30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to make provision for the establishment of an Australian Maritime College.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources the following matter: Solar energy.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate adopts the dissenting report of Senators Greenwood, Webster and Wright contained in the report of the Committee of Privileges tabled in the Senate on 7 October 1975 and relating to matters referred to the Committee by the Senate on 17 July 1975.
– I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That the Misrepresentation Ordinance 1975, as contained in the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 40 of 1975, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1973, be disallowed.
– I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That the Manufacturers Warranties Ordinance 1975, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 41 of 1975, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1973, be disallowed.
– I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That paragraphs (d) and (e) of sub-section ( 1 ) of section 10 of the Flammable Liquids Ordinance 1976, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 2 of 1 976, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1973, be disallowed.
– I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That the following regulations be disallowed-
Regulation 2 of the amendments of the Defence Force (Salaries) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1976 No. 3), and made under the Defence Act 1903-1975. the Naval Defence Act 1910-1975 and the Air Force Act 1923-1975.
The amendments of the Military Financial Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1976 No. 7, and made under the Defence Act 1903-1975.
– I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That Regulation 13 of the amendments of the Australian Rifle Club Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1976 No. 37, and made under the Defence Act 1903-1975, be disallowed.
-I ask the Minister for Education: Is it a fact that the report of the Schools Commission, which was to be due this month, will not be finalised until June? Is the delay due to a Government decision to impose financial guidelines on the recommendations of the Commission relating to expenditures? Has the Government, in effect, decided to influence the Commission in reaching its final recommendations?
– I am not aware that the Schools Commission’s report will be delayed as late as June; it could be ready at the end of April. There will be some delay. The normal time for presentation of the report would be the end of March. It is true that discussions have been taking place within the Government and with the various commissions on the question of monetary guidelines which might be an indication to the 4 commissions of the parameters of their report and the priorities in which they should work. If there is an inference to be drawn from the Leader of the Opposition’s question that this is a wrong principal and, as he said, a ‘seeking to influence’, I remind the Senate that in 1975 a decision of the then Government, of which he was a Minister, was to put aside the triennial report of the commissions, to make the year 1976 a nontriennial year and in 1976 to lay down rigid guidelines for the commissions to adopt. That was done. The Government of the day said that it had to do so because of economic stringencies. Those stringencies were based upon a forecast of a budget deficit of some $2.5 billion whereas the Budget deficit is roughly double that amount.
If guidelines were necessary last year in the Whitlam Government’s view they must be doubly necessary this year on the same basis. Let me refer the Leader of the Opposition to his own then Treasurer’s remarks on the dangers of unlimited spending. There is no intention whatsoever to seek to influence the Commissions in their establishment of recommendations or priorities. They will be free so to do. But in a real world of inflation and a Budget created by the previous Government, it would be nonsense, as recognised by the previous Government, if there were no indications of the parameters of spending to be used by the commissions. We are at this moment, seeking so to indicate.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is yet another evaluation team concerned with the replacement of the Mirage aircraft to be sent overseas? As aircraft designs for possible replacement are already well known in the Defence Department, what new activity and information can be expected from such a mission?
-The briefing note I have states that a Royal Australian Air Force Air Staff requirement was issued for a replacement of the Mirage in the Tactical Fighter Force in August 1971. As a result of that a team led by Air ViceMarshal F. S. Robey visited the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Sweden and France in March-April 1973 to investigate several contenders for the Mirage replacement and to report on their suitability, cost and technical risk. I am further advised that subsequently in August 1973 Mr Barnard, the then Minister for Defence, announced a reduction of the Tactical Fighter Force from 4 squadrons to three. This decision, coupled with the conclusion of an extensive structural fatigue life analysis and test conducted by the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne, allowed the projection of the useful life of the Mirage into at least the early 1980s. It is now seen that the determining factor in the life of the Mirage is not the airframe but certain of the electronics and weapons systems including the radar and airtoair guided missiles. Because of this, revised timing for the Mirage replacement is under review within the Department of Defence, and I understand that the Minister may be able to provide further information on timing within the context of the 1976-77 Budget.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that 2 overseas ships, the United Sailor and the Bracciano arrived at Darwin port on Thursday, 25 March and Friday, 26 March respectively, but that no unloading was done over the weekend? Is the Minister also aware that the State ship carrying perishable and other goods has now arrived in Darwin on its normal weekly call and that the turnaround will be delayed because of the unloading requirements on the 2 ships previously mentioned? Will the Minister take appropriate steps to ensure that port organisation is improved at Darwin and that the State ships will be able to maintain a proper schedule?
-I do not know the actual details of the ships that have been held up in Darwin. But it is fair to say that the state of the Australian waterfront has been a disgrace for a long time. Therefore, I am delighted to have the question directed to me. We will check it out to see who is really at fault.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Has the Minister seen or had drawn to his attention an article in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of Saturday, 27 March 1976, headlined: What to Wear to get a Job, wherein it was claimed that an unemployed labourer was told by a Commonwealth employment official that he would have to go home and put on a shirt and tie before he could be considered for any vacancy? Does the Minister know whether this claim is true? Can the Minister also tell us whether the claim is true that this official went on to say to this individual that by the time he got back any job which might have been available would have gone anyway? Further, is there any truth in the suggestion of victimisation of this person because he had spent some time in Westbrook and had revealed this fact to the Commonwealth Employment Service? If any or all of these allegations are true, is this a proper implementation of the Government’s policy to attempt to ascertain who are genuine job seekers or is it simply an example of an over zealous or over officious Government employee?
-My attention has been drawn to the matter of which the honourable senator has made inquiry. The information which comes to me- it comes to me through the Department of the Minister for Employment and
Industrial Relations- is that the gentleman concerned attended at the West End Commonwealth Employment Office and inquired as to the availability of job vacancies for labourers. He was informed that no suitable labour vacancies were at present available, particularly for young people of his age. According to the information which has been supplied from the Department, he then said: ‘You are giving the bloody wogs a job’. He was then asked to moderate this language by the officer in charge.
The officer said that if he came dressed differently he might be able to be referred to other jobs which he could take. He was dressed at the time in a singlet-type shirt, shorts and thongs. It was suggested that if he came differently dressed, with a shirt in place of the singlet and shoes in place of the thongs that he was wearing, he could be referred for stores work. It was impressed upon him also that if he was prompt in making himself available for any references which were given to him he would have a better chance of getting a job. The allegation to the effect that he was being victimised, as I understand it on the information supplied to me, is not confirmed because there is no record, as it subsequently appeared apparently in the newspaper, of the basis on which the victimisation was alleged. That information had not been given to the Department. If the honourable senator wants any further information, I can let her have it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that since the Government broke its contract with the National Employment and Training scheme students applications for NEAT have dropped by 20 per cent and that a number of those students currently training under the NEAT scheme have had to abandon their courses because they cannot live on the revised NEAT payments? How does the Minister equate the falling off of applicants for NEAT training with the statement which he made that 3000 additional people will be able to be trained under NEAT due to the Government’s action in reducing the NEAT payment? Finally, is the Government’s real intention in relation to NEAT to kill the whole scheme?
-As the Minister has said on many occasions and as I have said in this chamber on his behalf, the intention of the
Government is to make the National Employment and Training scheme sensible and to remove the situation under which it became merely a lurk for a lot of people who were taking advantage of it for their own benefit. They were not the genuinely unemployed for whom the scheme was intended. The whole purpose of what the Government has done in the way of ensuring that genuinely unemployed people who are in need will secure the NEAT benefits may have prevented other people who were welshing on their fellows and taking advantage of the scheme from getting away with it. In the circumstances, the Government believes that the course which it has taken is thoroughly justified.
-I address my question to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I refer to the announcement by the Government that it would establish a body called the Council for Intergovernmental Relations. I ask: Does the Government intend to proceed with this policy? If so, when? Will its location, as stated earlier, be in Hobart? What will be its structure?
– Let me relieve the honourable senator’s natural anxiety early by replying to her penultimate question. Yes, the location of the Council will be in Hobart. She posed the question whether the Government intends to proceed. The answer is yes, it does. When the Premiers Conference was held on 4 and 5 February the Government informed the Premiers that it proposed to take 3 main steps in federalism, commencing from 1 July. Firstly, it proposed a revenue sharing stage 1 process with regard to the States. Secondly, it proposed a growth revenue percentage for local government and, thirdly, the establishment of a statutory body entitled the Council for Intergovernmental Relations. The Premiers Conference arranged for discussions between the States and myself in the interim period between the last Premiers Conference and the next one which is to be held in early April. I am happy to say that such a meeting was held on Friday of last week. Considerable progress was made. There should be a capacity to make a detailed recommendation to the next Premiers Conference. As to the structure of the Council the aim is that it should have representatives of the 3 spheres of government, namely, Federal, State and local, together with private citizens as a balance. Therefore there will be opportunity for a continued dialogue between the 3 spheres of government. As such this is a significant reform in government in Australia.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Administrative Services been drawn to an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald last Thursday, 25 March, and which purported to be an article from the Herald’s investigation team? It was headed: ‘Breaches of Electoral Act Campaign Provisions’. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn also to a statement in that article that the Electoral Officer for New South Wales began sending out letters last Wednesday to candidates and political parties which were involved in the last election, asking them to complete and submit the returns to the Electoral Officer? Bearing in mind the Minister’s answer to me in the Senate on 17 March, does the Minister now advise the recipients of those letters to complete the forms or to tear them up?
-I did not read last Thursday’s Sydney Morning Herald. I never saw the article, nor am I aware of the statements in it. I expect that if I am to be advised in this matter I will be advised by the Chief Electoral Officer for Australia and not by the Electoral Officer of one State. I do not think it is for me to advise candidates, successful or otherwise, what to do with those forms. It is a matter for their judgment. I reiterate that the relevant section has been breached since 1904 without any action being taken by any of the successive Ministers for the last 72 years. Whether the honourable senator is inviting me to take action against himself, my colleagues or his colleagues I do not know.
– Is the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware that, for the first time in 20 years, the work force at Philips Industries at Hendon in South Australia has dropped below 1000? Has his attention been drawn to the fact that, owing to a general decline in industrial development, particularly in the mining sector in the last two or three years, the company will be force to close the ferrite plant in about 6 months? This will mean further retrenchments, bringing the work force down to 850. Does the Minister realise that this is the last ferrite plant of its type in Australia and that when these retrenchments take place the expertise in applying this technology will be lost to Australia. Does the Government recognise the strategic importance of preserving this unique electronic facility in Australia, which is capable of performing extremely specialised work? Is he aware also that despite increased efficiency through introducing new technology, such as the installation of 3-wafer bonders for producing integrated circuits and the development of a continuous process for the production of enamel wire, this industry is experiencing serious problems? Can the Minister say whether his department is conscious of these problems and whether any action is contemplated to overcome them?
– It will probably come as a great surprise to all honourable senators that I am aware of nearly all these things. I am deeply conscious of a number of them. I have had discussions with the principal of Philips Industries, particularly in relation to one area mentioned by the honourable senator. These discussions have continued at a departmental level. The matters mentioned by the honourable senator are still under discussion with a view to seeing what we can do to help this industry. There has been an overall problem of lack of economic growth in Australia for quite a long time and many industries, such as the one mentioned by the honourable senator are suffering as a result.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that handicapped exservicemen, war widows and ex-regular servicemen have been receiving training under the National Employment and Training scheme? Is he further aware that there is no longer a repatriation training scheme as this was transferred into the NEAT scheme some time ago? Does the Minister know that many veterans and their families are now gravely concerned about the cuts in the NEAT scheme? Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the Government will give special concessions to veterans and war widows who will have their NEAT scheme benefits cut back on 1 April?
-There is a lot of detail in the honourable senator’s question which I am not able to answer. I will convey that aspect of the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and ask him for a speedy reply. I should like to comment on the general principle within which the NEAT scheme now operates. The fundamental principle is that unemployed people who are willing to work and are prepared to undertake retraining will be given preference. The NEAT scheme was established for them. Although I concede that that was the original hope of the Labor Government when it introduced this scheme, it never worked in that way under that Government. Many people who did not need the sort of retraining which unemployed people needed were taking advantage of the scheme. The whole purpose of the present Government’s policy is to ensure that the scheme is available for those who need it.
– I am quite sure that the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will be aware of the unhappy circumstances which have over a number of years surrounded the issue of Truganini and her remains. Is the Minister aware that the Tasmanian Government has finally decided that Truganini ‘s remains shall be cremated and scattered over certain waters of Tasmania? Will the Minister contact the Tasmanian Government to ensure that Aboriginal organisations and interested Aborigines will be notified so that they may be present if they so desire when this takes place?
– I was not aware of the facts as they have been related by the honourable senator. But I feel quite confident in assuring the honourable senator that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will see that those interested in this ceremony will have an opportunity to be present.
-I should like to address a question to one who in former days would have been known as the ‘Minister for Customs’ but whose identity now, I am sorry to say, I cannot discover from the sheet in front of me. However I shall address the question, if I may, and perhaps the appropriate Minister will take it up. The Minister may recall that during the administration of the previous Government I raised on a number of occasions the question of the need for an Australian coastguard which would undertake customs surveillance, perhaps a search and rescue function and an involvement with national transport. Can the Minister say what progress has been made towards establishing a coastguard? What will its functions be? In the light of recent events concerning drug imports- the Press reported something of this in the Victorian area over the last couple of days- is there not now a real urgency in setting up a coastguard or some similar coastal surveillance organisation?
-For the information of Senator Devitt, I assure him that customs administration is now the responsibility of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I know that the matter of a coastguard service has been raised and its establishment recommended from time to time. I am not sure whether those recommendations have been acted upon in any way. I undertake to refer the question to the Minister and hope that he will bc able to supply an answer to the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, I refer to various announcements relating to the cost and method of despatching telegrams. Firstly, what is the nature of the announced alterations? Secondly, why were these steps taken?
-I am advised that in the current year the loss likely to be sustained by the Telecommunications Commission on the telegrams service is of the order of $50m. So the first reason for the economy steps being taken might be indicated by this. I understand also that there has been a fairly heavy decline in the traffic of telegrams over the years. My recollection is -
– Why do you not reduce the price?
-Saving the help of Senator Georges- he does not need a telegram, by the way- over the past decade the number of telegrams per year fell from 2 1 million to something like 14 million. So the decline is such that something had to be done. My understanding is that the proposal firstly is to encourage the use of phonograms and in doing that the 15c surcharge has been removed. By way of discouragement of the use of messenger delivery telegrams, an extra 40c loading has been imposed upon them. Concessions are granted to country telephone subscribers enabling them to send telegrams freely and there is a 24 hours concession within the main cities. In answer to the interjection, I wonder why Senator Georges, a supporter of the former Government which did a lot to destroy the cost structure in this country and which placed heavy tax and surcharge burdens on the people of this country, would dare to open his mouth on such a subject.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Were ex-servicemen residing in South Australian country areas who were required to attend the repatriation hospital at
Daw Park, a suburb of Adelaide, discriminated against in that they were not provided with free transport from the Adelaide railway station as was provided for city dwellers who attended the same hospital? Has the Government cancelled all transport for these people? If so, is this the manner in which the Government is eliminating discrimination?
– I do not have any information that I can give to the honourable senator in answer to his question. I will refer it to the Minister for Repatriation and obtain a reply. I do not like the use of the word ‘discrimination’ with regard to repatriation patients who are using the hospitals. I feel sure that there is no element of discrimination in any decisions that have been taken, but I will have an answer given to the honourable senator.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. In view of the fact that the Women’s Liberation Movement believes that women and men should be equal and that the Government has appointed a women’s adviser at a salary of $24,000 a year, following the silly nonsense of the previous Government, will the Government consider appointing a special men’s adviser to the Government on such problems as abandoned husbands in order to spend more of this country’s money and to bring about equality of the sexes, as desired by the Women’s Liberation Movement?
-I can understand the honourable senator’s interest in this matter. I suppose that, not having the benefit of a wife, he understands little about women. Most of us, if we are lucky, had mothers. Perhaps that is more important.
– It is hard to believe in some cases.
-It is even harder to believe that some people had fathers. I think it is fair to say that ever since man has been on earth, ever since Eve ate the apple, he has done reasonably well for himself. Therefore I do not really think there is need for a special adviser to the Prime Minister on men’s affairs. Men tend to look after themselves reasonably well. I think it is fair to say that those of us who are happily married certainly get the right advice on how to look after women properly.
– I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community
Development whether he has had time to consider Sir John Overall’s report, made in February 1976, on the Albury-Wodonga centre. If he has, does the Minister agree with the main conclusions of the report and will he table that report in this chamber?
– I had not proposed to table the report but I undertake to obtain a copy of it for any honourable senator who would like it. The report was commissioned by the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation- I say this in very broad terms- in order to survey its own history and operations and to make recommendations on where it might for the future economically and efficiently make improvements. I think that fundamentally questions relating to Albury-Wodonga and the development of that area are matters for the Commonwealth Government and the Victorian and New South Wales governments. Material of the character contained in Sir John Overall’s report is useful material upon which the Government can ultimately make its decisions. But those matters are ultimately for the Government. Having regard to the traditional rules concerning corporate responsibility, I should have thought that the honourable senator would not have expected me to express a personal opinion.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Construction. Is it a fact that the Department of Construction has more than 1 5 000 employees on its payroll and that this is more than the employees of any Australian company with the exception of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and General MotorsHoldens Pty Ltd? Is it also a fact that this Department rarely constructs anything but is substantially engaged in supervising the work of outside contractors? Does there not appear to be more scope for reduction in expenditure in this Department than in most other areas of government activity?
-The Department of Construction is a sizeable department within the Federal Government’s management. It has been a most important Department for the Commonwealth over many years. I am unable to tell the honourable senator whether the limits of employment and activity which he has outlined for the Department are correct. The Department plays a supervisory part in relation to most major Commonwealth Government construction projects. Indeed, it plays a very large part in regard to construction in the Australian Capital Territory. The honourable senator commented upon the size of the Department compared with private companies. The position in this regard is unknown to me. But if it employs 1 5 000 employees it is certainly comparable with any major company in Australia. I think there is a significant part for the Department of Construction to play in Australia. I would think that this has been supported by successive governments. If there is further information I can obtain for the honourable senator, I will do so. archbishop makarios
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has an invitation to Archbishop Makarios to visit Australia been withdrawn? If so, what are the reasons for the withdrawal? Will the Government review its decision in view of the many protests which have been received?
-I have no information on this subject. I will seek it for the honourable senator. territorial waters
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister say what is the current position regarding Commonwealth-State arrangements in relation to the off-shore areas of Australia with particular reference to historic bays, gulfs and inland waters and also in relation to the application and administration of fishing laws, including the issuing of fishing licences by the State authorities? Has a committee been formed to look into these matters? If so, what is the complement and structure of this committee? When is it expected to make its report? If a committee has not been estblished, will one be established to make inquiries into these matters?
-I think that once beforenot long ago- I made some comments about this matter. I said that the Minister for Primary Industry whom I represent in the Senate was discussing the matter with the State people in South Australia. That is still the case. I do not know and so cannot say whether the Minister has yet obtained agreement to the formation of a committee. I shall try to find out for the honourable senator the details which he is seeking.
Mining on aboriginal lands
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs refers to newspaper reports of an address by the Minister to the Australian Mining Industry Council in which it is alleged that he stated:
Mining would be permitted on Aboriginal reserves if it was in the national interest.
If the alleged statement is correct can the Minister advise the Senate what studies have been undertaken in the Gove Peninsula area both before and since the advent of the bauxite mining company’s operations? Would recommendations contained in any such report be used as a yardstick before additional mining leases for mining on Aboriginal lands were issued? Would the Minister consider the Aboriginal as an integral part of that national interest?
– I do not have a list of studies that have been undertaken with regard to permission for mining to be undertaken on Aboriginal reserves. I undertake to get an answer for the honourable senator. I feel quite sure that it would be agreed by us all that Aborigines are an intense part of the national interest.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the matter of radio licences, described as experimental licences, which are to be made available to educational institutions, such as universities, institutes of technology and colleges of advanced education. Is the Minister aware that the granting of a number of these licences has been approved but that the issue of the licences is still pending? Is he also aware that a number of such approvals were given during the period of what is known as the caretaker Government? Is the Minister aware that in a number of cases administrative and programming arrangements are being held in readiness and that institutional funds are being made available for appropriate use? Will he refer this matter to his colleague and press for an early decision so that educational radio stations can begin programming and serving the members of the organisations concerned?
– My understanding is that prior to the dissolution of this Parliament in November last year the then Minister for the Media had offered some 12 licences to educational institutions. They had not been operated on at that time and my further understanding is that, during the period of the caretaker Government, the then caretaker Postmaster-General issued 2 licences, one to the University of Queensland Union and the other to the Mitchell College of Advanced Education. I believe that since then the present Minister for Post and Telecommunications has issued one to the University of New England. I am advised that there are some four under consideration at this moment- for the University of Western Australia, the Western Australian Institute of Technology, the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education and the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education. I think there are some 5 applications from educational institutions awaiting consideration.This is the advice that I have received, but I will refer the full substance of the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for further information.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I draw his attention to a statement made by the Prime Minister in reply to a question in the House of Representatives last Thursday that the famed tax reforms of the previous Treasurer resulted in an additional $2,600m being taken from the taxpayers of Australia. Do present estimates suggest that tax collections will increase by $2, 600m this year, as the Prime Minister claimed, or is the estimated increase now about $800m which means, in real terms, that there will be no increase at all?
-What the Prime Minister said was completely correct. What is happening at present results from an alteration in the receipts pattern because of the change in the wage rate increase. The 2 things are not related.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to suggestions in some quarters that the badly needed centre for the intellectually handicapped at Bruce in the Australian Capital Territory may not open as scheduled on 1 June. Can the Minister say whether the centre, which is urgently required, will be opened on schedule. If there are problems with its opening, will the Minister indicate whether some action can be taken to ensure that the centre is opened on schedule?
– I can assure the honourable senator that, subject to current progress being maintained, the Bruce Hostel for the Intellectually Handicapped will be opened on 1 June. I understand that it will be completed within the next few weeks and will be opened progressively in accordance with the normal commissioning procedures from 1 June. The only difficulty which could occur is in the recruitment of the qualified staff who will be required. This involves something like 26 staff. The only thing that could delay the opening of the Bruce Hostel would be the difficulty in recruiting suitable staff. There is also the requirement to obtain an increase in current staff ceilings to enable these positions to be filled. However, I understand that 1 June is the date on which it will be opened.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen a statement by Dr R. Munro Ford, who is the Chairman of the Asthma Foundation and also the Chairman of the College of Allergists, protesting about a new requirement that asthma and allergy sufferers pay between $5 and $6 for each new prescription which they require for antihistamines. As the Minister well knows, the complaint is a most distressing one and in most cases the sufferers have it for many years. The Chairman of the Asthma Foundation states that he has not been consulted by the Government about the new requirement. Will the Minister be good enough to ask her colleague the Minister for Health to consider meeting the Chairman of the Foundation? I point out that there would be many cases of hardship because the drug is usually and generally required all the time.
– I will refer the request for consultation with Dr Ford to the Minister for Health in an endeavour to obtain some relief for the people who are required to pay the sums which have been outlined by the honourable senator. I understand that this is a recurrent expenditure and is a heavy burden, and I feel sure that the Minister for Health will be receptive to the request to arrange a consultation with Dr Ford.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Having regard to the isolation of the Bass Strait islands and their need for special transport facilities, will the Minister ensure that before the recommendations of the Nimmo report relating to the closure of the Stanley port to the roll-on roll-off service are seriously considered, the particular needs, the particular uses and the special circumstances of those islands are taken into account so that the service may not only be retained but also improved?
– These considerations will certainly be taken into account.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of the effect of the
Government’s economic measures on the efficiency of the Department’s arbitration inspectorate in Tasmania, which is currently staffed by only 2 inspectors? Does the Minister realise that as a result of these measures all routine inspections have ceased and that visits to the north, north-west and west coast of Tasmania to investigate complaints have been cut by more than 80 per cent? Is the Minister aware of the valuable time wasted by inspectors being required to use public transport- for which, incidentally, dole tickets were issued until recentlyinvolving in every week many hours of walking to and from factories and bus stops? Is the Minister aware that as a consequence one inspector took to his private bicycle to do his rounds on a 20-mile radius from the General Post Office in Hobart? Whilst this mode of travel might be good for the officer’s health and strikes a blow for the anti-pollution cause, why was an allowance for the replacement of worn out bicycle tyres refused to this officer, who has now left the inspectorate? Will the Minister initiate measures to ensure that the arbitration inspectorate in Tasmania is able to resume routine inspections and to cope with complaints and investigations, in the interests of industrial relations in that State?
– I must say that I do not have particular knowledge of the matters in Tasmania which are raised in the honourable senator’s question. I shall see that the specific complaint about the bicycle tyres is referred to the Minister for his information and for any response which he is able to give. The fact is, as I think the honourable senator is aware, that the Government has been endeavouring to achieve restraint in expenditure in all areas of government activity. The arbitration inspectorate is no exception. That has meant, particularly in areas of travel, overtime and accommodation, that expenditure has been reduced. It has meant a reduction in the number and frequency of inspections conducted on a routine and automatic basis and the hope has been that greater emphasis will be given to the handling of complaints. That is the general background. I expect it is against that background that the honourable senator’s question has arisen. I will refer the particular matters to the Minister for a fuller answer.
– I regret that it has been such a busy day that I have not seen the intriguing article, but the honourable senator’s question prompts me to go and read it. The point which the honourable senator makes, as I understand his question, is whether books which relate information which is demonstrably wrong, and which are then relied upon as being works of scholarship, as I think Mr Whitlam called this book, ought to have given to them the validity they deserve because of the errors they contain. There is no question, as I understand it, that there is an allegation, which to the initial reviewers appeared to be the prominent allegation in the book, that the Governor-General had sought advice from the Chief Justice of New South Wales and that that advice was contrary to the action which the Governor-General took. The Chief Justice of New South Wales has emphatically denied that he ever gave advice of any description to the Governor-General. In those circumstances there is a danger, when partisanship takes over and objectivity is subordinated to the particular political claims which some writers are trying to establish, that facts are not served, history is not served and everything becomes simply a matter of political propaganda. Let us hope we can put that behind us.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development with the comment that a number of Australian sporting bodies have approached me to express their concern at the manner in which the Government has reduced assistance to their organisations and as a consequence are particularly worried about the financial situation confronting the Australian Olympic contingent. In view of this, will the Minister give an assurance that the Australian Government will underwrite the cost of sending the Australian Olympic team to Montreal this year?
– I think it has been made clear before, but I reiterate: Of the $ 1.5 m which was allocated in the Budget last year to sporting bodies $1.3m has been expended. The Government was able to achieve savings when it came to office of the balance of $200,000 out of some $250,000 then remaining. The justification for effecting these savings and thereby denying that amount to sporting bodies is that in the circumstances in which we are placed restraint across the board ought to be expected and experienced by everybody. Furthermore, no sporting body which was given commitments by the previous Government will not find those commitments honoured. That is the basic proposition.
As to the question about the Olympic team, the Prime Minister in his broadcast on Australia Day this year indicated that $250,000 was available from the Commonwealth Government to assist our athletes going to Montreal. That, I think, is an earnest of how the Government views a commitment to sport. It is not the full amount by any means. But let us never get to the stage where sport is totally dependent upon government in this country. Sporting people have an obligation to help themselves and government can, when it is able, complement that help.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to a report that the Bread Carters Union in South Australia has threatened to stop flour and fuel supplies to an Adelaide bakery if it continues to sell bread at reduced prices. Is this not a form of industrial blackmail by the union, and is not the public the eventual victim which will pay more for bread than it needs to do? If it is true that the present Trade Practices Act does not allow action to stop this rip off by the union, will he refer the matter to the Minister with a view to finding mechanisms for making unions as well as private business subject to the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act?
– I have seen the report and I will refer the matter to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in the light of the honourable senator’s question. As I understand the report, this particular bread seller was selling bread at 10c a loaf cheaper than his competitors. Because he was doing that, the bread carters decided that unless he stops that practice they will cut off his flour and fuel supplies. If that be the fact, it appears to me that unions are practising intimidation and that there is apparently no law which applies to them. One of the problems in this area over many years has been that the Labor Party and the unions generally have urged effective restrictive trade practices legislation to apply to companies, but they will strongly and forcefully resist any application of those same principles to themselves.
-I desire to ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General a question. I refer to the decision of the AttorneyGeneral not to table the police report on the Iraqi loans money as it contained serious allegations against a number of individuals. Will the Attorney-General, in fairness, notify the individuals concerned of what is alleged against them so that they may take whatever action they deem proper in this matter?
– I think that the conduct of the present Attorney-General stands out most honourably in contrast with the conduct of a previous occupant of that office who tabled in this place police reports without substantiation on hundreds of people in which those people were accused of serious crimes. I think that the conduct of Mr Ellicott, the present AttorneyGeneral, deserves every commendation. He will not publish police reports which may or may not be true in respect of people against whom no action is intended. I would think that, if the honourable senator wishes to pursue a course of inquiry, he should approach the AttorneyGeneral directly, and the matter can be assessed in the light of the information which is supplied. Parliament should not be the place where privileged documents are published- documents in which individuals, against whom rumour and innuendo may be raised, can be vilified.
– I raise a question on the article by Professor Geoffrey Sawer, published today, on the book Kerr’s King Hit. I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether he has noticed Professor Sawer’s scholarly contribution to this discussion in these terms, referring to the denial by Mr Justice Street, the Chief Justice of New South Wales -
- Mr Deputy President, I rise to take a point of order. I draw to your attention the fact that, in response to a previous question from Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, Senator Greenwood said that he had not seen the article. I suggest that the question which the honourable senator is asking cannot be answered by Senator Greenwood.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) The point of order is not upheld.
The honourable senator is pre-empting the question.
-Senator Bishop will probably succeed in getting my question taken off the re-broadcast. I see that another point of order is about to be taken.
– Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Will you make it clear to the honourable senator opposite, who has made that charge on 2 occasions, that a point of order which is raised but disallowed, does not in any way -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! No point of order arises. I call Senator Wright.
– Is that not correct?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Sit down.
- Mr Deputy Presidenthere it comes again.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I invite you to give your attention to standing order 99 (a) which refers to: statements of facts or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated;
I find it extremely difficult to believe that Senator Wright will be able to authenticate the newspaper article from which he is reading because, first of all, he would have to speak to the author of the article and probably check with the person about whom the article was written.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The point of order is not upheld. That argument would refer to almost every question asked in this place. I call Senator Wright.
-Professor Geoffrey Sawer contributes an article through the public Press on the subject of Kerr’s King Hit. He refers to the most publicised falsity in that book, namely, that the Governor-General consulted the Chief Justice of New South Wales. The Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Laurence Street, has emphatically and without equivocation denied -
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. The honourable senator should be required to ask his question. He is giving far too much information. He is deliberately doing it. I think he is misusing question time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Wright, ask your question.
– In relation to the denial of the Chief Justice that he gave any advice directly or indirectly, this is the comment of the pseudo-learned professor:
This assertion has now been denied in the most positive terms -
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Wright, I suggest that you ask your question.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order because I feel that the honourable senator is breaking Standing Orders. He is reading from a newspaper. I think that practice has been ruled out of order several times.
- Mr Deputy President, I address myself to the point of order. I do so only in the context of the matter raised by Senator Brown, namely, that the honourable senator is entitled to provide such information as will make the question intelligible. That is what the honourable senator intends to do.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-I suggest that the Senate come to order. Senator Wright, will you address your question to the Chair.
-Yes, Mr Deputy President. The gravamen of my question depends upon the text of one short quotation from the article by Professor Sawer. He refers to the denial by the Chief Justice in these terms:
This assertion has now been denied in the most positive terms by Street. Denials no more establish truth than do assertions but my inclination is to believe Street.
My question is: Will the Minister representing the Attorney-General, noting the slur that the dubiety of the professor’s statement casts upon the Chief Justice of New South Wales, take every step to ensure that the professor is put in the ranks of propagandists and not in any category of learned professors dealing with a subject matter on the basis of scholarship?
– I do not wish to reiterate, merely for the sake of reiteration, the point I made in response to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. But the events of late last year will be indelibly part of Australia’s constitutional and political history. I would have thought that the task of those who essay literature on this subject is to verify their facts and to ensure that their contributions have value in that political and constitutional assessment. Regrettably when books which are widely publicised, and which undoubtedly will have an extensive reading public, contain statements which are of the importance of those attributed to the Chief Justice of New South Wales and which prove to be demonstrably false, then the value of that book and all that is written in it must be questioned. This is part of the problem which I think scholarship is suffering from in Australia at the present time.
-Pursuant to section 44 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961-1973, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975.
-I present the first report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– I seek leave to present a statement on behalf of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Honourable M. J. R. MacKellar, M.P., who read the statement in another place earlier this afternoon.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Reference to the pronoun in the first person in the statement should be taken as relating to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. At a time when we have more than enough economic and social problems to keep us fully occupied, it may seem untimely to ask the Parliament and the Australian people to give some thought to longer term population goals and growth rates including the desirable size and composition of our population at various stages up to the end of this century. Yet notwithstanding our immediate problems, we should not bury our heads in the present. There are demographic trends at work which require us to give serious thought to the sort of Australia we wish to see at the beginning of the next century. Demographic events cast their shadows and lights far ahead. Changes in the direction of the present demographic patterns of this nation and of others will largely determine the size and composition of our population for decades ahead.
It took 70 years after 1788 for the Australian population to reach one million. The second million took a further 19 years. Our thirteenth million- reached in September 1972-took 4M years. In the 3 Vi years since then our population has increased by less than 600 000. In line with the pattern in most other industrialised, developed countries, we are in a period of significant fertility decline. For demographic purposes, fertility is a measure of the actual numbers of children born, not the ability to bear children. Immigration to Australia has also declined dramatically. As a consequence, the rate of increase in our population has dropped considerably.
The most useful measure of fertility is the net reproduction rate. A net reproduction rate of unity will in the long term yield zero population growth. According to the first report of the National Population Inquiry, page 302, if fertility stabilises at around 1975-76 at net reproduction rate = 1, the population to be expected by the end of the year 2001 would be 15.9 million in the absence of immigration and 1 7.6 million if net immigration averaged 50 000 a year. Taking the higher projected figure, the population would increase by 4 million in the next 25 years. In the 25 years to June 1975 it grew by 5.2 million.
In these preliminary comments there are two important points to be emphasised. First, on the basis of preliminary birth statistics for 1975, it seems likely that fertility has already fallen to the level producing a net reproduction rate of one and it is still falling. Second, net immigration is currently running at well below 50 000 a year. In 1975-76 the gross migrant intake will probably be just below that figure. Even that figure, however, probably gives a false impression of the overall change in population resulting from migration. For purposes of projection, the National Population Inquiry used the net balance of all arrivals less all departures as the total for net migration- page 259. Using this definition on the basis of provisional and unofficial figures, it appears that there was a net migration loss of about 5000 in calendar year 1975. That is a remarkable situation. There has been no other year since 1947 when the net excess of recorded arrivals over departures has been less than 28 000. Indeed in all but 2 years in that period the net migration gain was at least 40 000.
I am making this statement on population policy against that background- especially of the decline in the net reproduction rate and in net migration to below the level of the assumption which was the basis for the National Population Inquiry’s projection of a population of 17.6 millions in 200 1 . It was in the context of the need for long range perspectives on population and immigration that the Liberal-Country Party Government, on the strong recommendation of the then Minister for Immigration, the Honourable P. R. Lynch, commissioned the National Population Inquiry in 1970. The Inquiry was headed by Professor W. D. Borrie, O.B.E. and inquired into the size, composition and distribution of Australia’s population at various stages up to the year 2001.
Honourable senators are well aware of the first report of the National Population Inquiry to which I have already referred. It was tabled in this House in February 1975. The report shattered previous expectations of an Australian population in excess of 20 million by the year 200 1 and brought to attention a significant fertility decline in Australia. In so far as Australia has had a population policy in the post-war period it has been in terms of immigration rather than policies designed specifically to increase births to achieve desirable population policy goals.
Of the 3 major population variables- fertility, mortality and external migration- external migration is the only one by which government can directly and significantly influence population. It would be unthinkable, even if it were possible, for government to attempt to manipulate fertility or mortality rates to achieve particular population growth rate targets or to determine the composition of the population. Government policies which influence mortality are posited primarily on the desire to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the community and their effect on population growth is incidental. It would be quite unacceptable for such policies to be used as a means of regulating population growth rates. There seems to be little scope for extending life expectancy significantly so that the mortality variable became a major influence on population trends in the last quarter of this century.
There are people who suggest that Australians should be encouraged to have more children as a substitute for immigration. There is little evidence that human fertility can readily be manipulated by governments to serve specific goals. In developed countries such measures, where they have been tried, generally have been pro-natalist and have had little, if any, success. According to the National Population Inquiry report, ‘The likely effects of Government measures to encourage or discourage childbearing cannot be anticipated until much more is known about the causes of fertility changes’NPI Report, page 726 18.39. It must be doubtful whether there would be acceptable and feasible means whereby an Australian government could seek to increase fertility even if it were the community view that our natural population growth rate was too low. Therefore, external immigration will continue to be the only major instrument available to government to influence the level and composition of our population.
We have to recognise that the population factor is a key element in most government policy decisions. This applies both to policies involving government services to the Australian people, such as education or social welfare, and to policies in which population is treated as a resource, such as the gearing of manpower to economic development. The importance of population considerations becomes apparent when one examines specific areas of policy. For example, if Australia’s teacher training programs are to meet but not exceed expected future schooling needs, likely future school enrolments at the various levels must be known. Future demands for obstetrics and geriatric medical facilities and personnel will depend heavily on the age composition of the future Australian population.
The volume and nature of investment in both the public sector and in private enterprise are linked with the expected demand for the services or goods to be provided through such investment and the volume and composition of such demand are dependent on the size and composition of the future population. Urban development planning by State and local governments and any regional growth centre policies introduced or continued by State and Commonwealth governments are other examples. These must be closely geared to future population developments. If not, we court the serious risk either of massive, wasteful investment in providing capital works well beyond the needs of future populations or inappropriate to those populations; or of serious shortfalls in infrastructure to service the population of the future. The range of examples is very extensive but those I have mentioned provide an indication of how vital, far-reaching and economically significant the population variable is to policy making for all levels of government and private enterprise associated with physical and human resource allocation and development.
Some aspects of our demographic future can be predicted with confidence. For example, the number of people in Australia aged over 20 years in 20 years’ time, or aged over 5 years in 5 years’ time, can be determined today with sufficient accuracy for most of the purposes of policy formulation and implementation. The same is true, in general, for numbers of aged people. In the case of those developments which depend on trends in fertility, however, knowledge at this stage is insufficient to predict future birth levels with certainty. What can be done is to project such levels on the basis of the trends in fertility already evident. The decline in the number of births recorded in Australia in each year since 1971 is now generally accepted as the continuation of a long-standing decline in family size, not so clearly evident before 1971 because of the intervention of such factors as soaring rates of marriage. In some quarters it has been suggested that the decline in fertility since 197 1 is a temporary phenomenon due largely to a recent marked change in attitudes towards starting families. The argument is that couples have deferred the birth of their first child for several years, perhaps in response to economic circumstances or to changed attitudes towards women working. While there is some evidence of deferment of first births in some families, this in itself seems to have been only a minor factor in the severe fall in fertility since 197 1. What this argument overlooks is the long-standing decline in completed family size in Australia from an average of over 6 children in the 1 880s to about three in the 1 940s and to below three more recently.
Moreover, there has tended to be a lag between demographic trends in comparable countries overseas and those in Australia. Significant fertility decline is continuing in most developed countries overseas. In Western Europe, England and Wales, Scotland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland- to name only some- are experiencing high rates of marriage, yet fertility is declining. All of these countries have a net reproduction rate close to, or below, unity and still falling. Italy is just outside that situation. Outside Western Europe, the United States is in the same category as the list of countries I have mentioned and Canada is just outside. According to a recent report of the Economic Commission for Europe, if these trends were to continue indefinitely, it is an extreme though not unreasonable conclusion that by the year 2030 quite rapid declines in population would have set in in all major regions of Europe. For Australia there are 2 main points to be gathered from current demographic trends in other developed countries. The first is that we face further declines in fertility. The second is that the rate of population growth in most of our traditional source countries for immigration is decreasing and, if current trends continue, will do so to a much greater degree from early in the next century. This second point should not be put too high. There is considerable potential for further migration from most of these countries, at least for the next 2 decades.
The First Report of the National Population Inquiry provides insights into the likely path our population will take up until the year 200 1 , given certain assumptions. What we now need to consider is whether Australia’s projected population growth, including its likely composition, is appropriate to national objectives. If not, what should it be and why and how are we going to achieve any population goals we set ourselves? What population goals should immigration be directed towards in the medium and long-term? The first dimension of what should be encompassed within a national population strategy is the constant monitoring of demographic trends. This would involve the analysis and interpretation of their apparent implications for the future and ensuring that this information is available to policy and decision makers, inside and outside Government. That is a major developing task of the Population Policy and Research Unit of my Department working in close association with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other agencies. This first dimension is a passive one to the extent that it accepts demographic trends as given, and attempts to adjust other programs and policies accordingly.
There can be a second, active dimension to a population strategy. This involves making decisions about desirable growth rates and taking action to achieve them. A precedent is the 2 per cent population growth rate policy following the Second World War and the introduction of annual immigration programs. Australia’s difficulties in defending itself during that War and the need for manpower to encourage and support industrial and economic expansion combined to produce a national consensus that Australia needed a much larger population. The agreed policy was that Australia’s population should increase by an average of 2 per cent per annum, approximately 1 per cent resulting from natural increase and the balance from immigration. The 2 per cent population growth rate policy was consistently exceeded in the period 1948-49 to 1960-61.
One only has to consider that since 1945 some 3.3 million migrants have come to Australia and that one in 5 persons in this country is a migrant to appreciate the impact of post-war immigration. It has supplemented shortfalls in our nation’s age structure, particularly in the working ages, and has been an important factor in the youthful age structure we have in Australia today. If we include the children born to migrants after arrival, some 3.7 million of the total 6.2 million increase in Australia’s population since World War II is due directly to migrants. It is almost universally agreed that the immigration program has been of enormous benefit to
Australia. This is a tribute to our massive development potential, the good sense of Australian-born and migrants in avoiding community tensions and the industry of our migrants. There have been pressures on the infrastructures of our major cities and there have been ethnic problems of very minor dimensions, in comparison with the comparable problems of many other countries. This situation was reached without scientific assessment of the implications of pursuing and achieving the high rates of population growth of the post-war years.
I want now to pose some of the issues involved in developing a future population policy strategy for Australia. It is no longer acceptable to set a figure virtually arbitrarily as a rate of future population growth and then use it as the basis of a population policy. We are a larger and more diverse nation than the one which set out on the large-scale post-war immigration program. One possibility is to do nothing. There is a body of opinion which sees population growth as unnecessary and, indeed, undesirable. There are groups which see our standard of living increasing by upgrading the skills of our workforce and developing our natural resources without the assistance of further immigration or even population growth. One of the inevitable consequences of that approach is, if present fertility and mortality trends continue, that our population will age. In 1973 the age distribution of our population aged sixty-five and over was 8.4 per cent.
Assuming a constant net reproduction rate of one from 1975-76 on, a substantial increase in the retired component of society can be expected in 200 1 . With no migration, 10.31 per cent would be in the 65 plus group. This means that the proportion of our population of retirement age who are dependent on those of working age would increase by one quarter. Far from improving our standard of living and improving the quality of life, this approach with its result of an aging population will require the transfer of resources away from education and training and investment in productive processes to the needs of a proportionately increasing population of aged persons. In almost all conceivable circumstances a net migration gain has the effect of increasing the proportion of the population below 65 years. If the community sees some cause for concern in an aging population, it may even be desirable to direct immigration in such a way as deliberately to have a ..,—-6-, effect on the populationfor example by lowering the general age eligibility limits or by giving preference to younger applicants.
Another related argument is that with the acute population pressures in many parts of the world, Australia should not be increasing its own population. This assumes that increases in Australia’s population will have a significant impact on the rate of increase in the world’s population or that what we do will be an example for more populous countries. Such assumptions are so unreal that they do not require close study. Nobody can reasonably argue that there is any prospect that Australia itself will become over-populated even in the long-term. On the other hand, however concerned we may be about the population problems of other countries, these are problems to be resolved by those countries and peoples themselves. Our example and even massive immigration from them will not have any significant effect on the scale of their problems.
It is not my purpose to advocate a particular set of objectives at this stage. For its part, the Government maintains the position stated in its election policy statement on immigration and ethnic affairs as follows:
Immigration is an essential instrument of Australia’s population policies and of the broader national strategies and objectives to which those population policies are directed.
That is a commitment to population growth, with immigration as the prime factor in that growth. But, and I emphasise this, it is not a commitment to immigration simply to add to our population without any assessment of the effects of doing so and what is needed to meet those effects. The Government believes that Australia’s population and immigration strategies must not be a numbers game’ but must have a sound basis which takes account of the medium and longterm implications of various growth options. However, the exact extent of the population growth to be aimed at, and the composition of the increment, are matters on which we require informed advice. They effect our whole community. They determine the future of Australia as a nation into the next century and beyond. In a liberal democracy the views of all levels of Government and of the community should be sought and taken into account in taking such decisions.
In my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs with responsibility for matters of population policy, I now announce initiatives which will assist the development of future population policy.
The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is now actively engaged in the analysis of basic statistical data on fertility, mortality and migration and population developments and policies in other countries. Proposals to increase further its capabilites in this regard are receiving consideration. We are fortunate in Australia that through the efficiency of the Australian Bureau of Statistics we have long-standing and detailed statistical series on population and related matters. The Department will work closely with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other bodies to ensure that changes in demographic patterns are made available for policy and decision makers as soon as they are verified and analysed.
In addition, the Australian Population and Immigration Council (APIC) which was originally established in February 1975 has been reconstituted. The reconstituted Council will advise the Minister on such matters as: Regular monitoring of, and research into, population change; major developments and research in Australia and overseas concerning population and immigration; the longer-term implications of changing patterns of immigration intakes; ways in which future immigration intakes can be planned to complement other policies; and implications of population change for various aspects of resource allocation. The functions of the new Council indicate the importance which the Government attaches to population policies and show its determination to base immigration policies and programs on a range of considerations including the population objectives to be developed with the assistance of the Council. A distinguished group of people with wide experience and exceptional personal qualifications has agreed to serve on the Council. I am sure that each will make a valuable contribution to the work of APIC in the years ahead when many vital decisions will need to be made.
The members of the new Council are, in alphabetical order
Professor W. D. Borrie- Professor of Demography, Australian National University, and Director of the National Population Inquiry
Dr Lisa Brodribb. Managing Director, M. Brodribb Pty Ltd, Victoria
Mr David Cox. Director, International Social Service
Mr J. A. Gobbo. Lawyer, Melbourne
Mr R. J. Hawke President, Australian Council of Trade Unions
Professor W. P. Hogan- Professor of Economics, University of Sydney
Mr J. A. Kiosoglous Stipendiary Magistrate, Juvenile Court, South Australia and President, Good Neighbour Council, South Australia
Mr G. Lapaine. Lawyer; Member, Ethnic Communities Council and Good Neighbour Council, N.S.W
Professor J. D. B. Miller- Professor of International Relations, Australian National University
Dr G. M. Neutze. Professorial Fellow and Head, Urban Research Unit, Australian National University
Mr George Polites, M.B.E. Executive Director, Australian Council of Employers’ Federations
Mr J. F. Rich Executive General Manager, (Finance) and Director, Broken Hill Proprietory Co. Ltd
Dr A. Richardson. Reader in Psychology, University of Western Australia
Mr H. J. Souter, A.M. and Secretary, Australian Council of Trade Unions
Professor R. J. Walsh, O.A., O.B.E.-Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
As Chairman of the Council, I am gratified that I shall be able to draw on the wide range of experience embodied in its membership. I shall be asking APIC to proceed with preparation of a Green Paper on population and immigration policies. It will provide available data as a basis for informed and logical discussion and canvass policy options, together with arguments for and against particular options. The purposes of the Green Paper are to stimulate interest in, and debate on, vital population issues and objectives; to create a better informed public opinion; and to lead to the development of policies in accord with present day values and foreseeable national needs.
There is not one set of answers or solutions to these issues and questions. It is instructive to compare the recent approaches of Canada and Australia. In the years 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1975-76- estimated- the total numbers of settler arrivals in Australia totalled 1 12 000, 88 000 and 50 000 respectively. Total landed immigrants in Canada in the years 1973, 1974 and 1975- provisional-were 1 84 000, 2 1 8 000 and 2 1 8 000 respectively. During these periods, unemployment in Australia rose from 1.6 per cent in June 1973 to 4.2 per cent in February 1976- seasonally adjusted- and inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, by 14 per cent in the 12 months to the December quarter 1975. In Canada, the annual average rate of unemployment in 1973 was 5.6 per cent and in 1975 was 6.4 per cent. Inflation, as measured by the Canadian consumer price index, was 9.5 per cent in the 12 months ending December 1975.
Taking account of the problems of comparing statistical series and of the different time periods, it is apparent that the high levels of immigration into Canada during the past 3 years have not had a significant effect on the level of unemployment. On the other hand, Australia has sharply reduced immigration during a period of rapidly increasing unemployment. Over the same period the Canadian inflation rate has been well below the Australian inflation rate. Canada has sought to achieve a consistent approach to population growth and to immigration. The question of consistency in immigration programs is a most important matter for us to consider.
It has been suggested that resource limitations, especially shortage of water supplies, will severely restrict Australia’s capacity to absorb additional population. It is notable, however, that in his study of Australian water resources for the national population inquiry, Professor J. W. Holmes indicated that water supplies would be adequate to support a national population of 280 million. Other studies of resource availability confirm that these do not represent constraints on population growth at any feasible rate in the foreseeable future. There is no doubt, therefore, that Australia has the natural resources, as well as the technological capacity and the political, economic and social structures to enable population increases during the rest of this century of at least the levels of the post-war period.
The constraints on our potential for population growth are not so much those of our natural resources but of the need to ensure a continuing improvement in living and working standards, the avoidance of short term pressures on our infrastructures, the preservation of the environment, the avoidance of pockets of disadvantaged persons and groups, the need to ensure the retention of a cohesive Australian community with scope for cultural, ethnic and individual diversity, and the availability of the sorts of migrants the Australian community requires and wants. There is also the great question of creating new job opportunities in the emerging postindustrial society, though there is evidence that immigration itself helps to create jobs and to generate economic development. Even making full allowance for these constraints, it is the wishes of the community, rather than the potential to absorb population growth, that set the limits on our population objectives.
I accept that this statement does not provide answers or solutions. My intention has been to highlight the questions and issues that we as a nation mustconsider in determining ourpopulation objectives and the means of achieving them. The Government has set in train action to enable full consideration of these issues and questions with the object of setting objectives and developing policies to meet them. I hope that this statement will encourage debate on these matters.
I seek leave to move ‘That the Senate take note of the statement’.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
– I inform honourable senators that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating Senator Rae to be a member of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Rae, having been duly nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 2 March 1976, be appointed to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
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 Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to extend the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act 1966-1974 for a further period of 12 months from 1 January 1976 pending examination by the Government of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on nitrogenous fertilisers. Because of the importance of nitrogenous fertilisers in many areas of rural production the Government feels that the Act should be extended rather than held in abeyance until a decision has been made on the report. The Act was previously extended for a similar period in 1974.
Subsidy is paid on imported nitrogenous fertilisers under certain circumstances. Last year new anti-dumping legislation was passed by Parliament and the anti-dumping provisions of the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act have been amended to make them compatible with the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Act 1975. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) 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 Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill now before the Senate is intended to give effect to the Government’s announced intention of reintroducing the phosphate fertiliser bounty for a period from 1 1 February 1976 to 30 June 1977. An interim report on the matter has been received from the Industries Assistance Commission and it is anticipated that the final report from the Commission will be received later in. the year. This extension will allow consideration of the Commission’s report before the proposed bounty period expires.
Because stocks of higher priced phosphatic fertilisers were held by resellers at the commencement of the bounty period provision has been made for sales of this stock to end users to attract bounty. Without this provision such stocks could only be disposed of at a substantial loss by the reseller. Similar provisions were included when the rate of bounty was varied in 1970. Opportunity has been taken to change to metric expression of weight at the appropriate rates of bounty. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I will continue the remarks I was making last week. I was drawing the attention of the Senate to some of the confusion and distress being caused to the people of the Australian Capital Territory by changes of policy by the present Government. The areas in which this confusion exists include health services, transport, employment and housing. I now wish to draw the attention of the Senate to a matter which, whilst certainly of great concern to the people of the Territory, is of concern to people throughout Australia. I refer to the threat to the independence, standards and quality of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In particular, people throughout Australia have been alarmed by rumours of a proposed merger of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I am sure all honourable senators will be aware of the storm of protests from Australians about this rumour.
Before I attempt to deal with some of the arguments purporting to support such a merger or purporting to support other would-be reforms such as the introduction of commercial advertising into ABC programs, I ask honourable senators to consider what it is that the ABC does for the Australian people. It performs many more functions than commercial broadcasting could ever hope to achieve. Perhaps the most important function it performs is that it offers informed and objective reporting of political and other current events. I make this assertion despite the dishonourable and very unfair attack on employees of the ABC made by the Leader of the
Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, in this place last week. The attack by Senator Withers has caused great distress to employees of the ABC and I for one have been approached by many of them and have been asked to redress the inaccurate and totally distorted views put forward by Senator Withers in the chamber last week. In support of my assertion that the ABC offers the possibility of objective and accurate reporting of current political events I quote from a Press release made by 10 eminent Australians on 22 March 1976 which claims:
The ABC in our view has special significance in our society because that society is not strong in mass communication channels of an objective character, able to range a quizzical eye over Australia at large.
The statement to which I refer contains more matter of relevance to proposals in respect of the ABC. I seek leave of the chamber to have the Press release incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
For release 6 p.m. March 22 1 976
A group of distinguished Australians today called on the Government to ensure the financial and political independence of the ABC.
In an open letter to the press, they said:
Many Australians have criticisms of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is as it should be if the organisation is performing its functions in the best interests of an open society.
The ABC in our view, has special significance in our society because that society is not strong in mass communication channels of an objective character, able to range a quizzical eye over Australia at large.
We accept that performance sometimes falls short of the aim, but believe the existence of a healthy and independent ABC is of central importance to the maintaining and building of an Australian democracy.
We express concern that, through budgetary controls and other means, the existing functions of the ABC may be severely curtailed.
The closing of overseas bureaus, curtailment of programs, and increases in charges for services, are only some immediate issues which suggest that the Commission may be placed in the position of taking a less active function in Australian community and cultural life. As well as the closure of current affairs and creative programs, the unique service role of the ABC to our rural community may be in danger.
We ask the Australian Government to take action to ensure that the ABC not only maintains but extends and improves its services to the Australian community, including the propagation of information, culture and criticism at the highest possible level. ‘
For further information
– The ABC’s offerings, apart from objective and accurate political reporting, include a number of things that are of great interest to many of our constituents. First of all there are the rural programs which are extremely important to people living in isolated areas, to farmers, to wives of farmers isolated on country properties and to children. There are the cultural programs. I do not need to point out that Australia has perhaps the second highest standard in the world in broadcasting of cultural programs through the auspices of the ABC. There is entertainment particularly that suited to sick and elderly persons with which we are all familiar no doubt. There is educational broadcasting which provides programs of information and interesting instruction to all ages from pre-school through to adult. The ABC has offered, through its overseas bureaus, specialised information about other societies. This, unfortunately, is one of the services that has been cut recently. The ABC runs 7 symphony orchestras, thus contributing significantly to the cultural life of this nation. It offers programs of interest to minority groups including the much discussed program Late Line which is on late at night and which has a range of topics of great interest to a small number of people who could not possibly be catered for in any other way.
As a result of initiatives taken by the ABC during the Labor Government, the ABC has expanded its services to include community access programs and ethnic radio stations. With the remarkably successful innovation of 2JJ- a program tailored to the special needs of adolescents and young adults- the ABC has reached even wider audiences. I refer to these programs- my list is not exhaustive by any means- in order to establish that before there can be any meaningful discussion of efficiency in the ABC this impressive range of programs must be taken into account. Efficiency has been one of the words used by those suggesting that the ABC should be totally reorganised.
I think there are probably many criteria of efficiency that should be taken into account if we are to consider this point of view seriously. Certainly one aspect of efficiency that should be taken into account, of which I have heard no mention by those accusing the ABC of inefficiency, is that from the consumers’ point of view. I think it must be acknowledged that if we take the consumers’ point of view into account there is a high degree of efficiency in that many listeners to ABC programs are satisfied that their particular interests are being catered for and are convinced that their interest would not be catered for in any other way. One beneficial effect of the current dicussions surrounding the ABC is that many members of the community have expressed publicly their support for the kinds of programs offered by the ABC and their satisfaction that their particular area of interest is being met through public broadcasting.
To proceed with this question of efficiency, it is undoubtedly true in any bureaucracy that there is room for improvement in administration, allocation of staff to particular tasks and so on. I am quite sure that the ABC is no different from any other bureaucracy in this respect. I have noticed in the Press recently that some former employees of the ABC suggest that there could be a more efficient administration, but I do not think that these kinds of comments about these ongoing problems of bureaucracies establish a case for inefficiency so great that we should set about destroying the ABC as we know it. This, it seems to me, is what some of the proposals currently put up with regard to reform of the ABC would do. They would destroy the ABC as we know it. It surely is possible to look at any real inefficiencies in the administration of the ABC and to remove those without undermining or encroaching upon the kind of public service that the ABC has been giving and the kind of public service which I believe the ABC alone can give.
Another matter that has been raised in a very imprecise and propagandist way is that of cost. The claim has been made by commercial interests and, I fear, by some members of the Government that the costs of running the Australian Broadcasting Commission are too high. No attempt has been made to state precisely in what way those are too high or that they are too high on the basis of some suitable cost comparison. Certainly the costs of running the Commission are high and they are met from the public purse. If the implied comparison is with commercial broadcasting, I would suggest that the ABC comes out very well indeed. The costs of running commercial broadcasting in this country, as in any other country, are very much higher than the costs of running the ABC.
The only question that arises is: By whom are the costs borne? The costs of running the ABC are borne by the taxpayer from taxation paid for such purposes. However, the costs of running commercial broadcasting are also borne by members of the public, although not in such a direct way. The costs of commercial broadcasting are paid for by advertising. The cost of advertising is paid for by a charge on consumer goods in our society. As the main purpose of commercial broadcasting is to advertise consumer goods and to persuade listeners to buy such goods, I would argue- and I think that we should be able to find figures to support my assertion- that the costs of commercial broadcasting not only are a great deal higher to the consumer than the costs of the ABC but also are borne by the consumer every time he or she buys a product advertised on a commercial broadcasting station. This charge is imposed whether people listen to the ABC or to commercial broadcasting stations, watch television or have, as some members of this chamber claim they have, no contact with the media at all. All purchasers are still paying these increasing costs which in turn pay the cost of advertising in commercial broadcasting. Any argument relating to the cost of the services provided by the ABC can be justified and considered seriously only if it seeks properly to compare that cost with the cost of commercial broadcasting in this country.
As the Australian Broadcasting Commission undertakes so many excellent activities through its programming and as it has received such a large number of expressions of support from the community in recent times we might ask ourselves: Why indeed are there currently such vicious attacks being made on the ABC? I would suggest that the ABC is being attacked as it is at the moment because the ABC is being successful and has increased its success over the last couple of years. As evidence to support that assertion, I quote from an article in the Australian Financial Review of 23 March 1976 which said:
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has gained its highest ever share of the Sydney radio audience since McNair and Anderson surveys began, with combined ratings for its 3 stations of 1 8. 1 per cent.
Results of the stations for the first survey of the year, covering January to March, were 2BL 6.8 per cent, 2FC 4.6 per cent and 2JJ 6.7 per cent.
Traditionally, before the addition of 2JJ in January last year, the 2 ABC stations BL and FC offered little competition to their commercial rivals.
With combined totals running around 12 per cent each quarterly survey, BL and FC were placed well behind even specialist audience stations 2KY and 2CH.
Now, the ABC stations have overtaken all but 2SM, which reached 1 9.9 per cent in the most recent survey.
I think that we can deduce from those figures relating to the improved ratings of the ABC the reason for the sudden burst of attacks on the
Australian Broadcasting Commission. It now appears that the ABC m fact is succeeding in reaching a much wider audience and is therefore providing some kind of competition to the commercial broadcasting interests. The ABC is satisfying an ever increasing audience and it is providing a real freedom of choice to Australians. This is a freedom of choice enabling Australians to choose from a large number of high quality programs. The ABC is providing freedom of choice to listeners to hear broadcasts without being deluged by advertisements.
That brings me to the question: Where are the attacks coming from? Of course, these attacks are coming from narrow commercial interests. For example, the Australian Association of National Advertisers is now suggesting that the Australian Broadcasting Commission must adopt commercial advertising as it is now reaching what was once considered to be the prerogative of the commercial stations- something approximating a mass audience. If the suggestions by the AANA that the ABC should: broadcast commercial advertising were adopted, this step would indeed open the door to.the introduction of one overall control body. That.b’ody would be the advertising interests, many, pf which are not Australian based. This would not happen directly, of course, but indirectly. The constraints of advertisers would come to determine the quality, content and range of programs on the ABC. Clearly the near monopoly over mass broadcasting enjoyed in the past by commercial interests has been threatened by the success of the ABC and, as is all too common in this country, the supporters of the free enterprise system- those who talk most vociferously about, competition and its virtuesstart to demand special protection from government as soon as any real competition appears.
I point to this case of the ABC and the suggestion of the advertising interests that it adopts commercial advertising as a case history of this type of phenomenon. Here we had commercial broadcasting which, in fact, had a monopoly over the mass audience because the ABC did not run programs which appealed to a mass audience. Then the ABC provided real competition, for example, in the programming undertaken by 2JJ and on the FM fine radio stations. Immediately the advertising interests asked for protection. They asked that the monopoly in advertising in the field of broadcasting be maintained by insisting that the ABC too should have to fork out and pay advertisers by carrying advertisements.
– That would reduce the amount of advertising available to those interests.
– It would increase the amount of advertising because there are persons who listen to the ABC and to no other stations. The problem faced by the commercial interests is that they fear that the size of this section of the community will increase as the availability of the programs without advertising content increases too. So those interests are hopping in early and trying to ensure that that situation does not develop. In fact, they have asked that 2JJ be closed down because it is the particular station which has established a mass audience of people who are happily free of the obligation of listening to advertisements every 3 minutes. I suggest that those honourable senators opposite who so frequently like to talk about the freedom of choice, the importance of initiative in business, and so on, should welcome the initiative shown and the choice offered by the most recent successes of the ABC. I hope that I will be hearing in this chamber honourable senators from the other side echoing the sentiments that I am expressing today.
Another threat to the independence of the ABC, however, is one perhaps much closer to home. That is the threat being offered by the present Government. I referred earlier to the attack made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, on the integrity of employees of the Commission when he accused some ABC employees of being Labor propagandists and nothing else. This kind of attack causes very justified fear and concern in the community that indeed the independence of the ABC is being threatened.
A second matter which can be sheeted home to the Government in this respect is the failure to appoint a permanent chairman of the ABC to replace the former chairman. I would suggest that the independence of a statutory authority in our legal structure is bound up with the terms of appointment of a chairman. It is in the appointment of a chairman- a person of high status in the community, of appropriate qualifications and so on- for a set term of office that guarantees in the eyes of the community that the statutory authority concerned has independence, is able to act with integrity and is not able to be used as a political puppet. The ABC has been without a permanent chairman since November of last year. The failure to appoint a chairman puts the independence of the ABC in jeopardy. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will give a speedy answer to the question why no chairman has been appointed. The lack of an appointment of a chairman has caused widespread speculation that the Government does not intend to appoint a chairman but, in fact, to dismantle the Commission as we know it. If that is not the intention of the Government I suggest that it is the responsibility of the Government and of the Prime Minister to put an end to such speculation by appointing a chairman.
I return to the rumoured proposed merger of the ABC and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I repeat my initial assertion that such a merger would destroy the ABC as we know it. My reasons for saying that are that the roles of the 2 bodies are entirely different. I will not go over the role of the ABC again because I have already discussed its role in public programming and bringing to country and isolated areas and to minority and other groups high quality programming. The role of the Broadcasting Control Board is to regulate and control commercial broadcasting in Australia. I appreciate that some technical matters which concern both the ABC and the Control Board are regulated by the Control Board. But these are minor technical administrative matters which do not impinge on the major functions of the ABC.
The role of each of the 2 bodies is entirely different. It seems to me quite inevitable, if we try to put the 2 bodies together, that there will be competition between the 2 interests which would be represented on such a merged board. Of course, the strongest interest, which in this case would definitely be the commercial interest, would overcome the other interest. We would have a monolithic control of broadcasting throughout Australia, dominated by commercial interests. I suggest to all honourable senators present that this would be completely unacceptable to the community. I suggest that it would lead to the destruction of those standards of public broadcasting for which the ABC has been justly admired over the past 30 years. It would reduce the standard of broadcasting in Australia to the very low standard which we know to be common in places such as the United States of America where there is no Broadcasting Control Board. It would be a betrayal of faith to the electors for whom this idea is entirely new.
There was no mention during the last election campaign that the Government intended to destroy the ABC. Opposition to such suggestions has cut across all party lines in the community. I think the Government would find as many opponents to this intention within its own ranks as it would find on this side of the chamber. I suggest that any review or investigation of efficiency, costing and so on in the ABC should be carried out not with a view to cutting out, cutting down and destroying programs which people need and enjoy and of creating more unemployment but with a view to expanding and extending the functions of the ABC in the way in which this was done successfully under the Whitlam Government. The net result of such an investigation should be recommendations for increased funding and resources for this important Australian institution.
– I was touched an hour ago by the concern shown by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and Senator Wright for historical accuracy, even though there seemed to be considerable disagreement between the honourable senators. In the first instance Senator Sir Magnus Cormack seemed to suggest that Professor Geoffrey Sawer, whose article was published in today’s Canberra Times, was the epitome of virtue and approached infallibility in matters of historic interpretation whereas Senator Wright seemed to suggest that he believed that Professor Sawer should be impeached because he had cast aspersions upon a member of the judiciary. I notice that Senator Wright is sensitive to any suggestions of impropriety against any person connected with the legal profession.
I wish their concern for historical accuracy was contagious in the Government parties. In particular, I wish it would infect the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, who in his now celebrated speech last Sunday to the Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party, referred yet again to Australia having the highest inflation rate in its history. Again I draw the attention of the Senate to a table which I had incorporated in Hansard last month during my speech in the AddressinReply debate. It was not my table. It was prepared by the Parliamentary Library from statistics which are available to any Australian citizen who cares to inquire from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The table shows that the highest rate of inflation ever recorded in Australia was under the Menzies-Fadden Government in the 1949-52 period.
I wish the professed concern for historical accuracy which was expressed by Senator Wright and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack this afternoon would infect the Leader of their Party. I wish also that it would infect the Prime Minister with respect to his comments about the increases in personal taxation during the financial year covered by the Budget which was introduced last year by the Australian Labor Party Treasurer, Mr Hayden. I raised this matter at question time.
I mentioned the Prime Minister’s statement last Thursday that the famed tax reforms of the previous Treasurer resulted in an additional $2,600m being taken from the taxpayers of Australia. Of course there is a grammatical error in that statement. The Prime Minister has used the past tense. That is not applicable in this context. We could forgive the Prime Minister his grammatical error if he would only get his figures correct.
The fact is that, on the most recent estimate, the increase in personal income tax collection for this year will be of the order of $800m to $900m and not the $2,600m which the Prime Minister claimed as recently as last Thursday. Of course this figure was incorporated in the original estimates presented in the Budget papers. We could perhaps forgive the Prime Minister for his grammatical and arithmetical errors if he would not insist on claiming that the taxation collection will increase by $2,600m this financial year whilst claiming, simultaneously, that the Budget deficit will not be $2.8 billion- which was estimated in the Budget papers- but will be of the order of $4.5 billion. The fact that personal taxation collections seem likely to be $ 1,700m lower than was forecast in the Budget is the direct cause of the increase in the estimated Budget deficit. If the Prime Minister insists on citing figures which suit him in one respect, at least he ought to be honest enough to acknowledge that they demolish his case in the other respect.
My original reason for speaking in this debate was to express my grave concern over the economic policies which are being followed by this Government. In particular, I refer to the Prime Minister’s well-known propensity to regurgitate the pre-Keynsian economic clap-trap which he has picked up from Ayn Rand and such notable economic dinosaurs as George M. Humphrey and others. He draws a simplistic and erroneous analogy between the Budget of a nation and the budget of a household. This is a favourite theme used by Mr Fraser. He returned to it again as recently as 14 March 1976 in a talk when he referred to our national household budget being out of order. These grave doubts about the Prime Minister’s grasp of the most fundamental economic principles must, of course, have been aggravated in the mind of anyone who read his address to the State Council of the Liberal Party delivered last Sunday or the very excellent review and critique of that address which was published in the Australian Financial Review yesterday.
Mr Fraser continues to refer to the necessity for shrinkage in the public sector in order that the private sector may have room to expand. One would have thought that anyone with a nodding acquaintance with crucial economic statistics would have realised that there is room for a considerable expansion in the private sector simply by employing the resources- both human and otherwise- which currently are lying idle. Contraction of the public sector is nol a pre-condition to expansion of the private sector, whether that be desirable or not.
The Prime Minister also put forward the quite astounding proposition that although the 1976 Budget will be what he calls a tough Budget it will be tough on governments and not on people. I am not sure precisely what that means. Perhaps Ministers opposite will enlighten us. Does it mean that Government Ministers will forgo their ministerial allowances? That would be something that would be financially tough upon governments. Does it mean that this present Government plans to reduce considerably social welfare payments, payments to the States, payments for construction of capital works, or does it mean something else? The important point is that governments are not voracious alien monsters which simply consume and burn money. They are not some modern Australian Moloch. Governments redistribute, in one way or another, all of the money which they collect. Therefore, if government expenditure is substantially reduced it follows that the receipt of funds, either from direct transfer payments or in payment for services rendered to the Government, must decline. Funds received by people will decline in a 1 to 1 ratio to the decline in Government expenditure.
Finally, and perhaps most remarkably of all, Mr Fraser stated that consumers must overcome their unfounded reservations about the future and that when a family buys a washing machine or a new car it is providing jobs- a statement which is true in itself, I suppose. Implicit in that statement is a suggestion by the Prime Minister, of all people, that this new car or new washing machine to which he refers is really a superfluous piece of equipment and that the consumer he has in mind does not need a new car or a new washing machine. Indeed, if the consumer needed such an item and had the money to purchase it, it would not be necessary for a government or for any hidden persuader to persuade him to buy it. Ironically, Mr Fraser is pointing himself towards the destination at which Galbraith arrived nearly 20 years ago when he asserted that production of goods, of things, of commodities, at the margin was important not because the goods themselves had any social value but because they provided jobs and incomes. If one accepts that that is the direction in which the Prime Minister is headed it must, of course, lead logically to a re-assessment of the Government’s priorities and, in particular, the Prime Minister’s stated priorities.
The Prime Minister continually states that what Australia needs is an increase in the supply of goods, of commodities, of things sold in the market place or the productive sector, as he prefers to call it, and that we really need an increase in the quantity of goods and commodities sold in the market place and a decrease in the magnitude of services provided by governments. If Mr Fraser is acknowledging that at the margins commodities such as motor cars and washing machines have no social value but are important only because they generate employment and incomes, then he has demolished the entire base, the rationale, of his economic policies- that is, that we must transfer resources from the services provided by governments to the production of goods sold in the market place. If Mr Fraser is acknowledging that then his rationale for that policy falls to the ground.
At a somewhat higher level of sophistication than that exhibited by the Prime Minister in these matters we have, of course, the attachment of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to Friedmanismthe simplistic belief that the level of prices can be controlled entirely by regulating the money supply, granted with a time lag- that as the money supply increases by X per cent then prices will increase by X per cent. What that simplistic proposition, in stating the simple monetary equation that the volume of money multiplied by the velocity of circulation always equals the prices of goods times the quantity of goods, overlooks is that the velocity, prices and quantity are all variables. Friedmanism asserts that a change in the volume of money-we will ignore for the present the immense difficulties in adequately defining what is money- will automatically be offset on the other side of the equation by a corresponding change in prices. It can of course also be offset, as a moment’s reflection or two ought to reveal, by a change in the velocity of circulation or by a change in the quantity of goods produced.
As has been noted recently, it is extremely rare that a particular economic theory- an economic doctrine perhaps would be the more appropriate term to apply to Friedmanism- has the opportunity to be tested in the real world. Friedmanism has been tested in Chile in the last 2 years. The results of this application of Friedmanism were summarised in an article in the Australian Financial Review on 22 March where it was shown that the annualised rate of inflation for January and February 1976 was 21 per cent higher than it was in 1975, that unemployment was running at 1 6 per cent and that the gross domestic product in the last year had declined by 12 per cent. That, in one part of the world, has been the final result of the application of Friedmanite theories to which the present Treasurer of Australia seems to be totally committed. If the Friedmanite theories are applied in Australia one could confidently expect a similar economic result.
The Government’s self-proclaimed strategy for economic recovery revolves around what it calls an investment led recovery. It is noteworthy- and I do note- that the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) at least, among the senior Ministers in this Government, has expressed grave reservations about the fundamental accuracy of the investment led recovery theory. In the Australian Financial Review on 1 March, Senator Cotton was reported as having said:
I, Cotton, am a person who believes Australia can only recover if the consumer begins to move again.
It perhaps could be said- I guess we should be grateful for these small mercies- that Mr Fraser at least partially has now come around to sharing Senator Cotton’s view, hence the Prime Minister’s reference in his speech of last Sunday to the need for people to go out to buy new cars and new washing machines.
Mr Fraser seems to be endorsing the view expressed by Senator Cotton and by a great many people on the other side of politics to Senator Cotton that an economic recovery can be achieved successfully only following an expansion of consumer demand. However, whatever reservations Mr Fraser may have now about the wisdom of the simplistic investment-led recovery, the facts are that the Government is proceeding with a policy, and within the next couple of weeks will be enacting a policy, which incorporates that investment-led recovery theory. The rationale for the policy, which of course consists mainly of the introduction of a 40 per cent investment allowance for new capital expenditure, is that investors will be encouraged by the existence of this investment allowance to invest in buildings, plant and equipment earlier than they would otherwise have done; or perhaps that they will be encouraged to invest in plant and buildings of a type which they would not have invested in at all were it not for the existence of this 40 per cent investment allowance. Consequently, it is argued by those who follow the theory that employment will be generated in what economists call the ‘capital goods industries’, that is the industries which supply the basic machinery, the bricks, cement, timber and so on that is used by businesses in the form of buildings, plant and equipment.
Commonsense ought to suggest rather strongly that, in a situation where manufacturing industry has already a considerable amount of unused capacity- currently estimated, I understand, to be in the aggregate in the vicinity of 20 per cent- businessmen are extremely unlikely to embark upon new investment decisions induced solely by the presence of this investment allowance. A businessman is not likely to embark upon a new or expanded investment program unless he has a reasonable assurance that the ultimate output from the factory will be sold. Of course, businessmen will not be assisted in selling that ultimate output if the Government substantially reduced its own purchases at a time when consumer demand in the private sector is notably deficient. Yet the Government proposes to do precisely that. Also, business is not likely to be fostered by the continual statements of the Prime Minister that the Government is going to get very tough- that life is not meant to be easy. As someone once remarked, this statement says a great deal for the facility for abstract reasoning of the Prime Minister- this western districts squatter, Melbourne Grammar School student and Oxford University graduate Australian with all his experience of those frugal, spartan institutions and then his experience in the Australian Parliament.
Certainly it is unlikely that the ‘life is not meant to be easy ‘ ethic, which is espoused by Mr Fraser but which is not notably practised by him, will encourage final consumers to step up their purchases. Moreover, past experience with the provision of investment allowances, although not granted to the magnitude now contemplated, has failed to reveal any significant changes in the level of investment because of either the introduction of investment allowances or the cancellation of investment allowances. Indeed, that is an empirical conclusion which is wholly compatible with commonsense. At a somewhat deeper and longer term level, the policy of subsidising capital investment in the belief that it will stimulate the demand for labour must be questioned seriously. If capital is to be subsidised by governments and labour is not, it follows automatically that any rational businessman will use greater quantities of capital and lesser quantities of labour than he would have done in a free market situation. Although the investment allowance is not directly responsible for this, we do have a quite recent example of the effect upon the demand for labour of highly capital intensive investment.
I refer to a question which I asked of Senator Cotton, as the Minister representing the Treasurer, on 26 February, concerning the decision taken last October by the Swan Brewery Company Ltd to construct at a cost of more than $50m a new semi-automated brewery at Canning Vale in Perth. As a direct result of this investment in a semi-automated brewery, the company will retrench 350 of its staff- about 35 per cent of the staff employed currently- because that company has moved into a capital intensive type of production with its new factory. Of course, as this decision was made last October, the investment allowance policy of this Government was not responsible for the decision. However, that does leave the Government and its supporters with this residual problem: Although the investment allowance policy had no effect upon the making of the decision, the provision of the 40 per cent investment allowance for this particular company constitutes a gratuitous handout from the Government to the company of the order of $8.5m at current rates of company taxation. An item of investment which the chronology proves was not affected by the investment allowance policy nevertheless will cost the taxpayer in the order of $8.5m through this Government which pretends to be frugal and to be exercising very stringent controls over the expenditure of public money.
In the longer term, this Government has announced that the 40 per cent investment allowance will apply for the next 28 months, with a period of grace following that, and that a 20 per cent investment allowance will apply for the next 5 years. Since it is such a long term policy, it almost certainly will have a significant effect on the degree of capital intensity in industry. Capital spending will be subsidised by the taxpayer but expenditure on labour will not. Expenditure on labour will be deductible from company taxable income at the rate of 100 per cent and capital expenditure will be deductible from company taxable income for the next 2% years at the rate of 140 per cent. Therefore it follows that any rational businessman will invest more intensively in capital equipment than he would otherwise have done and that he will do so to the detriment of labour. To the degree that this happens, the Government’s policy- the ostensible objective of which is to increase the level of employmentwill be counter productive.
I want to comment on 2 other items. During the election campaign Mr Fraser committed the Government to the introduction of company tax indexation over a 3-year period for depreciation rates on plant and stocks held, and to the introduction of tax indexation for individuals. As in so many other areas, the Government now appears to be preparing to back away from that undertaking. It does so on the spurious ground that there are grave problems in implementing in one year full indexation of personal income tax. There are no such problems. Any person who is reasonably competent in arithmetic and who has access to a fairly limited amount of basic statistics and a pocket calculator could work it out in a couple of hours. It certainly is not beyond the enormous resources which are available to the Government in the Treasury to knock out a schedule to index fully personal income tax for the coming Budget.
The problem is not that there are any technical difficulties, let alone any insurmountable technical difficulties, in the full implementation of personal tax indexation; the problem is that this Prime Minister wants to use the so-called fiscal drag effects of inflation- which will probably be more significant in this calendar year than in the last- for precisely the reason that he condemns every other government for the last 25 years, namely, that it will constitute an effective increase in the rate of personal taxation without the Government having to legislate for it. I do not particularly blame the Prime Minister for being less honest in that particular respect than governments have been in the last couple of decades. I do blame him for using a spurious excuse for not honouring one of his election promises and for having the audacity to assert that there will be no increases in taxation under a government led by Malcolm Fraser unless the Government explicitly legislates for them. If the Prime Minister is really committed to that belief that it is immoral to increase personal taxation without explicitly legislating for it, let the Prime Minister fully index personal income taxes in the 1976 Budget. If not, may he forever hold his peace.
Motion (by Senator Harradine) negatived:
That the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable senators will recall that, on moving the second reading of the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill, the Minister for
Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) explained the provisions of this Bill which is a corollary to that Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 25 March on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is debating the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill and is rightly concerning itself with one of the grave social problems that exist in this country. It has to be said that since the 1930s housing in Australia generally has been in an unsatisfactory state. The Senate does not need to be reminded that during the 1930s we suffered a very harsh economic period, a depression, in which housing suffered very greatly. We saw the war in the 1940s and the great post-war developments of the 1 950s, 1 960s and 1970s when the resources for building were substantially under great stress and when the demand for land and accommodation suffered from very accelerated inflation.
We can say certainly that in the post-war years housing began to take on the characteristics of being in a state of continual crisis. The Australian government took the philosophical view that housing should be substantially the responsibility of the private sector. In those circumstances the resources in the building industry were applied very substantially in the private sector, and public sector activity was to an extent made subordinate to the needs of private sector activity. The States, whatever their political complexion, endeavoured to meet some part of their responsibility by providing funds and resources for rented accommodation. However, I think it would be acknowledged by everybody associated with the building industry and everyone associated with social welfare that the point was finally reached in 1 972 when the figures that I have been able to obtain showed that there were more people waiting for public sector housing than ever before in Australia’s history. In the intervening period, in the last three or four years, despite the very great increase in public funding from the Australian government to the States so that the States could carry out their responsibilities, the changed economic conditions have nevertheless created additional numbers of people wanting to participate in public housing.
This piece of legislation has as its purpose the carrying into legislative effect of the revised 1973 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the allocation of funds as provided in the Budget of 1975-76. Because it does that, the Australian Labor Party does not oppose the Bill. For obvious reasons, we provided substantial sums of money in that Budget because we recognised that there were many areas within the Australian community that still required substantial Commonwealth funds for the purpose of providing rented accommodation. Unlike the present Government and previous conservative governments, the Labor Government in its very short term of office did as much as it could with the funds that were available to it to help people whose position was covered by the ambit of the Commonwealth-State housing agreements.
Of course, we were not able to achieve all of our objectives because our term of office was shortened by the unscrupulous action of honourable senators opposite in denying us the essential funds to carry on our legislative program. It is a matter of regret that in our 3 years of office we as a government, committed as we were to social and economic reform, never had an opportunity to introduce policies and programs to provide housing assistance for the very needy poor. I say this because it is my firm belief that the 1973 housing agreement, better as it was than any previous housing agreement, was by its very nature helping only a category of people which I would call the respectable poor. The Labor Government failed, as I am sure this Government will fail, to provide suitable accommodation to help that segment of society outside the category of the respectable poor- that section of society in most need of assistance and accommodation. I refer to the alcoholics, the dropouts, the misfits, the people who for a variety of reasons need assistance.
One has only to refer to the various poverty reports from social welfare agencies to see that an increasing number of people find themselves unable to provide the resources for their accommodation. Yet this is a segment of society which this Government does not want to know about and for which this legislation, of course, does not provide any type of assistance. It is about time that we faced up to the realities of life and tried to help these people and accepted that it is a responsibility of government to help those who cannot help themselves. I believe that this Government will not recognise this section of the Australian community. I think we can say that the 1973 housing agreement is one of Labor’s proudest achievements. Therefore, we find ourselves in complete agreement with the legislation before the Senate today. We recognise the need for a considerable proportion of Australia’s respectable poor to receive government originated assistance to enable them to be provided with housing of a standard acceptable to the Australian community. We did not turn away from our duty in this regard. We faced the reality and took positive steps within the limits of resources available to provide essential funds for the States to carry out their responsibilities.
Our policies on welfare housing were just one part of our overall strategy to improve the quality of life in Australia. The agreement for which this Bill is appropriating funds is inter-related with the policies we introduced in the whole area of transport, urban and regional development, education, social welfare and many other fields. All of these policies form part of a whole. All were related. All comprised the ALP strategy for reforming life in this country. We tried to raise expectation. We recognised the need to give assistance to those people in the Australian community who were not able to provide their own resources. It can be argued, although we will debate it, that the electorate did not reject these policies. I believe that it rejected Labor for one reason alone. In our eagerness to achieve reforms we acted too quickly. I believe that we have learnt our lesson. It was that we should have proceeded in such a way that the Australian community could understand what was involved in our great reforms of the last 3 years.
I wonder whether this Government will learn its lesson. In fact, I challenge Government senators this evening to understand what we were about and to understand our rejection of the laissez faire policies which are now beginning to be reintroduced by the Government. Because of their lack of understanding of the social and economic needs prevailing in our society- needs which have existed for decades- successive conservative governments did not attempt to rectify the inadequacies apparent in our community. It was in our desire to make up for those deficiencies and to correct the deficiencies within the Australian community, that we got ourselves involved in a large scale deficit. After all, we do not make any apologies for the fact that we would expend X dollars on land commissions and X dollars on housing agreements because in fact they are part of the responsibilities of government to provide funds. I agree with some of the comments made by some of the more enlightened members in the other place. I refer to Mr
No special funding arrangements existed under the McMahon Government for the provision of welfare housing in the States, although the normal allocations by the States for welfare housing from the States’ loans programs were assisted by the payment of grants under the States Grants Housing Act of 1971. Of course, it is proper when we consider the tremendous number of people who have been brought into the country under the immigration program in the post-war years that governments responsible for such programs should accept a financial responsibility for housing. Whilst it is true that many migrant groups, through their own efforts, have been able to secure for themselves the necessary resources to provide accommodation, it is still apparent that great numbers of migrants are not able to accumulate sufficient funds to provide themselves with private sector accommodation.
No special programs existed prior to 1972 to improve our national road system, our urban road system, our local rural road system and our public transport system. No funds were available for local government until Labor came to office. The Federal Labor Government made direct grants to local government. No special programs existed to improve the standard of education or the standard of welfare services. It was not until the dying days of the McMahon Government- I think it can be said that it was a panic button recognition- that there was Federal Government recognition of the special area of urban and regional development. It has to be said when we talk about housing that it cannot be dealt with in isolation from the general infrastructure which is necessary to make housing part of a local community. Which government was it that introduced programs designed to overcome the backlogs in the infrastructure? Which government introduced the national sewerage program in cities where the population was in excess of 20 000 people? Which government introduced programs designed to lower prices of residential land and to introduce proper land use management principles into new urban developments? Which government introduced the area improvement program which was designed to improve the urban environment in what were in many cases badly planned housing commission estates built in the 1950s and 1960s? It was a
Labor Government that took the initiatives in these areas. We make no apologies to the Parliament, the Austraiian people or to the newspaper proprietors for our endeavours to allocate funds to improve the infrastructure as part of the urban housing scene.
Apart from doing these things which were welcomed and appreciated by the electorate, the Labor Government recognised that if we were to increase the resources used for the provision of welfare housing, the Agreement should stipulate I quote from the Agreement- that ‘to the maximum extent reasonably practicable, dwellings built by housing authorities are to be intermingled with private dwellings and housing authorities will acquire some blocks to be developed privately’. The 1973 Agreement did stipulate this, which meant that the respectable poor could then be housed in areas which provided a reasonable socio-economic mix rather than in ghettoes of under-privileged as was the practice of the conservative governments of the 1950s and 1960s.
The social welfare reports published over the last ten or fifteen years have drawn attention to the need for public housing tq have the principle of a social mix integrated : with housing programs, and have shown that we wanted no more of the segregation that was” sp much part of the incorrect policies pursued in the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, we specifically included in the 1973 Agreement these important new additives. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in introducing this Bill in the other place showed a remarkable lack of understanding of the purpose behind the Bill. It seems to me that the Minister did not understand the philosophy behind even this legislation. The Minister stated that the Labor Government had been forced to curtail expansion of welfare housing in this country because expansion in this area had been too extravagant- At the time the Hayden Budget was being prepared the pressure was on for cutbacks in public spending but the State governments, particularly the Queensland Government and the New South Wales Government, ignoring the philosophical expressions coming from the new Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Malcolm Fraser, set out in anticipation of an expanded housing program for 1 975- 1 976. Of course, they urged not only the previous Government but also this Government- and this Government has flatly refused even to consider their approaches- to increase funds over those which were provided in the 1975-76 Budget. So the Minister’s interpretation of events is entirely wrong.
Undoubtedly we as a government had to reduce the size of the estimated deficit and one of the ways in which we did this was to cut back in real terms the amount of money allocated to this area in the Budget. Unlike the present Government which is standing on its dignity, we stood ready and indicated to the States that if the cutback would have a harsh effect on any housing program in any State we would sympathetically consider special loans to the States affected. Such States were Queensland and Victoria. So the Minister’s view that a cutback in real terms in welfare housing is not important gives the impression that the previous Government was not concerned with public housing. The Minister went on to say in the debate in the other place that private sector housing was picking up, so again he fails to understand the philosophy behind this Bill.
The question has to be posed: How can families who earn below 85 per cent of the average weekly wage and who are eligible for rental accommodation from the State housing commissions buy a home or even rent satisfactory accommodation from the private sector? If the Minister believes that the problem can be solved by the encouragement of private sector housing he has no basic understanding of the great number of people who are eligible to receive public housing. If the Government understood correctly the eligibility provisions of the public housing programs, surely it would know that people have to earn less than 85 per cent of the average weekly wage in order to qualify. Something like 2 868 000 people come within the category which earns less than $134 a week. They are the people whose housing is to be provided from the funds under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. They represent almost half of the work force. For the Minister when introducing the Bill to suggest that there is some upturn in private sector housing and that, therefore, this will provide opportunities for the great bulk of the Australian population, indicates that he does not understand that, because of the prevailing economic conditions, at least half of the Australian people need to have their accommodation provided for them by public housing instrumentalities.
It was in recognition of the gap that then existed between the public housing and private sector requirements, that is, the conditions that were applied by the lending authorities, that the Labor Government established the Australian Housing Corporation so that we could provide sufficient funds for those earning in excess of 85 per cent of average weekly earnings but who failed to meet the test of something like 135 per cent of average weekly earnings to qualify for a loan for a house to be built by the private sector. So we have a grouping of people under 85 per cent of average weekly earnings which this legislation seeks to cover and another group of people earning between 85 per cent to 135 per cent of average weekly earnings to be dealt with by the Australian Housing Corporation. It is greatly regretted that this Government already has announced that the Australian Housing Corporation is no longer to operate. Therefore, that group of people which it covered will be denied access to public housing and will be forced to join the long queue, which will get longer, of people who will be unable to provide the necessary deposit and meet the monthly repayments and other requirements of the private lending authorities. So it is nonsense for the Government to imply, as did its spokesman for housing in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, that this problem of providing adequate housing for the poor in our society will be looked after by the current resurgence in the private housing sector.
Apart from saying indirectly that the Labor Government’s economic policies, which were designed for a slow but sure recovery, have started to take effect in the housing sector, the Minister shows an appalling lack of understanding of the economic problems when he disgresses in this way. The present Government’s policy is to reduce the annual growth in the money supply from about 20 per cent to about 12 per cent. This will have a dramatic and drastic effect on the recovery that is beginning to manifest itself in the housing sector- a recovery which is directly traceable to the economic policies of the Labor Government. The housing sector is the only area of the economy which is currently showing real strength, real growth.
The Government’s monetary policy already has had the effect of increasing interest rates. The Government’s decision has ignored the fact that the building industry, especially the housing sector, not only bears the major burden of tight monetary policies in Australia but also is the key industry in our economy. How many times have we heard it said in parliaments and in general debates throughout the country that the prosperity of our economy can be based upon the growth and development of the housing industry? Honourable senators opposite should remember that if the building industry as a whole does not recover, then there is little hope of worthwhile recovery in the Australian economy. They should realise that there is a significant danger that a credit squeeze will result from the present policies of the Government and that the private housing sector, which we admit is showing an upturn, will again suffer a downturn. Rather than attempting to denigrate our efforts in the field of welfare housing- most Government speakers in the other place did so- the present Government should be trying to emulate our feats, our successes and our achievements in the housing field in the period 1972-1975.
If we examine Labor’s record we find that the McMahon Government allocated only $ 164.2m for welfare housing in 1972-73. Within the first few months of coming to office the Labor Government immediately set about increasing that allocation. We did this as an interim measure after asking each State to indicate the additional amount of money that it could use for the commencement of new dwellings before 30 June 1973, for allocation by various State housing authorities to construct rental housing for needy families. In the following year, 1973, the Housing Agreement, to which I have already referred, was completed. This Agreement stands as one of the many achievements of the Labor Government during its term in office. It was part of a concerted effort on our part and on the part of all the State governments. Although it took time to persuade the State governments, finally all State governments came to appreciate the endeavours of the Australian Government to change the emphasis, the philosophy, the conditions surrounding the provision of housing and to accept the fact that the Australian Government was genuinely attempting to increase the allocation of money for the purpose of redressing the wrongs which had been caused by the failure of successive conservative governments to recognise the plight of many Australians when it came to obtaining acceptable housing.
In 1973-74, the first year of operation of the current Housing Agreement, an amount of $2 19m was advanced to the States for welfare housing purposes. The amount rose to $385m in 1974-75. On 11 November- the day on which the final act of infamy of 1975 took place, when the Senate passed the Hayden Budget- an amount of $365m was appropriated for public housing. If the Federal Labor Government had remained in office, by the end of this financial year that Government, in agreement with the States, would have been responsible for the provision of rental accommodation for approximately 2 1 000 families. In the same period, through the operation of the Home Builders’ Account, Labor would have provided approximately 30 000 other families with finance to enable them to buy their own homes. This was achieved during a period of world-wide economic decline. Rather than criticise the efforts of the previous Government, this Government should be giving some credit to the genuine efforts of the Labor Government in this whole area of providing for the ever increasing number of people in this country who have not the resources with which to buy a home in the private sector.
The Labor Government headed by Mr Whitlam, with which I was associated for the last 3 years, set about trying to reduce one of the main problems in the accommodation field. It took that government a considerable amount of time to consult with the States, but finally all States agreed to establish land commissions. We found that the cost of land had become the biggest single problem in providing accommodation. The cost of land had escalated out of all proportion to the cost of erecting a building upon it. It was essential for the Australian Government to take initiatives in this area, because it was in this area that the biggest single increase in the cost of providing accommodation had taken place in the post-war years. I hope that the present Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development will struggle to maintain the land commissions. It is to be hoped that he will do everything he can within his Party room and that he will utilise the resources of the Parliament and of the community to maintain the land commissions as an integral pan of the whole Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The cost of land has escalated more than any other element in the provision of accommodation.
It is interesting to refer to the 1973 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and to recognise that in that Agreement we brought down the interest rate from the current bond rate of 7 per cent to 4 per cent. Although the long term bond rate has risen now to 10.5 per cent, an increase of 50 per cent, the interest rate for housing finance under this Agreement is maintained at 4 per cent. In point of fact, the Australian Government is still playing a very significant part in the whole housing area, subsidising the States by about 6.5 per cent of the money which the States spend in this area. Of the $364m that is provided for in this legislation, 30 per cent is to go to the Home Builders Account at an interest rate of 4lA per cent. This is a variable rate depending upon the decisions of the government of the day. Seventy per cent to 80 per cent of the balance of the funds available goes to the Housing Commissions. It is important for the Government Parties to rethink their attitude to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and to the Australian Housing Corporation because as a result of the decision to suspend the operation of the Corporation, approximately 250 construction programs have been cancelled or, as proposed, will be cancelled or abandoned. If these sorts of important initiatives can be so quickly set aside by this Government, then the mortgage tax deductibility scheme which the Labor Government introduced in 1974 must surely also be under some form of threat.
It has been stated in debates in the Parliament and in public statements by the appropriate Ministers that it is proposed to go ahead with the home savings grants scheme. We say that this scheme will be no effective substitute for either the Commonwealth and State Housing agreement or the Australian Housing Corporation. The money could go and does go to people whose needs are not as easily identified as those of the people who are provided for in this legislation and in the Australian Housing Corporation. If people under a homes savings grants scheme can accumulate certain funds they are placed in a position of some advantage against the overwhelming majority of those people who qualify under the pieces of legislation to which I have referred.
It is to be hoped that wiser counsels will prevail and that Senator Greenwood may be persuaded not to press on with his scheme for homes savings grants but rather will fight to retain the Australian Housing Corporation and will fight to increase the amount of money in the Budget of 1976-77 which will maintain the principles involved in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Of course the Minister is under pressurethis is clear from statements which have been expressed in other places and which I know he has denied in this place- to cut back on the financial allocations necessary to develop Woolloomooloo and to maintain, recondition and develop the Glebe Estate. I am talking purely of the New South Wales situation. Clearly these are areas which will require the sympathetic consideration of the Minister against those within the Government who want to change the whole philosophical approach to a point of disaster in public housing if, in their frantic haste to cut back Commonwealth spending, they see the need to do so in the welfare areas which are the responsibility of the Australian Government.
I find it hard to understand why pressures are exerted upon the Australian Government to cut back public spending. One never reads anything in the newspapers or hears any debates in the Parliament about cutbacks in the spending of State or local governments. It always seems to be the evil dollar spent by the Australian Government that has to be cut back. It is to the credit of this Government that what was provided in the Hayden Budget for the States to spend on public housing has been maintained down to the very last dollar in this legislation. That is why we support it. I hope Senator Greenwood will apply all his great skill of negotiation to maintain the principles that are inherent in this legislation, that he will resist those who want to abolish the Australian Housing Corporation and that he will desist in his efforts to re-establish the homes savings grants because they are not made available in those areas where need can be established in regard to public housing. The Opposition commends the Government for the Bill and will support it in its entirety.
– I rise to support the Bill. I do so not so much with reservations as with offering some suggestions for consideration. Together with reproduction and the need for food, housing is one of the three basic requirements of our life. It is my contention that a Bill of this sort is not designed to produce its maximum result. It is in this regard that I feel that my suggestions should be made. I trust that once we get the Bill out of the way we will be able to consider the future and what actions should be taken from there on. I feel that the amount of money that is involved in this legislation could do much more than it is likely to do under the restrictions that go with it. I feel that we will accept a system which is far less efficient and effective than we could have.
Besides some amounts of personal experience with housing I have had the opportunity over a period of years to have many discussions with various Tasmanian Ministers for Housing and many executives of the Housing Department. At various times I have canvassed points of view which I probably will now espouse. I will not say that all of them have been agreed with but they have been discussed. Nowhere other than in the housing field do we have such complete bureaucratisation. I do not know why this has to be so in housing. So many people are talking so much and there is so much overlapping, so much collection of useless and unused statistics and so little improvement. As honourable senators would be aware at one stage 3 separate Government organisations were all producing reports on housing.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
-Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- Under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government the production of passenger motor vehicles and components was assisted by a number of local content plans supported by tariffs. The Labor Government reviewed these arrangements following a report by the Industries Assistance Commission of July 1974 on the industry and decided in November 1974 to replace the various model plans by a single 85 per cent company average local content plan supported by a tariff varying between 45 per cent and 35 per cent on completely built up (cb.u.) vehicles depending upon whether the share of imports of total registrations was greater or less than 20 per cent. It also decided to give the Nissan and Toyota companies the opportunity to become manufacturers under the new entrants provisions of the plan. These companies were encouraged to join Chrysler (Australia) Ltd and the Australian Industry Development Corporation to manufacture 4-cylinder engines at the Chrysler foundry at Lonsdale in South Australia.
Following the continuing rapid build up of imported vehicles in late 1974 the previous Government in January 1975 imposed import controls at 90 000 units per year on imports of finished passenger motor vehicles and at 1974 levels on light commercial vehicles. The IAC reported on the continuing need for import restrictions in its report of October 1975. Subsequently, the controls have been extended to the end of March 1976 pending a Government decision on the passenger motor vehicle industry. Existing policy measures for passenger motor vehicles and components are designed essentially to develop an economic and efficient industry with high Australian content operating under levels of protection which are acceptable to the Australian community. This central objective of the Labor Government was basically the same as that of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, although the local content plan and tariff details were different. There is, however, a conflict between the objective of an economic and efficient industry and that of high Australian content. High costs of production in Australia, resulting mainly from the smallness of the domestic market and short production runs, mean that the higher the level of Australian content in vehicles the less competitive they become against imports and to the extent that higher protection is provided the greater is their price to consumers. Some relaxation of local content requirements is necessary if the Australian vehicle builders are to remain viable with acceptable levels of protection in the longer term.
In its recent examination of motor vehicle policy, the Government has identified a number of elements of fundamental importance to a coherent and comprehensive policy. These are:
The importance of the industry as an employer of labour and capital;
The desire of consumers to have access to reasonably priced cars;
The swing in demand towards smaller 4- cylinder vehicles which have been sourced in the main from overseas countries;
The important place in the Australian market occupied by Japanese companies, especially Toyota and Nissen, which over a number of years have taken a large share of the market by catering for the change in consumption patterns towards smaller and more economical 4-cylinder vehicles;
The importance of the passenger motor vehicle industry to South Australia;
Rising production costs which are already causing local manufacturers to move away from the production of high local content vehicles;
The need to keep costs of production as low as possible by avoiding fragmentation of production and taking advantage wherever possible of economies of scale; and
A General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) duty binding of 45 per cent on imports of passenger motor vehicles.
There are 2 basic and related problems for motor vehicle policy in Australia. The first is that local manufacturing investment is basically in medium cars, which consumers no longer want to the same extent; the second is how to accommodate Japanese vehicles, for which consumers have shown increasing preference. Local manufacturers as presently structured have difficulty in competing against Japanese vehicles which are either imported fully assembled or are assembled locally from imported components. The Government’s pOliCY is directed towards gradual restructuring of local manufacturing to achieve increased competitiveness, and more freedom of choice for consumers. It will also provide Toyota and Nissan with the opportunity they are seeking to increase their local content from about 60 per cent to 85 per cent. All of the manufacturers will then compete on equal terms in the local market.
The general approach of the Government’s policy is to phase down gradually the current very high local content production of the established manufacturers while gradually building up the local content of Toyota and Nissan vehicles. These 2 companies wish to have a stable long term future here and have for some time pursued the goal of entry into the Australian market as manufacturers. The plans in force in the 1960s and early 1970s required manufacturers to incorporate specified levels of local contenteither 95 per cent or 85 per cent- in each individual model. This left manufacturers little freedom to vary their product mixes in accordance with changing market demand. At the 95 per cent level, costs of local componentry became so high that vehicles were non-competitive with imports. If we returned to that level now, the position would be even worse, because of the sharp acceleration in Australian costs of production in recent years. The industry’s prospects for long term viability would be seriously jeopardised. The plan introduced on 1 January 1975 required participants, after a 4 year transitional period, to achieve 85 per cent local content on a company average basis. Vehicle builders thus have a greater degree of freedom required to purchase components from the most economic source while still being required to obtain most of their requirements from local manufacture. In addition, the averaging provision allows the vehicle builders flexibility in determining the local content levels of each model, and in deciding which components- panels, engines, etc.- they will source locally and which ones they will import. These provisions will assist manufacturers to contain costs and prices, and in the longer term reduce the industry’s present need for a high level of protection against imports. The local industry’s ability to contain cost increases should also, in time, enhance the prospects for significant exports of automotive products. The industry would then be in a better position to participate in current developments towards production of so-called ‘world’ or regional ‘cars.
Two companies, Toyota and Nissan, applied to enter that plan. They had sought in 1 972 to enter the former 85 per cent individual model plan, but the change of government in 1972 and the subsequent decision to review motor vehicle policy prevented those applications from being acted on. The 2 companies have secured a significant share of the local market, and they wish to have assurance of a stable and growing market here in the future. They see this as requiring a deepening of their involvement in the Australian industry, in which they have been solidly established as assemblers for some years.
Because of the strong demand in the Australian market for Toyota and Nissan products, their exclusion from local manufacture would create a continuing need for import restrictions. This would be contrary to the GATT and could damage our relationship with Japan. On the other hand, their entry into manufacture would provide additional business for Australian component manufacturers and additional employment opportunities. It is therefore highly desirable that the 2 companies manufacture in Australia and become part of the local industry. To reach 85 per cent local content, Toyota and Nissan will need to procure 4-cylinder engines in Australia. At present there is no local manufacture of 4-cylinder engines, although General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd has one under test and announced on 4 March 1976 that it proposed to go ahead with its production.
The previous Government initiated discussions between Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and the AIDC on the possible formation of a consortium to manufacture 4-cylinder engines at the Chrysler site in Adelaide. This was intended to make better use of existing resources, safeguard employment in Adelaide and achieve some Australian equity in the vehicle manufacturing sector of the industry. The assistance arrangements we have decided upon following our review are designed to achieve an appropriate balance between the competing objectives of maintaining a viable industry producing at high levels of local content and ensuring consumers access to reliable, economical and reasonably priced vehicles. However, if a viable motor vehicle industry is to continue in Australia considerable changes will be needed in the industry’s structure and the nature of manufacturing operations in Australia.
It is the desire of Government to ensure that necessary changes in the industry are brought about in a way that can be sustained by the economy. The Government’s policy has been developed to ensure change occurs in a manageable and controlled manner. Consideration is being given to appropriate structural adjustment measures to assist an orderly transition. The Government has decided that its long term objectives for the passenger motor vehicle industry can best be achieved by an 85 per cent company average local content plan supported by appropriate tariff arrangements. In order to ensure the stability required for industry planning, the 85 per cent plan will operate until 31 December 1984.
While deciding to support the industry by an 85 per cent local content plan the Government has decided to introduce some modifications to the plan recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report of 31 October 1975 on Motor Vehicles- Import Restrictions. Specifically, the Government has accepted the IAC recommendations that duty concessions be available under the plan without the need to pursue complementation arrangements, that is, existing manufacturers’ basic by-law concession under the plan be increased to 15 per cent; that existing reversion control procedures for components be abolished on 3 1 December 1 976; that local content of components be determined after a 2-year phase-in period on the basis of the cost to the vehicle producer less the value of any parts imported by the component manufacturer; and that plan participants should have the option of including exported vehicles in their calculations of local content or excluding such production from the plan altogether. In addition to these modifications to the plan, the Government has also decided that, as the basic by-law concession has been extended from 10 per cent to 15 per cent to cover all imported components, complementation concessions will no longer be available. Consistent with the decision to include actual content in local content calculations the Government has decided that component manufacturing programs will cease from 1 January 1978. The Government will also continue to encourage all moves by manufacturers designed to increase component commonality. The basic by-law concessions available to new entrants under the plan will be the same as those decided by the previous Government.
The Government has approved the applications of AMI Limited, on behalf of Toyota, and Nissan (Australia) Pty Ltd to enter the 85 per cent company average local content plan, subject to these companies sourcing their 4- cylinder engines under arrangements that are acceptable to the Government. In relation to the proposed Adelaide engine consortium on which extensive negotiations have already taken place, the Government would like to see a rational development of 4-cylinder engine production in Australia rather than fragmented production in several locations. Consequently, it has authorised the Minister for Industry and Commerce to initiate discussions with both established and prospective new manufacturers to explore possible arrangements for production of all Australian requirements of 4-cylinder engines, including the proposal for their production in Adelaide.
The Government wishes to finalise these discussions as quickly as possible in order that the industry will be able to plan ahead. Accordingly the question of 4-cylinder engine production will be reconsidered by the Government by the end of April following my discussions with the firms involved. The Government wishes to make it quite clear that the AIDC is free to decide on the basis of its normal criteria whether or not to participate in any 4-cylinder engine consortium that may be formed. The Government has also accepted the recommendation of the IAC relating to long term tariff arrangements applying to imports of passenger motor vehicles. From 1 January 1978 the tariff trigger mechanism will operate so that when the 12 months moving average of imported passenger vehicle registrations falls to 20 per cent, or below, of total registration of passenger motor vehicles the duty rate on such vehicles will fall to 35 per cent. When the 12 months moving average of imports rises above 20 per cent of registrations, the tariff will rise to 45 per cent. A differential of 10 per cent between duties applying to completely built-up or CBU vehicles and completely knocked-down or CKD vehicles will be maintained in the long term.
To prevent any short-term disruption in the passenger motor vehicle industry the Government has accepted the recommendations of the IAC in regard to short-term arrangements. This means that quantitative restrictions on CBU passenger vehicle imports will continue at the same level as at present, that is 90 000 units per annum, until 31 December 1976 at which time they will cease, and quantitative restrictions on light commercial vehicles will be lifted immediately. Imports of CBU passenger vehicles will be dutiable at a rate of 45 per cent up to and including 31 December 1977. The Government has also decided that tariff quotas and the 30 per cent tariff on CKD vehicle imports will be retained until 31 December 1976. On 1 January 1977 the duty of CKD vehicles will be increased to 35 per cent and quotas will be removed. Existing arrangements in respect of New Zealand will not be changed pending completion of the present negotiations with New Zealand. Goods of Canadian origin will be dutiable at the general rates of duty except for those goods which currently receive special preferential treatment.
The Government has also decided the assistance arrangements to apply to commercial motor vehicles, including 4-wheel drive vehicles. Subject to maintaining commitments under the GATT, the Government has accepted the IAC’s recommendations in respect of most types of commercial motor vehicle over 2.72 tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW). It has however, varied the rates of duty recommended in respect of most assembled vehicles of 10.16 tonnes GVW and heavier, and trailers for articulated vehicles. The Government’s decision will mean that assembled and unassembled general purpose vehicles from 2.72 tonnes to under 10.16 tonnes GVW, assembled and unassembled prime movers under 10. 16 tonnes GVW, and any unassembled vehicles above 10.16 tonnes GVW will be dutiable at 25 per cent. Assembled vehicles of 10.16 tonnes GVW and above, and certain trailers for articulated vehicles, will be dutiable at 22 Vi percent.
In relation to certain special purpose vehicles, that is, dump trucks, dredging and excavating machines, the truck portion of mobile cranes, and air-cushion vehicles the duty will be 25 per cent. Crane superstructures when imported incorporated in a vehicle will be dutiable at the rate which applies to such superstructures when imported separately, namely 35 per cent. Fourwheel drive vehicles under 2.72 tonnes GVW will be dutiable at 25 per cent and light commercial vehicles under 2.72 tonnes, not being passenger motor vehicle derivatives, will be dutiable at 35 per cent if imported assembled and 25 per cent if imported unassembled.
The by-law equity scheme principle will continue to be used to determine whether commercial motor vehicle components should be accorded by-law concessions. It has been decided that a rate of 25 per cent will apply to original equipment components. This rate will also apply forthwith to replacement components. Implementation of the Government’s decision will mean little change to the rates of duty currently applying to assembled vehicles between 2.72 and 10.16 tonnes GVW or to unassembled vehicles. There will however, be an increase in the rates of duties applying to assembled light commercial vehicles under 2.72 tonnes GVW and to most assembled vehicles over 10.16 tonnes GVW. Import licensing in respect of used, second-hand and disposals commercial motor vehicles will not be extended in the manner recommended by the IAC but will continue to apply to used, second-hand or disposals four-wheel drive vehicles.
In reaching its decision on the IAC report, the Government was aware that some sectors of the industry had expressed concern that in present circumstances the rates recommended by the Commission in September 1974 may not be adequate to sustain local production of all types of vehicles. In this regard, the Temporary Assistance Authority machinery is available to any sector of the industry which can substantiate, on the basis of normal criteria, a prima facie case for the need for additional temporary assistance.
I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement.
-ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Having, before the suspension of the sitting for dinner referred to the basic nature of housing, I would now simply like to say that everybody wants a house. Some may want to buy while others may want to rent. I believe we are not doing enough for people in either category. Previous Liberal-Country Party governments did much for the housing industry in the circumstances then prevailing, but I believe that now we have to see how we can do much more. Our predecessors, on the advice of all sorts of ideological amateurs, wrecked much of the housing program that had been set up and much of what was actually done by them turned out to be counterproductive. The basic failure to simplify a fundamental issue by confusing it with massive doses of difficult theory finally got the housing program bogged down to the stage where we were not achieving what either the policy or the needs prescribed.
Generally speaking, people will buy a house if they can afford it. If they cannot afford it, I see no reason why they should be forced to buy. If they want to rent one they should be allowed to do so. If a person wishes to buy a house the problem at present- this has always been the case but not to the same extent as now- is the high interest rates. That is the prime killer. The second difficulty facing prospective home buyers is the cost of providing municipal services. We have had much publicity in the last year or two of the part that land plays in the cost of a house, but this has been considerably overrated and overstated. But this publicity has not been correct, as I think most honourable senators are aware. Honourable senators will probably remember bygone days when one bought a block of land that was not even pegged. There were no streets, no footpaths, probably no kerbs or gutters, no stormwater drains, no sewerage, no buses, no telephones, probably no power, no garbage collection, no dog catchers, no parks and gardens, no swimming pools, and no sports grounds. These services now are all thrown in but somebody has to pay to have them thrown in. We all know that the somebody who pays is the person who buys the block of land ultimately. We cannot have these facilities unless somebody pays and we do not get them unless somebody wants them.
We hear a great deal about the big profits that are made by the subdividers. History records the huge profits that have been made by people such as Reid Murray and Cambridge Credit corporations, and now I see that the Alfred Grant organisation is joining the profit list. Only one barometer will determine the need at the right price and that is supply and demand. If we upset the balance, we upset the price. The pathetic understanding of zoning and planning that constantly creates shortages is the factor which upsets the price of housing more than anything else. We always seem to be confronted with one of a variety of ways of government interference in the housing market that upsets the price to the end consumer. Zoning is not the only factor which affects the price. We have monsters such as the Land Commissions which did more to wreck the housing industry in Australia than anything else has done for many years. The Land Commissions took land ready for development out of development. They took developers out of the market. They had no funds to carry on and develop in many cases. They did not develop; they created shortages wherever they went and put up the price of houses.
In southern Tasmania, for instance, there is enough land for thirty or forty years development. In South Australia we have only to look at the Monarto situation. I was going to say development but it is a living memorial- perhaps it is a dead memorial- to the housing bureaucracy. Monarto must surely rate as the most undesirable suburban residential area in Australia. Time alone will show just how undesirable it is. We cannot make people go to undesirable places just because someone else’s money has been poured into their development. Supply and demand alone will determine what areas are suitable. I realise that a lot of government money must provide for the public sector, but we must recognise also that government money will achieve most if it is injected into the private sector. I illustrate this by pointing out that ordinary government housing will cost the Government 100 per cent of the total cost. If it is expended, for example, through the Aged Persons Homes Act it will cost the Government 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the total cost. If it goes out through the cooperatives it will average out at about 70 per cent government funds and 30 per cent private funds. If we use this money to give satisfaction and to create initiative we will achieve a far greater result. The present use of the money so often ties it up for many years when it should be recirculating and building more houses all the time.
I believe we should also make all government housing available immediately for purchase at current rates, if people wish to purchase such houses. Again, this would get money back into circulation. I believe we should be giving occupants of departmental houses the incentive to buy those houses and pay them off. I think we should also create incentives to get people to contribute towards the cost of the houses into which they move. We have to increase the incentive to the private sector to provide rental accommodation, particularly for the lower income groups. The needy should be given priority by the public sector. Those able to help themselves should be given encouragement in every way possible.
I suggest that a thorough investigation of the system of capitalisation of child endowment for home deposits be entered into. As a stimulus to the lower income borrowers, I would support a program of low interest, tax free deposits lodged with building societies, for lending to the lower income means tested group. This would make more money available for the socially deprived who, as we are all aware, have a real need. I believe that all public sector housing finance should be means tested and that applicants receiving means tested finance should be given a means test every year. As their situation and their capacity to pay changes each year, so they should be either upgraded or downgraded. On that basis, rents could vary and those who formerly did not have the capacity to pay, say, full rent, may later be able to pay the full economic rent.
The Australian Institute of Urban Studies has compiled an interesting report. The 2 main conclusions contained in the report are probably its best features. The statement of the major conclusions and recommendations begins as follows:
We identify the principal problems in Australia today as:
The failure of the rental market and its special effects on the disadvantaged and the young.
The plight of the marginal home-seekers.
Priority of action should go to these 2 areas.
I could not say that I agree with much of what is left of the report but I would certainly agree with those first 2 conclusions and recommendations. I think we have to concentrate on 2 areas: Firstly, serving the greatest need and, secondly, serving the greatest number. At present we find many instances of public sector housing being used by people in the $15,000 to $20,000 income bracket who are enjoying concessional rates of interest or rent while jamming up their driveways with caravans, boats and 2 or 3 cars. I believe that the States not only should be freed from the constraints placed upon the current housing money, but also should in fact prevent the constraints from continuing. I believe that more emphasis must be placed on helping the socially inadequate wherever and however the need arises. At the same time we should provide encouragement for those people who are, or can be made, able to do something for themselves. I support the Bill.
– I expected my colleague from the other side of the chamber, Senator Archer, to continue his remarks for a half an hour or so. He was making a good Labor speech except for a couple of points on which I was going to pull him up. I want to quote remarks made by 2 speakers in another place when speaking on this Bill. I want to quote one paragraph in particular of the second reading speech made in the other place by the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr MacKellar) on 18 March. He said:
Some States are currently experiencing difficulties in maintaining their welfare housing programs- difficulties, I might add, that are a direct legacy of the previous Government.
He went on to say:
Let me explain this. Funds available to the States for welfare housing increased from $ 1 69.8m in 1972-73 to $2 1 8.7m in 1973-74. The funds made available for welfare housing escalated even further in 1 974-75.
I ask honourable senators, particularly those on the other side of the chamber to ponder that particular statement. The Minister continued:
When the initial allocation of $235m was made, the States were informed that further funds would be provided if they would demonstrate that they had the capacity to spend more. This encouraged the States to accelerate their programs and the advances actually made in 1974-75 rose sharply to $385.4m, an increase of about 60 per cent over the original allocation. Then, in the 1975-76 Budget the inevitable happened. The enormous expansion in advances to the States was brought to an abrupt halt and total advances in 1975-76 were held at about their 1974-75 level.
There are 2 points there. First of all, the Minister in his second reading speech blamed the Labor
Party when in government for creating problems in housing but, in the last sentence of that same paragraph in the second reading speech, the Minister was equally critical of the fact that the level of advances had been brought back in 1975-76 to the 1974-75 level. Two issues are involved in this matter. At that time when we were in government we were under enormous pressure from the Opposition to de-escalate our spending. But when we tried to do something in the Hayden Budget we came under criticism. According to our opponents who are on the government benches today, whatever the Labor Party did when in government was wrong. The money that we made available for housing was a tremendous increase in the amount made available in previous years. I propose in a moment to quote a couple of paragraphs of Mr Uren’s speech in another place when responding to the Minister’s second reading speech.
One of the great tragedies at the moment is that a great deal of venom and hate has built up in some Government supporters. We have been used to Senator Greenwood’s adopting this attitude over a long period of years. We have been used to Senator Carrick adopting that attitude in Opposition and I am surprised to see that he has taken it into government. We have been used to Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, adopting that attitude to some degree. I suppose that Senator Cotton is one of those people who not only dismay honourable senators on the other side of the chamber but also dismay a lot of other people in his Party. Probably this was epitomised today when he made a statement in reply to a perfectly normal question that I asked him. He tried to switch the blame from one side of the employment spectrum to the other when he criticised the waterside workers of Australia. If he had listened properly to the question he would have known that it had nothing to do with the waterside workers. They were trying to do a good job in Darwin. Yet the Minister saw fit to make a personal attack on one more trade union. I know that this matter has nothing to do with this Bill, but I merely refer to it to indicate the feeling of hate that has developed in a number of Ministers. I hope that over the Easter recess- a time of Christianity and of the Christian spirit- that they will take time to reflect upon some of their actions and will try to be the statesmen that they claim to be. On 24 March Mr Uren stated in another place:
The States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1976 makes an allocation to the States of $364.6m. It is an allocation made under the Hayden Budget by the Whitlam Government. It is one of the largest amounts of money ever allocated in this Parliament for this type of housing. Under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement in the last year of the McMahon Government, $ 1 69m was made available. In the first year of the Whitlam Government that amount was increased to $218m. In the 1974-75 financial year, some $385m was made available. A little over $10m of that amount was made available in the last month of 1975 and consequently was not spent in the financial year 1974-75, but in this financial year. In this financial year, $364.6m has been made available. So over the last 2 financial years, an average of $375m has been spent on welfare housing. This was one of our achievements during the 3 years that Labor was in government. The provision of funds for welfare housing was one of the major achievements in the changing of resource allocation in our economy. For a great period of time it has been very difficult indeed for people to acquire a home. Over the years the housing commission waiting lists have grown until they have about 100 000 people on them. In fact in the financial year ended June 1974 there were still some 90 063 people on housing commission waiting lists.
That shows the shocking state which has developed in the area of housing in this country over the period of some 20-odd years of nonLabor Administration prior to 1972. We now find ourselves going back to the same sorts of problems. In my own State of Queensland, and latterly in Western Australia, the matter of housing has become a public scandal. I am not blaming the people associated with the respective housing authorities. The public servants do their best. They are very harrassed people. They try to find homes for people who have to live in all sorts of shocking circumstances. There is doubling up of housing with sometimes 4 or 5 families occupying a place which has been built for one family only. People are living in sub-standard accommodation. If one goes to places like Thursday Island in Queensland one finds people living in what are virtually fowl houses, for which full rentals are being charged by private landlords.
As the honourable senator on the other side of the chamber who preceded me in this debate said, it is a responsibility of government to provide housing for people and to provide low cost housing for those people in the community who are least able to afford the high rents that are being charged by private landlords. One has only to go around this city, to many places in Queensland or in northern Australia to find that this shocking thing is occurring. One of the groups in the community who are most disadvantaged are the Aboriginal and Island people. Of all the disabilities from which the Aboriginal population of Australia suffers, their poor housing is the most visible. Its effects on their general living conditions are all pervasive. The fringe dwelling Aboriginal population clinging to the edge of a country town or the urban Aboriginal groups living in the cast-offs of white housing are concrete symbols of degradation, dispossession and the under-privileged people of this community. If one goes to most places across the north of Australia and to many of the southern parts of Australia one finds factual evidence of this sort of thing happening.
Allocation of moneys to State governments is not always the answer. I know that in Queensland the money is put into some sort of savings account. If mining development takes place millions of dollars of Australian Government money are made available for the construction of new mining camps but when people are living in the provincial cities and country towns in the most degrading conditions the answer is always that there is no money available. Prior to the 1975 election I had correspondence with the Queensland Minister for Housing, Mr Lee. He wrote me the most insulting letters because I had asked for some assistance for people who were totally destitute. The only response I received from him was these totally insulting letters about the weaknesses of the Federal Labor Government. Instead of suggesting some sort of concrete remedy that was all he saw fit to do. I know that in the next Budget there will be less money made available for housing in the remoter areas of Australia and, to use an Australian phrase, I hope that Mr Lee stews in his own juice.
From 1968 to 1974 some $60m was provided by the Australian Government to the States for Aboriginal housing, and from 1973 to 1975- under a Labor Government- another $34m was provided to Aboriginal housing associations in the States and in the Northern Territory. Over all 3750 houses were bought with this money.
– How much was spent on housing?
-I do not know who is doing the muttering on the other side of the chamber but he will have the chance to make his speech later. We have to be factual about these problems. Senator Bonner, what was your interjection? It might have been interesting.
– How much was spent on housing and how much was not spent on housing?
-I will tell you how much was spent on housing. You would know that in that great State of ours my close personal friend, Holy Joh, has been putting the money into savings accounts so that at some future date he may be able to use it on the eve of an election. I know that in one local government area money made available as special Aboriginal grants was kept in a savings account until it accumulated interest but at an appropriate political time the money was produced. That is not good enough. That is not the way Australians ought to live. Perhaps under the present regime Queensland cannot be described as part of Australia.
As a rule the Aboriginal people have low incomes, which automatically throws them into competition in the bottom end of the housing market, where the commodity offered is inferior and the relative price asked is high. In Townsville people have tried to purchase homes which were bought a number of years ago by the State Housing Department with Australian Government money at about $8,000 or $9,000. Nothing was done to the houses. No maintenance was carried out on them. They were not improved in any way. Last year when two or three of these families tried to buy the homes they were told by the State Department that they could have them for upwards of $ 1 8,000 to $20,000. If that is not profiteering at the expense of the underprivileged people in the community I would like to know what is.
Far too frequently open prejudice is encountered. The mention of a prospective tenant’s Aboriginal origin is sufficient for an apparently available dwelling to be withdrawn from offer. It is done so nicely. I know of people who have been told that a house was available for rental at a certain rent. One of two things happens when the prospective tenant turns up. Either it is found out that they are black and they are told that the house has already been rented to somebody else and the next day of course it appears in the newspaper for rental, or the rent is put up by another $10 or $15 a week. That does not happen only to Aboriginal people. Other disadvantaged groups in the community suffer in exactly the same way. A deserted mother with 5 or 6 kiddies is looked upon as a second-class candidate for tenancy. Frequently she cannot obtain a house under these circumstances.
Another off-putting approach is to demand excessive deposit money. White landlords far too frequently will not have black tenants. There is nothing in State or Federal legislation to remedy this situation, and there should be. Will this Government undertake to assist Aboriginal people in the problems which I have just mentioned as part of its housing assistance to the States. From some of the matters mentioned- by Senator Archer a few moments ago one hopes that there is a ray of light and that the Government will take a more lenient attitude, but I do not think that is likely to happen. I have been in this chamber for 10 years, 7 years of which, unfortunately, were under a Liberal Government. When it comes to matters that affect the people, not only in the field of housing but also in other areas, there is a tendency to overlook them, to sweep them under the carpet and to hope that the problem will go away. The Bible says that the poor will always be with us. There will always be disadvantaged people in the community. In our so-called affluent society in Australia people should not have to suffer in this way. The onus is now squarely on the shoulders of the Government to ensure not only that money is made available for housing in this country at present but also that it will be an on-going matter and that in the Budget which will be presented later this year none of the under-privileged people in the community will have to suffer.
It is all very well to say that there is a law of supply and demand. We have seen this in the towns and cities of this country which over the last few years have been ravaged by floods and cyclones and, some years ago in Tasmania, by fire. Today we see rent rackets and building rackets in Darwin and other parts of the Northern Territory where the haves are charging the have-nots everything they can. A few days ago I saw an ordinary suburban allotment with 2 caravans parked on it. The people owned the caravans themselves. The owner of the land did not own the caravans but he was extracting from those 2 people $80 a week, or $40 each, in rent for the great privilege of having 2 caravans parked on his 24 perch block of land. He did not supply a thing. A similar thing was taking place in another area. There were no toilet facilities on the block of land and the owner was extracting the same amount of money. The toilet facilities were the long grass at the back. When the wet season is over and the grass dies down God knows what they will use for toilet facilities. This is the sort of racketeering that goes on.
When Cyclone Althea hit Townsville a few years ago the private landlords carried on the same sort of racket. The Government must step in and provide money for cheap housing. In Townsville where a sheet of iron might have been missing from a roof, the underprivilegedthe blacks in particular- were told that if they moved out and stayed with friends for a few weeks they could get their $10 a week flat or house back, but when they came back the rent was $40 or $50 or more, so they could not afford it. This is the racket that goes on. Because of the shortage of houses, because 700 or 800 houses in that city have not been rebuilt, the private landlord can demand what he likes. I hope that my contribution to the Bill has not been made in too emotional a manner but I hope that the Government will take cognisance of the fact that, as Tom Uren said in another place, there are over 90 000 people in this country on housing waiting lists. They need these homes. I am not sure what the figures are in Queensland. But it is a very high percentage. Queensland and Western Australia are the 2 States which per capita will receive less out of this allocation. But this country must learn the lesson that those people who are less privileged than others of us in the community must be provided for by legislation and by other methods to ensure that they at least have a reasonable standard of housing.
– I thank the Senate for the fact that the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill has not been opposed, although in the course of the debate some critical comments have been offered. I think that it is important to recognise that the purpose of this Bill is to confer the benefits which were announced by the previous Government before it was defeated last year. They were to honour the provisions of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement which was entered into in 1973 and to ensure that for this financial year a sum of $364m was made available by the Commonwealth to the States for the purpose of what is broadly called welfare housing. The continuing commitment which the 1973 agreement proposes is a commitment which the previous Government was prepared to honour and which we are duty bound to honour. Accordingly, the Opposition does not oppose the measure which in government it initiated.
But I think it is prudent to acknowledge that in the passing of this Bill through the Senate comments which are far wide of the mark have been made by Opposition speakers. Senator Gietzelt, as the leading Opposition spokesman in the Senate on housing matters expressed a view which, paraphrased, was to the effect that the present Government was not doing as much for needy people as the Australian Labor Party Government had been prepared to do and would, if it were in office, be prepared to do. I leave aside the comments which are a constant refrain of Labor Party members these days that a gentleman who resides in Yarralumla took away from them the power to conduct the affairs of this country. It ought to be recognised and never forgotten that the people of Australia voted upon the performance of the past Government and emphatically rejected it. They indicated that they wanted a change. We are endeavouring, after the host of
Labor extravagances and recklessness, to do what we can to put this economy on an even keel.
I just give one example of what Senator Gietzelt said. He said that in 1972 there were more people on the waiting lists of the State housing authorities than ever before. On the information available to me, that may well be correct. There may have been more people on the waiting lists in 1972 than ever before. As at 31 December 1972 there were 95 076 people on housing waiting lists. By 30 September 1975 the number had risen by some 13 000 people to 108 000 people. Whatever might be claimed by Senator Gietzelt as the performance of the Labor Party during the period it was in office, in the area of public housing, which was the area in which it directed its greatest emphasis, the number of people on the waiting list for housing commission homes had risen. We know that the Labor Party had made a great plea and great play upon its ability and its determination to improve the public housing sector of this country.
In the course of my reply I think it is fair to acknowledge other points that Senator Gietzelt made. He suggested that the present Government was not really looking after the needy people. He devised a category he called the respectable poor’. He said that they were the people whom the present Government was endeavouring to ensure had accommodation through the Government’s welfare housing proposals. Who are the respectable poor? There is some suggestion in the way in which the expression has been devised that they are not poor or that their respectability ought to deny them facilities and benefits which surely they are entitled to expect from an affluent community. I think that Senator Gietzelt was referring to a category of people- a somewhat ne’er do well category of people- for whom opportunity is merely a chance to be denied. No matter how much the Government might try to help them they are people who will not be prepared to help themselves. No society can ignore them but they are not the people who will benefit from the opportunity offered to them to acquire their own homes. The so-called respectable poor, to use Senator Gietzelt ‘s somewhat denigratory expression, are people who are entitled to have an opportunity given to them which, if they wish to avail themselves of it, will enable them to acquire homes which they may purchase or rent with some security of tenure and which they may regard as their stake in a country which surely can give to everyone some stake or security in its future.
Senator Gietzelt also suggested that the Government might devote its time to other activities than abolishing housing commissions or promoting a homes savings grant. I can assure the Senate that tomorrow I expect to provide to the Senate the details of how the Government will implement the homes savings grant which it promised in its election policy of November last year. But the Government’s proposals in the past, as in the future, will be concerned to promote effective and efficient administration of the distribution of moneys for the provision of housing throughout the community and to provide the opportunity for all Australians, if they wish, to avail themselves of the opportunity to own their own homes. That may be described as an ideological objective but it is an objective which a proportion- somewhere between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the Australian communityendorses. I think we all as Australians take pride in the fact that our country has the greatest proportion of home ownership in the world. Much of what has been achieved in the period since the 1939-45 war finished in the way of ensuring that Australians became a nation of home owners- a nationwide property owning democracy- has been due to the policies which the Liberal and Country Party governments followed in the years when they were in government.
– Most of it was done by Labor governments.
– I think that the performance of the Labor Government speaks for itself. It was a dismal failure in the 3 years it was in office. Because I think the people of Australia should never be allowed to forget the way in which they were misled and hoodwinked in 1972 leading up to the election of the Labor Government, I have extracted the policy speech which Mr Whitlam gave with such eclat in 1972. We ought never to forget that and never forget the dismal performance. He said:
We shall co-operate with the States, local government and semi-government authorities in a major effort to reduce land and housing costs and to retard rises in rates and local government charges.
I forget the exact percentage but I think that in the two to three years that the Labor Government ruled in this country the consumer price level rose by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.
– More than that.
-Senator Rae invites me to believe that it was more than that. I am not prepared to disagree but, on a caution note, would say that it was of that level. That meant that far from controlling or restraining rises in prices, rates and charges, land values and housing costs, these rose enormously. What other things were said by the Labor Party at that time? We were told, and I quote again from Mr Whitlam ‘s speech:
Eight years ago Sir Albert Jennings proved that the cost of building the average house could be reduced by 6 per cent if building and lending authority regulations were unified and the cost of developing the average site could be reduced by 20 per cent if requirements for reticulation of services were standardised. In those eight years the Commonwealth and States have still not enacted the uniform codes. Sir Albert’s calculations are still valid. We will delay no longer.
Yet in the 3 years of Labor Government not only did it not act consistently with the promise it made but also it allowed the situation which it condemned in 1972 to magnify and worsen. What did the Labor Party say about interest rates- interest rates which in 1972 were somewhere between 6 per cent to 8 per cent.? The Labor Party said:
The Liberals have not been willing to act to reduce interest rates when economic conditions would have allowed. Labor will deliberately plan to reduce interest rates wherever practicable.
What are the rates interest today? What is the bond rate? What is the rate at which a person needing money for housing can borrow from the banks, building societies or any other source?
– What are they going to be next year?
-What sort of defence does the smiling Senator Button offer by way of interjection? All he can offer is: ‘ What will they be next year’. He ought to recall what his leader said and what he as a member of the Labor Party benefited from in 1972. What else did the Labor Party say in 1 972? It said:
A Labor Government will request each State authority to estimate the funds it will require to reduce the waiting period for houses to twelve months.
It also said:
We will enable the Commonwealth Bank and the War Service Homes Division to lend up to 100 per cent of the values of properties against which their advances are made.
Today I am approving applications for assistance for the purchase of defence service homes and the maximum amount is $15,000. What does that sum really mean in terms of what it costs people these days to buy homes? I mention these things only because the plight of the prospective home owner, misled as he was by the Labor Party in 1972, has never been worse, and it is quite calculatedly worse because of the policies which the Labor Party followed during the years it was in office. Justice is no longer available to him. We shall do what we can to repair that damage. We have at present a situation throughout Australia in which the housing industry is far from buoyant. In some parts of Australiain Western Australia, to a lesser extent in South Australia, and in Victoria- there is a degree of prosperity in the private dwelling industry, but in New South Wales particularly, in Queensland and to a lesser extent in Tasmania, it is far from buoyant.
– Whose fault is that?
– In all States the situation with regard to public sector housing could be greatly improved. Senator Georges asks: ‘Whose fault is that?’ The fault lies in the way in which the Labor Party mismanaged the application and distribution of its housing finance in 1974-75. Having greatly expanded the money available as part of a deliberate policy of transferring funds from the private sector to the public sector it then said to the State authorities: Spend what you can. Spend what you will. We Will provide.’ After having made promises of that character, without warning it countermanded those promises and created chaos throughout the country. That was the sort of government which the Labor Party provided. That was the sort of administration in the housing area from which we now have to suffer and those were the facts which the people of Australia realised when they repudiated the Labor Government in November 1975.
I have said these things only because in the course of a debate which has given endorsement to this Bill there has been criticism of the policies which the present Government is following and euologies of the policies which the defeated Government followed. The Labor Party is following the same line of falsity and misrepresentation in Opposition as it pursued while it was in government. It will have no more success in Opposition than it had in government. Notwithstanding that, I thank the Senate for endorsing this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to raise some matters during the Committee stage in relation to clause 4 which provides:
In this Act-
Housing Agreement’, in relation to a State, means-
the agreement with the State executed in pursuance with the Housing Agreement Act 1973 . . .
It goes on to give some further definition. I want to remind the Senate of some of the debate which took place on the Housing Agreement Bill 1973. That measure was debated at the end of May 1973 after there had been a meeting of Ministers, that is, the then Federal Labor Minister for Housing and the Ministers for Housing in the various States. It came to our notice as an Opposition that during that conference on the new Housing Agreement, almost every one of the States vigorously, and all the States to some extent, opposed the terms of that Agreement. What they opposed most strenuously was the percentage of the funds being provided by the Commonwealth to the States which had to be spent on rental housing as opposed to the funds which were being made available to enable people to purchase their own homes. I recall with considerable clarity that the States, Victoria in particular and others to a lesser extent, were especially concerned to the stage where they were anxious to have the Federal Opposition of the day object to the legislation by either amending or rejecting it. That was a fairly severe stage to be reached. The Opposition, being a very responsible Opposition as we always were- I notice Senator Greenwood is acknowledging that statement even if not everyone in the chamber is- put forward in both the House of Representatives and in this chamber an amendment which would have altered the terms of the Agreement from the provision of 30 per cent for home purchase to 50 per cent for home purchase. This was an action which was taken very deliberately by the Opposition in pursuit of a policy and philosophy which was enunciated during the debate. I would like to quote something of what I said at that time when leading for the Opposition in this chamber in that debate. As recorded at page 2 176 of the Senate Hansard of 1973, 1 said:
We believe that the people of Australia will be best served by having an adequate opportunity to purchase through housing schemes the homes in which they intend to reside.
I went on to make the point about incentive and give the other reasons we adhered to that philosophy. Then I said something of which now it would be pertinent to remind members of the Opposition, particularly some of those who have spoken today. I believe that it is as well to remind people that they were warned. In May 1973 I said:
Will there be a decrease in the availability of low rental housing? To what extent is the Commonwealth Government really dealing with a need, as it claims to be, for the provision of rental housing as opposed to housing available for purchase? Those States which have pursued the philosophy adopted by the Opposition in this chamber of endeavouring to provide people with the opportunity to own their own home and, amongst other things, to have some hedge against inflation, something which will become an increasing problem as we on this side of the chamber are all too well aware, an increasing problem as this reckless Government rushes on its way down the path of inflation, do not wish to see people, particularly people whose circumstances we regard as needy, not given any opportunity to obtain that hedge against inflation, to build up funds which may perhaps give them a deposit on a house at some later stage should they wish to move to some other place. No, it is to be insisted upon that 70 per cent of the funds available is for rental housing and only 30 per cent for homes to be purchased.
– Who said that?
– One of the eminent members of the then Opposition said it. As a matter of fact, I said it. I quoted that part of the speech, amongst other things, to remind honourable senators opposite that we warned them about where their reckless, headlong rush was taking this country in relation to inflation. Events have proved us to be almost 100 per cent correct in our prediction of the rate of inflation which they achieved in some areas in their period in office. I also remind the chamber that the then Opposition, now the Government, was particularly concerned to change the ratio back, if possible, to a 50/50 situation- 50 per cent of the funds to be used for rental housing and 50 per cent for home purchase. The present Minister, Senator Greenwood, said, as reported on page 2188 of Hansard:
Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was indicating that the new housing policy which the Labor Government was imposing upon the people of Australia was a policy which not only denigrated the virtues of home ownership but also sought to elevate the Commonwealth control of State functions. This is a tendency which reverses what had been the pattern of some 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government in this country.
Later he went on to say:
I feel that the whole approach which this current Government is epitomising in this legislation is an approach which emphasises Commonwealth control as against State autonomy. It is an approach which denigrates home ownership in favour of the provision of rental accommodation. It is an approach which indicates what I describe as the general socialist approach as against the Liberal approach which seeks to build up a community of individuals with a sense of responsibility.
In due course, during the Committee stage we moved an amendment which, if it had been carried, would have provided a 50/50 division of funds for the 2 purposes that I have mentioned. That was not to be, because certain of the parties in the Senate at the time did not choose to vote with the Liberal and National Country parties. The net result was that the amendment was lost. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister to explain, not only to me but also to the chamber, whether any steps are being taken to ensure that there can be a meeting of Ministers to renegotiate this agreement which we, when in Opposition, regarded as reprehensible in the various ways which were outlined by speakers of the then Opposition during the debate in 1973. 1 ask this question bearing in mind the change of fortune in Western Australia, which now has the good fortune to have a. Liberal government, and the impending change of fortune in Tasmania. That State will be fortunate enough soon to have a change of government. Taking into consideration the situation which I am sure will exist in South Australia where the South Australian Government will wish to look after the interest of its people- even though they could be better looked after by a change in government, as my colleague Senator Jessop would agree- will the Minister give some indication as to what steps are being taken to renegotiate this agreement so that the sorts of changes which we attempted to make in 1973 can be made at the first possible opportunity?
I take this opportunity to raise a second point. Because the Bill is being taken as a whole, I will speak to clause 12 and to the Schedule. Is the amount of money being made available under this Bill in respect of the State of Queensland to include the moneys which are made available to that State under the housing assistance legislation which, in respect of every other State, will be made available through the Aboriginal housing assistance? The Minister no doubt will recall that as a result of the pettiness and the smallminded attitude adopted by the Labor Government last year and the year before, it took away from the State of Queensland in relation to Aboriginal development moneys which otherwise would have been provided for Aboriginal housing. It said that the moneys had been lumped into the total amount negotiated with respect to housing under the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Act. I would like to know from the Minister whether that money is included in this appropriation. If not, where will that money be picked up?
– In regard to the last point, raised by Senator Rae, the money presently provided by this Bill to Queensland does not include the extra sums about which he inquired. That money will be found as part of the appropriation for the Aboriginal housing development granted to the State of Queensland. It is not included in any way in this Bill. Interestingly, Senator Rae referred to the debate which took place in this chamber in May 1973. His mind was obviously running on the same lines as mine because I have had the same Hansard with me throughout the afternoon. It is very interesting to read what Senator Rae said in 1973, to hark back to some of the things that I said and to recall some of the things which members of the Labor Party said. I suppose it is understandable that Senator Gietzelt, having expressed himself so eloquently this afternoon, should not be present in the chamber this evening because, so contrary to what he said this afternoon, these were his words in 1973:
We do not run away from the fact that by our participation we intend to overcome the backlog in public housing as quickly as possible. That is what we are seeking to do. We are making more money available and at a lower rate of interest. We will ensure that the national estate will be retained by public housing authorities in the States so that when the inevitable rezoning takes place the public sector will get the benefit.
As I said earlier, as a result of those efforts it was above all else the public sector which suffered. The public sector did not benefit.
The housing agreement which existed in 1973 reflected the absolute determination of the then Commonwealth Minister for Housing to impose upon the States the standards which the Commonwealth wanted. There was to be, for example, a requirement, which the States could not gainsay, that a limit of a certain percentage of Housing Commission homes were to be sold to the tenants who wanted them and no more. There was to be a limit to the amount of money which was to be available for the Home Builders Account. Irrespective of whether the States wanted to change that amount, it was not to be done because the Commonwealth Government decreed otherwise, There was a degree of unreality in the early days of the Labor Government in the pleas which were made by the then Minister for Housing that after all the States were agreeable to what was being imposed. The plain fact was that the States required the money, and the only conditions upon which they could obtain it were those which the Commonwealth Government laid down. Irrespective of how valiantly my own State of Victoria fought to have a change in the conditions which were being imposed- Mr Dickie, I recall, fought as vigorously and as publicly as any man could fight- the ultimate result was that they either had to accept the conditions which the Commonwealth imposed or go without the money.
– They were given the terms of agreement 2 days before the Bill was introduced.
-Senator Rae, who was the Opposition spokesman at the time, is well aware of the circumstances in which this agreement was negotiated. In answer to what Senator Rae has said I have had some discussions with State Housing Ministers since I have become the Commonwealth Minister. I have not seen all the State Ministers; I have seen some of them. I hope to have met and had discussions with all of them before the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers conference which is currently scheduled for May. I have said that if the State Ministers desire to have changes made to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement I would be interested to have their suggestions for changes. I am willing to consider as favourably as one can the approach that it is for each State to determine how it wishes to apply for general welfare purposes the money which is applicable to it.
If a State desires to maintain rental accommodation in preference to home ownership that is fairly the responsibility and the right of that State. If another State desires to promote home ownership as actively as it can that is a view which, generally speaking, that State should be able to promote. There are considerations which a Commonwealth government can offer to the States, considerations of the character that if rental accommodation which was built some 20 years ago is now to be put on the market for home ownership immensely greater sums will be involved today to replace it with comparable rental accommodation. These are not easy questions to resolve but they are some of the considerations that ought to be placed before the State Housing Ministers. I certainly hope that when the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers conference takes place there will be a frank interchange of views and a recognition that within the States spheres the States have rights and responsibilities which they should be able to exercise with regard to the money which they are receiving from the Commonwealth. The essential difference between the approach which was adopted in 1973 and the approach which will be adopted in the future is that where the States have a role to fulfil and a wish to assert it they will find a Commonwealth government which is prepared to acknowledge their rights and responsibilities.
– I have listened either in the chamber or elsewhere to the debate. In the Committee stage Senator Rae spoke I think on clauses 4 and 12. One would have thought he entered the debate to get some information before the Committee adopted those clauses, but we find that his purpose for entering the debate was to condemn the previous Government for what it did in 1 973.
– That was just in passsing
-It was the whole tenor of the honourable senator’s contribution and was his purpose for entering the debate. The honourable senator asked, in relation to clause 12 which deals with allocations to the States, whether finance for Aboriginal housing was included. That was the only question the honourable senator asked in the Committee stage and I never heard a reply given to it by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) when he replied.
I think the Minister clearly outlined the difference in attitude of different governments. In closing the second reading debate the Minister stated that it was claimed that when the Labor Government came to office the number of applicants for rental accommodation throughout Australia was the highest in history. I do not think the Minister would deny that. He said that it had increased since and there were some 95 000 applicants for Housing Commission homes in the various States. After the Labor Party came to power it immediately made $5m available to the various States before Parliament met for the purpose of reimbursing the States until the June period- the existing agreement lasted for 12 months- so that they could keep employed the labour that had been used on building houses, the funds for which had been exhausted. In view of the number of applicants for rental homes- the applicants generally come from the impoverished sections of our community and from those who cannot afford home ownership- welfare housing needs were stipulated. The Agreement of 1973 made provision for those who by no means could provide themselves with a home, those who were living with in-laws and in sheds and those disregarded by the States throughout Australia with their mad policies of home ownership.
It is incorrect to say that home ownership rates in Australia are 70 per cent or 80 per cent. The percentage of home ownership in Australia at present is small. The system exists whereby people pay off loans to banks and pay additional finances, such as land tax and council rates. Until the day a person dies he still has to pay money to the moneylenders of Australia for the purpose of what we class as home ownership. There is another section who can never raise the deposit for a home and who have not been looked after by the State. These are some of the reasons why the Labor Government had some responsibility and some feeling for the less privileged of our society and why it was felt that those people should get preference in housing from the States. That was the philosophy of welfare that we adopted and which is now condemned. It may happen that a premier in a State, unconcerned with the impoverished section of his State, will say what he has done in regard to home ownership. All he has done is tie people to a finance company for the rest of their lives because they have purchased a home.
I turn now to Queensland. As I understand it this grant does not include Aboriginal housing loans.
– That is what the Minister has just said.
-Yes. There was a reallocation in Queensland. It is the right of most housing commissions to choose suitable tenants, which includes Aborigines. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs, through a special allocation, grants money to the States each year for additional homes to be built which can be occupied either by rental or sale, only by Aboriginal families. Because of the treatment by the Premier of Queensland, his neglect and his attitude to Aborigines in Queensland, it was decided by the Australian Government that we had to take responsibility away from Queensland and see that Aborigines in that State were recognised as Australians and not outcasts of society as they were previously. Senator Keeffe today and Senator Bonner the other night have told us of the conditions for Aborigines in Queensland.
It was part of the policy of the Labor Government to give responsibility and respectability to Aborigines. The Labor Government lessened the amount of the grant to the Queensland Government, which could not be trusted with the grant and gave it to Aboriginal housing associations. In that year the allocation for housing in Queensland increased and more houses were either built or purchased for Aborigines in Queensland than ever before in history. There was no curtailment of the money. There was the question of making the State act responsibly to its citizens and when it would not do so the Australian Government insisted that it would. There should be no condemnation. I think the Minister remarked that since 1972 the waiting list for homes has increased.
The efforts of the Labor Government in regard to rental housing and welfare housing were obviously insufficient if the figures are correct. I make no apologies for that. Not enough was done for that type of housing. It is suggested by Senator Rae that we worsen the position by ensuring that 50 per cent of money made available should go into the purchase of houses thus increasing the number of applicants for welfare housing throughout the States. I remind the Minister that the annual report of the Housing Industry Association has been issued recently. That report points out that there is a limit to the extension of new home building at present in Australia as the building industry is fully occupied in most States. However, portions of the industry are unoccupied in New South Wales. Larger grants for that purpose could be made to New South Wales whereas it is doubtful whether additional grants to the other States would result in an increase in the rate of housing construction. When there is a limit to what can be produced, I believe that a strong case can be made out to support the just claim of the less privileged section of our society- I refer to those people who have no hope of obtaining a bank loan for housing purposes as the. financial risk that they present to lenders is greater than normal- for rental homes and welfare housing to be made available to those who desire such housing.
– I am most grateful to Senator Cavanagh for answering some of the distortions raised by Senator Rae and added to by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood). I had formed the opinion that Senator Greenwood had changed his ways in that he was going to be far more restrained and more constructive in his contributions. But it seems to me that he does not want this Bill passed tonight because in the Committee stage we have engaged in a most unnecessary second reading debate on the legislation.
Could I advise the Minister through you, Mr Chairman, that the words that he has used tonight will be quoted back to him within 12 months. He faces some very grave problems. Those problems are not the making of the previous Government; they are the making of previous governments including one of his own political persuasion. Those problems will be added to by his Government because it has not the answers. The mere fact that his Government entered the money market with a savings bond scheme offering on investment 10.5 per cent per annum for the first series and 9.5 per cent per annum for the second series has reversed the trend in interest rates. This has added considerably to the cost of housing. This is a matter to which the Minister will need to pay great attention.
The Minister must consider also that there is a change in the requirement of home seekers in this country. People are seeking homes for rent. As Senator Cavanagh has said, if people purchase homes they are virtually only renting the darn things for the rest of their lives and are paying a darn sight more than they would if they were renting those homes. The desires of the Australian people are changing also. People today do not have the same type of acquisitiveness that we in our generation had which resulted in us going out, seeking a home and lavishing it with all sorts of luxuries. To do that today would cost almost $70,000- and for a modest home at that! The cost of buying the land, building a home on the property and equipping that home properly would involve an investment of almost $70,000. Young people these days will not accept a burden of that sort. For that reason the Minister should understand very carefully that when he consults with the State governments the view of the Australian Government ought to be very much to the fore. I believe that the view of the previous Government was correct. It believed that the proportion of houses built for rental purposes should be far higher than the Minister indicated tonight by way of answer to Senator Rae who posed this problem.
– What percentage should it be?
-What the previous Government was suggesting was that a larger proportion of houses, more than 50 per cent, should be built for rental purposes. As this money is being provided by the Government for housing commission construction work, I say that the percentage of housing for rental purposes should reach close to 80 per cent and that financial institutions should provide the finance for private home building.
– There is a waiting list of 6 years in New South Wales for low cost housing.
– Yes. I would have thought that money provided by the Australian Government to the States for housing purposes would have been for the purpose of assisting not so much what we might call the under-privileged but those persons who are on the lower rates of income. These people are seeking homes for rental purposes. At a later stage of life they may be able to afford something better, but at the moment they are seeking some form of accommodation of a reasonable standard at a reasonable rental. The Australian Government should insist that the States should follow a program of this type.
In fairness to the previous Government, it must be remembered that certain States, especially Queensland, were determined to see that that Australian Government could not govern. The Queensland Government, particularly in the area of housing, denied the needs of its own citizens in order to frustrate the Australian Government. That fact ought to be made clear. The present Minister is in a much better position than his predecessor, although I believe that he will still have trouble with the Queensland Government. It has no concept of the need for initiative on the part of the Australian Government. The Queensland Government has drifted back into a sort of primitive federalism. I am sorry to see that the Minister by one or two of his comments may be assisting this approach to federalism. The Queensland Government and the Queensland Premier will frustrate any initiative by an Australian Government. The Queensland Premier calls Australian Government initiatives acts of centralism and his narrow approach will lead to continuing obstruction. It is the duty of the present Minister to see that that obstruction does not persist and that the needs of the citizens of Queensland shall be paramount instead of, shall we say, the satisfaction of the whims of the present Premier of Queensland.
– I simply say to make the position quite clear that Aboriginal housing funds as such are not included in the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill which the Senate is now considering. Moneys for Aboriginal housing are provided in the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Act, which is under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner).
I acknowledge, Mr Chairman, the points made in the course of this debate which ought to have been made. I acknowledge what Senator Georges has said. There is a problem with regard to rental accommodation throughout Australia. I am not sure that the answer is to be found in allocating a greater proportion than is presently required to be allocated under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement for rental accommodation. I think that the best way to deal with this situation is to have a healthy building industry in which there is encouragement not only for private housing for ownership to be built outside the welfare housing area, but also for rental accommodation outside the welfare housing area, to be constructed by those who do it for the profit or gain from providing rental accommodation. I offer that as a somewhat tentative thought. But I appreciate what Senator Georges has said. I acknowledge the problems that must be faced. There is no simple answer to the housing question. I thank him for his constructive approach to the question.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25 March on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has agreed with me- this agreement has the approval of his colleague, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers)that this Bill should be debated cognately with the other 4 Bills which are concerned with the situation of post-secondary education in Australia. These 5 important Bills have the approval of the Opposition. They were part of the former Government’s program. The fact that they are taken together is helpful because it provides us with the opportunity to look at the spectrum of post-secondary education in the one debate. I shall refer briefly to the details of the Bills in passing. Before doing that I shall deal firstly with the point that the Bills provide funding for one calendar year, namely, 1976. In the educational scene 1976 is a special year because it is not part of a normal educational triennium in any of the 3 areas of post-secondary education with which we are concerned. Perhaps it is helpful to us all and fortunate for the present Government because it provides a period in which some assessment can be made about the future before the new triennium commences.
I shall deal briefly with the main points of the 3 main Bills. The first of those Bills is the States Grants (Universities) Bill which provides grants which generally follow the recommendations of the Universities Commission. These funds are provided for recurrent expenditure on universities at the existing level and expenditure on commenced capital works which is to continue at the level of last year. The legislation also provides for some major new facilities in certain educational institutions. Details of those facilities are set out in schedule 5 of the Bill. The second important Bill- the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill- deals with the same matter in respect of colleges of advanced education. The sum of $296m is provided for recurrent expenditure, $56m for capital expenditure and $lm for administration to colleges of advanced education. The third Bill- the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Amendment Billperforms the same sort of function in relation to techncial education, except that in this area it carries the funding through from 30 June of this year until the end of the calendar year.
The 2 other Bills- the States Grants (Universities) Amendment Bill and the States Grants (Advanced Education) Amendment Bill- are basically concerned with the reimbursement of funds paid out of consolidated revenue by the States in the interregnum between 20 November last year and this year. I shall comment briefly on a couple of matters in relation to the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Amendment Bill. Again I say that the proposals are in accordance with the recommendations of the relevant commission. This is an area of significant progress to which I wish to refer later in the debate. The Opposition welcomes the legislation not only because it is in accordance with our program but also because the cognate debate aspect enables us to look at the situation across the spectrum. Perhaps it is time for a little speculation in the Senate. It is sometimes said in politics that it is never time to do anything. But I suppose we are visited with the prospect of 3 years of what is sometimes called ‘stable Government’. In that situation, perhaps this is an opportune time to speculate a little in the area which is covered by these S Bills.
I think it is important to emphasise when discussing education that we live in times of very rapid social and technological change when the need for planning for the future becomes more and more obvious and when the task becomes more and more difficult. The structure which we have to deal with that situation in the educational area is perhaps in its infancy in a sense and not proven, but perhaps it is a satisfactory structure if one examines some of the problems which are likely to arise. Of course there are recommendations in relation to each item in the legislation from the relevant commissions. It is the function of government to make decisions about those recommendations.
As I indicated earlier we have a breathing space at the moment between trienniums in which the Government is in a unique position to make these sorts of decisions. In saying that I mention also that the Government cannot put education on the long finger as perhaps it has tended to do in relation to the suggested establishment of an inquiry into broadcasting and television or as it tended to do with ethnic radio or as it tended to with something like tax indexation.
In the area of education decisions have to be made by the time of the Budget this year. At that time we will be able to assess the results of talk which went on last year from then Opposition spokesmen and from the now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about resistence to what was called enforced equality in education. In August we will be able to see what that concept means, if it means anything, because decisions will have to be made by the time of the Budget in relation to recommendations which will be available to the Government from various commissions in the near future. I said that it is perhaps important to speculate about the role of education and the form which education administration is likely to take and which it should perhaps take in the next few years. Before I do that I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that this legislation provides for grants to the States in order that they may carry out various educational functions. I make the point that one cannot under-estimate the role of a national Parliament and a national government in assessing educational needs and priorities.
I hope we have gone past the time when these sorts of matters can be left to the States. Gradually in Australia, over the last 20 or 30 years, education has become a national obligation. The product of education constitutes part of the wealth of the nation, not the wealth of particular States. The alternative view to the proposition that society can progress either in a technological sense or in the sense of developing a better quality of life in the community is that this can be done by merely shelling out money to State governments without any attention to the question of national priorities. I hope that this view will not even be floated in the next few months, although one does hear noise of that kind during contributions to so called education debates. The great advantage of a national Parliament and national government is that it can plan national priorities. Where necessary it can seek uniformity of development and it can progress towards new standards. The roles of the respective commissions are very important in carrying out that function. The structure which, for better or for worse, has now been inflicted on the educational scene in the guise of various commissions is, perhaps at first glance, complex. But the structure of the commissions in each of the areas with which we are concerned and the tasks of those commissions have been to look at educational needs in various areas.
I believe that this Government, and indeed any Government in the present time and in the immediate future, must be diligent to assess and to be constantly aware of what are the real needs of the community and not just the wishes of various education establishments in the community. There seems to me to be little doubt that there are entrenched education establishments in this community which, irrespective of the sorts of changes which might take place in this society, will continue to seek to remain as establishments. As I say irrespective of those changes there are education establishments which may be dealing with situations or purporting to deal with situations which are no longer real in terms of the goals and objectives of the sort of society in which we live.
I will illustrate my point in relation to universities. One suspects, without knowing, that universities may already be training people in Australia for professions which will no longer exist in 5 or 10 years time. If that is true, surely it involves a critical analysis of the role of the Universities Commission and representations which are made to that Commission. The universities are, perhaps, at this stage a powerful and coddled section of this community. Only at the time of the last Budget I was made aware of this by academics from various universities who said to me: Look, whatever you do, think very hard about the money which is made available to universities in particular areas’. The reason why they said that was simply this: They were being told by their own university establishments that they should put on 6 senior lecturers in this or that subject. The comments made to me suggested that there was no need for 6 senior lecturers in the particular subjects concerned to be put on to a university establishment and, in any event, there were not 6 university lecturers of sufficient calibre for that purpose. The point I am trying to make is the very real danger of self-perpetuating education establishments, particularly in the university field, which are indeed contrary to what I believe to be the aims of the various commissions, the aims of the Opposition which I represent and, I believe, the aims of the present Government in its view of priorities which should be given in educational expenditure.
I note that one of my colleagues in the House of Representatives in the debate on this matter made a passing reference to sabbatical leave in universities. There was a certain amount of horreur, if I may put it in that way, about his attitude to sabbatical leave. He revealed the origin of sabbatical leave in Australian universities. It was in the 1920s, perhaps, when Australian universities could not attract staff from overseas unless they were assured of a trip home every 6 or 7 years. There was also, of course, the fact that Australia was a very isolated country and it was desirable for Australian staff in universities to refresh themselves in some way or another academically, by taking leave overseas. I do not want to join in that sort of criticism of sabbatical leave but I do want to say that it is extraordinary, when we think about technological change and about social change in society, that sabbatical leave or the concept of sabbatical leave still remains an academic province only. We are not thinking in wider terms about a society in which each member of the work force perhaps has some sort of arrangement like that in his lifetime in order that he may indulge in retraining, further education, or whatever he wishes.
I should like to make one or two comments about colleges of advanced education and the legislation relating to those bodies. It does seem to me that while there has been a proliferation of colleges of advanced education in Australia and while there has been a continuing sort of status battle between colleges of advanced education and universities and between one college of advanced education and another, the role of colleges of advanced education has been, by no means, defined at this time. The sort of question which we should perhaps properly be asking when considering this type of legislation is this: What sort of courses are colleges of advanced education providing and what sort of courses should they be providing? Should they be providing short courses in specialist disciplines? Should they be related more intimately to the community than are universities? Should they be research institutions or should they provide a general education, particularly for those who return to full time education or part time education on an involved basis later in their lifetime?
These questions, I think, are important when this Parliament is making substantial grants to the States for the purpose of financing colleges of advanced education. We are making those grants, generally speaking, as an act of faith believing that all educational institutions are somehow in some particular way per se worthy institutions and per se fulfilling a worthy purpose in society. I query those assumptions. I am concerned that in this Parliament, at least, there should be a continuing debate about the role of these colleges of advanced education and some attempt to define their purposes and what thenfunctions should be.
The third area we are discussing is that of technical education. There has been an enormous growth in enrolments in this field since the beginning of 1974. 1 think there have been 1 14 000 additional enrolments of students at technical colleges since the beginning of 1974. Whether this is fulfilling a need or not, I frankly do not know. I suspect that it is. I suspect that the role of technical education in Australian society should and must become more and more important and, at the same time, more and more flexible in the types and variety of disciplines which it offers in the next decade. I believe that to be so for reasons which I want to discuss in the next few minutes. I want to discuss them under the guise of indulging in a little speculation about the sort of society we might be living in in the next 10 years or so and thereafter, and the sort of effect that might have on our thinking about education and our educational priorities.
I think it is perhaps trite sociology to say that we are moving into what has been called the post-industrial society. It seems to me that in that sort of society there will be fewer jobs for traditional professions. I do not think anybody is safe now in saying to his 10-year old son: ‘Yes, I will put you through the university and make you into a lawyer or a doctor and you will be rich like your daddy’. I do not think there is any safety in any man saying that in 1976 to a son of 10 years of age. I think that is true of a variety of professions. I certainly think that is true of a great variety of jobs in manufacturing industry which, I believe, will disappear in 10 or 15 years time. I say disappear in the sense of change. Perhaps they will be replaced by technological methods, automation and so on. I think that the consequences of that are that there will be available in service industries more jobs of a very different kind to the jobs for which people are now being trained in educational institutions. These factors, I believe, will be important in assessing educational needs and demands.
There will be less demand for universities. I hate to use the term, but I believe that universities will become more elitist rather than less elitist as they have tended to become over the past 20 or 30 years. I believe that universities will be more concerned with the research role and less concerned with training practitioners in the various arts and professions. There will be more demand for diverse special skills which can be attained only by technical education rather than by the sort of education which is offered now by universities. Because of these things I believe that the capacity of educational institutions to adapt to change is very important.
Secondly, quite apart from the sort of social changes which might take place, we are going to be faced with very significant technological changes. This will mean, of course, that there will be a much greater need for retraining than has existed before. People in the second half of this century will change jobs perhaps three or four times in a lifetime. In the manpower sense, I believe there will be a great move against what the Marxists call ‘alienation’ in employment but which perhaps can be described in more contemporary terms as the sense of divorcing education from any involvement in a work situation of a constructive and fulfilling kind. What I am really suggesting is that factors which may now be compartmentalised into the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations are going to have a significant bearing in the future on the matters which are now departmentalised into the Department presided over by Senator Carrick, the Department of Education. I think that these factors are likely to become very important in the next few years.
The third factor I want to mention is that of increasing leisure and continued aspirations and demands for a better quality of life. I think that that will be reflected in the educational sphere in there being more need for ongoing or continuing education throughout one’s lifetime. There will be an aspiration which is perhaps expressed in the words of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the policy speech which he made last year when he talked about ‘the need to create alternative life styles’. ‘Alternative life styles’ is a rather spooky sort of phrase and carries with it, I think, the suggestion that those life styles will be fulfilled in various ways. Of course, one of the ways in which they will have to be fulfilled is by education. One wonders particularly about the role of colleges of advanced education and institutions of that kind in providing that way of using increased leisure time, in providing a way of improving the quality of life and in providing a way of enriching the human personality which is what people consider they are doing in seeking to continue their education right throughout their life in a variety of ways.
I think that we must consider the fact that we have lived for too long in a society which has not been very flexible and in which there has been a great desire to put people into slots. We see a life pattern of birth, school, work, retirement and death, a life style which that great poet, W. H. Auden, epitomised in the line: ‘Sit on your arse for 40 years and hang your hat on a pension’. I think that that quotation very aptly illustrates the style in which we have tended to live in the first half of this century. I think it is a style which is totally inapplicable and totally unlikely to continue in the latter half of this century. The need which it seems to me that educationalists will have to fulfil and which governments will have to fulfil is that of increasing options for people at all stages of their lives. For the purpose of this debate, I have in mind increasing options in terms of educational opportunities of a diverse kind beyond the sorts of opportunities which have been made available to people in the past.
I believe that it is important for us to try to make judgments about these sorts of things. I say in all humility that I believe that the present Government will make wrong judgments about some of these things and I am quite sure that if we were in government we would make wrong judgments about some of them too because they are terribly difficult issues on which to make judgments. But I put it to the Senate that in making those judgments it is very important that we understand and maintain the importance of a national responsibility- the importance of the assessment of national priorities as distinct from parochial priorities- and that we do not try to evade this responsibility in planning, coordinating and looking to the future as providing a richer educational opportunity for all. The calendar year of 1976 is, as I said, an interregnum period and Senator Carrick will acknowledge that the real sparks will fly at a later stage this year. But at this stage I wanted to introduce this note and take the opportunity of speculating a little about educational goals and priorities. Having done so, I commend the Bills to the Senate.
– I listened with interest to Senator Button and in particular to his remarks indicating his ideas as far as goals in education are concerned. I must say that I agree with much of what he said. I think he mentioned that people are being trained at universities for professions in which they may find in later life that it is difficult to obtain suitable employment. I completely agree with the honourable senator because I have had evidence in my State of lawyers who have graduated and who find it difficult to obtain work. I have had conversations with people who are in their final year of a course such as chemical engineering and who are worried now about whether they will be able to find suitable employment. I think that the lack of employment opportunity in that field is due to a lethargy in development in
Australia that has persisted over the last 3 years. I hope that in that category of professions, for example, opportunities will be opened up for employment in the mining fields and in other areas as a result of the initiatives taken by this Government.
Senator Button said something about putting people into slots. I wonder whether in the past we have not been too preoccupied with tertiary education and have not concentrated enough on proper teacher training at the pre-school, primary, secondary and technical levels in order to encourage children into a work area where they will be most happy and where their particular IQ or talents will enable them to fulfil a job that will bring them satisfaction. I know of many instances where people have worked in a certain job and then chosen to go into another job at less pay because they have not been happy in the first job. They have not been fulfilled in their particular vocation. Therefore, what Senator Button has said has some merit and ought to be considered seriously by the Government in the future.
I want to refer to universities. In my opening remarks I indicated that perhaps our priorities ought to be placed in a different area. This Bill provides for the payment of grants to the States for universities in 1976. The Bill is the result of a change in the procedure adopted by the Whitlam Government for the year 1976. This procedure is a departure from the normal triennial program which operated in the past. The Labor Government asked 4 education commissions to recommend separate programs for funding for 1976 within certain guidelines. This Bill and the related ones with which we are dealing represent the implementation of the announced decision of the present Government in its caretaker capacity in November last year that the program for 1 976 approved by the previous Government for universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education institutions should proceed on the basis announced by the former Government. This is the first opportunity the present Government has had to honour the undertaking given at that time.
The previous Government’s program was expressed in June 1 975 at price levels at that time and on the basis that further grants would be provided to make allowance for subsequent movements in costs. As I understand it, the total funds involved in this Bill are $498m to be made available to the States for university purposes in respect of the year 1976. Of that amount $447 m is for recurrent costs and equipment purchases and $51m is for buildings. These amounts make no allowance for movements in costs since June last year. Further adjustments in cost movements to the end of the year 1976 will certainly be required.
The 2 universities in South Australia- the University of Adelaide and the Flinders University of South Australia- received under this Bill in excess of $56m for all purposes. I am interested in several aspects of the grants, particularly those allocated to medicine, energy research and teaching facilities in these fields at the universities to which I have just referred. Firstly I want to deal fairly broadly with the Flinders Medical Centre at the Flinders University in South Australia. The amounts allocated to the Centre under this Bill are illustrated in the various schedules to the Bill. These detail grants for recurrent expenditure for the year 1974-75.
Recently I visited the Medical Centre at the Flinders University and was given a detailed explanation of the problems, the hopes and the achievements so far experienced by those associated with this up to date concept of medical teaching at all levels. I think that this Centre is an example to the rest of Australia of a modern medical school complex. I am particularly grateful to the Dean of the Medical School, Professor Fraenkel for making his time available to me in order to conduct me over the complex, to assist me by answering questions and giving me some valuable information and helping my understanding of the need to urge the Government to show an interest in completing this complex. At present of the 3 phases of the construction of that Medical Centre, two have been completed and the third is well under way. I am very anxious to impress upon the Government the need to give consideration to the financial support for phase 4 which will complete this particular complex which I believe ought to be completed without undue delay.
The history of this Medical Centre is obvious to South Australians. The need for a second training hospital in South Australia is due to the development of the motor car industry in the south of Adelaide and the development of the Chrysler plant at Tonsley Park and Lonsdale. This has meant that there has been an expanding population without any major medical centre in that part of Adelaide. It was necessary for the Government to make a decision to approve the construction of this complex. Since 1962 the Adelaide University medical course has been forced to impose quotas on the intake of students into the faculty of medicine. For these reasons the South Australian Government adopted a recommendation that a new major teaching hospital be established at Flinders, and the Australian Universities Commission accepted this project in its fourth report in 1 969. The first Dean and Chairman of the School of Medicine, Professor Fraenkel, was appointed in July 1970. Planning commenced immediately for the school of medicine and for a 710-bed teaching general hospital with comprehensive in-patient and outpatient services to be built under one roof on the university campus at Flinders, including a biochemical library and school of nursing. The planning and implementation has been carried out in phases. The first and second are complete. The third is well advanced. Funds for the 3 phases are assured. Phase 3 is due for completion at the end of 1977 and the Centre will be capable at that time of providing 500 beds of the proposed 700-odd beds. The whole project is scheduled for completion by the end of 1 980.
I am concerned that plans for the final phase of the complex- phase 4- have been prepared but detailed financial approvals have not been given although the State Government has approved in principle the completion of the project. Phase 4 was originally planned for completion in 1980 but subsequent increased promises by the former Government led to a speeding up so that the work could be completed a good deal more quickly, which of course is most desirable from the point of view of South Australia. I understand that the plans for phase 4 of the project have been referred to the South Australian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. It is expected that the State Government could find its financial commitment to speed up the completion date. Of course, doubt exists whether the Commonwealth can make available additional funds now instead of in 1980 to complete the project ahead of schedule. It the light of inflation this presents a problem as it does in many other areas. I can understand that the Government must look at this matter very carefully and make its assessment as to the priority of this project in the light of economic circumstances. Of course the sooner a decision is made and the sooner money can be available, the more economies in the long term can be effected.
I expect that the State could fund the completion of the project because the State Premier boasts that South Australia is in a fairly sound financial position at the present time. We know why it is in a sound position. It is because the State has some money available from the sale of rural railways in South Australia to the Commonwealth Government. It would seem to me that this may well be an opportunity for the State Premier to extend himself to provide a little more money for this important project. I realise that not only the Flinders Medical Centre requires financial assistance; there are also many other projects in the medical sphere in South Australia that cry out for urgent relief. On today’s values, phase 4- the final section of this project- would cost approximately $14m. This is not a lot of money when it is related to the overall magnitude of the project and when it is equated to the resulting benefits that will accrue to the people of South Australia. The highest capital flow, as I understand it, in any one period is in the year 1977-78. That amounts to $4.4m. I believe that bearing that in mind and the fact that the project can be completed at a cost of $ 14m, the Commonwealth Government ought to be attracted to providing finance for its completion.
I think that we must bear in mind the multipurpose nature of the undertaking. The complex caters for teaching both in medicine and nursing. It caters for hospital care, for general, specialist and maternity patients. Generally, the university provides research facilities for all branches in the medical area. I pay a compliment to those responsible for planning this Centre. I regret that difficulties have arisen from time to time. In recent weeks strike action has been taken by the unions whose employees are working on the site. This certainly has disrupted the smooth operation of the project and has had nothing to do with the Medical Centre administration. I find it difficult to understand how inter-union squabbles can frustrate the construction of a building of this importance. I hope, as I am sure do the people of South Australia, that we will see an end to this sort of thing and as a result that the building will be completed at the earliest possible time.
The other point I touch on concerns the funding of specific projects slanted towards the development of new energy resources. These projects are being undertaken at the Flinders University by the Institute of Energy Research. Mr President, you will recall that this Institute was formerly known as the Institute of Electric Chemical Energy Conversion. I have made representations previously for Federal Government assistance both to the former Government and to the present Government. I believe that the present Government is obliged to recognise the need to provide far more adequate research funding than has been made available in the past for universities and other research institutions throughout Australia in order that some real effort can be made to obtain an alternative energy resource to the conventional materials that are available at present.
I recall that in his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) mentioned that this was of concern to the Government. The Minister for National Resources, Mr Doug Anthony, stated that he supported research into and development of solar energy as a viable alternative to fossil and nuclear fuels. Specifically, the Minister stated that he would set up a National Energy Council to estimate energy reserves and to co-ordinate research into alternative energy sources including solar energy. Perhaps the Minister in charge of this Bill might care to comment on this matter and let me know whether the Government has any plans to fund universities in order to adequately assist research institutes, such as those I have mentioned within this university, so that they can get on with the job and have a more positive future plan in this important area.
After a visit to the physical science department of Flinders University early this year I wrote to the Minister for National Resources and asked whether the Government could provide $ 10,000 a year for the salary of a research assistant to coordinate the research activities of that department. Of course, the university authorities recognise our financial problem in this economic climate that we are plagued with at the present time. Although they would very much like to attract a grant of $80,000 or $100,000 for the establishment of a building in which to house all their energy experiments and scientific researches, they realise that this is a bit too much to ask at present. Unfortunately the Minister for National Resources has not acceded to the request for this particular funding. I give the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) notice of a letter he is likely to receive from me. In it I ask him whether he can provide me with some encouragement by indicating that he will look at providing a very small amount of money which would be of great assistance to the Flinders University physical sciences department. I compliment the Government on its effort to straighten out the financial chaos that has been left by the former Government. This ought to be repeated frequently. Whenever it is said, Opposition senators tend to liven up and become quite agitated.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally propose the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise this evening the subject of a meeting which I attended earlier today at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. It was a seminar arranged by the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Library Association of Australia and it dealt with library services for the handicapped. I believe that this is a matter which is worthy of the attention of this chamber and of this Parliament. It is a matter to which I hope greater attention will be given by the Government. I think it is recognised that all governments must give first priority to assistance to the disadvantaged in the community. It is also generally recognised, or I hope it is, that the handicapped in our community are among the most disadvantaged. Often in an affluent society such as ours the handicapped feel their disadvantage much more than they should. For that reason alone this subject ought to be given greater consideration.
Too often the difficulties which the handicapped face in our society tend to be overlooked. I do not suggest that on anyone’s part this is a matter of deliberate disregard. However, that does not make it any less distressing for those who suffer as a result. The seminar today at the National Library of Australia dealt with a number of issues relating to means by which the handicapped in the community might be assisted by better library facilities both here and throughout Australia. Some consideration was given particularly to the system operating in the United States of America as there was a guest speaker from the Library of Congress.
There are 200 000 blind or visually handicapped people in Australia and I suggest that there is a case for better services for them and a co-ordinated national examination of this problem. This matter arose at the seminar and 3 resolutions were passed by the members of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Library Association of Australia in relation to it. Rather than read them I ask that the text of the 3 short resolutions be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– If I could summarise them briefly, the first resolution deals with the need to establish a library service for the visually and physically handicapped, to provide reading and other library services for them. The second resolution calls for a survey to be undertaken to ascertain what material is already available in this country and to discover what gaps there are in that material and how it might be improved. The third resolution is a call for a catalogue of the material that is available.
I commend these resolutions to the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) as he is responsible for the National Library. These resolutions suggest that the National Library might take a major role in all 3 areas covered by the resolutions. I ask that the Minister undertake to examine the proposals and particularly the role that might be played by the National Library in examining services and facilities. By doing so I believe that the Minister and this Government will play an important role in assisting the handicapped in an area which to date has been sadly neglected in Australia.
– Tonight I want to look at a number of subjects but, most importantly, the inequitable taxation system which operates in Australia. I am concerned that it is heavily weighted against women and, perhaps, only lightly weighted against men. I fully appreciate that there are circumstances in which men in particular positions are discriminated against. This occurs in respect of deserted husbands and single male parent families, as well as single female parent families. I would like to go into that area later in a little depth. At the moment my prime concern is that women are discriminated against whether they stay at home or choose to go to work.
– I heard the ‘Oh’ from the honourable senator on the opposite side of the chamber who in all probability has had an unpaid housekeeper sitting at home all these years. As a taxpayer he may be interested to know that there is discrimination against women. Perhaps this is why there are only 5000 women among the 46 000 top money earners in Australia. I do not know about Senator Sim, but I am quite prepared to put my cards on the table for public review. I am prepared to say that because of my parliamentary and community duties it is necessary for me to employ a housekeeper for the welfare of my son and my family but that the Commissioner of Taxation has seen fit not to allow me a $364 deduction in respect of that housekeeper. If my child was handicapped it would make a difference, although because I am the wife of another taxpayer it is likely that he would be treated in the same way. I am concerned that this is perhaps one of the reasons that women stay out of Parliament. After all, we have only 6 women in this chamber while there are 58 men. My male colleagues who do no more, and sometimes do a darned sight less than I, in general have an unpaid housekeeper for whom they claim not only the $364 deduction but also any additional expenses involved in the health and welfare of their spouse.
My situation is no different from that of any number of women who work in the community, whether from economic necessity, because they are concerned that having only a male breadwinner places a strain on the man and could leave them widows in early life, or whether purely and simply they desire to go out to work to fulfil themselves. These women are not allowed to claim such things as child day care charges or after school care charges. They cannot claim the $364 deduction for a replacement for themselves while they are out working. I am not talking about claiming money paid as salaries or about claiming accommodation, board or lodging charges but simply about the amount of $364 which is allowed to a male if he employs a housekeeper in particular circumstances.
– What are the particular circumstances? That is what I would like to know.
– There are particular circumstances. The Taxation Act states that male taxpayers are allowed to claim for a female housekeeper whereas female taxpayers are not. I am just as concerned about male and female partners in a marriage who at some stage have to employ a housekeeper. I do not know whether honourable senators opposite are aware that it is not always possible to obtain housekeepers and that often it is not possible to obtain a housekeeper who does not have already dependants of her own. One could find that if the unpaid housekeeper of a family unit is incapacitated for any length of time necessitating the employment of a replacement it may be necessary to employ a person with one or more children who would be solely dependent on the taxpayer. However, he is not allowed to claim those children as taxation deductions. He is not, for instance, allowed to claim any expenses incurred in their education or for their board and lodgings, and he is not allowed to claim wages paid to the housekeeper, unless he happens to be registered as a company. We have to look very seriously at the present situation to see whether there are inequities that need to be straightened out to enable people in particular circumstances to maintain a reasonable standard of living. For instance, it is time that we looked very closely at the normal unpaid housekeeper and her role. Today I was interested to receive in the mail from the Women’s Electoral Lobby a representation relating to probate. I assume that each and every member of both Houses of this Parliament has received this representation in relation to probate.
Before I touch on that I would like to ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), who in this chamber represents the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), what the situation will be now with the change in our life styles, where we find that couples are reversing the traditional sex roles. On a number of occasions it is the female who is going out to support the family. With the change in life style it will be most interesting to see what the Commissioner of Taxation will determine in regard to the woman who decides to go out to work and become the bread winner, and the male who remains at home and looks after the house and the family. I await that decision with interest. I assure honourable senators that many men and women in the community also await that decision with interest.
I return to the submission of the Women’s Electoral Lobby. I do not intend to read the submission because it is some pages long. I ask the Treasurer at least to have a look at it. Perhaps 1 could refer to what the Women’s Electoral Lobby says in its covering letter. It makes a number of very pertinent remarks not only about widows but also about widowers, and there might even be some of those in this chamber. In its letter the Women ‘s Electoral Lobby says:
In this day and age, we all know that the existing legislation has a discriminatory effect on widows, owing to most family assets being in the husband ‘s name. Therefore, a widower rarely has to pay Death Duties or suffer a lowering of his living standard due to probate. Whereas a widow usually has to pay death duties on most of the family assets, which means that she would have to live at a reduced standard of living once she becomes a widow.
After all, a divorced spouse does not have to pay a divorce tax on the portion of the family asset passing to her or him. ****
To quote from a reported statement by Professor Sackville, “there is a lot to be said for the proposition that when it comes to sharing assets, a widow is worse off than a woman getting divorced Tax consequences for the widow are much more severe. The law in this area is unjust and ought to be changed.’
We have explained how the W.E.L Policy on Death Duties could be implemented without any loss of government revenue. We are bitterly disappointed that no Member has yet introduced a Bill in Parliament to amend the existing legislation which financially disadvantages widows and deprives them of self respect and dignity in old age.
The only thing I would query in the letter is this statement in the first paragraph:
How will posterity view our present-day treatment of widows? They are, the statistics reveal, mostly in the older age group.
I believe the statistics show that most widows are aged between SO years and 65 years, and that is not in the older age group.
– There are some other mistakes in it, you realise, in regard to the law in Victoria.
– Yes, I appreciate that. I am aware that there are some mistakes also in relation to my own State. We are now seeing the reverse side of the coin. For instance, we see that, if a woman chooses to stay at home and contribute by her physical capacities or capabilities in that area, she is penalised purely and simply because she stays at home. Unless she can prove that she has worked and has contributed to the financial aspect of running the house and has made payments on the house, her home will go up for probate.
– That is not right. That does not happen in the progressive State of Victoria.
– We are not referring only to the progressive State of Victoria. We even have our own natural disaster in Western Australia in the Premier, Sir Charles Court. Even the last cyclone was not game to come down to Perth to face him. It veered off before it reached Perth. But there are laws there which make it extremely difficult for women who suddenly find themselves widowed.
I think we also have to look at the situation of the single woman or the single man who out of love or duty to her or his parents decides to stay at home and look after them when they are no longer able to look after themselves. What happens to a single man if his parents die and do not give their property to him beforehand- at which time he would have to pay gift duty on it? If his parents die or are killed in an accident, he has to have his possession subjected to probate. People in this situation are penalised for the love that they bear for their parents.
As I have said, it is necessary for a woman to be able to establish that at some time during her married life she has worked and has contributed financially to the establishment and maintenance of a home so that she can be eligible, after the death of her husband, to receive that home free of probate. I know of instances where wives have taken out insurance policies on their husbands’ lives in the belief that when their husbands die they are entitled to a certain amount of money. They think that this will give them security if and when their husbands die. This is not the case in most States, although I am not speaking for all States. But I can say that unless a wife can establish once again that she has worked and has been capable of paying premiums on an insurance policy, the possibility of her getting that amount of money is extremely slender.
One other point that I wish to raise tonight concerns women’s refuges which are operating in all States. I am concerned that after the present Government has been in office for 4 months we have not had a definite statement on what the future role of these organisations will be. I can speak only about the situation in Western Australia because I have close ties with the Nardine women’s refuge there. I am concerned about the situation where people are caring for women who find it necessary, generally in the middle of the night, to leave their matrimonial home, quite often in a distressed state and quite often accompanied by children. The Nardine women’s refuge can accommodate 9 families. I can assure honourable senators that the accommodation is extremely cramped. The people at the refuge turn away 3 complete families for every one that they accept. Up to the present I think that about 500 women and more than 1500 children have been turned away from the refuge.
It would appear that there is available a great amount of housing on either a transitional or a temporary basis, in which these people could be located. I suggest that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), the Minister for
Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) could get together and determine what their policy will be on the use, for instance, of places such as migrant hostels which are still standing and which are still operating in most States. In Western Australia there is the Graylands Hostel which I know at present is accommodating people who have come not only from Darwin but also from Timor.
I would not like to deprive people who require emergency housing of this accommodation, but I can see no reason why women who clutter up women’s refuges- quite often they clutter up women’s refuges purely and simply because they have nowhere else to go- could not be housed in this type of accommodation. The State Housing Commission in Western Australia apparently has taken a much stronger view on the interpretation of the word ‘emergency’ as, I think, have most of the other State House Commissions. It does not necessarily mean that because a woman comes from a refuge and is in dire straits, her only alternative is to return to an unhappy marital situation where in all possibility she is subjected to some physical activity. Yet there does not seem to be any realisation on the part of the State Housing Commission that these women are in drastic need of emergency housing. A number of homes in Western Australia could be utilised. More importantly vacancies exist at Graylands Hostel, which, as I said earlier, is already operating. The time of the people who operate the refuges is in such demand that they just do not have the time to go to see Ministers. They do not have the time to make submissions. They do not have the time even to go and see prospective housing of the people for whom they care.
Lots of people go to refuges only in need of a shoulder to cry on, a cup of tea or a word in their ear. A lot go there because they have been mentally and physically beaten to such an extent that they can no longer see what is right and what is wrong for either themselves or their families. All governments- State governments, local governments and in particular the Federal Governmenthave a responsibility to the people of Australia to ensure that their welfare is looked after. I should like to conclude by asking the Minister for Social Security to get together with the people I have already mentioned to establish whether in actual fact more use can be made of the migrant hostels which are fully outfitted and whether some consideration can be given to reducing the present charges for rent and accommodation. I understand that at Graylands for instance people are required to pay in the vicinity of $40 per week per person. This, of course, is not possible for people who suddenly find themselves with no money at all or a supporting mother’s benefit which is not that large. I suggest that the Minister for Social Security confer with the other 2 people involved and raise the matter of what can be done, even on a temporary basis, for people who are in drastic need inside our community who have absolutely nowhere to go. I assure the Minister that the figures that have been taken out in reference to Nardine would indicate that only 3 per cent of those who are turned away find alternative accommodation; the other 97 per cent return to their unhappy marital situation.
– I wish to mention 2 matters tonight. They are somewhat related. The first matter is a plea to the Press in Australia. I am aware that it will be a vain plea but I will make it just the same. I ask members of the Press to see whether they can use a word other than ‘ bludger ‘ in many of their Press articles. I was moved to mention this in the Senate tonight after reading a report in the Brisbane Telegraph of Monday last in which it was mentioned that the Federal Government was planning changes in the administration of social service programs to eliminate all types of welfare bludgers. We have not only ‘dole bludger’ but also now ‘welfare bludger’. I think our English language is rich enough for the Press to be able to use a more appropriate word. I took the opportunity of looking up this word in the dictionary. ‘Bludger’ does not come under a main heading, but ‘bludge’ does. The dictionary states: bludge. 1. To loaf, to impose (on someone). 2. A minor racket. 3. A period of loafing or dodging responsibility. 4. Whence, bludger (sometimes a man living on immoral earnings of women).
My point is that a more appropriate word could be used. I do not think that the word ‘bludger’ is the sort of word that adequately describes what these people are trying to say in their Press articles. I appeal to the Press to use a much more appropriate word.
The second matter I raise deals with a question I asked on notice of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). I would like to mention a couple of aspects of the answer to see whether some parts of it can be elucidated. I asked:
How many persons have been prosecuted so far this year for continuing to accept a weekly cheque for unemployment benefit after commencing work and of such prosecutions how many have been successful.
The answer to that question read as follows:
In the period 1 January 1976 to 17 March 1976, 9 persons have been prosecuted under the Social Services Act for making incorrect statements about employment or earnings while unemployment benefit was being paid.
So far this is quite straight forward, but the next sentence has me somewhat confused. It reads:
There would be other cases which have been heard by the courts but in which the results of the hearing have yet to be transmitted to the Department of Social Security.
Another sentence reads:
In this period approval has been given in 38 cases for prosecution for making incorrect statements about employment or earnings but these prosecutions have not yet been heard, or advice of the outcome has not yet been received in the Department.
Is the Department actually aware of all prosecutions that come before the court? If it is it would seem to me that in the initial sentence which refers to 9 persons being prosecuted mention could have been made of the other cases that were heard by the court. I am confused by that part of the answer and perhaps the Minister might be able to explain it. A further part of the answer said:
There have been other prosecutions under the Crimes Act. Such prosecutions were instituted by the Commonwealth Police and full details are not held by my Department.
I would like to know whether the Minister can inform the Senate what sort of prosecutions are made under the Crimes Act and why they would be made under the Crimes Act and not under the Social Services Act.
– I did not intend to take up the time of the Senate at this late hour, but Senator Knight’s comments have prompted me to make one or two remarks concerning the facilities of the National Library. He made a plea for consideration to be given to the needs of the physically and mentally handicapped in regard to library services. I appreciate the sincerity with which Senator Knight made his plea but I very much doubt whether the plea will fall on sympathetic ears having in mind the budgetary restrictions that are being imposed by this Government at present on the National Library. If Senator Knight likes to read last Saturday’s Canberra Times he will find an advertisement stating that because of budgetary restrictions there has been a severe limitation on the hours during which the National Library is made available to people who reside in Canberra and people who visit it.
I also wish to point out, in case it should be thought that the Labor Government was not interested in these matters, that in March last year the then Special Minister of State, Mr Lionel Bowen, appointed a committee of inquiry into library services generally. That committee of inquiry consisted of Mr Horton, the Librarian of the University of New South Wales, as Chairman and Executive Member, the other members of the Committee being Mr A. Harris of the Department of the Treasury; Mr W. Brown, State Librarian of Tasmania and the President of the Library Association of Australia; Professor D. Lamberton, Professor of Economics, University of Queensland; Professor D. Pickering, Senior Special Education Officer, Department of Education, Victoria; Professor P. Tannock, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Australia; and Mrs M. Trask, Principal Lecturer in Librarianship, Kuringai College of Advanced Education and Vice-President, Library Association of Australia. The committee has been taking evidence since about March last year. At the time the Labor Government went out of office it had received some 450 written submissions and had held 10 public hearings throughout various parts of Australia, principally in State capitals, as well as in Canberra and Darwin and had held eleven more public hearings in regional centres. At the time when the Labor Government went out of office in November last, it had made a request to me, as Special Minister of State, that the time for the presentation of the report be extended from the end of December to 31 March 1976, as I recall.
The terms of reference of this inquiry were very wide ranging indeed. They were:
In its report the Committee of Inquiry should pay particular attention to: the development of methods for evaluating the effectiveness of public libraries and library systems; the relationship between proposed public library policies and the Australian Library Based Information System feasibility studies; the Australian Assistance Plan and the policies planned or implemented by the Departments of Urban and Regional Development and Tourism and Recreation; the relationship between public libraries and libraries in education centres.
The Committee should consult widely and openly with the Australian, State and local governments, the community and professional groups. … It should be able to commission specific studies. A final report should be presented within nine months of its establishment.
As I said, that Committee was established in March 1975.
I would suggest with respect to Senator Knight that he should realise that the Committee had been established to inquire into the needs of library services throughout Australia. It was established by a Labor Government. I thinkand I speak subject to recollection now- some $13m was made available in the last Budget presented by the Labor Government for the National Library Service of Australia. I think it is fair to say that the present Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) at a seminar that he attended, if not opened, earlier this year at the National Library indicated that the Australian Library Based Information Service, commonly referred to in librarian terms as ALBIS would not be able to be proceeded with for some time because of the budgetary restrictions that have had to be imposed, according to the Government, on the Library services. I suggest to Senator Knight that he should look at last Saturday’s Canberra Times to see the restricted hours that are now being introduced by the National Library as a result of budgetary restrictions imposed by this Government.
- Mr President, we have had 4 speakers in this adjournment debate. If I may, I will deal firstly with the matters raised by Senator Coleman. They are matters which will be taken into consideration when the Budget is being framed. There is nothing new in what she has said. It is fairly well known that these problems have existed for a long time. There are ways and means of overcoming them. They are not as desperate as she would have us imagine.
– That is a matter of opinion.
-I have been advising people in this area for most of my professional life and there are ways and means of overcoming those problems.
– You must know a good taxation consultant.
-It depends mainly on the relationship between husband and wife. If the right sort of relationship does not exist there, these problems will not be overcome. The matters raised by the honourable senator will be passed on to the Treasurer for his consideration.
– Why do you throw away phrases and sentences like that? Why don’t you take a little bit of advice?
SenatorWITHERS -Ihave practised inthis field for most of my professional life and I do know a little bit about it. The simple fact is that if there is a proper relationship between the husband and wife these problems do not arise. Where the problems do arise because there is a bad marriage, they are totally insoluble. The matters that the honourable senator has raised will be drawn to the attention of the Treasurer and no doubt will be taken into consideration when the Budget is being framed.
As to the matters raised by Senator Colston, the term ‘bludger’ is a fairly well known Australian colloquialism. The Government cannot direct the media. The honourable senator has made a plea to the media and it is up to the media to decide whether they will accept his plea or not.
– It was a plea to the media, not to the Government.
-That is right, and therefore it is not really a matter which falls within the government area. As to the matters raised by both Senator Knight -
– Surely it is a matter of whether it is a parliamentary or unparliamentary term?
-Whether or not it is a parliamentary or unparliamentary term is a matter on which the Presiding Officer would rule. It is a very old Australian expression, of course, having all sorts of connotations which I need not go into here. As to the matters raised by Senator Knight and Senator Douglas McClelland, I had the advantage this afternoon of talking to Ms Ellen Zabel from the Library of Congress, who is in Australia to attend a library seminar. I think it is fair to say that she is recognised as being one of the leaders in the United States in the field of providing library services to blind and physically handicapped people. She is a most interesting, able and charming young lady, one of the sorts of Americans to whom we all warm and who I wish would visit Australia more often. Not only has she great charm, she also has great knowledge and is a great ambassador for her country. What she has been able to do for the library services since she came here has been quite outstanding. I would like to say in the Senate tonight that we thank her for coming to Australia and giving us the benefit of her knowledge. I do have some personal knowledge of this subject, although I will not go into it now, and I know how the handicapped have been assisted in this area.
As to the matters raised by Senator Knight, certainly I am more aware of them both as a result of my conversation this afternoon with Ms Zabel and as a result of the representations made by the honourable senator. I will take them into consideration. I am also confident that Senator Davidson, who represents the Senate on the National Library Council will be aware of the comments made and will take them up with the National Library. I am confident that the National Library, within the capacity it has, will do its utmost to look at the problems raised by the honourable senator. With regard to the matters raised by Senator Douglas McClelland, he made an interesting speech. For the honourable senator’s information, tomorrow I hope to be able to table the Horton report, and without trespassing on what I might say tomorrow, which I hope will be short, the report does allude to some of the problems in this area. Not only does it allude to the problems, but it also attempts to give some solutions. When that report is put down I hope that it will be given the widest possible circulation, and I will be interested to hear any comments which may come forward. I think that honourable senators will find it a most valuable report.
- Mr President, could I ask why the Leader of the Government is answering the questions that have been raised when the 2 Ministers to whom I directed my questions are in the chamber?
– I am quite happy to respond to that interesting and rather long series of comments by Senator Coleman. I wish to say 2 things. Firstly, an investigation was conducted by the Senate some while ago, in the time of her Party’s Government, into the whole problem of death duties. I think that the Labor Government saw fit to continue death duties. Senator Guilfoyle, Senator Lawrie and I suggest that they might be discontinued. I commend the reading of that report to the honourable senator. Secondly, the comments referred to me representing the Treasurer will be passed on to the Treasurer.
- Senator Colston, what did you wish to say?
- Mr President, I ask you whether -
– The matter has been determined. To what do you allude now, Senator?
– I ask through you whether the Minister for Social Security is going to make any comments on the points I raised.
– No, not unless the Minister desires to do so. Senator Withers, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, replied. Senator Guilfoyle, do you wish to speak?
– I am happy to offer any information which I have to the honourable senator. I took the attitude that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) had spoken during the adjournment debate and that the matters were dealt with by him. However, the matter referred to by Senator Colston perhaps should have some further explanation. The honourable senator mentioned that there was a statement in the answer in paragraph ( 1 ) which read:
There would be other cases which had been heard by the courts but in which the results of the hearing have yet to bc transmitted to the Department of Social Security.
That sentence refers to cases which are in the courts. As we understand it they have been heard but we have not yet had the results. The third paragraph states:
In this period approval has been given in 38 cases for prosecution for making incorrect statements . . . but these prosecutions have not yet been heard . . .
These cases have not yet entered the courts. We have no information about them. At the time of writing the reply some of the cases could have been in the courts but they were not in the category of those other cases mentioned in the earlier sentences. The other matter referred to was with regard to prosecutions under the Crimes Act. The previous matter to which we have referred were those cases which had been dealt with under the Social Services Act. I shall see whether I can get some further information with regard to prosecutions under the Crimes Act. I shall advise the honourable senator accordingly.
While I am speaking on this matter I refer to the matters mentioned by Senator Coleman in relation to women’s refuges. I listened with interest to the matters which were raised and also to her request for co-operation between Ministers who may have some responsibility in this area. The Department of Social Security has responsibility under the homeless persons assistance program. The persons eligible for assistance under this program are men and women without a settled home through social factors such as alcoholism, inadequacy, domestic conflict or similar reasons. However, it is felt that refuges for women and children made homeless by domestic conflict are funded under the community health program which is administered by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. The arrangement with regard to women’s refuges is being reviewed by the Department of Health and the Department of Social Security. As the honourable senator knows, the women’s health centres and refuges, as we refer to them at the present time, come under the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). As a government we recognise the role of the States in the provision of health care services. Any review or discussions which we undertake in these matters will take into account that State Government’s responsibility as well as Federal Government responsibility. If there is any further information which I am able to offer with regard to my program for homeless persons or the women’s health centres and refuges I shall obtain it for the honourable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
What was the estimated cost of the recount in respect of the Senate election held in New South Wales on 13 December 1975.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The cost of the recount of the Senate ballot-papers in New South Wales is not available as a separate item of election expenditure, since that recount was conducted concurrently with other election-related tasks.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What was the expenditure by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the financial years 1973-74, 1974-75 and what is the anticipated expenditure for 1975-76 in each of the States and Territories.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Expenditure by my Department is recorded under functional headings as set out in the Appropriation Acts. This practice has been followed by successive Governments over many years and there seems little point in identifying the particular State or Territory in which, for example, supplies of stationery are purchased or freight charges are incurred. I am not prepared to authorize the dme and expenditure that would be involved in dissecting all departmental expenditure on the basis requested.
If the honourable senator seeks information related to a particular Government program or area of expenditure, I shall be pleased to provide him with whatever figures are reasonably available.
Friends in the Third World (Question No. 227)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) Imports from Papua New Guinea represented 38.8 per cent of total imports in 1 974-75
The above information has been obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
asked the Minister foi Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator ‘s question is as follows:
Every return made in pursuance of this section is open to public inspection upon payment of the prescribed fee of 50c.
As all returns lodged with the Australian Electoral Officers are available for inspection by Senators, it is not proposed to make information from the returns otherwise available.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
River Murray Working Party
– On 18 February, Senator McLaren asked the following question without notice:
The Minister for National Resources has now provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Softwoods Forestry Agreement
-On 26 February 1976 (Hansard, page 260) Senator McLaren asked me, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, a question without notice concerning the Government’s intentions for renewal of the Softwoods Forestry Agreement Act. The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question.
The Government has under consideration a recommendation from the Australian Forestry Council that a new Agreement be negotiated covering a ten-year period, and a request from the Council that the existing Act be extended for a one-year period to 30 June 1977. No decision has yet been reached on either matter but economic studies are proceeding to assist consideration of the issues involved.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What evaluation is being made by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee and what recommendations have been made about the use of Diazepam during pregnancy, in view of two clinical reports establishing a possible association between the use of Diazepam in pregnant women and the birth of children with cleft lip.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Drug Evaluation Committee considered the two reports referred to together with other relevant literature including available Australian data. It endorsed the conclusions of the authors of the two reports that more evidence is required for confirmation or rebuttal. It considered that care should be exercised when prescribing diazepam for pregnant women or those likely to become pregnant. At the request of my Department, the sponsors of the drug agreed in August 1973 to include in the relevant prescribing information on the drug issued to the medical profession, a statement under the heading of precautions as follows:
Laboratory studies and extensive clinical experience have revealed no abnormal effects on foetal development due to Valium. However, medication with Valium Roche is not recommended during the first half of pregnancy’.
In view of the advice from the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee following its consideration of the recent reports, the Department is currently engaged in further negotiations with the company to obtain amendment of the existing precautionary statement and make it more positive and prominent.
Haemophilia (Question No. SI)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What research and development programs are currently under way in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories relating to new approaches in the treatment of haemophilia, in the preparation of products for the treatment of haemophilia and in increasing the potency of such powers.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has not had the opportunity to initiate new approaches in the treatment of haemophilia, as the functions of CSL relate to production rather than treatment. lt is anticipated that the current expansion program at the Laboratories will allow increased production batch sizes with some expectation of an increase in the overall recovery rate of anti-haemophilic factor. Continuing efforts are being made by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to investigate and control, for optimum yield, all the variables which affect the recovery of anti-haemophilic factor.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In view of the honourable senator’s interest, I have arranged for a copy of the report of the survey to be sent to him.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Will restrictions on the use of consultants and reductions in overtime and travel for public servants be likely to adversely affect the administration of welfare services in Australia; if so, will the Minister provide the Senate with specific details of how these staffing reductions are likely to affect the management of the Department of Social Security and the services administered by that Department.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The restrictions on the engagement of consultants has not adversely affected the services provided by the Department of Social Security.
Reductions in funds available for overtime for public servants have necessitated a reassessment of priorities to ensure that only the most urgent overtime is worked. This has resulted in some limited reduction in the level of service being provided in some less critical areas, but every effort is being made to ensure that services provided to those who rely upon benefit payments for income maintenance are kept at an acceptable level.
Because of the special requirements of the Department of Social Security to provide client services for a large number of people over very wide areas, and to maintain adequate controls over benefit payments, the Department has been subjected to a minimal reduction only in travel funds. This reduction will not adversely affect welfare services.
As the overall levels of staffing are reduced to comply with the departmental staff ceiling, it may be necessary to divert resources from some less essential tasks to ensure that services associated with benefit payments are maintained at existing levels.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Of students presently undertaking courses in Australian tertiary institutions under the auspices of the Australian Development Assistance Agency:
how many are undertaking courses in 1976 being funded by the Australian Development Assistance Agency,
b) from which countries are they drawn,
what courses are being studied, and
in which Universities, Colleges of Advanced Education etc. are the courses being studied.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Afghanistan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Botswana, British Solomon Is., Colombia, Cook Is., Costa Rica, Cyprus, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Gibraltar, Gilbert and Ellice Is. (Gilbert Is. and Tuvalu), India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Korea, Laos, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, Niue, Pakistan, P.N.G., Philippines, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad, Uganda, Western Samoa, Zambia.
Unemployment Benefit (Question No. 127)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon nonce:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In cases known to the Department, all prosecutions have resulted in a conviction.
In this period approval has been given in thirty-eight cases for prosecution for making incorrect statements about employment or earnings but these prosecutions have not yet been heard, or advice of the outcome has not yet been received in the Department.
Not all persons who continue to receive unemployment benefit payments after they resume work are prosecuted. In some cases the beneficiary advises the Department within a reasonable time of his return to work but too late for the Department to stop the issue of cheques. In these situations he may be required to refund the amount to which he was not entitled.
There are eleven prosecutions in this category approved but not heard, or advice of result not yet received. Three also involve making incorrect statements about employment or earnings and are included in the first category.
The figures in (1) and (2) relate only to prosecutions under the Social Services Act. There have been other prosecutions under the Crimes Act. Such prosecutions were instituted by the Commonwealth Police and full details are not held by my Department.
Answers to Questions on Notice (Question No. 133)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has the Prime Minister given any instructions to Ministers on the maximum time limit to be observed in the provision of replies to Questions on Notice; if so, what are those instructions.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is impracticable to set a maximum time limit on replying to Questions on Notice.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is pointed out that the local government roads program is financed not only from Commonwealth funds but also from State and local government funds.
Under this proposed system municipalities and shires will thus have an assured source of revenue which will surely assist their forward budgeting.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
When did the Government introduce payment of married couple rate pension for a period of twelve weeks following the death of a pensioner spouse.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
What was the number of primary votes polled by each candidate in each subdivision of each electoral division in the House of Representatives election held on 13 December 1975.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Chief Australian Electoral Officer has informed me that he has supplied the honourable senator with copies of Election Form 62 (‘Results of the Scrutiny of First Preference Votes in Respect of Polling Places’) for each State and Territory, in respect of the 1975 House of Representatives election. This publication includes a summary, in respect of each electoral Division, of the number of first preference votes recorded for each candidate in each Subdivision.
Def fence Force Pilots (Question No. 151)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Have RAAF, Army and Navy pilots been forced to reduce flying hours because of expenditure cutbacks in the Department of Defence?
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There has been no reduction in flying hours for Defence Force pilots since those ordered in August 1973.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
What was the total number of votes recorded and the percentage of that vote on (a) a national basis and (b) a State and Territory basis for all candidates contesting the 1975 House of Representatives election on behalf of the Australia Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Communist Party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the National Country Party and the Workers Party.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The information sought by the honourable senator is set out in the following table compiled by the Australian Electoral Office.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760330_senate_30_s67/>.