supply. That matter was drawn to the attention of the people of the area as a result of the initiative of a Mr Michael Duffy who, coincidentally, is the Australian Labor Party candidate for the legislative province seat of Chelsea, that being an area which embraces Mordialloc, Dandenong, Noble Park and Frankston and a variety of other suburbs which are affected by the pollution in Mordialloc Creek. I saw in today’s newspapers a report that the Minister for Environment in Victoria said that he will look into the matter, having had it put in front of his nose. The only advice I can give him is that he should not look into Mordialloc Creek without a peg over his nose because the level of pollution is such that it would be disastrous if he did so.
The point I am making is that the Victorian Government is prepared to take some sort of initiative which will help people in local government areas only when it is stimulated to do so by the publication of this sort of information or the making of a challenge to the Government. The rest of the time it is content to sleep on these issues which are of vital importance to people in local government areas. Let me refer to one other example, the question of land prices in Victoria. Land prices in Victoria affect every home owner and home buyer and Victorians are now becoming aware that they pay nearly twice as much as do people in South Australia for an equivalent block of land. They pay nearly twice as much and at the same time they pay very high local government rates. Councils have to provide services to blocks of land and they are more and more finding that the costs of providing those services are becoming almost unbearable. This emphasises the importance of the Grants Commission in helping local councils to solve these very difficult problems which are very close to the people of the State which I represent in this Senate.
The whole matter, of course, boils down to working out an answer to the question of who is responsible for what in politics. It is very easy to pass the poisoned ball from State to Federal politics or from Federal to local government politics or whatever it may be, but the fact is that these problems which vitally affect the lives of people in Victoria are continuing and little seems to be done about them. People will say that Mr Hamer, who may be charged with some responsibility in these matters, is a nice guy but the important thing about responsibility in politics is that sometimes in addition to having a nice guythey are good to have as neighbours to help you burn your rubbish and things like that- it is also important to have tough guys who are prepared to tackle the problems, who are prepared to tackle the problems of local government in Victoria, who are prepared to tackle the problems of health in Victoria, who are prepared to stand up to industrialists who are polluting Mordialloc Creek, who are prepared to sack the Health Minister who has presided over the most disastrous 3 years of the administration of the Victorian health policy and who are prepared to stand up on educational issues which affect the people of Victoria. It is this sort of responsibility which is not being acknowledged by the nice guy of Victorian politics.
For that reason it is important that the Senate should seriously consider this amendment relating to the exercise of the functions of the Grants Commission and the examination of the concerns of local councils because if we have 3 tiers of government in this country and one, namely the State tier, is just not working, tremendous burdens and responsibilities are thrown on local government. Local government therefore should have assistance with these problems from the Grants Commission. I support the amendment which has been moved and commend it to the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. (It being 8 p.m., according to Order, Government Business, Order of the Day No. 2 was called on)
Debate resumed from 4 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Meat Export Charge Amendment Bill which is currently before the Senate has a double purpose, namely, to suspend the export inspection levy charge of lc per lb and to suspend as from 1 March the brucellosis eradication levy of 0.6c per lb on the export of beef and veal. The Australian Labor Party is opposing the first proposition in the Bill but is not opposing the second. Because the 2 propositions are indivisible we are forced to oppose the entire Bill. The Opposition has no objection whatsoever to the proposition to suspend the 0.6c per lb levy for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis, particularly as the Government has already forecast its intention to impose as a substitute charge from 1 July a levy of $ 1 per head on all cattle slaughtered in Australia. We accept that that may well be a superior method of funding the campaign for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis than the imposition of a levy on exports only.
In relation to the proposition to remove, not just temporarily but for an indefinite period, the levy for the meat export inspection charge, it was claimed in the second reading speech delivered in the House of Representatives by the-Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and in the Senate by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) that the legislation was in line with one of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission to suspend the export charge on beef and veal. While this is partially correct, it does not tell the complete story. It presents a misleading facade and interpretation of what the Industries Assistance Commission report in fact stated. The Government, in the Governor-General’s Speech, stated:
Government support for industry- primary as well as secondary- will be based on reports of the Industries Assistance Commission.
It has been claimed quite erroneously by the Government that in presenting this legislation it is following that declared policy of adopting IAC recommendations with respect to primary industry. In fact, the Government in introducing this Bill has stood the IAC report on its head. The fourth recommendation in the IAC report on the beef industry reads:
the meat export charge on beef be suspended, but with the provisos that the suspension of the charge
There are one or two other qualifications but the crucial qualification is the first one, that the suspension of the levy should not take precedence over other assistance recommended.
The first of the other assistance measures recommended is the provision of special credit facilities at concession rates of interest for beef producers who are assessed to be viable. The second recommendation reads:
While there has been some indication from the Minister for Primary Industry that the Government is conducting some tentative, exploratory discussions with the States in relation to recommendation 1 which refers to the provision, of special credit facilities for viable producers, there is certainly no firm proposal by the Government to act upon that recommendation at this stage, nor do I believe there will be a proposal in .the near future. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the Government is taking any action with respect to the second recommendation in relation to special welfare loans for producers who have been assessed as being non-viable. It was anticipated by the IAC in the main text of the report that about half of these loans would be gifts.
To some extent there is a welfare problem in the beef industry. That problem remains untreated by this Government in direct con,tradiction in fact, in defiance- of the order of priority which was clearly established by the Industries Assistance Commission. The Labor Party has 2 other reasons for opposing this segment of the legislation. The first of these reasons lies, I suppose, in what could be called a value judgment. We believe that an export inspection charge is a completely legitimate cost of production comparable to freight charges or to slaughtering charges. Therefore the cost incurred as a cost of production ought to be borne by the producer or, as the mirror image, by the final consumer of the product. It ought not to be a subsidy or a grant provided free by the Government. The general proposition that the Government should not intervene in the market place but should allow consumers and others maximum freedom in distributing their dollars and in deciding how their incomes should be spent is frequently enunciated by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) but very rarely implemented. When this Bill was debated in the House of Representatives the honourable member for Darling Downs ( Mr McVeigh) stated:
The principal benefit of meat inspection is associated with public health and as such the cost of maintaining the public health must be borne by the whole community . . . if one accepts that proposition as being accurate I suppose it follows quite logically that governments ought to cover the cost of this meat inspection service. The trouble is that the assertion made by the honourable member for Darling Downs is utterly untrue. The reason for providing’ a meat export inspection, service and a guarantee of cleanliness is simply that most of our overseas customers refuse to buy meat on any other basis. To have the meat carry a certificate of cleanliness adds considerably to the value of the product. Indeed, without that certificate the product is unsaleable. I shall pursue the public health myth peddled by the honourable member for Darling Downs a little further. A common complaint in sheep is cysticercus ovis which is held, particularly in the United States, to be highly objectionable. Most importing countries refuse to accept mutton which carries the symptom of this infection but it is utterly harmless. The cysts are completely benign. There is no evidence that this infection has ever , done any harm to any human being. It is held to be objectionable because it is unsightly* So the export inspection charge is a legitimate. charge and as’ such it is not a public health measure. There is no more reason for the Government to provide a service free for the inspection of export meat than for it to provide free transport from the farm or the station to the abattoir, or to provide free slaughtering facilities. The 3 situations are indivisible.
The third reason why the Labor Party opposes this measure, and perhaps the most important of all, is that there are, to say the least, grave doubts about .the effectiveness of the legislation in achieving its stated objective .which is to provide a benefit over a full financial year of the order of $20m to beef cattle producer’s.
Given the nature of the meat market, especially at the present time, and given some empirical evidence which I shall cite shortly, it is highly probable that the major beneficiaries of this piece of largesse from our economy-minded Government will be the foreign buyers of meat who already are buying a product at bargain prices. Doubts were expressed by the commissioners of the Industries Assistance Commission who conducted the beef industry inquiry as to’ whether, in fact, the benefit of a remission of the export levy would be passed back to producers or passed back to the industry. Of course, for mat reason, among others, the IAC quite clearly and explicitly gave lowest priority to this measure. Evidence was presented at the inquiry by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. I quote from the report what was suggested by the Department:
I emphasise the words ‘some of the savings’ -
Where the export charge is being absorbed by those who provide processing and marketing services, its suspension would improve the ability of exporters to compete in export markets.
That last phrase is worth repeating:
Obviously, there is only one way in which that can happen. If the competitive position of exporters is improved, then exporters have to be selling at lower prices. If they are selling at lower prices, by definition the full benefit of the levy remission will not be passed on to the Australian exporter, much less on to the Australian meat producer. In a completely competitive market, the remission of a charge of this nature is tantamount to an export subsidy. If this service is provided free of levy, it becomes conceptually an export subsidy. If a particular export is subsidised in a competitive market, it is reasonable to expect- it occurs almost invariably- that the benefit of that subsidy will be divided between the Australian exporter and the foreign buyer.
However, meat marketing overseas is far from competitive. Abroad Australian meat- Australian beef in particular- faces not price competition but an import embargo. There are various tiers of markets at various prices. Indeed, to earn an entitlement to sell meat in the United States of America, which is the highest priced market, it is necessary for an exporter to earn a credit by selling meat in some other part of the world in some very much lower priced market. Because the market is so far removed from a competitive marketing situation there are extreme doubts whether the benefit of this subsidy will be received in substantial degree- or, indeed, at all- by the Australian exporter or the Australian producer. In a phrase, we have an extreme buyer’s market. Under those conditions, there is a strong probability that the major beneficiary will be the foreign buyer. Not only is that a respectable marketing theory; there is also empirical evidence to support it.
I have in front of me a table prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library from the export prices index published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The table shows export meat prices by months for the last 6 months of 1974. For those 6 months the index, starting in July and going through to December, read as follows: 150, 151, 148, 146, 141 and 135. The significance of those figures is that in September the Australian dollar was devalued by 12 per cent. Of course, a devaluation in the terms we are talking about now is comparable to an export subsidy or the remission of this levy. Normally when the currency of the exporting country is devalued we would expect prices to rise by something less than the full extent of the devaluation. This depends substantially on whether it is a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. At that time, when wheat was being sold on a seller’s market, wheat export prices moved up by almost the full 12 per cent. Meat exports on the other hand were facing a buyer’s market at that time, as they are now. What happened to meat export prices? The index in August was 1 5 1 and in September it was 148. If the devaluation had been effective in terms of boosting returns in Australian dollars to Australian exporters, the price would have increased after the September devaluation. In fact, it fell to 146 in October, to 141 in November and to 135 in December.
I am not suggesting, by reading those figures, that the devaluation was a reason for the subsequent fall in the index of export meat prices; but that table does demonstrate quite decisively that devaluation in those particular marketing conditions was utterly ineffective in terms of boosting the Australian producers’ returns as, indeed, while the same marketing conditions prevail, the remission of this export levy, is likely to be ineffective. In other words, what this economy-minded Government is proposing to do is to provide over a full financial year $20m, most of which will accrue to foreign buyers. This interpretation was substantially conceded by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, in his closing address on this matter in the House of Representatives. Mr Sinclair said:
There is no guarantee that the various people along the chain from the meat exporter back to the producer will not absorb some of the charge. However, the reason put forward for the lifting of the charge was to minimise the risk of the charge not being passed back to the producers.
I do not know what that means. I will repeat that sentence. I studied it for about half an hour and I do not know what it means. However, I will read it again:
However, the reason put forward for the lifting of the charge was to minimise the risk of the charge not being passed back to producers.
It is gobbledegook. More significantly, Mr Sinclair said later:
On each occasion I have spoken on the measure I have emphasised that we look to those who at the moment might be able to take the benefits of the charge- that is, the exportersnot to use it in an export promotion, not to absorb additional wage charges for other imposts through it, but to pass it back to the producer so that the industry itself can survive.
Of course, the operative phrase is: ‘we look to those who at the moment might be able to take the benefit of the charge’. The Government expresses a pious hope that, to whatever degree Australian exporters benefit from this measure, that benefit will be passed back to the producers who are being used as human propaganda by the Government to justify this measure. The Government hopes the money will be passed back. The Government can provide absolutely no guarantee that the money will be passed back. Experience, the IAC assessment and Mr Sinclair’s own freely expressed doubts reveal that it is highly unlikely that all of the money will be passed back to the producers. Meanwhile, the major recommendations in the IAC report continue to be ignored by this Government. They are recommendations which are aimed directly at the problem, instead of indirectly.
The doubts that Mr Sinclair has conceded regarding the distribution of this piece of Government largesse are, of course, not shared by his more simple-minded National Country Party colleagues. Mr Sinclair has the benefit of sound departmental advice on these matters. His National Country Party colleagues have the benefit of their instinctive seat of the pants sort of agricultural fundamentalism. For example, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) stated quite categorically:
That $20m will be returned to the pockets of the Australian producers to help them to live up to the quality of life which they rightly expect.
Of course, this was contradicted by his own deputy leader, Mr Sinclair, when he said:
There is no guarantee that the various people along the chain from the meat exporter back to the producer will not absorb some of the charge.
I have no doubt that when the National Country Party senators in this place follow me in speaking on this Bill they will repeat the simplistic announcement that was sprouted by the honourable member for Darling Downs in the House of Representatives on 3 March instead of the somewhat more sophisticated and realistic assessment conceded by his Party’s deputy leader. I think it is ironic for members of the Australian Labor Party to be lectured on this subject by members of the National Country Party in another place. They claim to be genuine farmers. Most of the ones I know have not been farmers for about 20 years and have city residences, or, in the case of Queensland have Gold Coast residences and have telegrams sent from the Gold Coast up to Mt Isa and places like that- all the little places in outback Queensland. Mr Katter stated in Mt Isa today -
Senator Walters interjecting-
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I think that we should point out to the new Senator from Tasmania that interjections made by a senator who is out of his seat are out of order.
– That is quite right. Senator Walters, will you please resume your seat if you wish to make an interjection?
– Perhaps it is as well that Senator Grimes brought up that point of order. My comments, while they were particularly relevant to the behaviour of members of the National Country Party, were not, Strictly speaking, relevant to this Bill. But members of the National Country Party claim, however falsely, that they, being genuine men or women of the soil with dirt under their fingernails and sunburnt faces, understand these matters; and that pointyheads, ex-union secretaries, agricultural economists and what not of the Labor Party do not. It is particularly ironic that this nonsense should come from the National Country Party given that Party’s record. Back in 1973 the highly revered leader of the National Country Party stridently asserted the following with respect to Government policy concerning the beef industry:
Government policy insofar as it relates to the beef industry should be directed to,
the encouragement of production . . .
He forecast that:
Demand for meat will rise so fast that we will be flat out trying to keep up with it.
That is what the leader of the experts was saying on this subject in 1973. We all know what happened to beef prices and the demand for meat generally very early in 1974. If I were a member of the National Country Party I would not have the audacity to claim to have any special expertise in this area in view of the fact that their own leader made such nonsensical forecasts less than 3 years ago. Not only were the forecasts nonsensical but they were made with an air of infallibility a concept which, perhaps, is near and dear to the heart of the National Country Party.
It would have been sad, perhaps, if Mr Anthony’s assertions had just been wrong and if they had simply been neutral in their effect. But in the prevailing euphoria in the industry at the time that this false prophet delivered those prophesies he in fact aggravated the boom of 1973 and the inevitable slump of 1974. What the
Australian beef industry, in fact, needed in 1973 was not encouragement to retain extra stock in the breeding herd and thereby expand the production base. What it needed and what it was possible to supply was some coercion- some pressure- some influence to be brought to bear on the beef industry to sell oft” a greater number of the stock at the then prevailing higher prices and thereby, of course, have less selling pressure arising from stocking influences in 1974 and 1975. The National Country Party was completely wrong in that matter as it usually is completely wrong on matters pertaining to agricultural policy and agricultural forecasting. To be lectured by members of the National Country Party as members of my Party were in another place a couple of weeks ago is supremely ironic.
I want to make one additional point which is not directed against a member of the National Country Party but which is directed against the very well known member for Macarthur in another place. He decided to speak on this matter in that place. Whatever expertise the honourable member for Macarthur may have in organising stock market manipulations or the activities of certain notorious firms associated with himself and the Sydney Stock Exchange -
– Order! The honourable senator must not reflect on any other member of Parliament.
– I apologise, Mr President. Quite clearly an area in which the honourable member for Macarthur does not have any expertise regardless of what expertise he may have in other areas is the area of prevailing market conditions in the beef industry or in the meat industry generally. He said:
If honourable members can point out to me a more competitive industry than the beef processing industry I would be grateful for their efforts.
He claimed later:
Australian public companies compete in the open for cattle and then compete in the open in the selling markets.
He presented an idyllic picture of a competitive free enterprise industry operating in terms that were so highly recommended by Adam Smith in 1776. In reality, of course, the situation is vastly different from the idyllic picture conjured up by the honourable member for Macarthur. The reality is that in all of our major markets- that is Japan, United States of America and Europerestrictions are imposed by the respective governments arbitrarily on the quantity of meat which Australia may sell. In the case of the European Economic Community there is a virtual prohibition. So the situation is far removed from the free enterprise competitive system. Indeed, Australian exporters are compelled to sell a couple of tonnes of meat elsewhere in order to earn an entitlement to sell on the United States market. Whatever the honourable member for Macarthur may know and however developed his knowledge may be in other areas, obviously he does not understand even the most superficial and fundamental facts relevant to meat marketing at the present time.
– Tell us what you know.
– I am sorry, I did not hear that interjection. Or, rather, I did not understand the pronunciation of the words.
– I can imagine that. Only a man of your education would not be able to understand me.
– As my colleague, Senator Button, remarked earlier in the night, at least some honourable senators who have problems with the English language acknowledge their difficulties. Others like Senator Wright do not acknowledge their problems in pronouncing English words.
– Order! Senator Walsh, would you please use more parliamentary language as you speak? You are reflecting on another senator and you should not do that. I ask you to resume your speech but I warn you in respect of the language you use.
– I am sorry, Mr President. I thought I was repeating as accurately as I could remember what another senator said this afternoon. In summary, the Labor Party has no objection to the proposal to remit or to suspend the 0.6c levy. Indeed, it is my belief, and I think it is the belief of most of the people in my Party who have looked carefully at this, that the alternative proposition put forward by the Government may well have been superior to the existing legislation. However, we oppose the export inspection levy on the grounds that it is not a legitimate charge. We believe that the Government, in pursuing this particular recommendation to the detriment and indeed to the exclusion of the other recommendations contained in the Industries Assistance Commission report, is standing that report on its head. Finally, we have the very firmly based expectation that the major beneficiaries of this legislation will not be the producers whom it is claimed will be helped but, in fact, the major beneficiaries will be substantially foreign buyers and to a lesser degree probably the Aus.tralian meat exporters and, last on the chain and most likely receiving the least benefit will be the
Australian meat producers whom ostensibly this legislation is designed to help.
– As usual we in that part of the Senate chamber that is occupied by the National Country Party of Australia section of this coalition Government have been treated to the sort of rubbish that we are accustomed to hearing from Senator Walsh. I should imagine that it is no great pleasure to him to know that perhaps the greatest compliment that can be passed to those of us in this party and, indeed, in the coalition is for people of the calibre of Senator Walsh to talk in the way that he does and constantly to pour that sort of venom on this party. The National Country Party has more than half a century of well-recognised representation of a vast and important part of Australia. It is no credit to Senator Walsh or the party he represents that he should come into this chamber and consistently get back into that particular line of address. It may be a compliment to us. It would be more a compliment if it came from a person of somewhat greater standing in the Australian Labor Party than Senator Walsh.
Senator Walsh made several references to the National Country Party. Included in them were references to seat of the pants fundamentalism and papal infallibility. I am sure that Senator Walsh, who has proved himself over a period of time to be a man of many syllables but of little meaning, would understand what that sort of rubbish means. It has fallen on deaf ears as far as the Government is concerned and I am quite sure that is has fallen on amazed and disgusted ears wherever people may be listening in. Senator Walsh also made reference to my own Leader, Mr Anthony, whom he said in 1973 was encouraging an increase in the production of beef cattle.
– So he was. He said: ‘Get big or get out’.
-I am so glad that Senator McLaren has confirmed what Senator Walsh said because Mr Anthony was in very good company when he said in those days that there appeared to be a significant future for the Australian beef cattle industry. He was virtually echoing the comments and prophesies of the professionals as well as the industry and, indeed, the Government of those days. I believe that if Senator Walsh were honest he would recognise that the Labor Government of that time could see no real overturning in the immediate future of prospects in the beef cattle industry.
I want to remind the Senate that what happened in the beef cattle industry after those halcyon days of 1973 was the result almost directly of an immediate and apparently unforeseen energy crisis around the world. The effect of the energy crisis on the major meat and beef consuming countries was, in the case of one of our major importers, practically the total use of its foreign exchange on the recovery and importation of sources of energy which, over a period of a few months, suddenly snowballed in cost by something in the vicinity of 500 per cent. That was the sort of exercise which was basic to that distinct, dramatic downturn in the beef cattle industry, particularly as it affected Australia.
In the beef cattle industry, as in the other elements of major traditional primary industrythe elements of wheat production and wool production- Australia is so tremendously dependent on the export market. In the beef cattle industry we look to the world markets to secure outlets for some 50 per cent-plus of our production. In the wheat industry likewise it is 60 per cent-plus. In the wool industry 94 per cent of the production has to be marketed overseas. Consequently anything that happens, as happened in 1973 and subsequently, to the capacity of our major importers to purchase has a dramatic effect on the primary producing industry in this country. That was the circumstance. Mr Anthony and the professional prophets were deceived by factors that nobody had foreseen and I believe that nobody could have foreseen.
Before I deal briefly with some of the details of this Bill- the Meat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976-1 believe it is important that we look at the beef cattle industry in Australia with some reference to the history of the last few years. In that history we find the relevant cause of the sort of legislation that we are debating tonight. It is legislation which purports to suspend a total export levy of some 1 .6c per lb. It was back in the 1969, 1970 and 1971 period that the Australian wool industry was in dire straits. We were at the bottom of the barrel as far as prices were concerned. In that circumstance there was great consternation in Australian primary industry across the board. There was a tendency to move into almost any other field. There was a tremendous movement towards the production of beef cattle. It was an industry which had been growing strongly and consistently for many years but which suddenly began to boom numerically because, among other things, the bottom had fallen out of the wool market.
Because of this transfer and the urgency of the day there was a dramatic increase in price. By 1973 that price level had become quite staggering. The disaster in which the industry has found itself in the last couple of years is relevant to that very high price. Many members of this industry, having purchased high-priced herds, suddenlywithin 12 months- found themselves looking at an asset that had dropped by more than 50 per cent in value. Indeed in the year 1974 alone, if I recall correctly, the price of beef in Australia fell by some 74 per cent. So it was that in 1973, in an extraordinarily buoyant circumstance, the Government of the day implemented the measure which we are now suspending, the Meat Export Charge Amendment Bill.
It was in November of that year that this legislation was brought into being. Prior to that the cost of inspection was a public revenue matter. But in November it was deemed that this charge should be imposed upon the export section of the beef industry. It was to expire in June 1976. So the legislation was the product of a buoyant circumstance which appeared at the time to be a continuing circumstance. As we all know, that was not to be so. The impact of depressed prices and import quotas on the Australian beef industry has been particularly severe in the Northern Territory and parts of Queensland, as well as in other States, and the beef producer has been left with little, if any, option. So it has been seen fit to suspend this export levy.
I am surprised that there is any form of opposition to such a suspension from the Opposition here tonight. I regret that it has taken us the best part of a year to get around to taking this step. The suspension of these export charges was certainly the policy that was urged by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party when in opposition many months ago, long before the matter was finally sent to the Industries Assistance Commission for investigation, report and recommendation. It is fascinating to know- it may be relative to the opposition to this measure now displayed by the Opposition-that at the time there was an indication from the Industries Assistance Commission that these levies should be suspended. The measures now before us have been criticised tonight by Senator Walsh. In spite of all the criticism, this measure of assistance to a great industry in temporary problem could have become a fact many months ago. When the matter was referred to the Industries Assistance Commission the Whitlam Government of 1975 said to the Commission: ‘We do not want a report in 30 days. Ninety days will be soon enough’. When the report came out, in spite of considerable urging no real action was taken. Consequently it is at this relatively late time that we are seeking to implement the recommendations of the IAC report.
– One out of three. You implemented the one with the lowest priority.
– The honourable senator’s Party brought in- and they are still in forcesome financial measures to assist the beef industry. The problem with those measures is that the guidelines are so tough that virtually nobody has been able to benefit. A sum of $20m is involved; yet the industry, in spite of its problems and the circumstances in which it finds itself, is unable to satisfy the guidelines that must be satisfied in order to receive moneys from that fund.
It has been suggested that the waiving of this export charge is not sufficient. In fact it has been suggested that in one area at least it should be opposed. It has been suggested that the suspension of the export charge will be ineffective and that it will not help the people it is meant to help. All I can say is that it is the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission, after much consideration, and it is the view of the Government parties that it is a relevant and proper action to take in an industry which is in considerable danger. It is certainly the view of virtually every producer organisation that this should be one of the measures taken by the Government to aid the beef industry.
It is interesting to note that the beef industry, like the other major traditional primary industries, has not received massive government aid. The primary industries very largely have been able to stand, with a measure of compensation, on their own feet. They are industries which, when compared with many secondary, professional and tertiary activities in the Australian economy, are in a peculiar circumstance. The Australian primary producing industries have to compete on world markets for the sale of the great mass of their production. They are not in a position- they never have been and they will not be in the foreseeable future- to assess prices by having a look at the cost elements that are constantly involved and which in the last three years have been rising at a massive rate.
The Australian primary industry has the inherent problem of being dependent on a price structure which bears no relationship to the cost of its product. It is therefore beholden to government to do everything in its power at a time like this to see this great industry through its immediate problems. They are problems now that relate to a period of more than two to three years but which, it is generally conceded around the world and certainly around the beef producing and consuming countries, that will ultimately be lightened significantly. The market will improve. The industry will become stable again. However, I believe that in the short term it is necessary to do what we propose to do in this legislation.
We simply intend to suspend the lc per lb export levy on export beef which was referable to the inspection of export meat and a further 0.6c per lb which was referable to the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis in the Australian herd. The need for this extremely small move to help this industry at this stage can be identified when one recognises that in 1972-73, for instance, the value of the export beef industry to Australia was no less than $l,022m. Two years later in 1974-75 that had dropped to practically half that figure-a sum of $569m- in a circumstance of snowballing inflation, of increasing costs right along the line in the slaughter houses, in the field of transport and freight and in wages and salaries in the industry. Everywhere one looked one found spiralling costs. In that circumstance the export value of the industry had dropped by virtually 50 per cent. That is the sort of background that makes this legislation so necessary today.
It is a background that has brought forward the other foreshadowed move of the Government, that is, to implement a slaughter levy of $ 1 per head on all stock, domestic and export, to maintain and increase the program for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis in the Australian herd. It is of extreme importance that we retain not only a high level of inspection in this industry but also that we seek to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis totally and as quickly as possible- the IAC suggests by 1983- from the Australian cattle herd. It is assumed that by that time the American herd will be free of those diseases. It is quite probable- indeed it would be sensible to expect- that meats would not be imported from countries that were not declared free of these diseases. In fact today Germany, though a small importer of beef, will import no meat from countries which are not able to guarantee that their meats are immune from these diseases.
I will not continue to deal with these matters at length. I conclude by saying that I am somewhat surprised that there should be any form of opposition to a measure which is based on a recommendation of the IAC, and which has been sought by all producer organisations in Australia. This measure has been promoted by my own Party and by the coalition Parties for many months, and perhaps that is why there is opposition to it. I am surprised and disappointed that there is any form of opposition to this measure. The implementation of the measure will have a real effect on the price of cattle to the producer: It will have the effect of returning to the producer if not the total levy of 1 .6c per lb, at least a significant proportion of it. It is because we have to meet the needs of an industry which has fallen into a trough totally outside its own control and its own power to avoid that this measure has been introduced. The beef cattle industry is an extraordinarily significant industry to the total Australian primary producing field and particularly to those areas where beef cattle production is almost the only option open to people in those areas. It is an industry that has a real, proper and worthwhile future. That is generally conceded. This is one measure which we, as Government supporters, have pleasure in promoting tonight. I support the legislation before the chamber.
– I rise tonight to speak in opposition to the proposal that is before the Chamber. I do so not out of any form of malice to the National Country Party, to the Liberal Party or particularly to the beef producers of this country, but because we on this side of the chamber believe that it is not the type of legislation that will go down in history as being beneficial to the beef industry. We believe that there are other forms of assistance, which can well be applied, over and above this form of assistance, which will be of greater long term benefit to the industry. It appears that the Government, in introducing this legislation, had the benefit of the Industries Assistance Commission report on Financing Promotion of Rural Products. On page 21 of the report the Commission states:
The Commission has concluded that the Government should meet the cost of export inspection for all meat although the case for Government subsidy is stronger for beef, for the reasons given above, than for other meats. Should it be deemed necessary, however, to recoup meat export inspection costs through a producer levy this should be funded from separate slaughter levies on various meats rather than from an export charge. The total cost to the Government of subsidising meat export inspections would be about $ 19m.
One presumes that this will be the cost perannum. In the next paragraph the report goes on to state:
The Commission has further concluded that the current system of statutory export inspection of meat should be retained, and that efforts should continue to arrange a single system of inspection in association with the State governments.
I will have something to say about that second paragraph later. It is interesting to note that in his second reading speech on 4 March, as reported on page 427 of Hansard of that date, Senator Cotton stated:
The Government has now decided to go further and to remove the charge on all meats, not just beef and veal. The purpose is to ensure that there should be an immediate improvement in prices paid for livestock.
I refer honourable senators to page 516 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 3 March. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in his summing up after all honourable members who wished to take part in the debate had spoken on this Bill, had this to say:
There is no guarantee that the various people along the chain from the meat exporter back to the producer will not absorb some of the charge. However, the reason put forward for the lifting of the charge was to minimise the risk of the charge not being passed back to producers. On each occasion I have spoken on the measure I have emphasised that we look to those who at the moment might be able to take the benefit of the charge- that is, the exporters- not to use it in an export promotion, not to absorb additional wage charges for other imposts through it, but to pass it back to the producer so that the industry itself can survive.
It would seem to me that in that statement the Minister for Primary Industry is refuting part of the second reading speech itself. While the Government expresses the opinion that it is doing these things for the good of the beef producers, the Minister is prepared to accede to an argument that in the long term it may well be that beef producers will get nothing out of the Government’s move in this area. As a beef producer myself, I believe- and this is why I am opposed to the Government’s proposal- that beef producers, like anybody else in our society who produces articles for consumption or for wearing or whatever it may be, have a social responsibility to put their product on the market as free from disease as they can possibly do it. I am of the opinion that while the taxpayers and the community generally pick up the tab for meat inspection, there is no incentive on beef producers to weed and breed for better and cleaner meat for the consumer.
There is a classic example of this in the State of Victoria where, at the present time, cancer in cattle is a notifiable and compensatable disease. In my own district, every Sunday morning one can see cattle carriers and transporters bringing loads of Hereford cattle into the local abattoir. These cattle are riddled with cancer, particularly eye cancer. While the Victorian government is prepared to pay a fee because this disease is notifiable and compensatable, there is no responsibility or incentive placed on Hereford growers and producers in the State of Victoria to weed and breed for a cancer-free beast. Anybody who knows anything about Hereford cattle will appreciate that eye cancer is extremely prevalent.
– They are susceptible to it.
– They are extremely susceptible to it, because of the effect of sunlight on the pigmentation of their eyes. There is a simple way out of this problem. Cancer can be bred out by introducing progeny, particularly bulls, which have a brown pigmentation in the eye. However, as I said, while the taxpayer of Victoria is picking up the tab for that complaint there is no incentive whatsoever for growers to breed the disease out. It is a wonder to me that other beef producersshall we say Angus beef producers- in the State of Victoria have not raised all hell about this situation in that State.
– Have you ever seen cancer in an Angus?
-Not at all. That is an example of what happens when someone else is prepared to accept the responsibility for diseases in animals. I said earlier that I wished to speak on the question of dual inspection. I think it is one of the major problems in this situation. The Bill before this chamber seeks to remove a charge placed on meat producers for the inspection of export meat. I have not had the time, nor have I bothered- if I had bothered, I would have found the time- to go into the cost to the Australian beef grower of this dual inspection.
It is a fact that in every State of the Commonwealth except South Australia dual inspection arrangements exist. South Australia permits the Australian Department to carry out the inspection under the Meat Inspection Arrangement Act. The veterinary officers in charge at the export works, who are Australian Department officers, do not have the ability to control State employees where there is a joint team, and on numerous occasions conflicts arise. Constitutionally, the Commonwealth does not have statutory or constitutional power to deal with meat for the domestic market. The Commonwealth Department has effective power only where meat is for export. The 2 meat inspector groups have different rates of pay and terms and conditions of employment, although they work alongside one another. Separate amenity blocks have to be constructedone for the Federal inspectors and one for the State inspectors- and State employees cannot be transferred interstate to handle peak requirements in other States. In Victoria, although meat may have been passed for export it must still be branded with the brand of the Victorian inspector before it can enter the domestic trade. By removing that requirement and eliminating some of the inspectors, an annual saving of at least $600,000 would be achieved.
That opinion was expressed by Mr A. K. Holland in an article in the Land. I am afraid that the date on the photocopy is not clear. The opinion expressed by people in the trade- exporters, abattoir managers and so on- is that dual inspection is a most wasteful exercise and in effect ends up simply as a money spinner for State governments. A situation exists at one abattoir in Victoria where the inspection costs run at the rate of 18c a carcass for calves, sheep and lambs; $1.44 for cattle; 45c for vealers; and 72c for pigs. Despite dual inspection at that abattoir, if any of those carcasses are transferred to South Australia the Government there levies a meat inspection charge of half a cent per lb. If they should be sent to New South Wales, the State Government there imposes a meat inspection charge of lc per lb. All this is being done at a time when in many cases, producers are getting almost nothing for their stock. It seems to me that in many instances meat inspection at our abattoirs, particularly when the meat crosses State borders, costs much more than the price producers are receiving for many head of stock.
The situation is farcical when it is considered that 2 men- a Commonwealth inspector and a State inspector, both highly qualified- stand side by side on the killing chain, each looking for exactly the same thing, each inspecting glands for various diseases. The producer or perhaps the consumer- we shall never know which, because the abattoirs pass on the charge, as they do with everything else- is being charged for this dual inspection. One has to remember that throughout this country there are abattoirs which do not export meat. In that situation there is a requirement only for a State inspector. For the life of me I cannot see why we should be required to fund this dual inspection at an export abattoir. In many saleyards in Australia at the present time, particularly after 6 o’clock at night when the buyers knock off and there are still 300 or 400 head of stock to be auctioned, the farmers are receiving $3 and $4 a head for quite good vealers and as low as 50c a head for meaty and chopping cattle. Strangely enough, in regard to meaty and chopping cattle, when the animal is dressed and boned out and the meat goes into the cartons, the price for meat inspection is 90c for a 60 lb carton, or 1 1/2c per lb, which is far above the price the farmer receives for the beast itself.
I know that for many years long discussions have been held at Agricultural Council meetings to try to overcome this problem. I hope that someone will get a move on. In a country such as
Australia, where we all speak the same language, where we all dress in the same way and where we have no ethnic barriers to cross in relation to trade, it has taken years and years to try to reach finality in this matter. It is little wonder that we go to war at the drop of a hat because someone else is black or brown or communist when we cannot overcome a very minor problem in our own community. In that respect some excellent evidence was given to the Brewer Committee on the meat industry in New South Wales in 1972, and I am sure that anybody who wants to study the situation would be helped by reading that evidence. When questioned on the matter of dual inspection, almost every witness agreed that it was wasteful and unnecessary.
Finally, I wish to refer to the other aspect of the Bill relating to the deletion of the charge of 0.6c per lb for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis. I think that one of my first speeches in this chamber, about 4 years ago, in a debate on a meat Bill, was on the subject of brucellosis. Again, anybody who is involved with the industry appreciates the problems presented by brucellosis. The disease is world-wide. It is found in yaks in the Andes, in polar bears in the Arctic, in camels as well as in sheep and, in this case, in beef cattle. It is a particularly insidious disease if it is passed on to human beings in the form of undulant fever, and one only has to talk to the secretary of any meat workers union to gain a realisation of that. I think that the Government has to be credited with using a little bit of nous in making its decision to replace this charge, which has applied only to export meat, with a charge of $ 1 a head on all stock. I see no reason at all why stock killed for the domestic market should be relieved of the charge. As I said, it is a particularly widespread disease and I have had a lot of experience with it. I fail to understand why the Government should do away with the meat export charge at this stage and then apply the new charge on 1 July next year. That does not seem to be common sense to me.
One matter I wish to raise tonight relates to the attitude and the actions of the Victorian Government. Those of us who follow primary industry in Victoria are all aware that last year the Victorian Government disposed of its 2 meatworks the Victorian Inland Meat Authority works at Bendigo and Ballarat. We are reaching a situation in Victoria at present in which the incidence of brucellosis is very high. No one has been able to give me an estimate of the proportion of cattle in Victoria which are inflicted with brucellosis but it would be relatively high. It is suggested that it will not be as high as the incidence of tuberculosis in the early days of the anti-tuberculosis campaign in Victoria when, in some cases, whole herds were written off but it still remains very high.
The problem that will now face the campaigners for the eradication of brucellosis in Victoria is the lack of space in which to kill the animals. That problem particularly confronts the Department of Agriculture. The tragedy of the matter is that had the Victorian Government retained at least one of its abattoirs- only one may have been necessary- it could have been designated for the handling of brucellosis condemned cattle. Such cattle could have been transported by rail. The abattoir at Ballarat in central Victoria is ideally placed to enable the transportation of cattle from all over Victoria, particularly by rail, to allow them to be slaughtered, to allow farmers to be compensated and some progress to be made in the brucellosis eradication campaign.
– The Meat Export Charge Amendment Bill was introduced in November 1973 by the then Labor Government. The charge is lc per lb on exports of meat and edible offals and is intended to recoup the costs to the Government of export meat inspection. In addition, there is a charge of 0.6c per lb on beef and veal which was introduced to recoup the Government’s contribution to the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign. I think that has been well canvassed by Senator Primmer. In regard to the eradication campaign, it has been proposed that the Government introduce a levy of $ 1 a head on cattle slaughtered in Australia. I was very interested to hear Senator Primmer recognise the equity of that point of view. The revenue from that levy will result in an equivalent amount of money being raised towards the tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication campaign. It is an equitable matter.
It has previously been proven that the biggest beef producing areas are the ones that have been paying the most, irrespective of the amount of beef that has been actually exported. Queensland, which is by far the largest exporter, bears most of this charge although proportionately the value of its exports is less because of the generally lower quality type of beef produced in that State. It seems to me now quite clear that Queensland is faced with most of that burden. It is possible that it is more equitable to share the charge between all States. Under the present system, export producers are paying for the Government’s contribution to the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication. Under the new system, the flat rate will be fairer and it will not affect the service that is being offered. This is especially fair, I believe, when we consider that the home consumption price is higher than that received on the export market. Therefore, one could argue that the domestic market is properly charged with a fair portion of that cost.
Furthermore, the new system should be less costly administratively. Instead of having to worry about recording the levy in the books of both exporters and producers, a simple levy on a carcass basis will be easily collected at a convenient point at the abattoirs. As well as the Federal Government’s charge to recoup its contribution to the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis, a State levy is imposed. The levy is equal to 5c for every $20 of value. That seems to me again to be a more equitable method than has previously applied in the federal sphere. It is charged through the account sales to the seller. With the switch to $1 a head charge on all cattle slaughtered, the State charge will not be affected. However, it will mean that the Northern Territory will now have to pay part of that cost. Previously, all other producers were completely subsidising the Northern Territory to the extent of the State levy.
At present, the Commonwealth pays the States $50 a head for diseased cattle. The IAC in its report recommended that this be changed to 50 per cent of the value of the animal. This seems again a more equitable approach. The amount should be tied to the value of the animal rather than to a flat rate. This matter has been in the hands of the Federal Government since April 1975 but no one has bothered to do anything about it. Again, the equity of that is clear to all. I would like to make a few comments about the activities of the Joint Committee on Prices chaired by Mr Hurford in 1973. It came out in favour of a recommendation that a beef export tax of 10c per lb be imposed.
– No, it did not say that. I can assure the honourable senator.
-Fortunately, Caucus overturned that decision. I am pleased to have that assurance from Senator O’Byrne. In fact, even if it was misrepresented, it certainly was a damaging factor on the industry. The tax was imposed in November 1973. At that time the Minister said that the tax would not have an impact on the producer. He said that the tax would not be passed back to the producer because the market was so buoyant that the exporter would not have to do that. Yet, within a few months the market price fell and because of the situation exporters found themselves in, naturally they passed on the tax.
Perhaps we ought to examine the reasons for the fall in prices. Of course, all honourable sentors know that in January 1973 the price being received on the United States market, which was accounting for 69 per cent of the total exports, was 112c a kilogram. By June 1975 that had slumped to 65.6c a kilogram, as reported by the IAC. I think the reasons for this slump have been well canvassed by Senator Scott in the debate earlier. Perhaps one other factor should be mentioned and that is the effect of the revaluations of the Australian currency in December 1972 and September 1973. This effected an increase of 12 per cent on the cost to importers of Australian beef. It is not fair to say, of course, that all of the problems brought upon the industry were caused either by the tax or the revaluations but some of the factors involved in the slump could be laid at their door. The lack of appreciation of the problems of the industry and the depth of those problems is perhaps something that can be laid at the door of the Government. Fortunately, in September, as a result of belated action by the Labor Government in respect of the problems of the beef industry, the Industries Assistance Commission presented its report. One of its recommendations was the abolition of levies, which is the purpose of this Bill. The recommendations dealt also with the several other matters which have been canvassed here tonight.
When this Government came to power, it acted immediately on the report. Perhaps the former Government was not able to move so quickly on its recommendations, but surely the action that has been taken in respect of the abolition of the levy, as distinct from the other recommendations, is the matter on which action can be taken quickly. That action should have been taken as soon as possible in order to alleviate the situation facing those in the industry.
I turn to consider quickly the inspection costs involved in the beef industry. We note that probably there are few other industries which are charged with the sorts of levies and costs which fall upon the meat industry. We know also that pressure comes from importing countries, as has been pointed out by Senator Primmer, to ensure that the health of the beasts slaughtered is of the highest quality. It seems to me that these costs are what might be termed social costs because those charges result from the imposition of standards by outside forces on the industry. Therefore, those costs are properly taken up and borne by taxpayers as a whole. I point out that the previous levy was approximately 10 per cent of the dressed value of the beast.
The beef industry is a great industry. It is one of those Australian industries which rank most highly on our list of industries. Some 75 000 people are employed on the farms, in the abattoirs and in the sales area. We know that it is a cut throat industry; that has been demonstrated time and time again by the United States of America imposing restrictions on imports of beef. The Australian industry, we found, was brought to its knees in the last few years.
The levy, introduced in 1973, has been a major factor in the current malaise afflicting the industry. Let me quote some figures to illustrate my point. The gross value of production by this industry fell from $ 1,022m in 1972-73 to $5 19m in 1974-75. Half of that decline-that is, a fall from $653m in 1972-73 to $324m in 1974-75- is attributable to a loss of exports which would represent solid additions to the nation’s balance of payments. It is therefore quite reasonable to assume that the Government should move as quickly as possible to implement the other conclusions contained in the other report of the IAC. Notwithstanding these remarks, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– Before I deal with the measure now before the Senate, let me take up one point that was made by Senator Messner when he spoke about the decision to introduce a tax on the export of beef. Distortion of the truth by the media, especially by the Press, has been a subject of very much discussion in recent times. The extent of” the brainwashing of the public has been very difficult to estimate. The only redress that we on this side of the chamber have is to nail the lies as they are trotted out as facts. One of the lies that was perpetrated by those who now sit in Government and by their propagandists was the one about the imposition of a tax on the export of beef. Let me quote from the report of the Joint Committee on Prices in respect of its inquiry on the stabilisation of meat prices. This report was presented to the Parliament on 25 September 1973. That date is very significant as, at approximately the same time, the legislation with which this Bill deals was introduced into the Parliament. This was at a time when the price of beef had gone through the roof.
At page 7 of this report we read:
We had this in the forefront of our minds when we were examining this situation. As Senator Messner will know, circumstances alter cases. The present situation of the beef industry is at the opposite end of the spectrum from what it was when the legislation imposing the levy on exported meat was introduced and when certain recommendations were sought by the Government through the inquiry by the Joint Committee on Prices.
Amongst many recommendations, this one was made:
Another way of diverting supplies to the local market is through the imposition of an export tax. Such a tax would reduce the relative attractiveness of the export market compared with the local market. Evidence was given -
I interpolate here to say that the recommendations of the Committee followed substantial evidence presented by people who were trying to solve the problem created by the enormous local price of beef. It was $1.50 a pound. People were unable to afford to buy beef. People were turning to white meats. They were eating poultry. The importance of the broiler industry at that time rocketed because people were eating poultry rather than beef. Because of the tremendously high price of beef, the consumption of fish increased and the position of the fish industry improved. Because of the effect of the increases in the price of beef on the consumer price index, and therefore wages, the Joint Committee on Prices was asked to investigate what could be done. Despite the fact that some members of the then -Country Party presented a dissenting report, these were some of the facts which were elicited from the evidence that was presented:
Evidence was given to Sub-committee. ‘B’ that an export tax does not present the same administrative difficulties as quantitative restrictions on exports but that legislative action would be required.
This is the sentence. This is the actual observation that was made by the Committee. It was taken right out of context and used wrongly, unjustly and almost with malice against the Labor Party, to try to destroy us.
I have a note here on one aspect. It has been of constant interest to me in the 28 years that I have been a senator that I have heard before the content of many speeches that are made. As yet, I have not done any congratulating of senators upon their speeches, because I have not spoken in the Address-in-Reply debate. However, any time when there is a debate on any subject appertaining to beef, mutton, lamb, pig meat or offal the National Country Party is like a broody chook. It ruffles up its feathers and clucks a little expecting the farmers and others in the country to run under its protective wing as though it were the only custodian of rural matters. We are supposed to stand off in silent adulation of the Country Party,
– We do not seek that.
– Has the honourable senator ever grown anything in his life? I do not think he has. This is the thing about the Country Party. Half of its members are lawyers. I do not know what proportion of them are Vh percenters. When they charge both ways, going in and out, sometimes they are 12 percenters but they used to be called 2 1/2 percenters in my day.
The interesting thing about this legislation before us is that the concession is not for the beef producer at all; it is for the exporter because the charge is payable by the exporter. It never gets back to the beef producer and I say to anyone who would try to put up that proposition to me: You show me where one cent of this concession given to the exporter goes back to the farmer’. It is a; bit like the superphosphate bounty. The superphosphate bounty goes to the manufacturer of superphosphate. We have tremendous phosphate deposits in Queensland but there is not enough big dough in it yet because many fanners cannot afford superphosphate. The big boys and the ones who have a good run with exporters on our limited markets can, but at this time most people cannot afford to use superphosphate whatever its cost.
Let me turn to the cost of growing beef these days. If we subsidised the beef producers or paid the farmers wages it would not pay us to grow beef now because we just cannot sell it. It cost a nian who is closely associated with me $60 to grow vealers and he got only $30 on the market for them. People then’ run around trying to blame the former Labor Government for that situation when what has happened is that the local market cannot absorb the increased production, and the Americans and the Japanese are not importing the same amount as they imported previously. As a consequence there is a glut on the market and whenever there is a glut there are depressed prices.
I wanted to make a few comments about the apology that Senator Scott made for this legislation which provides a subsidy to exporters. Every one of us here will agree that hygiene of the highest standard possible in the slaughtering and presentation of food for human consumption is absolutely essential. For years we in this country got away with all sorts of methods of slaughter. I have killed cattle out in the paddock without even a windlass or gallows. I killed the beast on the ground, propped it up on one side and cut it down the other and then turned it over. This was done with all the remnants of cows, horses and other animals blowing around. The carcass was hoisted up and cut into quarters and then taken into the meat house. Then the stockmen, the boss and the others would say: ‘This is beautiful beef. As a matter of fact, some of them very seldom tasted their own beef because if there was a straggler on the property it was always killed first. Sometimes we would hardly know what our own beef tasted like. It is a long way from that kind of preparation of beef to the standards that are expected these days with very intelligent and well trained inspectors inspecting every carcass. It is of no use for them to say: ‘This is good enough’. On examination particularly in the United States, if any carelessness is found it is likely that the penalty will be that the whole consignment is condemned. This not only hits the hip pocket nerve but also is very bad for our reputation as an exporter.
I have heard the point made so often over the years, and Senator Scott made it again, that it is a great compliment to the Country Party when we oppose it because it shows how well it stands up for the interests of the man on the land. I have been hearing this for so long. As Senator Scott said, for half a century the National Country Party by means of an interesting gerrymander has been able to keep its representation in the Parliament. It is sticking to that gerrymander very closely to make certain that there is no alteration to its representation. But what has happened to the people it is supposed to represent, the men on the land? The cycle has been completed. After all the concessions and socalled mollycoddling that the Country Party has given to the man on the land, the Country Party would like to blame the former Labor Government for his plight. We were in power for a little over 2Vi years and had 3 elections in that time. We had a hostile Senate and so many of the things we tried to do were frustrated. So to all intents and purposes there was very little disturbance of the power of the Country Party.
What has happened to -the men on the” land? They are just as badly off as ever they were. They are like old Hanrahan:they are all going to be ruined. They are all on. the verge of bankruptcy. They have the same problems.- There is no difference. The droughts still crime, the floods still come, the pests still come and their backsidesI am speaking not of members of the Country Party but of sheep- still get eaten by blowflies. It is the same old cycle of boom or bust. They might fluke good prices when they have a good season but 9 times out of 10 when they get a good season the prices are depressed. I do not think that the National Country Party has ever done anything for the farmers because they are in almost the same rut as they were in when the Country Party started 50 years ago. The rich have got richer and the poor have gone bankrupt. That is the only difference after 50 years of the Country Party’s existence.
If the farming community needs a break it will never get it while it is brainwashed and hypnotised by the Country Party. It is an amazing thing but the resilience of the farming community is absolutely superb. It gets belted every time there is an election with promises of what the Country Party will do for it but as soon as the election is over and the Country Party members come back to the Parliament, back to the rut the farmers go. Mr Anthony, the great Leader of the National Country Party, said that there was a significant future for the Australian beef industry. There will be a significant future for the beef industry only if we are able to expand our export markets and get reasonable prices for our beef. So the future of the Austraiian beef industry is really beyond our control. We are among the biggest beef eaters in the world. We are also among the biggest exporters of beef in the world. We have a very high reputation as beef producers. All these things are accepted. But this still does not get away from the fact that unless there is a profitable export market then there is only stagnation for the beef industry. We can expand the beef industry only by increasing our population or by finding new markets. I do not know where Mr Anthony gets his magic prediction that there is a great future for the Australian beef industry.
Senator Scott referred to the energy crisis. The energy crisis is just a part of the cycle as is the boom and bust about which I have spoken. The energy crisis is a crisis of the capitalist system. We cannot get away from that. The system is sick. As people have wisely said, when there is a sneeze in the United States there is roaring, rampant influenza in Australia. This is what happens in the Western world with boom and bust.
– Are you saying that the Eastern world does not use energy?
– I do not know. I am not a very keen student of the Eastern world. I have not heard of people in that part of the world having to dump their surplus production, of orchardists being told to pull up their apple trees or a whole industry being uprooted and sent to South Africa where there is cheaper labour. I have not heard that sheep are selling at 10c a head because there is a glut. There is starvation among plenty in the world. We are prepared to spend millions of dollars on armaments. We are building up a fear. It must be the Indonesians that we are going to fight because Indonesia is the only neighbour which can possibly invade us. Or it could be the Timorese, the Malaysians or the Filipinos- these people who are going to build up tremendous forces and invade us. According to this Government we cannot look forward to 15 years of peace. We have to prepare for a war. We are to put a bigger proportion of our gross national product into war preparationswarships, thermo-nuclear power, submarines, armaments and the smartening up of our defence forces generally.
I make the point that we cannot keep our beef industry on a level footing but we can find plenty of money to put into armaments. This is the contradiction in the Fraser regime. Ministers on the front bench here and in another place, together with members of the National Country Party, support a government which would expend more of our gross national product on armaments and less on assisting a frontal attack on brucellosis or tuberculosis in our beef industry.
– You cannot defend Australia with a lot of bull.
– We could put Senator Steele Hall in the forefront and the cows would run for their lives. The Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) stated during the course of his second reading speech that the export charge would be suspended from 1 March. He stated that the charge was introduced in November 1973 and that it was due to expire in June 1976. Now a big concession is being made in that the charge is being ended this month, rather than running through to June. Over the 2 financial years 1973-74 and 1974-75 the cost to the Australian Government of meat inspection was $45. 6m, compared with a revenue collection of $26.4m- $ 1 9.2m less. I ask honourable senators by whom the $ 19.2m was paid? It was paid by the taxpayers. It was paid out of consolidated revenue. It is true that here we have an industry which is struggling. But the export industry is only complementary to the beef industry. The exporters toil not, neither do they spin. They are what are known as the in-off merchants in the industry. The farmer has to push his product through the mill. He has no choice. Yet the taxpayer is paying $ 1 9.2m to subsidise the inspection of the meat. The repeal of the levy legislation will cost the Australian Government $20m in a full year. Also, the estimate of foregone revenue from suspending the charge from 1 March instead of in June is of the order of $5. 5m, or $8m including the disease eradication charge. So in this time of great economising, of cutting and chopping and all this type of thing, we find quite a considerable account on the other side with the superphosphate bounty and the remission of these charges. All this adds up to a nice little pay off for the supporters of the National Country Party.
Then there is the matter of the importance to the beef industry of the eradication of diseases. Earlier on Senator Primmer spoke about the incidence of skin cancer in Hereford cattle. In the 40 years that I have been associated directly and indirectly with cattle I have known eye cancer and nose cancer to be prevalent in Herefords. This means that some basic research has to be done into this British breed of cattle. We never see cancer in Brahmans. I have never seen cancer in Black Polls. I have never seen cancer in dairy breeds such as Fresians, Jerseys, Guernseys or Ayrshires. The only beasts in which I have seen eye cancer and nose cancer have been the Herefords. Yet the Hereford would be the most prevalent of all beef breeds in Australia, particularly in the northern parts of Queensland and in large areas of the Northern Territory. Considerable funds are being devoted to the control of brucellosis, contagious abortion and also tuberculosis, which is more widespread in the subtropical areas than it is in the other coastal areas of Australia. Yet so much work remains to be done here. Overall we believe that assistance is necessary at this phase of the cycle of the beef industry. Export markets are depressed. Of course, the ordinary person who buys meat in the local butcher shops is paying a very high price for beef relative to the wages that are available. It is still costing $ 1 per lb or more for meat.
– That is because of the wages that are paid.
– This is right. It is the chicken and the egg situation. It is the cycle. We cannot blame one or the other unless we say to the worker, ‘Cut out eating meat’, because the Australian worker -
– But the beast is worth about $60 in the saleyard. The rest is wages.
– The vealer I was talking about earlier weighed 350 lb. The other beasts wouldhaveweighedbetween450lband500lb. If we work on the basis of the beast being worth 10c per lb at the saleyard we have the value of $50. If the price is 20c per lb -
– The rest of the cost is wages.
– It is not necessarily.
-What is it?
– Is the honourable senator talking about the butcher or the farmer?
– Or the agent.
– Yes, or the agent.
– The farmer gets about 10c per lb. The rest of the cost goes in wages.
– As I tried to tell the honourable senator before, this amount represents a very high proportion of the cost of living. The amount spent from a man’s wage to buy meat represents a very high proportion of that wage. So the meat is not sold to the ordinary working man as cheaply as we would be given to believe in comparison to the price that the farmer himself is receiving. The same situation applies in regard to what the farmer receives for meat that is exported. Yet the farmer himself will not benefit from the remission of this inspection charge. The people who will gain most from it are the exporters. I would like some member of the National Country Party who follows me in the debate to assure the Senate that this remission will be passed back to the man who needs it most. I know that the beef producer today needs it. He needs all the help he can get. If he does receive it, I will be very pleased. I do not think that he will. I think that he is at the tail end and is receiving the worst end of the stick. If the working man were to receive the benefit of the remission, I would be pleased but he will not. He still has to pay $ 1 per lb for his good cut of beef. He is lucky if he can get it at that price.
– It is $2 per lb.
– That is right. If we buy it on the plate, it costs $2 per lb. Beef is not cheap at that price when its price is taken as a percentage of the basic wage. We want to see the beef producer helped over these difficult times. When this levy was imposed he did not mind very much, despite all the cries that we heard from members of the National Country Party. Honourable senators can read in the Hansard record of the debate what they then said. We heard the old Hanrahan phrase, ‘We’ll all be rooned’. We were told that this Government would finance all its socialistic schemes by imposing a burden on the farmers. Honourable senators opposite were citing the income from the levy as being $80m a year. Mr Sinclair and Mr Anthony, in their usual extravagant way, were saying what the socialist Government was going to do. The forecasts never eventuated. They were all pie-in-the-sky but they served the purpose of brainwashing the farmer so he might be given to understand that the National Country Party was working in his interest.
We believe that the plan for the eradication of both tuberculosis and brucellosis must continue. We believe that all the relief that can be given should be given to the beef producer. We are opposing this measure which just gives the exporter all the facilities of inspection and of high standards of hygiene supplied by the taxpayer of Australia, unless there is some guarantee that the beef producer can recover the cost. For that reason we are supporting the alternative proposition of $ 1 a head levy although it still means that the ordinary Australian- the consumer of beef or the taxpayer, for that matter- will subsidise the exporters of our beef. It is a sectional subsidy. I believe that in these times when the Government is professing that it is economising, this economy could quite well be made.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– There has been a certain amount of emotion and venom from a particular honourable senator opposite in the debate tonight. This has occurred to the degree that it has been detrimental in the debate to the real case. Senator Scott has said that the beef industry is at present in a trough. I would say that the position is much more serious than that. The beef industry at the moment is in a chasm. I believe that many in the industry will not come out of it. The Meat Export Charge Amendment Bill, which does away with the export levy, is not the beginning or the end of it all. It is merely one facet of the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission to assist the beef producer. The beef industry throughout Australia now is in very poor straits. We hear senators from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania- everywhere we look- indicating very clearly the poor circumstances of those people engaged in the beef industry in their States.
My interest and experience is in the Northern Territory. It is to this area that I would like to devote a few minutes of my time. The beef industry in the Northern Territory some few years ago was a very vigorous industry. It really developed the Territory. After the beef came mining. However, during the last few years, through a series of circumstances, the beef industry has deteriorated to such an extent that, as I have said, some people will not come out of the present depressed circumstances. I will produce some figures later on to prove my point. The Australian Labor Party disagrees with this measure and says that every assistance must be given to the beef industry. I and the people of the Territory have some bitterness about the way the beef industry in the Territory has been treated in the last few years. I refer particularly to the freight subsidy scheme that used to assist the pastoralists and beef producers who were thousands of miles from the market. Mr President, that subsidy was taken away when the industry was beginning to stagger. It was a blow from which the industry never recovered.
Of course, on top of that the thing that helped to erode the living standards of people in the outback was the abolition of the fuel equalisation scheme. People who have not lived in the outback and who have not had to spend so much money on fuel perhaps do not realise what this did to the beef producer and to the ordinary person in the outback. The fuel bills for people in the outback, who previously paid only 3c or 4c a gallon more for their fuel, have increased to such a degree in the last 18 months that in parts of the Territory fuel now costs $1.20 a gallon. In the beef industry this reflects on the maintenance of the station, the running costs, the fuel for the electric light plant, the fuel for the drilling rig and so on. This has been another crippling blow. We have a situation now in which beef exports are at a very low ebb and where do we find the people who are so far from markets now? First of all, take the Alice Springs area. It is estimated now that because of the lack of markets and because it is so costly to get the cattle to market there are more than 100 000 cattle too many in the area.
– Whose fault is that? Mr Anthony’s.
– That is not Mr Anthony’s fault.
– Of course it is. I will prove it to you when I speak.
– You can prove it as much as you like but at the moment, Mr President, I am on my feet and what I say is this: What has happened over the past 2 years has been in the hands of the Labor Party. It has destroyed the beef industry in the Northern Territory.
- Senator McLaren would not know where Alice Springs is.
– Would I not, now?
– He has been there on the Public Works Committee. I was referring, Mr President, to the matter of cattle in isolation and what has happened to them and the cost of getting these cattle to market. It is estimated now that the cost of getting a beast to market from central Australia- that is 1000 miles- is something like $34 to $35 per head. The effective increase in freight charges from January 1973 to November 1975 was 93.4 per cent. Do honourable senators know why this has come about? It is because of the cost recovery scheme that Labor has inflicted upon the people of the outback. The people of the outback have every right to live in circumstances similar to the people on the seaboard. But policy has provided over the past 2 years that this will not be so. So we have a dilapidated railway line that was built before the turn of the century. It is narrow gauge and it was built on the sand bed of the sand dunes. Now, through this cost recovery policy that has been inflicted on the people of the outback over the past 2 years -
– What nonsense!
– Labor did do that as part of its policy. As a result the cost of freight went up some 93.4 per cent in 18 months. This happened because it is impossible to make that railway line viable and economic. Yet the people of the outback were inflicted with this cost recovery policy. So we now have this most unfortunate situation in which a viable beef industry has been practically destroyed. I do not exaggerate. I am not like the farmer to whom an honourable senator referred a little while ago who claimed that all would be lost. Not all will be lost but many pastoralists in the Northern Territory will go under this year. This is due, first of all, to the fact that these increasing costs have forced pastoralists to go to the station agent for finance because the carry-on finance of $15,000 came far too late and is not sufficient anyway. We do not reject desirability of that finance but it was just a drop in the ocean. It came too late and there should have been more of it. But it did help a little bit. Many pastoralists would now owe some $30,000 to $40,000 to the station agent. In fact, I understand that some pastoralists owe up to $100,000 on particular properties. They are paying 13 per cent interest. This has been going on for quite a long time. The situation now is that the station agent has allowed the pastoralists to borrow up to 75 per cent and in some instances up to 1 00 per cent of the value of their property.
– They have got them by the throat.
– I think that the station agent is not a parasite. At least he has kept the cattle owner- the lessee- in business.
– For 13 good reasons.
– The honourable senator opposite says that it was for good reason.
– No, I said for 13 good reasons.
– I doubt, Mr President, that when these people are sold up- some I am sure will be- the amount that the station agent gets back will meet the debt of the pastoralists. This is a most serious situation. Getting away from some of the mud and expressions that have been used here tonight, it is my hope that people will realise the situation in which the beef industry finds itself.
- Senator, we do. But how best do we help them? You say by taking off the levy.
– I suggest that the first thing we must do is to give them freight assistance once again. I say that because of the figures that I have just cited. The gross price that they are receiving now is something like $40 per head. Naturally, the price fluctuates. With the freight at something like $30, the profit margin is too small for the industry to be viable. In fact, it happened last year- not once but several times- that when a pastoralist sent his cattle south by road and rail he had to send a cheque to cover the amount of money that was lacking.
– You are saying that this Bill should not be given first priority?
-I am saying that this Bill must be passed. I do not give priorities in this situation. All I am saying is that a series of things has to be done and that this Bill does not do all those things. I think that the Bill will assist to some degree, I shall give an indication of what it could mean to the Northern Territory beef producer. I think this comparison is accurate. It is a comparison taken over 5 years between the costs of a beef producer in the Northern Territory on the abolition of the meat export charge and on the forecast slaughter levy of $1. This is a comparison over the period 1969 to 1975. With the total turn-off of 190 000 head of cattle, the estimated number for export would be 113 000. Taking the average bone-out weight of 300 pounds per beast, the export charge per head would have been $4.80. So on a basis of 1 per cent the tOtal revenue would have been $546,000. Assuming that 119 000 cattle are slaughtered, with the levy at $1 per head the estimated saving to the Northern Territory producers per annum would be only $427,000. That amount would be spread out over the Territory. So I am not saying that it is a tremendous thing. But with that and other things it must be of some assistance.
One comment I really could not understand was the remark by Senator Walsh about the Government turning on its head. He was assuming that this is the first measure that has been brought in against recommendation 4 (a) in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, which states that the suspension of the charge should not take precedence over the other assistance recommended. This is not the first step. The first step was taken last year when carry-on finance was made available. I have said before that the provision of carry-on finance of some $ 1 5,000 is helpful to a degree but it is not enough to get the pastoralists out of trouble. However, that was the first step, taken last year. I might say that it came rather late. I think that the administrative arrangements to cater for that $15,000 have brought that particular phase of the recommendations into a situation where it has not been particularly helpful. It has been very difficult to get this loans scheme operating.
The honourable senator has asked- I think this is coming to the crux of the matter- what we can do to assist the beef industry. I would say that one of the main answers is to be found in recommendation 1 (a) of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, which states that the existing special credit facilities for beef cattle producers should be extended and the terms of loans should be varied so that the rates of interest average not less than 4 per cent per annum over all loans.
– Where can you get it at 4 per cent?
– I am just saying it is a minimum of 4 per cent. Actually I think it would be higher than that. But what has to happen now is that all of the loans of the pastoralists have to be consolidated. They owe carry-on finance to the Government. They owe money to the station agents. They owe money to the banks. I would suggest that their whole financial structure is in a mess. So I hope that, in line with the recommendations contained in the report of the IAC, we will see further assistance given to the industry so that it can consolidate its loans.
I shall be very brief in talking about the brucellosis and tuberculosis campaigns. We are all in agreement that they have to be continued. I do not think that there is any argument about that. The tuberculosis eradication campaign in the Northern Territory has been going on for quite a few years now and, because of the valiant efforts of members of the Department of Primary Industry in the Northern Territory, tremendous inroads have been made into clearing up the disease. Many dedicated people are working on these projects in the outback. I look forward to continued government support for this campaign. One honourable senator opposite said that there is no incentive to keep a herd clean. I do not know where that honourable senator may see herds, but I can assure him that if those engaged in the beef industry in the Northern Territory do not keep their herds clean and do not have good housekeeping procedures they will fall by the wayside.
I support the Bill. As I said before, I am not particularly carried away with the legislation, I do not think that it is going to have a tremendous influence overall. All I am saying is that it is part of an attempt to assist the pastoralists. I look forward to further support for those people. But it should be remembered, as I have said before, that many pastoralists are going to go under regardless of what happens now. The sooner the beef industry is again stabilised the more will be saved. There are now people in the Territory who are practically walking off their properties. Some of the stations there might just have a caretaker. Valued employees who have lived on stations and have given very loyal service over the years have had to go because the revenue of the stations has dropped to such an extent. I commend and support the Bill.
– As is well known, the Opposition is opposed to this legislation. I join with other members of my Party in expressing my opposition to it. Senator Kilgariff tried to lay the blame for the problems of the beef industry at the feet of the Labor Government, which, as Senator O’Byrne pointed out, was in office for only about 2Vi years when one deducts the times during which it had to fight elections because the then Opposition parties would not accept the will of the people. One of the problems facing the beef industry for which he blamed the Labor Government is the railway system as it exists in the Northern Territory. Senator Kilgariff would well know that under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of the early 1900s there was an obligation on the Commonwealth Government, as it was known then, to construct a railway line from Port Augusta to Darwin. Of course, the Liberal and Country Parties have been in government for most of the years since the early 1900s. The Australian Labor Party has been in government only during time of war. It was a Labor Government that put down the sealed highway from Alice Springs to Darwin.
The Liberal-Country Party governments of those years have welched on their obligation to construct a decent railway line from the north to the south. Yet we found Senator Kilgariff getting up here tonight and saying that the Labor Government is to blame for the Northern Territory not having a decent railway system. In fact, the blame lies right at Senator Kilgariff’s doorstep or the doorstep of the Party he supports. Having given evidence before the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory, he would know that I raised before it on many occasions the question of why the Liberal-Country Party governments had not carried out their obligations. So Senator Kilgariff cannot lay any blame for that at the feet of the Australian Labor Party.
We have also found that the Government has laid the blame for the very poor prices for beef at the feet of the Labor Government. I interjected during Senator Kilgariff’s speech and said that the real blame lies with the Leader of his Party, Mr Anthony, who persuaded the real beef producers and some of the very small beef producers to go big or get out. He told them that there was a goldmine at the end of the world beef market and said that they should get in and get the money out. I want to quote from part of a submission which was made to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices. I refer to a document that is described as a statement by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony. It states:
The following are the conclusions from a submission by the Australian Country Party to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices in relation to domestic meat prices. The full submission is available in my office on request.
I should have thought that Senator Kilgariff and Senator Scott would have had a look at that submission and been more conversant with the points contained therein. If we have a look at the front page of the document we find that Mr Anthony said:
In view of prospective beef demand, particularly in the United States of America and Japan, it cannot be expected that beef prices in Australia will fall to any significant extent on a long term basis.
– When was that prediction made?
– When he made the submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices.
-In 1973, as Senator O ‘Byrne has pointed out and, as he told the Senate earlier tonight, he was a member of that Committee. Mr Anthony said, as I have quoted, that there was a bright future for beef producers. He was able to con the beef producers into going all out to increase their production. On page 2 of the document he said:
The Country Party believes that Government policy inasmuch as it relates to the beef industry should be directed to (a) encouragement of production . . .
That is where the whole fault lies in the beef industry today. It lies with the Leader of the Country Party and the people who follow him, who encouraged those people to go all out to increase their production when there was no guarantee that they had a market on which to sell what they were producing. As I said by way of interjection earlier, Mr Anthony and the members of the Country Party conned the farmers into believing that they should produce all they could because there was a ready market for their produce. Mr Anthony went on to say:
If, as appears likely, a world beef shortage is developing then Australia must respond in the most effective manner possible to meet this position.
The National Country Party tried to lay the blame at the feet of the Whitlam Labor Government. He went on to say in a Press statement issued in Canberra on 2 1 August 1975:
In its reallocation of resources the Government has dealt a cruel, most vindictive blow to the rural industries.
He was talking about our Budget. He followed that up in the next paragraph by saying:
At a time when production should be encouraged . . .
There again he repeated his plea to the beef producers to increase production. He said in another statement:
At a time when the urgent need is for stimulation of meat production . . .
Every statement made by the Leader of the National Country Party has been encouraging beef producers in this country to increase their production. Any people who have been engaged in primary production of any form know that there must be a system of orderly marketing.
Every producer, whether of wool, meat or eggs- I was an egg producer for many years- has to have a system of orderly marketing. This is something which the Country Party never supports.
– What has this to do with eggs?
– If Senator Hall had been an egg producer as I was he would know that you have to dispose of the bird that produces the eggs. That bird is meat. If there is not an orderly marketing system for the disposal of meat, producers will be in the same position as the broiler producers are in today. They are at the mercy of the multinational companies, the people who have come in and taken over the producing of birds in this country. The broiler producers are being exploited. The same thing is happening with meat production. I am talking as a person who has had some experience in primary production, not like Senator Messner who told us of his experience of the beef industry. I think all Senator Messner would know about the beef industry is whether steak was underdone or well done. Senator Kilgariff, who is a motel proprietor, also told us of his knowledge of the beef industry. I am more prepared to listen to what has been put forward by my colleagues on this side- Senator Primmer, a person who is engaged in the industry and is a successful primary producer; Senator Walsh, who before he came into this Parliament was a successful primary producer; and Senator Justin 0 ‘Byrne who spent many years in the pastoral industry in Queensland.
– He would be -
-Senator Wright would not know anything about the beef industry either. The Whitlam Labor Government made millions of dollars available to try to help the beef producers over the problems into which they were blindly led by the leader of the National Country Party. We made money available to the industry to help it over its problems and, as Senator Scott admitted tonight, $20m of the money was not taken up.
In my State of South Australia the now Minister of Agriculture (Mr Brian Chatterton), who I am pleased to say is in Canberra today and will be here tomorrow trying to look after the interests of the primary producers of the State which I am proud to represent, put out a Press statement. I intend reading it into Hansard because it relates to what Senator Scott has said. The Federal Labor Government made $20m available and all that money has not been taken up by the beef producers. We made money available to the Labor Government in South Australia. That money has not been taken up by beef producers. The Press release issued by the Minister for Agriculture is headed A Beef Survey and bears the dateline 18 February 1976. It reads:
South Australian Minister of Agriculture wants to know why South Australia’s beef producers have not used $2% million in low interest carry-on finance.
In releasing details of a major survey to be carried out jointly by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Stockowners Association and the United Farmers and Graziers, Agricultural Minister Brian Chatterton said that in May last year the Australian and South Australian-
I emphasise ‘Australian ‘- governments set aside $3m to provide assistance for the States beef industry. ‘Only $Vim of this money has been committed ‘, the Minister said. Because this scheme met with such a poor response, I have decided to carry out a detailed survey on beef producers in the State. Considering the interest rate is only 4 per cent there must be a logical reason why the money hasn’t been used.
Mr Chatterton said, ‘ While I am disappointed the Government ‘s efforts to provide worthwhile assistance have failed, I am sure it will be productive if we carry out a survey and ask beef producers where they feel the scheme has gone wrong and what changes they feel are necessary if future schemes are to be successful.
As well as determining farmers’ attitudes to the present scheme, we need to establish quite clearly what type of financial assistance farmers really need in times of emergency. The survey will be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in conjunction with two of the State producer organisations. A suitable questionnaire has been drawn up and this will be printed in a number of rural publications.
Those farmers with more than 50 head of cattle on thenproperty at the 1st January 1976, who anticipate they will be short of carry-on finance from normal sources, have been asked to take part in the survey. I have been very impressed with the co-operation the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has received from producer organisations and the media and I am sure I can rely on beef producers to provide the same degree of co-operation. Let me emphasise that this survey can only be successful if farmers co-operate and send in the relevant information. I recall on a number of occasions I have indicated that primary producers are entitled to assistance in times of emergency, however, if Government assistance schemes are to be worthwhile they must be based on factual and relevant information. In this case the type of information we are seeking can only be provided by those farmers requiring assistance.
It is quite evident from that statement released by the Minister of Agriculture in South Australia and the statements which were made repeatedly in this House by Senator Wriedt when he was the Minister for Agriculture in the Australian Government that the Australian Labor Party is prepared to help the people in the beef industry who are in need of assistance. We are not going to be swayed by people of the ilk of members of the Country Party who come in here and use the political arguments that they are the only ones who look after the interests of the country people.
Senator Scott said that we did not do justice to country people. I ask him to have a look at some of the poverty reports prepared under the guidance of Professor Henderson which have been tabled in this Parliament. He should have a look at where real poverty lies in this country. Of course the surveys that Professor Henderson carried out relate to the period before the Labor Government came into office. We note that the worst poverty is found in many of the country towns of this country. Honourable senators opposite cannot blame the Australian Labor Party Government for that. They cannot blame Labor Governments for what has happened on the eastern seaboard. The Federal Liberal-Country Party Government was in office for 23 years. For a long time- I think it goes back to the early 1950s- a Liberal Government has been in power in Victoria. A Liberal Government has been in power- for not so long a period, of course- in New South Wales. The gerrymandered BjelkePetersen Government has been in power in Queensland. The main areas of poverty lie in the country areas of Australia. Whilst it might be very nice for members of the Country Party to talk to people in country areas and lay the blame for certain things at the feet of the Labor Government they cannot substantiate the claims that they make. If one looks at the reports which have been tabled here one can sheet the blame home to Liberal-Country Party Government, whether they be in the Federal sphere or in the 3 eastern States.
Let us have a look at the second reading speech which was put down in the other place by Mr Sinclair. I was told just recently that shortly- I think it will be during the winter recess- Mr Anthony will be visiting Russia. What is he going to do when he visits Russia? He is going to try to sell beef. But, if the Russian people look at the speech which was made by Senator Sim, do honourable senators think that the Russians will buy beef from Australia? Senator Sim pointed out in no uncertain terms the foreign policy of the Liberal-Country Party Government.
When I first left school in a little town called Koroit in Victoria I went to work in the biggest grocery or mixed business in the town. The first thing that the owner of that business said to me was: ‘The first thing for you to learn, Geoff McLaren, is that you do not offend any of my customers’. I always relate that to what LiberalCountry Party governments do in regard to the marketing of primary produce. They open their doors in the morning, and the first thing they do is stand in front of the shop and offend their best customers. The best customers that we have for primary produce are Russia and China. They buy our wheat, wool and beef. Senator Cormack is smiling. Of course, he is one who denigrates the Soviet Union on many occasions; yet on the other hand he expects the Soviet Union to buy our primary produce.
The message that ought to be brought home to the primary producers of this country is that, when the Liberal and Country Parties were in government, because of the way in which they offended our best customers, they had to put a quota on the grains that we produced in Australia. They could not find a market for those grains. Now they have almost put a quota on beef exports. Why do we have this situation? It is because of the attitude adopted by honourable senators opposite who are now in government. Unless they change their attitude towards our friends overseas they will not find markets for the produce that our primary producers work so hard to produce. I have been one of those producers.
– You had better start propagandising with China.
– It is all right for Senator Cormack to talk about propagandising, but I advise the people who are listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, particularly the people who live in country towns and in the farming communities, to get hold of some Hansards and look at some of the statements -
– They are all turned off
– No, they are not turned off because they are very concerned about the reason why they have lost some of their potential markets. Shortly we will consider in this place legislation which will be designed to reintroduce the superphosphate bounty. I have said to many farmers: ‘Which would you sooner have? Would you sooner have $11.81 a tonne in this hand as a superphosphate bounty and in the other hand wheat quotas as you had under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, or be in the position you are in now where you can sell all that you can produce without any quota?’ Of course, we know what the answer is. They invariably say: ‘We would sooner have the situation that arose when you became a government, where you were able to abolish wheat quotas and we can go about our business uncontrolled by a Liberal-Country Party government. We can produce as much as we want because we know the market is there. ‘ I warn the primary producers of
Australia that it will not be long before they will be faced with the same situation as faced them previously. This will happen unless the members of the Government change their attitude towards our best customers in overseas markets.
We cannot consume everything in this country whether it be eggs, beef, wool, wheat or barley- and we have to depend on our overseas customers. For mine, we have to treat those people as human beings.
– Can you tell me who are our best customers?
– Our best customers for wool and wheat at present are China and Russia. Dealing further with the reason why beef producers face real problems today, we have to look at the way in which the young turks who are employed by the stock firms act. These people go along to the poor old primary producer. I have been told this by many farmers. I am good friends with many farmers although not many of them vote for me at election time. These farmers look on the stock firms as their holy bible; they are advised by them. These young turks approached many primary producers, particularly the wool growers and the wheat growers, when quotas existed under the previous LiberalCountry Party Government and when there were low wool prices until we introduced a floor price plan to help them. These young turks advised primary producers to go in for beef. They said that there was a wonderful market for beef. They used the statements made by Mr Anthony which I have quoted tonight. They said that there was a wonderful rainbow, a golden rainbow, to be achieved if they produced beef.
Of course, the farmers took a lot of notice of what these young turks said to them. They were told: ‘You can buy young beef at up to $200 a head and you can double your price in 2 years’. If farmers are going to double their price- if they are going to buy young stock at about $200 a head and sell it for $400 a head in 12 monthsany sensible persn knows who is going to foot the bill. It will be the poor old worker in Australia. But he cannot afford to buy meat at that price. As Senator O ‘Byrne pointed out, under a LiberalCountry Party government steak was selling for $1.50 per lb and the workers could not afford to buy it. Senator Hall interjected and claimed that one of the reasons why beef producers were going bad was the high wages that were being paid to the workers. As I said to Senator Hall, if the working man is not getting a decent wage he cannot buy what the producer is producing. It is no good having a man on the lowest possible wage structure and expecting him to pay the high price which the primary producer needs to make his enterprise viable.
This is the area at which the primary producers should be looking. They should be having a good look at the stock firms. These stock firms receive double commission on every head of stock that passes through their hands. When the stock firms convince a primary producer that he should buy a sheep, a pig or a head of cattle a commission has to be paid by the person who sells the beast. When they convince the primary producer that he ought to sell the beast, a commission has to be paid again. Of course, the stock firms are never the loser. One only has to look at their balance sheets to see that they are always on top.
I heard one honourable senator opposite- I do not know whether it was Senator Scott or Senator Kilgariff- complaining about the fact that agents were charging producers a rate of interest of 13 1/2 per cent on money that they had to borrow. I think Senator Kilgariff said that some beef producers in the Northern Territory are in debt to the tune of $75,000. Of course, one can lay the blame for this only at the feet of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and, in particular, at the feet of Mr Anthony for convincing people, not so much in the Northern Territory but in areas down south, to go ahead and produce beef. I drive from Canberra to my home town of Murray Bridge, on the average, when Parliament is sitting, once every 3 weeks. Years ago when I used to go into the Riverina as a shearer I never saw a head of beef cattle; I saw all woolly backs. Now all I see is beef cattle. I could have predicted 4 or 5 years ago that the glut was coming, because wherever I went I saw two or three poddy calves on every acre of grass. Why were they there? It was because people were conned into believing the statements of Mr Anthony that there was a wonderful future in beef. They were told: ‘Go in for beef. Of course, these people have fallen by the wayside.
It is no good honourable senators opposite trying to lay the blame for the glut in the beef market now at the feet of the Whitlam Labor Government. We did all we could to help these people. We went out and searched for world markets. We made available to these people millions of dollars which they did not take updespite the fact that Senator Scott, I think it was, said that the guidelines were too rigid. Of course, Senator Scott did not answer me when I asked: Why do you not relax the guidelines?’ I think that the present Government has not relaxed the guidelines because it knows that if it relaxes them any more it will just be giving money away and encouraging beef producers to get themselves further into the mire in which they now find themselves.
I turn now to the brucellosis question which was mentioned in the second reading speech. One of my colleagues from Tasmania has told me that currently in Tasmania people are suffering from human brucellosis- it is called leptro spirosis- which is causing increasing concern. The results of testing at one piggery showed that there were different types of this disease which can be caught by abattoir workers and animal handlers. Honourable senators opposite are not concerned about that. The Minister in his second reading speech said in relation to this legislation:
The purpose is to ensure that there should be an immediate improvement in prices paid for livestock.
No concern has been shown for the people who have to work in the abattoirs or for the handlers of the livestock, people such as drovers or those who load the livestock into transport or unload it. Many more types of brucellosis, which can be contracted by human beings, have been detected on the Australian mainland. Only now is legislation being prepared in Tasmania to declare this as a disease which comes under workers’ occupational diseases relief. Cure is doubtful and meanwhile people’s jobs are in jeopardy. Members of the Labor Government, or the Labor Opposition as we are now, due to the circumstances which have been discussed at length in this Parliament, are concerned about the producers themselves. We are also concerned about the people who have to slaughter, handle and process the meat, but not one argument has come from the other side of the chamber about the conditions in which many of the abattoir workers have to work. In years gone by I was one of those workers. When I lived in Portland I worked at Borthwick ‘s every killing season and I know some of the conditions the workers have to put up with in handling livestock. I know also that at about the peak of every fat lamb season a strike was organised by some of the leading processors so that when the lambs were in full bloom the producer had to hold them off for up to 3 weeks until they lost their bloom. The buyers would come out and say to the producer: ‘The lamb is over his bloom now so the price has dropped. Blame the workers because they were on strike’. But it was not the workers’ fault. They were provoked into the stop-work meetings so that the processors, the multinationals, would be able to buy the fat lambs at a cheaper price. No doubt that also goes on in the beef industry.
Arguments have been put forward by people who are active at present in the industry, including Senator Primmer and Senator Walsh, and to a lesser degree Senator O’Byrne, who has had quite extensive experience in the industry. The Opposition has been able to establish that it is not necessary to pass this legislation because the benefit from the abolition of the meat export charge is not going to flow through to the producer. He is not going to benefit by one cent, and that is one of the reasons why the Opposition opposes this legislation, lt is just another smoke screen put up by the National Country Party, which has hoodwinked the Liberals into supporting this legislation because most Liberals have never been outside the boundaries of the metropolitan areas and would not know a head of beef from a dingo. But the Country Party is still the tail that wags the dog, particularly in this place. The Country Party has been able to say: ‘We promised the beef producers. We have got to abolish these charges despite the fact that it was our party which convinced the people that they should increase production without any means of selling that extra production’. As I pointed out earlier in my speech, it was the Whitlam Labor Government which tried to find world markets for the things that are produced in this country by primary producers. When the Labor Party is returned to the Treasury bench- and I am sure it will be after the people have suffered 3 years of this Government, which is cutting down on expenses for people in real need and hoodwinking the people who voted for it, the people in country areas- it will be able to re-establish these country markets and once again the country people and the primary producers will be put on a sound footing.
- Mr President, at the outset I would like to declare an interest in this matter. I am a director of a co-operative company in Western Australia that exports a lot of meat. Its name is the West Australian Farmers Co-operative. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address myself to this debate. I would like to make a few comments about the rather incredible debating ability of our opponents. I enjoyed Senator O ‘Byrne’s comments, although they did not really relate to the subject. However, I did enjoy them; they were entertaining. I agree with one of the points Senator Primmer made quite strongly in relation to the dual inspection of meat. I agree with him that we should do what we can to achieve a single meat inspection.
Senator McLaren, who has just completed his rather interesting discourse ranging over most subjects remotely connected with rural affairs apart from the subject that is being debated tonight, spoke about stock firms and criticised their very expensive methods of charging interest. I should inform him that it is an extremely competitive business and several firms have gone broke recently. Senator McLaren referred to the smoke screen put up by the National Country Party. It is rather interesting that the same smoke screen, if it is one, is being created by the Industries Assistance Commission because all that this Government is doing is carrying out the recommendations of that organisation. The honourable senator said that neither he nor the Minister for Agriculture in his State were able to understand why the beef producers in South Australia are not taking up the excess money that is available. For his information, those people cannot afford to borrow any more money.
– Not at 4 per cent?
-They just cannot afford to borrow any more money. They have reached the limit of their resources and money at any price is just beyond them. I hope that the honourable senator, who is so concerned about the downtrodden masses, will appreciate the point I have made. He made an interesting comparison when he tried to relate the use of superphosphate to the necessity to bring in wheat quotas. That is the most remarkable hypothesis I have ever heard in my life and one that it would be interesting to go into a little more deeply.
Senator Walsh made some interesting points. His contribution to the debate started and finished with a rather vitriolic attack on the National Country Party. I am sure that the representatives of that party can defend themselves very well, and have done so. Senator Walsh seems to spend most of his time making vitriolic attacks which do not really contribute to the debate. He spoke about the meat price index in relation to devaluation and claimed that that was an absolute assertion that the devaluation had no effect on meat prices. He tried to relate that argument to the Bill under discussion. What he does not realise is that meat prices just happened to go down over that period and the devaluation was absorbed by the reduction in meat prices.
The main thrust of his argument, when he did get around to debating the Bill, was that the producers would not get the benefit of this reduction. I will demonstrate shortly that not only will they benefit but I strongly suspect that they will get more than just the value of this reduction in charges. One of the other points made by Senator
Walsh related to the changing of priorities recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission. He accused this Government of changing the priorities set out in the Commission’s report. That is rather an interesting observation when one remembers that the Labor Government chose to ignore completely the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission when they had anything to do with primary production.
This Bill is a simple one. It seeks to suspend the charges that were allocated under the Meat Export Charges Act 1973, which came into effect in November of that year. The charges imposed were 1 cent a pound on exported meat and edible offals to recoup the meat export inspection costs, and an additional amount of 0.6c a pound on exported beef and veal to finance the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication program. The Bill sets out to suspend both of those charges. It is intended by the Government to impose a slaughter charge of $1 a head to finance the brucellosis and tuberculosis program. It is expected that it will bring in about the same amount of money as the 0.6 per lb charge which has applied hitherto. I think honourable senators on both sides of the House agree that the beef industry is in trouble.
We do not pretend that this Bill will solve all the problems. There are many other initiatives that the Government will take, and is taking, that will go a long way towards helping the beef producers. It is obvious that this legislation will provide some help quickly. To put things in perspective, I should like to say tht in the financial year 1973-74 Australia produced almost 2 million tons of meat, the export portion of which was worth $797m. We are not talking about a small industry. The pastoral industry employs some 30 000 people. There are 40 000 people employed in the meat processing side, and 5 000 people employed in the service industries connected to it. In total, the meat industry employs almost as many people as are employed in the motor industry in Australia. Governments of all persuasions have been generous to the employees in the motor vehicle industry, as was demonstrated in an Industries Assistance Commission report in which it was stated that the tariff protection equivalent that everybody in the motor industry receives is about $4,000 per person per year. The measures that we are proposing here fall a long way short of that figure.
It was claimed by Senator Walsh that the benefit of this Bill will not go to the producers. I claim that it will. In fact I go beyond that. I claim that there will be a flow-on effect. I will try to explain it. Under the present regulations a man who buys a beast in a saleyard does not know whether part of it will be exported. To be on the safe side, almost invariably the extra cost is put on the cost of the beef. This reduces that value that he is prepared to pay in the saleyard. With this reduction in costs that he will have to meet he will be able to know exactly what he will have to pay for his beast. This will have a flow-on effect. In fact, some friends of mine say that in the saleyards recently the cattle prices have firmed in response to the announcements made by this Government. One thing that will reduce the effect to the primary producers is the tremendous 6.4 per cent wage rise. If we were not to have the benefit provided for in this legislation, of course, it would be worse.
I should like to reiterate that the primary producers of Australia place a great deal of faith in the Industries Assistance Commission. It is encouraging that this Government is supporting the efforts of the IAC. It is interesting to note that the Labor Party supports the IAC when it chooses to. When in government it did nothing to implement the recommendations of the IAC in relation to the rural industries. The Commission has considered a multitude of issues during the last 3 years, but as far as I know, none of these recommendations was implemented. The grower organisations of Australia spend many thousands of dollars in submitting recommendations and submissions to the IAC. They can ill afford those thousands of dollars. I should like to say to those organisations that this Government will do its best to see that the recommendations put forward by the Commission are implemented. I sincerely support the Bill.
– Like Senator Thomas I suppose I also should declare a small interest in the matter. I have some involvement in cattle and cattle breeding; so let it not be thought that I speak from pure motives of public interest. I do have some personal interest in the matter. I have a slight personal knowledge, though not as great as some members of the Opposition who claim total knowledge- of the cattle industry. Senator O’Byrne quoted from that famous poem to the effect that ‘things are crook, says Hanrahan’. He is dead right about the cattle industry as I have experienced it in the last two or three years. One volunteers for many things in one’s life. One volunteers for Parliament and sometimes one wonders whether that was wise. One volunteers to go into the cattle business, but without any doubt that has been most unwise. 1 remember a very famous remark being made in this Senate one day at question time in response to an answer to a question asked by an honourable senator. Senator Little, who is no longer here, said: ‘Well, that proves that a little bull goes a very long way’. That has been demonstrated fairly well in this debate tonight. Of course, he was referring to a very famous Murray Grey bull, Sober Bogong, which went to China. So let it not be thought that all we cattle breeders are hostile to trading with other countries. We are not. We like to find the quids where we can find them.
– For heifer and heifer.
-That is right, for heifer and heifer. This debate will continue tomorrow and I will be able to elaborate on my remarks. I should like to say that no one has referred this evening to an interesting phenomenon in the cattle world which is known as the cattle cycle. It is not a bicycle; it is the cyclical pattern that has been demonstrably noticeable in the Australian cattle world for quite a long time. If one examines this cycle one can reasonably well predict on a general pattern how things will move. Senator McLaren made predictions about the future of the cattle world by driving back to Murray Bridge. Other honourable senators looked at the long term charts.
I think it is fairly true that at a certain point of time the nation as a whole was over-investing in cattle and was under-investing in sheep. Traditionally, there is a tendency in the Australian countryside to go a bit mad over the popular thing and to come in at the top of the market when it would be wiser to exercise a little more restraint. A lot of work was done at the time of the cattle excitement or boom- or whatever one likes to call it, irrespective of how it might have been generated- by some very thoughtful people who said that a national mistake was being made and that people would be well advised to do something more about maintaining the sheep population. I think Senator Sim will remind himself, as I remind myself, of some of the work that was carried out. I try to take a bipartisan position, at least to some extent.
There is a case to try to do something better, if possible, in forecasting the logical optimum position for holding breeding cattle and the logical optimum position for holding breeding sheep and wool growing sheep. We tend to get badly out of balance in the country from time to time. Such imbalance causes very heavy financial losses for individual operators. Anybody who has been involved in the countryside for a large part of his life- as some honourable senators have- finds that the current situation for beef producers, in particular, is one of distress. There are some extremely good and decent people in the industry who are almost on their knees and who probably have very little chance of recovery. It is sometimes difficult for a government of any persuasion to protect such people against such eventualities. I hope very much that the cattle cycle is now on its way up.
– Get the speculators out of the industry.
– I have never been a speculator.
– Get the speculators out of the industry and let the traditionalists carry on with the industry.
-It is very hard to do so if every individual who is a farmer wants to be a speculator in his own right and wants to buy cattle when he thinks the price will go up. I am querying whether it is possible to have a better demonstration of the future optimum positions for livestock in the country. I think this could be done.
– The great prospect was old ewes in Iraq.
-Senator Wright is talking about old ewes in Iraq.
– 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.
- Mr President, I rise this evening to make a plea to the Government to reconsider the action that it has taken to remove from the pharmaceutical benefits list cows’ milk substitutes for children of and over the age of 18 months. I doubt whether the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who represents in the Senate the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) will be able to give me a definite answer on the plea that I make. If that is not possible, I ask her to take back my comments to the Minister for Health to see whether in fact anything can be done.
The situation is that from 1 April cows’ milk substitutes will not be on the pharmaceutical benefits list for children of and over the age of 1 8 months, whereas until now they have been available for children up to the age of 6 years. Some children over the age of 18 months do need cows’ milk substitutes. Their parents will be faced with the fairly heavy burden of providing these substitutes now that they will no longer be provided on the pharmaceutical benefits list. In fact, if a child is drinking the same quantity of cows’ milk substitutes as a child would normally drink of cows’ milk, the cost to parents will be $10 a week. That $10 a week compares with approximately $1.50 a week for the same quantity of cows ‘milk.
To give the background of this matter briefly, I wish to quote from a couple of documents, which I think probably contain some inconsistencies. The first document from which I quote is a Press statement by the Minister for Health dated 27 February in which, amongst other things, he said:
A reduction is to be made in the age limit from 6 years to 1 8 months for patients who are eligible to receive cows ‘ milk substitutes (goats’ milk, soya formula and Nutramigen) as a pharmaceutical benefit.
Later in his statement, the Minister said:
While savings would result from the changes, they were based firstly on therapeutic considerations.
I am not too sure about that last statement. Another document- this was put out by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and is in the form of a letter which was sent to medical practitioners throughout Australia, signed by the Chairman of that body- stated under the heading of Cows’ Milk Substitutes:
The Committee considers that although cows’ milk allergy in infants can cause eczema, asthma, allergic respiratory catarrh, allergic disorders, severe persistent vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea, these can all be caused by a number of other factors.
Of course they can. I presume that there are some honourable senators who have from time to time suffered from abdominal discomfort, and this has not been because they have an allergy to cows’ milk. But the point is that all of these complaints that were mentioned can be caused because of an allergy to cows’ milk. The letter continued:
Cows ‘ milk allergy, while sometimes permanent, is usually temporary . . .
My point is that it is sometimes permanent. The letter continued:
Cows’ milk substitutes are being used unnecessarily in many children . . .
I make the point also that, if these substitutes are being used unnecessarily in respect of many children, they are being used because medical practitioners are prescribing these cows’ milk substitutes for the children. This places the parent in somewhat of a dilemma. The parent is taking the medical advice that the child needs the cows’ milk substitute. The parent is not aware of whether the child has a permanent condition. But if a medical practitioner decides that it is a permanent condition the child must stay on one of the substitutes. The point I am making is that the parents of a child who must stay on it will be financially embarrassed, and the advisory committee admitted that sometimes this allergy is permanent. It probably will mean that some children will not be able to continue on the cows’ milk substitutes, although they really should, because of their cost.
What I should like to do this evening is to ask the Government to reconsider its decision. If it finds that the substitutes are being used unnecessarily for many children perhaps there could be a way around this so that the cows ‘ milk substitutes could be provided for those who really need them, for those whose allergy is permanent. I ask the Minister whether she will either comment on this suggestion or take it back to the Minister for Health to see whether the Government can reconsider its decision on this benefit.
– I did not know Senator Colston was going to address himself to this subject. I should like just to add a few brief words. There is a general problem that arises with the decision to put drugs on the list of pharmaceutical benefits.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee that has been appointed does its best to go through the available knowledge to decide which drugs should be on the list because they are of proven thereapeutic benefit and which should not. A number of drugs have come off the list recently. Looking at the drugs that have been removed, I would have thought that some of them do have some claims to be effective. As a matter of fact I did some of the work on some of the drugs myself. I am most distressed that the letter that came round on these drugs said that there was no available evidence that they are successful. That at least is a judgment upon my past scientific prowess. But 1 accept the fact that this Committee- I know most of the members- is not involved in Government costing; It is merely concerned with trying to find the scientifically correct answers to the question of whether some of these drugs are effective.
– Does the Committee take one drug off if there is an alternative drug?
– Not necessarily. In the past, most equivalent drugs have been put on.
But the Committee has been looking for proof that the drugs are effective. What I should like to say to Senator Colston is this: What I was hoping he would put up tonight was some evidence or some indication from people who work in the field that these particular products are effective. It is all very easy to put up anecdotal evidence. I do not disagree with the honourable senator’s statement that there are some children who may need the drugs. What he did not say is why any older children need to stay on milk substitutes. Milk, after all, is a white fluid designed for the nourishment of baby cattle. It is only incidental that it is used for human nutrition after a certain age. It is not essential. It provides nothing that we cannot do without. Most children can get on perfectly well without milk at all particularly after a certain age. I am not saying that my children do not drink a great amount of milk, but I am suggesting to Senator Colston that it is not logically correct to say that it is an essential kind of foodstuff.
– Surely the children take it on the advice of a medical practitioner.
– That is a separate issue and I will come back to that. I want to make the point that this Committee has acted, I think, in line with available knowledge, that there is no good evidence that milk or milk substitutes are necessary for older children. This Committee is made up of a number of leading doctors, medical scientists and pharmacists in the country. They have the confidence of the medical profession and of all the helping professions. It will be expensive for families if it is decided that children who suffer from the allergy require to stay on the list. I was interested to know whether Senator Colston was going to recommend that the drug should be available for special purpose or on authority only. I did not hear whether it was to be for certain special conditions. What kind of reassessment did he want the Department of Health to make?
I will say just one more thing about the difficulties of prescribing. I was a specialist in an area where one had to deal with these kinds of dietary problems. It is generally possible, if one investigates these children thoroughly, to know whether this kind of product is needed. I say- I hope that Senator Grimes will agree- that medicine as it is practised in the community is extremely difficult and some of these decisions are extremely awkward. I think many doctors, making these decisions in good faith and to the best of their capacity, may have been ordering these products unnecessarily. At least this will be an occasion when the whole question can be reexamined.
I can appreciate the difficulties that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee faces. I can understand those difficulties. I hope that the Committee keeps the whole matter under continuous review. But I am not prepared to say, on the evidence I have about milk allergy, whether it is to lactose, protein or the penicillin which is sometimes in milk, that there is a good case for these products to continue to be available for older children. I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), when she replies, will tell us that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will continue to watch the situation. I hope that when we go back to the Committee we can present some good evidence and a good basis for this product going back on the list. Otherwise there is no end to this; no product will come off the list; and we can go on in respect of drug after drug saying: ‘Please put it back on the list because we think it will be a good thing’. The list, after all, is for certain specified drugs which are known to be effective. I feel sympathy for the Committee in having to deal with this product.
-I think that Senator Baume has been a little unfair to Senator Colston who, I think, has made a reasonable claim for reconsideration of this problem. I agree with Senator Baume and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee that milk substitutes have been over-prescribed. They probably have been prescribed for children of a much older age group than that for which they should be prescribed. I certainly agree with Senator Baume that it is possible to prove scientifically in many cases that some children do need a milk substitute and that some do not need a milk substitute; but most of us who practise in this country just are not able to do this. We have no facilities to enable us to work out whether a child needs these substitutes. We have no way of doing this, except by trial and error. Certainly most of the evidence is anecdotal and I agree that that is not very scientific; but it will be very difficult to prove to me, to other people in general practice in isolated areas and to the parents of the children with asthma and in more usual cases with abdominal conditions and eczema whom we see improve so much after they go on to cows’ milk substitutes that this is not effective. Although the evidence is not scientific and is not based on all sorts of scientific tests, the effect of putting these children back on milk at five, six, seven or eight years of age is sometimes quite dramatic.
Certainly milk is not an essential food for children of this age group. I accept that we probably feed our children too much milk. I notice that Senator Baume ‘s colleagues from the National Country Party are not in the chamber at the moment. They will be very interested to hear his comments on this matter and they will scream blue murder when they read them in Hansard tomorrow. However, I agree with Senator Baume that we must bear with this sort of thing. It is not easy in our society to just wipe milk out of the diet. It is not only the stuff that we drink; it is in bread, cake, biscuits and many other things which people in our society normally eat. Many parents use these milk substitutes in foods in the home. It seems to me that this is a case of mistaken priorities. These products should have been put on authority only. They could have been much more strictly policed. What has happened is that the whole range has just been wiped out. I have no doubt that some kids will suffer. There is certainly no doubt that they are very expensive products if people have to use it! I am convinced, although the evidence again is anecdotal or based on individual cases, that there are some people who need them. I think the decision has been a bit rash. I certainly agree with Senator Baume and I hope the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee keeps this matter under constant review. I think we must remember that in Africa particularly, as Senator Baume knows, milk intolerance is a very common condition. But it is not confined to Africans; it exists in our community, and to a much higher age than this new regulation will allow.
I just hope that the whole thing can be looked at again carefully and some formula worked out so that children who do need it at a much older age- I am sure there are such children- can be catered for. If there is no easy way to do this, I doubt if it is worth while to cut it right out to save the small amount of money that will be saved. I just emphasise that it seems to me that all the savings in all the field of health and social security are going to be aimed at catching a few people who may have abused the system, to save a small amount of money. I do not like the way in which the tendency to do this is going. I think the matter should be looked at again. I am sure that as in the case of Diazepam, I assume, and some other drugs on which Senator Baume is a great authority, there may be evidence in these cases. If the honourable senator’s distinguished works have been missed out in the consideration of other drugs, there are some other distinguished physicians in the world who may have had their work missed out too. I think that the matter is to be looked at carefully.
Some of the drugs we use are not based on strict scientific evidence. Digoxin was used for many many years without a control trial ever being done. I doubt whether a control trial has ever been done on the use of digoxin. Therefore I think the thing is worth looking at. I think in these cases we cannot just rely on strict scientific evidence. I think the Minister or the Minister’s colleague in another place should look carefully at the situation.
– I shall be short in my remarks. I join with the plea made by my colleague Senator Colston for the Minister to look at this matter very closely or to ask the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to look at the matter very closely. I think that the debate that has ensued between Senator Baume on the one hand and my colleague Senator Grimes on the other illustrates the bind that lay members of the community are involved in when it comes to a matter of prescription for themselves or for the members of their families.
One of the great difficulties that confronts the Australian community is the situation where a person has been prescribed a drug or has been given a prescription for some considerable time by a medical practitioner because it is genuinely believed by that medical practitioner that that might be the answer to the person’s ills. That prescription is made available to that person on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and then suddenly without real explanation to the community it is removed from that scheme apparently because it is considered that the drug or prescription may not be giving the patient the benefit that it actually is giving. Then the member of the community- this has been mentioned to me on a number of occasions- loses faith in the ability of the medical practitioner prescribing the drug. In particular it has been mentioned to me in recent times by 3 people that some drug- I have forgotten the name of it- in regard to a complaint commonly referred to as diverticulitis has been removed. People have been taking it for many years and suddenly it is to be removed from the scheme on 1 April.
I think the time has arrived when the Government should give consideration to establishing an appeal body from decisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee so that if and when a drug is removed and a medical practitioner, scientist or health authority feels that the community at large can receive the benefit of it- obviously in the case of the matter raised by Senator Colston this evening there is a difference of opinion between 2 medical practitioners in the chamber- an appellant body should be able to weigh up, consider the evidence and assess it on behalf of the community in general.
– I do not want to delay the Senate for very long over this matter. In view of the remarks made by Senator Baume I wonder whether he is aware that there appears to be a growing school of thought among medical practitioners that children who suffer from croup should not have any dairy foods at all. I am not talking just about milk but about butter, cheese, and cakes or anything which has been made with milk. This even includes icecream. My son at the age of 18 months was very ill with croup. He was taken off all dairy foods and put on the cows’ milk substitute. He is tested regularly over each 12-monthly period. At the age of 4 years he was able to return to a reasonably normal diet. He was under fairly strict supervision for the first 12 months. At the age of 6 years he is still having tests. According to my medical practitioner he will continue to have tests until he is 10 years old to make sure that his body can still tolerate a normal diet, including dairy foods.
I was a little concerned that Senator Baume said that children can go without milk. We are not talking only about children going without milk. We are talking about their going without dairy products. Quite often doctors prescribe cows’ milk substitutes to take over where the dairy foods would normally be provided in the diet of some children. I think this is a consideration which the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee should have a good look at. Quite often this preparation is prescribed not just as a milk substitute. Quite often it is prescribed as a substitute for all dairy foods in the child’s diet.
– I feel sure that my colleague the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) will read with interest the debate which has been conducted on this matter of cows’ milk substitutes in the Senate this evening. As was stated by Senator Colston, the decision was taken that as from 1 April the availability of food supplement in the form of soya formula and other noted formulas for the treatment of cows’ milk allergy will be restricted to infants under the age of 18 months. It has also been stated this evening that the decision was taken by the Government on a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. As I understand it, the recommendation was first made in October 1975. It was not acted upon by the former Government. I have heard with interest the slightly differing views of some honourable senators with regard to the decision which has been taken. It is fair to say that in the statement which was made by the Minister he said that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee considered that alternative sources of protein are available to children over the age of 1 8 months.
In view of the representations which have been made for reconsideration of this matter I think the statement which the Minister has authorised me to make will be of interest. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has written to all doctors advising them of its recommendations and of its views on this matter. However, in view of the concern which has been expressed on the subject since the announcement of the decision, the Minister has reqested the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to discuss its recommendations on cows’ milk substituted with the appropriate specialist medical bodies when the Committee meets them in May. In view of what we have heard this evening I feel sure that that meeting in May will provide the opportunity for this sort of advice to be given and an exchange of views to be undertaken between the medical bodies and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. I hope that they are not anecdotal views but that they are views which can be substantiated and on which a reconsideration of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommendation can be undertaken. I can say no more than that. I felt it would be of interest to Senator Colston and to the other honourable senators who have joined in the debate to know that it is the Minister’s request that these bodies have consultation on this subject at the meeting in May.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
No claim has been received from the Sydney City Mission in respect of the December 1975 quarter. The New South Wales Branch of my Department has corresponded with the Organisation about late lodgement of claims but no reply has been received to date. Unfortunately this and other organisations have been neither punctual nor accurate when lodging claims for salary subsidy and as a result delays in payments must occur.
Insofar as the Central Methodist Mission is concerned the following payments of salary subsidy have been made in respect of certain persons employed at the David Morgan Centre and the Tinaroo ‘ hostel:
No payments are outstanding in respect of this establishment.
No payments are outstanding in respect of this establishment. The request from the organisation for approval of new positions for certain persons employed at Pinaroo Hostel was received by my Department on 4 November 1975.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The 1229 applications have been received from each State, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Depending upon the size of the grants recommended by State and Territory Innovation Committees, between 100 and 120 projects could be supported with funds remaining for applications received up to 16 February 1976.
Funds required to support all applications received up to 16 February to the levels requested by applicants amount to $16,614,287.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Co-ordination of Commonwealth Government assistance in natural disasters or other civil emergency situations;
Operation of the Commonwealth Government program to meet civil defence emergencies affecting civilian population;
Development and implementation of plans to cope with natural disasters and civil defence emergencies in Commonwealth Territories and special areas;
Co-ordination of research and direction of public information programs on effects of nuclear and other weapons, floods, bushfires, earthquakes, cyclones, tidal waves and other natural disasters;
Direction of the Commonwealth Government Support Program for the provision of standard emergency equipment for relevant State and Territory authorities;
Operation of a National Emergency Operations Centre; and
Direction of the National Emergency Services College.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice :
Will the Minister inform the Senate whether she still has concern for the extreme difficulties faced by some supporting fathers, and whether they can expect to have their responsibilities acknowledged in this year’s Budget.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Government is concerned with all people facing extreme difficulties and hardship, including supporting fathers, and believes that those in greatest need should receive priority in assistance.
At present, a supporting father may be eligible for a Special Benefit under section 124 of the Social Services Act. The payment is intended to assist a father who is prevented from working because of the need to care for a child in those cases where domestic assistance or nursing help is not available from friends, relatives or other sources. The maximum rate of Special Benefit is currently $38.75 per week plus $7.50 a week for each dependent child.
Proposals for expanding assistance to supporting fathers will be considered by the Income Security Review Group as part of the review of the income security system as a whole.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
Will the Minister permit three Filipino housemaids who exposed domestic conditions existing in a diplomatic residence in Melbourne to stay in Australia, in view of permission granted for Filipino female clothing workers in Sydney to stay in Australia when they were placed in a similar situation by a former Minister for Labor and Immigration.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
The arrangements under which the staffof diplomatic and consular missions, including household staff, are admitted in to Australia from overseas and the conditions attaching to their temporary stay in Australia are matters which come within the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The situation of domestic staff in Embassies or Consulates is no way comparable with that which applied in the cases of the Filipino female clothing workers referred to by the honourable senator.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There are no statistics available for the Australian Capital Territory prior to 1975. During that year 17 handicapped persons received training.
-On 25 February 1976 Senator Brown asked me a question without notice concerning whether the reduction in Government expenditure in 1975-76 takes into account the re-introduction of the superphosphate bounty and the proposed discontinuance of the beef buy. The Treasurer has now provided me with the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Reductions in Government expenditure for 1975-76 announced so far amount to $360m. This does not take account of the new policy initiatives by the present Government in relation to the reintroduction of the Phosphatic Fertilisers Bounty and the suspension of the Meat Export Charges.
The Phosphatic Fertilisers Bounty is expected to cost $ 16m in 1975-76.
The loss of revenue in 1975-76 from suspending the Meat Export Charges from 1 March 1976 is estimated to be approximately $8m.
– In answering a question on 19 February by Senator McAuliffe about the volume of money, I undertook to provide the Senate with some further information. The following information has now been provided by the Treasurer:
Australian Savings Bonds
-On 19 February 1976 Senator Harradine asked me a question without notice concerning Series 1 of Australian Savings Bonds and I undertook to obtain further information for him. The question was again raised on 26 February 1976. The Treasurer has now provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian Savings Bonds are designed to appeal to smaller investors and savers, and they have achieved that objective.
A detailed classification of the amount raised by Series I by groups of subscribers is not available. However, a survey of subscriptions to larger registries indicates that institutions and professional investors subscribing amounts of $50,000 and over were not predominant in either numbers or amount.
Relatively small subscriptions predominated both in terms of numbers of subscriptions and in the amount subscribed. This was reflected in the fact that there were 121 156 subscribers to Series 1, with an average individual subscription of$6,250.
Australian Industry Development Corporation
-On 19 February 1976 Senator Wriedt asked me a question without notice concerning the Australian Industry Development Corporation. The Treasurer has now provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As I explained in the statement on ‘Review of Government Spending’ that I made on 4 February 1976, the $75m allocation to the AIDC in the 1975-76 Budget comprised payment of a further $25m instalment of AIDC capital and a possible $50m advance to the Corporation by the Commonwealth Government in accordance with the provisions of the Loans (AIDC) Act 1974. Mindful of the Government’s desire to limit as far as possible its budget expenditures this financial year, the Executive Chairman of the AIDC had written to me earlier advising that payment of the capital instalment was not required in 1975-76. He explained that the Corporation’s outstanding borrowings were not expected to reach by June 1976 the level necessary to meet the statutory requirement of four times the Corporation ‘s capital plus reserves for payment of such an instalment. At the same time the Executive Chairman also advised me that the Corporation had no plans to request the Government to borrow any funds on the AIDC’s behalf under the Loans (AIDC) Act this financial year.
As to the report in the newspapers that the AIDC is seeking to borrow more than $100m from the Export Import Bank of Japan, I am informed by the Corporation that, while it has had discussions over a lengthy period with representatives of that Bank, those discussions have related only to matters of principle concerning the possibility of the Bank lending to AIDC or assisting in the development of natural resources projects in Australia. The Corporation has not sought finance from the Bank for any particular project.
Redcliffs Petrochemical Works
– On 4 March 1976 Senator Messner asked the following question without notice:
Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources seen recent statements from the Dow Chemical Company, the Australian Resources Development Bank and the Premier of South Australia that the establishment of the Redcliffs petrochemical works should proceed and that they are awaiting a statement of attitude from the Federal Government? Can the Minister say whether any approach concerning this matter has been made to the Federal Government?
I undertook to seek the information for the honourable senator. The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have recently had discussions with the South Australian Minister for Mines and Energy, the Honourable Hugh Hudson, MHA, on the options available for the rational development of the Cooper Basin liquid hydrocarbon resource. The Redcliff petrochemical works is one of the available options. Officers of my Depanment have also had discussions with Dow Petrochemical Company.
This is primarily a State matter and if the South Australian Government in conjunction with Dow Chemical Company and the Australian Resources Development Bank wish to reconsider the Redcliff petrochemical project then, as far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, they are free to do so. We would welcome the successful negotiation of a satisfactory basis for establishment of this plant which would bring new industrial potential to South Australia.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760317_senate_30_s67/>.