31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Are tax cuts a necessary part of the Government’s program to stimulate consumer demand and thus assist the business community to restore full economic activity?
– Tax cuts are an essential part of the Government’s program aimed at providing consumers with more take-home pay and a greater capacity either to spend or to save.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the small amount of income that is received by the Government as provisional tax from those people who receive as part of their income between $400 and $ 1 ,000 a year which is subject to provisional tax and the length of time that has elapsed since an adjustment of that $400 upper limit on additional income before provisional tax is applied, I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Has the Government looked at the possibility of lifting the amount to a more reasonable figure of, say, $1,000, in the interests of fairness and also simplicity for the taxpayer and the Taxation Office? If not, will the Minister undertake to ask the Treasurer to examine the whole matter of provisional tax?
– I am not aware of whether the Government or the Treasurer has made any such investigations. It is, of course, a policy matter. I will direct the question to the Treasurer and ask him to investigate the matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to the question asked by Senator Wriedt. As the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has effectively reduced the purchasing power of wages and salaries which offsets to a large degree the Government’s tax cuts, are we to understand that the Commission’s national wage decision is actually working against Government policy?
– I am not capable of deciding what the understanding of the Opposition would be but perhaps I am able to help the community at large. The answer would be no. The fact is that reducing the upsurge in wages has caused a decline in inflation from the massive 1 8 per cent in the Labor Government ‘s day to less than 9 per cent, hopefully, today and a fall in interest rates. Not only is the purchasing power of the individual wage earner increased as a result of tax cuts but also as inflation falls the savings and the property of the taxpayer are preserved. As interest rates fall there is a real increase in purchasing power because for example, it is less costly to pay off homes.
One should not look in a narrow way at cause and effect in that regard. Taken as a whole, the slowing down of the upsurge in costs will do two things: It will increase the purchasing power of the community by delimiting inflation and reducing interest rates and, as a spinoff, will preserve savings whereas they were deteriorating rapidly in years past; and, of course, it will help to reduce the cost of a home. By way of illustration, as I understand it, if there were a two per cent decrease in interest rates, on a housing loan that could represent as much as a $20 to $30 a month saving to the person concerned. Of course, that would be as good as providing an increase in purchasing power in another way.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I put it to the Minister that he said that the whole strategy of the Government was to put more money into the pockets of wage and salary earners. That was the main thrust of the question which I asked of him. It seems to me that the Minister is endeavouring to suggest that that strategy is not being recognised by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, despite the fact that the Treasurer, Mr Howard, is on record as having said today that the amount of money awarded yesterday by the Commission in fact represents only 55 per cent of the amount that should otherwise have been paid under indexation. So in the sense that the amount awarded yesterday takes into account tax cuts. I submit to the Minister that in fact the Government’s strategy is not working.
– The Opposition senator’s question is very confused. He confuses the difference between nominal purchasing power and real purchasing power. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has not done so. The
Commission has taken into account the overall well-being of the individual and, indeed, the capacity of industry to support the individual in a job. In my judgment and the judgment of my Government, the effect of yesterday’s decision- a very sensible decision indeed- will be to increase the total well-being of the people. It will help to work further towards a decline in inflation and a decline in interest rates.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs had drawn to his attention the availability for sale in Australia of chocolate cigarettes marketed in a packet which closely resembles a well-known brand of cigarettes? These cigarettes are manufactured in Holland. Does the appearance of the packet and brand name ‘LAMAL’ not indicate a clear intention on the part of the manufacturers to identify their product with the well-known brand of cigarettes? Will the Minister not agree that the chocolate cigarettes represent one form of preconditioning to smoking? Will he give consideration to reexamining the appropriateness of an import licence being available to permit entry of this product into Australia from its country of manufacture?
– A number of requests have been made by individuals and groups in relation to the prohibition of the sale of confectionery cigarettes on the grounds which Senator Baume has mentioned. In 1972 State Ministers indicated in general terms that they were not prepared to impose restrictions on the sale of confectionery cigarettes. In July 1977 the matter was examined fully by a National Health and Medical Research Council standing committee and that committee recommended that no action should be taken. I think that so far the Government has been influenced in its thinking by the attitudes which have been expressed and which I have just mentioned. However, I shall again refer the matter to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and have him look at it in the light of the honourable senator’s question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and I draw his attention to the fact that in its decision yesterday the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission pointed out that one of the major factors influencing it was that we are, to use its words, in a time of economic recession. I ask the Minister to contrast that statement with the answer he gave Senator Wriedt a week ago in which he stated that various government policies had achieved, in his words, a rectification of the recession which occurred some four years ago. Is the Minister’s view at variance with the Government view on whether there is a recession? Does the Government’s view on recession contradict that of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? If so, does the Government believe that the whole basis of the Commission’s decision was erroneous?
– The standard of the questions asked by the Opposition today is such as almost to deserve the contempt of a nonanswer. However, since this question has been asked I will give the explanation. The cause of the recession was twofold. During the regime of the Whitlam Government, the Government formed by the party to which the honourable senator belongs, nominal wages went up about 37 per cent in a period of 18 months, tariffs were cut across the board by 25 per cent and a complete depression was caused throughout the community. When that Government left office inflation was running at the rate of 1 8 per cent. According to the Australian Statistician’s figures, last year inflation ran at a rate of 9.3 per cent, and was falling, and on top of this interest rates have moved down approximately 1 per cent from their peak. Quite clearly this country is coming out of the recession which was caused by the Australian Labor Party. Quite clearly also there is a move towards recovery and, just as clearly, those who seek to denigrate the work of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are doing the job which the Labor Party did some three years ago. They are trying to set up another wage spiral to bring about increased inflation. They will fail. That Party has been rejected twice by the people. The people will understand.
– I ask a supplementary question. My question did not ask for any interpretation, let alone a highly dubious one, of the cause of the recession.
- Senator Walsh, ask your question.
– My question asked whether Senator Carrick still believes, as he did a week ago, that the recession has been rectifiedand he put it in the past tense on that occasion- or whether he believes, as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission stated, that we are in a time of economic recession. If he still believes in the statement he made last week, is not his belief in conflict with the basis of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s decision?
– Quite clearly this country was plunged into a deep recession some three years ago. It has been steadily moving out of that recession but has not reached full recovery yet although it has made great progress towards that recovery. There is still a measure of residual recession remaining from the recession caused by the Labor Government.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether he is aware of problems surrounding an academic award for a nursing education program. Is he also aware of concern expressed by the South Australian branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation in relation to the funding of these degree nursing programs? Can the Minister say whether Commonwealth funding is available for completion of basic degree programs and, if not, when it will be considered by the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission? As Australia seems to be one of the few countries in which no nursing programs at degree level are available, can the Minister give any information about any proposals that might be envisaged to overcome the problem?
– I am particulary concerned that a number of people in institutions in three States- the Western Australian Institute of Technology; one in South Australia; and the ones at Preston and Lincoln in Victoria- have been in some embarrassment in this matter. Last week I saw representatives of the nursing profession, Miss Patten and Miss Slater, on this matter. This situation is of no causation by the current Government. The contrary is true. When we came to office we found a variety of standards and a variety of pilot schemes throughout Australia in nursing training. The nursing profession represented to us, and to myself especially, that the general standard of nursing in Australia was patchy and not regarded, rightly or wrongly, as high enough both in qualification and status. The profession asked that we might do something about that situation.
As a result, in co-operation with my colleague the Minister for Health and through the Tertiary Education Commission, I set up an inquiry into nursing education under Dr Sax. That inquiry is to look at both basic and post-basic training, including the concept of a degree course. Some schemes have commenced unilaterally in Australia. This has caused embarrassment. I have asked the Sax inquiry to hurry up its findings, which I hope will be available within a few months, so that we can have before us a basis for the establishment of both basic nursing training and post-basic or degree training, so that we can have some uniformity of standards in Australia and we can give to the nursing profession what it has long deserved. That is a proper status and a recognition of higher qualifications in Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission said in yesterday’s national wage case decision that it had examined the state of the economy and the way in which tax cuts operate to give more to those on higher incomes. The Commission continued that in view of that examination it thought it would be just to give a higher percentage wage increase to those on lower rates. I ask the Minister: Is that statement not a clear indication by the Commission that it views the Government’s tax cuts as unjust and as a transfer of wealth from the poorer to the wealthier sections of the community? Is it proper that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should make decisions on the distribution of wealth which appear to be contrary to the Government ‘s policy?
-Neither I nor the Government draw the conclusions which Senator Button has drawn. For example, he takes everything in isolation. He has failed to notice that the family allowances, which the Australian Labor Party rejected as part of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, have made the most massive transfer of finance from the rich to the poor that has occurred. It was the Labor Party which rejected this transfer. Quite clearly, what the honourable senator has suggested is not so. What has happened is that in the tax cuts the Government has provided incentives in a particular way. The Arbitration Commission yesterday saw, in a package decision, the ingredients which it has specified. There is no conflict that I can see in this at all.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister agree that the decision, which is in black and white and which is not in isolation, clearly indicates the view of the Commission that the tax cuts are unjust in social terms and represent a transfer of wealth in the community?
-If Senator Button had read the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission he would have known that the reverse is true. The Arbitration Commission took the tax cuts into account in discounting wages. As the Commission discounted wages over the whole range, it must have recognised the effect and equity of the tax cuts over the whole range.
-Will the Minister for Administrative Services advise whether the new Ford Fairmont motor vehicles acquired recently for Commonwealth transport in Canberra include power steering and a radio but no airconditioning? Were the experienced Commonwealth drivers or their union consulted prior to the purchase to ascertain which of these facilities would be of the greatest assistance and concern for drivers and their passengers? Does the Minister agree with the complaints I have made repeatedly to him that the absence of air-conditioning in Commonwealth vehicles in warm climates is a source of extreme discomfort to passengers, and especially to drivers who spend long hours in the vehicle? Does the Minister agree that the inclusion of air-conditioning in newly-acquired vehicles substantially increases their resale value on replacement? When will the Minister authorise the installation of air-conditioning in Commonwealth vehicles in the interests of public health and safety and to provide elementary justice to Commonwealth drivers?
– I am interested that the honourable senator put his question on the basis of health and other considerations. The problem of energy is also involved. I thought that these days most of us agree that we live in a time of looming energy crisis.
– Consumption would be about three miles to the gallon.
-I think it is often much higher than that. It depends on the type of vehicle. Put air-conditioning into an 8-cylinder Ford LTD with all the extra gadgets that are put into cars these days and petrol consumption would fall from something like 18 miles to the gallon to about 9 miles to the gallon.
– We should go back to pushbikes.
-It is all very well for Senator Cavanagh to say that we should go back to pushbikes. If we keep using energy in the way we are, probably by the end of the century we will be on pushbikes. A deal of work has been done on whether Commonwealth vehicles ought to be air-conditioned. One of the problems at the moment is that we ought not to run too far ahead of community attitudes. It is fairly difficult to say to the taxpayers that whilst only 10 per cent of them can afford air-conditioned cars, out of their taxes we are going to put public servants and politicians into that luxury. That is a reasonable argument. I recognise that eventually airconditioning in motor cars will be as common as power steering and automatic transmission, but I do not believe that we should be leading the headlong rush into spending the taxpayers’ money. I have asked my Department to study the cost and energy savings of 4-cylinder motor cars of a smaller and lighter type but with airconditioning. If I am satisfied that that is the right thing to do I might be prepared to offer people a choice. They can have an 8-cylinder car without air-conditioning or a 4-cylinder one with air- conditioning, if the energy costs are the same.
– What about drive-yourself cars?
-We could well have drive-yourself cars, but I do not see why I should contribute to putting good Commonwealth car drivers out of work. If Senator Georges feels that I ought to give everybody a Commonwealth selfdrive car so that unemployment could grow, God bless him. I am having those choices considered. I think it is a reasonable approach. It is my view that most cars in this country are far too big, they take up too much space on the road, they are too difficult to park, and they swallow far too much petrol.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and follows previous questions on tax cuts and the national wage decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Was I correct in understanding that the answer to my first question indicated that the Government agreed that tax cuts are part of its policy to give more take-home pay and thus increase consumer demand and stimulate the economy? I understood the Minister to say that that was part of Government policy. Is it not a fact that if the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission awards wages and salaries at a rate below the rate of the consumer price index, in fact consumer demand is reduced? Does the Minister agree with that proposition? If so, does that not cut across the Government policy that he indicated earlier? Lastly, for how much longer is the Government prepared to accept the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission making decisions which are contrary to Government policy?
-As to the first part of the honourable senator’s question, the Government, unlike the Labor Party, believes the tax cuts are a vital part of the economy and are, indeed, a stimulus, a just stimulus, to the people of Australia. Taken in isolation, and dealing purely with nominal wages at a given point in time, the effect of discounting wages is, of course, not such as to pass on the total indexation; but that is done because it is clear to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, as it was to Labor’s leader when he was Treasurer and brought down his Budget, that inflation caused by the upward spiralling of wages is a disaster to the economy. Therefore, the Arbitration Commission holds, and the Labor leader held, exactly the same view in this respect. It appears that Senator Wriedt does not hold that view now. My point is that one cannot consider this matter in isolation and that the effect of stopping an upward spiral of wages is to discount inflation and interest rates and, therefore, to preserve savings, to increase the ability of people to buy homes and to reduce the cost of homes, television sets, cars and so on. Therefore, overall one increases the real purchasing power of the community. In answer to the third part of the honourable senator’s question, the Government does not feel that the Arbitration Commission is working against Government policy. We believe that the Commission is working in the very best interests of all Australians. Unlike the Labor Party, we believe in arbitration; unlike the Labor Party, we will not set out to wreck it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Prime Minister intends appointing a Commonwealth Ombudsman to Tasmania? If so, when? If not, will the ombudsman, who is shortly to be appointed by the Tasmanian Government, have the power to deal with Commonwealth complaints?
-As I understand it, the Commonwealth Government has expressed its intention of establishing offices in all six States and in the Territories as well; that New South Wales and Victorian offices of the Commonwealth Ombudsman are to commence operation shortly; and that arrangements for a joint operation with the Western Australian Parliamentary Commissioner, as he is called there, are well advanced, although both bodies will retain their separate identities. Arrangements have yet to be made in the other three States. However, the
Ombudsman hopes that this can be done by the end of the year. It is understood that the Tasmanian Government is moving towards the establishment of its own ombudsman. The Commonwealth Ombudsman intends to consult the Tasmanian ombudsman, when appointed, to discuss the possibility of their co-operating in the location of offices and the sharing of resources. I do not think that I can help the honourable senator any further.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she recalls telling the Senate on 7 November last that she had been assured by her Director-General that, with the new changes to the unemployment benefit system, including computerisation, the first cheque payable to the unemployed would be paid by day 16 after the date of application? Has this assurance been met, and if not, when does she think that the Department will manage to pay unemployment benefit cheques within that time period?
– The latest report from my Department is that payments of unemployment benefits are now running well up to what has been the promise after the changeover to the payment in arrears system. As I understand it, during the month of January in some States and offices, perhaps notably Queensland, there were delays in the payment of the initial unemployment benefit cheques, but my latest advice is that all offices are now working to a schedule that minimises delay in the payment of such benefits.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs. Has the Government considered and made decisions on the recommendations in the Horton report on the funding of public libraries? Does the Government propose to consult the States about the recommendations of the Committee in light of the fact that libraries are largely the responsibility of State and local government?
– The Minister for Home Affairs is studying the Horton report on libraries. I am unaware whether any decisions have been made by him or by the Government on the recommendations in the report. I am not aware of any specific proposal to consult the States but I shall draw the Minister’s attention to the question and perhaps the honourable senator’s suggestion of consultation with the States will be adopted by him.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Has the Grants Commission made an assessment of revenue and expenditure needs for the forthcoming transfer of powers to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly? If so, will the Minister indicate when details of the assessment will be made available to the Senate and to the people of the Northern Territory?
- Mr President, the question should properly be directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs.
– May I answer the question?
– I answer this question only because I have taken part in discussions on this matter. Therefore at first hand I can say that there has been no approach as yet to the Grants Commission to do what the honourable senator has suggested. If there were to be such an approach it would require a prior amendment of the Grants Commission Act. That matter is under consideration.
– I direct a question without notice to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It follows a question asked by Senator Missen earlier today. Since it is clear from the Ministers answer to that question that air conditioning of Commonwealth motor vehicles is not imminent, I ask the Minister whether, notwithstanding his reluctance to lead the field in air conditioning, he would give consideration to catching up in the field of clothing for Commonwealth drivers, particularly those based in Brisbane and other areas with tropical and subtropical climates. Will the Minister consider allowing drivers to have a summer uniform which will not require them to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts, ties and caps in non-air conditioned cars in areas where temperatures are frequently in the 30s for months on end as in Queensland?
-As a result of some questions asked on this matter- I think originally by Senator Sibraa- a type of summer uniform has been introduced this summer. Those honourable senators who have been in Sydney may have seen drivers wearing it. I might say that it has had a mixed reception. Drivers no longer have to wear their caps and there is a short sleeved open necked shirt available for issue. Various drivers in various places have different ideas on the uniform that they wish to use. I understand that in Canberra they have opted to wear long sleeved shins and ties. In Sydney they have opted to wear short sleeved shirts and no ties. I think that is a fairly sensible arrangement. Australia is a large place and it is far better for people in various parts to come to a majority view on what they ought to be wearing. It is not so much a matter of lagging behind in the field of air conditioning; this is a matter which I am pursuing. After all, I think my own State capital has been the hottest in Australia for about the last three months. I understand that the temperature there will be 36 degrees again today. Some of us have learnt to survive in this sort of heat without over-much complaint. It is difficult, but life was not meant to be easy.
– Surely you are not saying that Malcolm controls the sun, too.
-No, I am just saying that some of us have learnt to put up with difficulties in life and to live with them. I am not opposed to air conditioning at all but I must make a proper balance between the comfort of those who use our vehicles and the demands on the taxpayer’s purse. I realise that honourable senators opposite are the greatest spenders of all time of other people’s money. I am delighted that Senator Georges who is interjecting takes the same view. It is a matter of balance. I am not against progress; I am all in favour of it and I will do my best to have honourable senators transported as comfortably as is economically possible.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. Have advertisements been placed in local newspapers and post offices indicating that social security field officers are visiting all areas and are therefore available to help people with social security claims? If not, will she consider doing this urgently so that in addition to removing beneficiaries not entitled to receive unemployment benefit the field officers can assist others who are so entitled?
– I could undertake to have consideration given to the request but it is a matter for each office in each branch of the Department to decide the way in which field officers perform their duties. Scheduled visits for the length of time to make appointments may not be an appropriate way in which they could conduct the assistance that is suggested in the question.
However, I will ask the Director-General to consider it and see whether any facilitation can be given to assist people to obtain benefits and pensions to which they are entitled under the Social Services Act.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs to research work carried out by the Division of Entomology of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and private enterprise into the preservation of grain by injecting nitrogen gas into storage silos. I ask the Minister whether the Australian Government could provide technical help to developing countries through the Australian Development Assistance Bureau to enable this sort of technology to be perfected in those areas. Is the Minister aware that when nitrogen is introduced into gas tight silos no insect or animal can survive, there is no smell or taint or long-term health damage due to pesticide use, there is no damage to the grain at all and this method is acceptable to the Australian Wheat Board? Has the Minister noted that in 28 Asian countries an estimated wastage of 50 per cent occurs in stored grain due to weavils. rodents, insects, birds and rain? Does the Minister appreciate that the prevention of even a 10 per cent loss of grain due to these hazards would provide the minimum daily ration of 16 ounces per person for 185 million people annually? Will the Government give serious consideration to this proposal?
-The Government will give serious consideration to the proposal raised by the honourable senator. Senator Jessop gave me notice of this question and therefore the Minister was able to advise me that he is aware of the technique currently being developed by CSIRO in Australia and other organisations overseas. He also advised that these techniques are being incorporated in the aid program by the Development Assistance Bureau. The Minister said that the question of whether controlled atmosphere techniques is appropriate to developing countries is complex. The effectiveness of constructing the type of storage bins is under investigation; a ready economic supply of nitrogen must be available; and the atmosphere inside the silos must be periodically maintained.
Whether the technique is appropriate and applicable to both large scale and small scale
Storage needs to be determined. Many developing countries may not have the technical base for the introduction of such a technique. Whilst it is true that the grain is not damaged through the technique it is understood that this matter is being pursued by CSIRO and others. I further understand that the subject has been taken up by the Aid Bureau’s Consultative Committee and Research Development recently established by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I can assure the honourable senator that this matter will be kept under active review.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. He will be aware that the Commonwealth Law Reform Commission, under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Kirby, has been considering reform of the law of defamation and the desirability of introducing legislation specifically creating legally enforceable rights to privacy in certain areas of human behaviour. He will also be aware that the Press Council and the Press generally have expressed their opposition to any legislation designed to protect privacy. Does the Attorney-General agree that recent attempts by sections of the Press to give a public airing to rumours touching the personal life of the Governor of South Australia underline the pressing necessity of legislation protecting the privacy of the individual?
– I do not think this question has been precipitated in any way by the recent events in South Australia concerning the Governor. I do not want to say anything about those events. They are entirely a South Australian matter. Certainly the question of privacy, not only in relation to the Press but also generally, has been of great concern to lawyers, members of Parliament and many others. That is the reason why the Government referred it to the Law Reform Commission. The Commission has made an interim report on the matter. When the final report is before the Government it will be given the closest attention by me with a view to considering what action should be taken to implement any recommendations which may be made.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Science. It applies also to his role as Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to questions which I asked in 1976 concerning the intrusion of European carp into the waterways of Australia, including the Australian Capital Territory and Lake Burley
Griffin. Is a carp catching contest to be held during Canberra Week which begins this weekend? Can the Minister say whether this is related to research into the habits of the carp? Can he indicate what will happen to those carp which are caught? Will they be used for research or other purposes?
– I understand that the Department of the Capital Territory and a Canberra radio station, 2CC, will conduct a fishing contest in Lake Burley Griffin on Sunday 12 March. They have the point made by Senator Knight in mind, that is to draw attention not only to the problem of carp in the Lake but also to the apparently unique finding that carp from Lake Burley Griffin are considered by the authorities in the Australian Capital Territory to be more suitable for eating than carp caught in other river systems such as the Murray or the Mumimbidgee. These two bodies have joined in what is undoubtedly a very exciting proposition not only for people in Canberra but also for those outside. I understand that 200 carp have been tagged. One will have a special tag which will bring a prize of $10,000. Undoubtedly, those feeling a little impecunious will be about on 12 March. There are a variety of other prizes.
This fishing contest will draw attention to the fact that carp have been quite a problem. The Department of the Capital Territory has made some investigation and has decided on this type of publicity. It has also suggested that eating carp caught in Lake Burley Griffin could be a satisfying experience. The publicity sheet that will be put out on the day of the fishing contest will contain a number of recipes for carp. I have been invited to some carp feasts which I have not found it my duty to undertake. The recipes will be for grilled carp steaks and other delicacies such as barbecued carp and even carp cakes. Sunday 12 March will be an important day.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It refers to the serious plight of wine grape growers in the South Australian Riverland due to the present huge surplus of wine grapes from this season’s crop. The Minister will be aware that the South Australian Labor Government provided an amount of $323,500 last year to finance an emergency pool of a much lesser magnitude than is now the case and that that Government is still shouldering this burden. I ask the Minister: Has the State Minister for Agriculture, Mr Chatterton, M.L.C., acquainted the Australian Government, through the Minister for
Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, with the present grave problem and sought immediate financial assistance? If so, what does the Australian Government intend to do to assist Riverland grape growers?
-The honourable senator asked whether the South Australian Minister has approached the Federal Government in relation to this problem. As the representative in this place of the Minister for Primary Industry, I am unable to answer the question directly, but I can assure the honourable senator that the Federal Government is concerned about the excess of wine grapes said to be in production this year. Certainly any approach from South Australia will be welcomed and will be given close scrutiny by the authorities in Canberra.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I do so following my recent questions and statements in this place urging the Government to give encouragement to the use of liquefied petroleum gas in motor vehicles so as to conserve Australia’s declining petrol and crude oil reserves. I ask: Has the Government given any consideration to removing sales tax on the conversion equipment that is required for vehicles so that they can run on liquefied petroleum gas and also to the removal of the small excise on LPG used in motor vehicles? If not, will the Government give serious consideration to these suggestions as a means of conserving a scarce energy source which also will bring about a reduction in the pollution that is caused by traffic in cities?
-I will draw the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the appropriate Minister. No doubt it will be considered in the Budget context.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Do field officers investigating the unemployed who are receiving benefits tell them personally that their benefits will stop? Do they also tell the recipients that they are entitled to reapply immediately and to appeal immediately if they feel the termination is unjustified? Will the Minister ensure that field officers tell the unemployed of these rights so that people who are wrongly taken off benefits are not left for many weeks without other income?
Senator GUILFOYLE The field officers who make visits to pensioners and beneficiaries do so to determine the eligibility of people who are making claims under the social security system. The field officers themselves do not terminate benefits. They provide information to the relevant office of the Department of Social Security and a determination is then made as to whether the eligibility has been maintained. As far as requesting the field officers to advise claimants of their right of appeal or entitlement to benefits is concerned, I agree that this is one of the matters that should be handled by field officers in that way. The advising of claimants that they are entitled to reapply immediately their benefit is terminated as a result of information that is received by the Department is a matter that could be handled by a field officer or the person handling the appeal or the claim itself. Those are some of the ways in which people are able to be advised of the social security system in this country. We ally with that the resources of the Department itself and the many sources of information available within it in regard to entitlements for pensions and benefits and also the right of appeal that exists.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. It relates to questions that have already been asked concerning the type of motor vehicles to be used for the transport of members of parliament. Will the Minister also consider investigating the use of liquefied petroleum gas by these vehicles? I ask this because most of these vehicles are used in metropolitan areas where vehicle pollution is at its worst and LPG basically is non-polluting and no lead additives are required. Vehicles using LPG exclusively do not require the suffocating plumbing that Australian design rule 27A requires. The ADR 27A requirements use more energy than do vehicle air-conditioners.
-The Department of Administrative Services already has two experimental vehicles running on liquefied petroleum gas. I think both are in Melbourne. The Department is well aware of the problems in this area. Honourable senators might recall that last year we looked at an electric vehicle here. We have acquired some electric vehicles and have put them under feasibility studies in actual operations. We have done this also with vehicles running on LPG. We hope to do the same with vehicles using diesel fuel. There are a number of alternative fuels to petrol. We are eager to put all these to test and eventually to choose that which is most economical in terms of money, the environment, comfort and every other consideration of passengers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware of the disastrous rail accident which occurred in Youngstown, Florida, yesterday when a tanker containing 91,000 litres of chlorine was involved in a derailment resulting in the deaths of at least eight people? What safeguards exist, especially on interstate lines, to ensure that such an accident could not occur in Australia? Further, in the event of such an accident, what emergency procedures exist to minimise the dangers involved?
– I certainly am aware of the tragic accident which occurred. I read with considerable concern of the effects of the accident. I am not aware of the safeguards or emergency procedures which exist. I shall direct the question to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, and seek the information requested.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce indicate what stage has been reached in the consideration of the employment-generating plan which was contained in a submission made to the Government by the Australian National Travel Association?
– I am afraid I do not have the material to answer that question on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I shall refer the question to the Minister and endeavour to obtain an early answer for the honourable senator.
-In view of the lengthy discussions with British and Australian scientists about nuclear waste in the Maralinga region of South Australia, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development whether the British Government has indicated that it is prepared to accept responsibility for the disposal of that waste.
– I am aware of Senator Mulvihill ‘s interest in this matter, and I have some information on the subject. The honourable senator will recall that in 1974 the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council recommended a survey of the dispersion of radioactivity by natural forces in the Maralinga area. It hoped that the survey would obtain information for guidance as to long term land administration, the extent of any disposal of radioactive material from the so-called ‘cemetery’ and test sites and as a contribution to scientific knowledge on the dispersal of radioactive waste. This advice was accepted and in August 1977 a survey program endorsed by AIRAC was commenced. I think that is the nub of the honourable senator’s question.
The present position is that the field phase was completed in August and the analysis of soil, water and biological samples collected is proceeding. The next phase recommended by the AIRAC is the radiological and chemical analysis of samples and this is progressing. The results will not be available for some months. I am advised that the survey is being carried out under the guidance of the AIRAC and is supported by the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. Special assistance is being provided by the Australian Radiation Laboratory, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Meteorology, the South Australian Department of Mines and the South Australian Department for the Environment. The information obtained and the results will be of very significant interest.
– I ask my question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The Press on 16 February reported that a lack of spare parts had forced the closure of the radar landing equipment at Amberley Air Base making it necessary for the base to rely on civilian assistance from Eagle Farm airport. In view of the fact that the Royal Australian Air Force has five squadrons at Amberley, including the two Fill squadrons, when is it expected that the troubles will be rectified, or has it been considered desirable to investigate an alternative to the present French equipment?
-I do not have that technical information with me but I shall seek it from my colleague as a matter of urgency.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, arises from the issuing of summer uniforms to Commonwealth car drivers. Although Commonwealth drivers in South Australia have summer uniforms they are instructed to wear caps and long sleeves when driving Ministers or other VIPs. Is that a direction from the Minister’s office or a local direction from the Department in Adelaide?.
-As the honourable senator would know, long sleeves -
– Long sleeves, caps, collars and ties.
-Collars and ties and long sleeves are required. The wearing of caps is at the option of the Ministers, but the honourable senator will find that those drivers normally driving Ministers have air-conditioned motor vehicles and for them this requirement ought not to be too great a hardship. It is not something that we insist upon so much but something that the drivers insist upon out of pride in their own service.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it a fact that the complexity of pharmaceutical research and increasingly stringent government regulations are effectively increasing lead times in the development and marketing of new pharmaceutical products which are subject to patent? Is it also a fact that the maximum permissible life of such patents is 1 6 years? In view of the detrimental effect of rising lead times on the development of new products and their efficiency generally, will the Minister consider recommending to the Government that the term of patents be increased to 20 years?
– That proposition is not one which I have had under consideration. In fact, I think it would be a matter for the consideration of the Minister for Productivity whom I represent in this chamber. I will refer the question to him and ask him to give consideration to it.
– My question is to the Minister for Science and concerns the Antarctic. It follows a question which I asked the Minister in the last parliamentary session regarding the future of Mawson ‘s hut at Commonwealth Bay in Australian Antarctica which I had the good fortune to visit on 17 January this year. On the basis of the very great historical significance of Mawson ‘s hut and its association with early Australian Antarctic expeditions and explorations, will the Minister give a categorical assurance that Mawson ‘s hut will remain where it presently exists and that every effort will be made to restore it as nearly as possible to its original condition?
-The Government is aware of the historical significance of the hut that the honourable senator has mentioned. It was one of the huts occupied by the late Sir Douglas Mawson on his expedition during 1911-14. I think it is greatly to the credit of Senator Devitt from Tasmania that he gave up many weeks of his own personal time at considerable hardship and expense to himself and made a five week visit to the Australian stations on Antarctica and visited the expeditionaries there, and the Senate should take some pride in that fact. I should imagine that he is the first member of any Federal or State parliament to do that. I will be pleased to receive any advice that he has in relation to the matters in which he took an interest while he was there. However, in relation to the hut the honourable senator will realise that a four-man team from the relief ship Thala Dan visited the site. I understand that the team visited the hut at Cape Denison in February of last year. On 10 January this year a party of four left for Commonwealth Bay and carried out some restoration work which I imagine was very difficult. Proposals have been put to me that Mawson ‘s hut should be brought back to Australia. That is one of the proposals at which this party of four was looking. I understand that there would be great difficulty in doing so. The ice has already worn away the roof in many areas. I understand that internally the building is a total block of ice at present. I shall receive a report on the hut from the party when it returns. I have been told that the hut is built in a draught valley and eventually it will disintegrate no matter what repairs are effected at the present site. Expert opinion will come to me so that I can evaluate the situation properly. I will be eager to have Senator Devitt ‘s views.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister for Science, in coming to a decision on this matter, bear in mind, very strongly, the historical aspect of the hut, quite apart from its physical condition which, from what I have heard and seen, can be restored. I ask the Minister to bear strongly in mind the fact that some of our early history was made in that area by a very great Australian. When the Minister is making a judgment about moving the hut will he bear in mind the fact that the pyramids have remained in Egypt. I think the hut should remain in Antarctica.
-Under the treaty relating to our occupation of Antarctica, we have an obligation for the maintenance of historic monuments. That is the concern of my colleague, the Minister for Administrative Services. Certainly he will be taking some interest in this matter.
Whether or not he is aware of it, it is an important matter which he has to consider. We have an international obligation to keep these monuments in good condition.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, refers to the recent report of the Energy Advisory Committee entitled Energy Conservation in which it recommends that further consideration should be given to emission control devices on motor vehicles. Is it possible for each State to impose its own standards of emission control devices?
-That is really a legal question and the honourable senator asks for a legal opinion. I do not propose to answer it. I shall take it into consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It refers to a public meeting at Whyalla on 9 February which was chaired by the Reverend Canon Hewitson and which was convened by the Community Welfare Consultative Council. At that meeting, which was attended by all the local dignitaries and Labor politicians, a request was made that the Minister for Transport should meet a deputation to talk about two problems- the question of rolling-stock production and the possible production of small ships at Whyalla. Is the Minister able to give the Senate any information as to whether consideration has been given by the Minister to that deputation and whether, as this stage, he has agreed to it?
– I do not have the information. I shall seek it and let the honourable senator have it.
– by leave- I take this opportunity to advise the Senate that this day Senator Knight was elected Assistant Government Whip.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Education Act 1970 I present the annual report of the Education Research and Development Committee for the financial year 1976-77. 1 seek leave to make a short statement relating to the report.
– The most important new development in the Committee’s work as presented in the report is the concept of defining specific areas of priority and developing an appropriate mechanism for the development and co-ordination of sequential and systematic programs in each area over a period of three or four years. In early 1 977 groups were appointed to advise the Education Research and Development Committee on research and development programs for each priority area. The four areas identified were multicultural education, the impact of social and demographic factors on education, recurrent education and ‘what is happening in the classroom’. The groups have completed the first stage of their program development and a number of researchers have received grants to start work in 1978.
The Committee is considering the implementation of a small grant scheme which it feels might encourage research, particularly by schools and teachers and, because it is envisaged that applications would be accepted at any time during a year, would provide greater flexibility for pilot studies. It proposes to discuss the concept with other interested bodies before proceeding to a formal recommendation on the matter.
Details of project, training programs and disseminative activities supported during 1976-77, and updated bibliographic information, are contained in the report. These reveal that the Committee is continuing its valuable work in promoting and disseminating research. Details of my Department’s activities under the Act will be included in the Department’s annual report.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Victorian Local Government Grants Commission on financial assistance for local government in that State. Due to the limited number available, copies of these reports have been placed in the Senate records office and the Parliamentary Library. The determinations on allocations to local government authorities for 1977-78 made in this report have already been made available to honourable senators from Victoria.
– Pursuant to section 3 1 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 I present the annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Meat Industry Act 1964 I present the annual report of the Australian Meat Board for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note or the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 1 6 of the Pig Meat Promotion Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 58 of the Darwin Reconstruction Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the monthly reports of the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for October, November and December 1977, and January 1978.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present an exchange of notes between the Australian Government and the Government of the United States of America, constituting an agreement regarding the management and operation of the Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station, at Alice Springs. I seek leave to make a statement on this agreement.
-The Station has been in operation at Alice Springs for many years under the terms of a classified agreement. Its purpose is to monitor seismic disturbances in the earth’s surface in such a way as to aid in distinguishing nuclear explosions from natural phenomena such as earthquakes. A station in this location is desirable to complete a network of stations for monitoring nuclear test ban treaties. The Australian Government is pleased to be associated with such an endeavour, which is essential to the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and we see no reason to keep our participation confidential. Consequently, Australia and the United States have concluded a new agreement which provides for the Station to be operated in a completely open way and under joint United Sates and Australian management. Under the new agreement the Department of Science and the United States Air Force will be the co-operating agencies for the management and operation of the station.
The instruments at the Station consist of sensitive detectors, similar in nature to microphones, designed to pick up vibrations in the ground. The detectors are placed in deep holes, over an area of about 10 square kilometres just north of Alice Springs. The direction of arrival of shock waves can be determined by comparing the response of the various instruments. Analysis of the records enables discrimination between man-made disturbances and earthquakes, and comparison of the results with other seismic stations enables the location of explosions or earthquakes to be determined. The stability of the land in the region is well suited to the detection of shocks at great distances.
The data from the Australian station will continue to be used, in conjunction with data from other stations, to monitor underground nuclear explosions. The new agreement also provides for the release of the data to Australian scientists engaged in research and monitoring in earth science. The United States will continue to man the Station for its basic nuclear non-proliferation monitoring purpose, and Australia will provide the effort required to adapt the results to research in earth sciences, as well as participating in overall management and providing services for the station. The Australian Government welcomes the continuation of the Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station in Australia as a contribution to nuclear non-proliferation and as a research tool in earth science.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 28 of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act, I present the annual report of the Legislative Drafting Institute for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-For the information of honourable senators I present a report from the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment relating to the annual reports referred to the Committee for consideration under the resolution of the Senate of 22 March 1977.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-I move:
The Senate Standing Committee has had referred to it, in accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 22 March 1977, 13 annual reports as follows:
The Committee has examined these annual reports and commented upon each in turn in the report being presented to the Senate. I do not intend to elaborate on those comments now. I would however like to offer some observations which apply to the annual reports examined in general.
The first concerns the lateness in tabling of some of the reports. Three of the reports considered by the Committee were at least a year out of date when presented to Parliament. In the case of the annual report of the Australian Institute of Marine Science the Committee noted that in evidence before Estimates Committee E on 1 3 September 1977 the Institute Director said that its lateness was the result of a delay in receiving the Auditor-General’s report on the Institute’s financial statements. As the question of the lateness of annual reports has been canvassed on previous occasions in both Houses and by other committees, I do not intend to pursue the matter further at this time. Nevertheless the Committee strongly believes that the Parliament should have access to the most up-to-date information on the functioning of departments and statutory authorities, particularly where there is a statutory obligation on an authority to produce such information within a set time. The question of delays in tabling is one which perhaps could be taken up by the Joint Committee on Publications.
The Committee’s second observation concerns those reports which provide an abundance of statistics and detail but give little indication of the success or otherwise of the department or authority in meeting its declared objectives or statutory obligations. Such reports are not as informative as they might be. The Committee considers that for Parliament adequately to assess the effectiveness of its legislation and the performance of executive departments, an input is needed from administering bodies, not only on the degree to which they consider they have met their declared objectives or statutory obligations, but also on the extent to which the objectives of the Acts they are administering are being fulfilled. Unfortunately, reports which do this appear to be the exceptions rather than the rule.
The Committee also sees merit in government departments publishing annual lists of the major papers and publications prepared within those departments which are available to members of Parliament and the general public. The lists shown in the appendixes to the annual report of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development are a good example. Such lists would be useful in assisting members of Parliament and interested members of the public to ascertain readily what papers and publications are available from the various departments and on what subjects.
Staff ceilings are the subject of the Committee’s final observation. The Committee does not question the Government’s decision to impose across-the-board staff ceilings. However, the Committee is concerned to see in some of the reports it has examined that the staff ceilings appear to have been untoward and to have had unforseen effects in some instances. The Committee hopes that action can be taken to remedy such problems.
Last year I had the opportunity to visit the Queensland University research station on
Heron Island where I was able to learn at first hand something of the research being carried out into the marine biology of the Great Barrier Reef. Accordingly. I examined with particular interest the annual report of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. I believe that the work of the Institute will assume increasing importance with the proposal to extend Australia’s fishing limits to 200 nautical miles. It is disturbing to note in the Institute ‘s report that the number of staff is limited to about 60, which is only half the originally projected establishment to be in place by June 1 977. This is a particularly conspicuous example of an unfortunate application of staff ceilings and I therefore urge the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) to review this situation in the light of national needs for marine research. In conclusion, I must say that the Minister for Science certainly has shown some interest in this matter in recent times and has been helpful to me and the Committee to ensure that more adequate research detail emanates from the establishment at Heron Island. I commend the report to the Senate.
– by leave- My comments are virtually a corollary of what the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jessop, has said. I want to pinpoint two areas. The first area concerns the National Parks and Wildlife Service report, which is excellently illustrated. I think the people who produced it deserve high commendation. Like the Chairman of the Committee I believe that some delays are due to state governments. In this instance a conference of State Ministers responsible for wildlife conservation was held in the middle of last year. Obviously the outcome of those proceedings would have been a valuable segment in the report to which the Chairman referred. I found out that because of the very leisurely tempo at which some State governments operate, the minutes of that particular conference last July had to go back and be vetted and the final draft was tossed around. When the report that Senator Jessop dealt with came in here the State Ministers had not delivered the finished product. That is one of the root causes of the delay. The other point that he refers to is of course equally valid. When one looks in the report at the very fine illustrations of endangered species one finds a little footnote showing that the habitat is restricted to a particular area. One instance was given in Queensland but it was very vague. The report said that some brigalow country had been cleared and a small colony of wallabies was discovered. The report did not indicate in clear-cut terms whether the habitat has been preserved or not. I do not blame the Federal Department; I blame the Queensland authority. These are the sorts of things that I know prompted the Chairman of the Committee to make his comments.
I agree with him that if the reports are to mean anything they have to be published on time. Senator Rae, Senator Bishop and I wanted to see the arbitration inspector’s report. We saw it only today and this nullified a lot of our probings on another Estimates Committee. Possibly the rebuke that has been administered and the avenues that have been suggested mean that we can do better. Despite the craftsmanship of the people who made this report possible, it loses its thrust and its bite when we do not receive it promptly. I think this report will accelerate the administrative goals we seek.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Knight) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence: Australian representation overseas- the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
all annual reports of Government departments and authorities, including statutory corporations, laid on the Table of the Senate, shall stand referred, without any Question being put, for consideration and, if necessary, for report thereon, to the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees;
the President shall transmit a copy of each report so tabled to the Committee which he deems appropriate; and
the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees may, at their discretion, pursue or not pursue inquiries into reports so received; but any action necessary, arising from a Report of a Committee, shall be taken in the Senate on Motion after Notice.
Debate resumed from 28 February on motion by Senator Walters:
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to:
To His Excellency the Governor-General
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY-
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Before the adjournment of the Senate last night I was giving my views on some of the joys of living in Western Australia- ‘the State of Excitement’. With the added advantage of this being a broadcast day for the Senate but being limited by time I shall quickly recap some of the points that I raised. I mentioned, for instance, that the State Government could no longer lay claim to Western Australia being called ‘The Wildflower State’ and subsequently force people to have their new car registration plates labelled Western Australia- The State of Excitement’. From an article in last weekend’s Weekend Australian it would appear that some people are resorting to the use of masking tape and tin snips to make sure that they do not live in ‘Western Australia- The State of Excitement’.
I said also that the State Government had to accept some responsibility and that it had permitted the indiscriminate use of land by private developers. I spoke about the disadvantages which people in Western Australia felt with the severe water restrictions which have applied since October because of the lack of foresight by the Western Australian Government to cater adequately for the needs of a growing metropolis. I spoke at some length about the dramatic increases in the cost of essential services, especially those applying for the period between 1974-75 and now. I said that motor vehicle licence fees have gone up by 1 14.5 per cent and drivers licence fees have gone up by 132.4 per cent. I suggested that Western Australia was indeed a State of excitement for people who did not need or want to live in a State Housing Commission home, did not cook, bathe, have a garden, own a car, travel by public transport, write cheques, be hospitalised, work or eat. There have been dramatic increases in all these areas.
I instanced the situation which applies in Western Australia in relation to workers compensation cases. I told the Senate of the case of one of my constituents who is now condemned to wait until next December to have her case heard by the Workers Compensation Appeals Board even though her accident happened in October 1975. 1 then went on to speak about the activities of the State Minister for Mines and the Minister for Fuel and Energy, Mr Mensaros, on a recent overseas visit when he was endeavouring to sell-off the rest of Western Australia and I want to expand that theme for a few minutes and quote from a newspaper article written about that famous trip. In the West Australian of 8 February 1978, under the heading ‘Mensaros woos foreign firms ‘, the article reads:
Western Australia believed firmly in free trade and would be quite happy to see entirely foreign-owned firms established in the State to help develop the massive off-shore gas fields of the North- West Shelf, the Development Minister, Mr Mensaros, said in Brussels yesterday. ‘We believe in free trade internationally. The rules are those of the market place, ‘ he said.
Asked what minimum Australian shareholding would be required in any joint venture, he said: ‘We don’t make any rules to compel people ‘.
If someone wants to establish in Western Australia and has 1 00 per cent equity and doesn’t ‘t want to join anyone else, we are quite happy.’
In practice the Federal Government’s minimum Australian shareholding rule varied between SO per cent and almost zero, he said.
The 50 per cent rule still stood, but in practice it had been found that it was not possible for all overseas companies to find Australian partners.
In an effort to get him out of the mess that he had put his big feet in, the Premier, Sir Charles Court, added a little bit to the end of the article and said that Mr Mensaros was referring to wholly owned overseas companies that wanted to enter into joint ventures with Western Australian companies. Well, that is not what Mr Mensaros said. He said:
If someone wants to establish in Western Australia and has 100 per cent equity and doesn’t want to join anyone else we are quite happy’.
It is obvious in ‘The State of Excitement’ in Western Australia that the Minister for Industrial Development does not know the guidelines that have been established in either the State scene or in the Federal scene.
– We have the same trouble in Tasmania.
– I would doubt very much that the honourable senator would have the same trouble down in Tasmania. The Labor Government down there is not trying to sell your State. I thought the Tasmanians were trying to attach it to the rest of Australia. In view of the statement by Mr Mensaros. I think it is about time that the Federal Government, in the interests of Australia, reiterated its policy on foreign ownership and particularly on foreign control.
In my previous speech I was outlining for the benefit of honourable senators the slogan which I had seen on a motor vehicle in Queensland when I was up there a short time ago. The President, who was in the chair at the time, took exception to the fact that I had referred to the Premier of Queensland as ‘Joh’ and asked me to refer to him in the correct way. So that there can be no confusion and in an endeavour to establish that I was not being disrespectful, I have obtained a copy of the sticker to which I referred and which I would like to table. Honourable senators can see what it says. After the word See’ there is a map of Queensland with the face of the sun and then the words ‘first before Joh sells it’. In other words, see Queensland before Joh sells it. That is the slogan to which I referred. I was not being disrespectful to the Premier of Queensland.
Whilst I am on the subject of Queensland, and interrupting my ‘State of Excitement’, because obviously there are some people in that State who also have this feeling about living under the Premier of Queensland, I want to refer to a letter from the Premier of Queensland to the Prime Minister. The letter relates to a grant for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Community Health Service. I am sure that honourable senators will agree that in this letter the Premier condemns the grant by the Commonwealth Government and actually suggests that it should be withdrawn. The date of the letter is 2 1 December 1977 and it is from the Premiers Department, Brisbane. It reads:
My dear Prime Minister,
I understand that a Grant has been made by the Minister for Social Security to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Community Health Service (Brisbane) Ltd, which is a wholly Commonwealth funded body. The Grant is made to assist this organisation to provide an emergency care and family support service for Aboriginal children in the Brisbane metropolitan area.
I am informed that a total of $24,650 will be made available to this Service during the current financial year and that a further sum of up to $37,260 to meet recurrent expenditure is guaranteed for the following financial year.
In the first instance, I am concerned that the statutory responsibility of the Director, Department of Children ‘s Services is being ignored as a result of substantial funding to a voluntary agency proposing to work in the field of child welfare, and, secondly, that consultation at an appropriate level concerning the proposed funding had not taken place. It is clear to me that appropriate State authorities should have been consulted about this matter prior to confirmation of the Grant.
In addition to the foregoing, I am perturbed that the action taken to provide these funds will serve to identify and discriminate against the Aboriginal community, a purpose that does not accord with the policy of my Government.
The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Community Health Service pursues a radical, racist and militant philosophy. For your information, a recent street demonstration outside the headquarters of the Service involved wholly Aboriginal people who were expressing their dissatisfaction with the appointment of a Mr D. B. Walker to a senior administrative position within the Service. Walker is a known criminal and, within the recent past, was convicted of an assault upon the Deputy Regional Director of your Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Brisbane. At least one other senior official has a criminal record.
In view of the foregoing, you will appreciate my doubts as to the ability and fitness of this Service to administer public funds. Under these circumstances, I must suggest that you consider the withdrawal of the Grant until the actual need has been assessed. In the event of a need being demonstrated, the use of the Grant through appropriate and competent State channels could then be discussed.
Your advice in due course would be appreciated.
I understood- and I think I am right in saying this-that it is evident that there is a need for this type of service for Aboriginal communities right throughout Australia. For the Premier of Queensland to suggest that a Commonwealth grant should be withdrawn is criminal. It is no less criminal than his action in 1976 in refusing to accept a grant from the Department of Health to fund two women’s refuges, one of them in Brisbane and one in Townsville.
Returning to the speech that I was making last night and getting back to my ‘State of Excitement’, because we in Western Australia find ourselves a little parochial, I cited some figures on unemployment in Western Australia, particularly the unemployment of women. I expressed my concern that the rural areas are the hardest hit but in some cases it is necessary for men, with families grown up and in need of employment, to determine whether it is of more benefit to them to leave their homes, their friends, and their work in the hope that their children may get employment in a larger town or in the city. I said in my speech- and I will repeat it again now- that the children may get employment but they may not get employment and the possibility of one parent or both parents getting employment is much less than it is for the children. With the permission of the Senate I incorporated in Hansard a table which I hope honourable senators have read. I hope they have been able to assess the statement I made in respect of two of the three Labor-controlled States, that there has been a dramatic decrease in unemployment as it relates to women and that in the third State there was the minimum possible increase.
I just quickly want to raise a subject relating to unemployment, which also came up in Question Time this morning, when a member of this chamber asked Senator Guilfoyle about the Social Security Appeals Tribunals. I think it is evident from the review by the Brotherhood of St Laurence organisation that the majority of people in Australia are unaware that they can appeal if their social security benefits are stopped. I would say that there has not been one constituent who has come into my office as a result of their unemployment benefit being stopped who knew that there was an avenue of appeal. I think the review by the Brotherhood of St Laurence showed that something like 28 per cent of the people interviewed in the survey knew of the existence of the Appeals Tribunals.
It did not say that that 28 per cent had had occasion to use the Appeals Tribunals; but at least they knew of its existence. Seventy-two per cent of them did not even know that. If the Government decided that they were no longer entitled to receive unemployment benefit- for unknown reasons at times the Government does determine that some people are not qualified to receive unemployment benefit- they would accept the Government’s decision. They did not even know that there were the Appeals Tribunals to which they could turn.
One has to ask: Is there in actual fact a conspiracy of secrecy? Is it possible that perhaps there is an agreement, albeit an unwritten one, that field officers and other people working in the Department of Social Security are not to make it known to beneficiaries that they have an avenue of appeal? If that assumption is correct, the members of Parliament on both sides of this chamber have a responsibility to ensure that the people who receive unemployment benefit or a social security benefit of any kind are aware that if their payments are stopped for any reason they can go before the Appeals Tribunals.
The point that disturbs me most about unemployment is that the unemployed people are already disadvantaged and we are placing them in a more precarious position of disadvantage by not publicising what services are available to them. We have heard that field officers of the Department of Social Security are now wholly engaged in tracking down unemployed people; that in actual fact field officers are spending 6V2 or 7Vi hours a day- whatever hours they workgoing to the places where people who have claimed unemployment benefit reside. I understand that if these people are not found at home after visits on three occasions their benefit can be stopped. It does not require too much imagination to believe that in actual fact those people might be out of their own volition looking for work.
Are we to presume from the fact that field officers are being employed to go to the places of residence of unemployed people that the Government thinks that they should be prepared to stay at home because they are unemployed? Are we to hear the same lot of codswallop as we heard three or four years ago about unemployed people actually having the temerity to go to the beach? Is it being suggested that they should be quite happy to sit within their four walls, become depressed, become suicide risks or worse, increase the crime rate and the drug-taking rate or just sit and become a vegetable because they can have their unemployment benefit stopped if a field officer calls on them three times and they are not at home? If that is so, it is a disgraceful situation. I condemn it, as I condemn this Government’s whole policy on unemployment.
I hope that last night I did not persuade too many honourable senators to cross the Nullabor and take up residence in Western Australia, but I knew that honourable senators were so concerned about the ‘State of Excitement’ in which we were living. At the conclusion of my remarks last night I was discussing the situation which exists in Western Australian schools. I said that I abhorred the fact that in some classrooms there were as many as 38 children and further, to confuse both students and teachers, that some of those classrooms contained split grades. I condemned the Commonwealth Government for not implementing the recommendations of the Schools Commission. I condemned the Government then and I condemn it now for not providing adequate facilities for people to learn. We hear it said many times that many people who apply for jobs are under-educated. The Commonwealth Government has to accept responsibility for bringing these people up to a recognisable standard of education. At the same time, I condemn a government which does not provide employment for the people it trains. At least 500 teachers in Western Australia who graduated from a teacher training college last year are unable to find employment.
I realise that my time is running short but I cannot let this opportunity go by without making reference to a man who has been condemned because of his principles. He has suffered degradation. He has been demoted and suffered the resultant consequences of less pay. He now finds himself in the situation of having had to break up his home because of that demotion. I have heard him referred to as a crackpot. I believe that Mr Bill Toomer, a quarantine inspector employed in Western Australia for many years, will probably be recognised in history as a man with some foresight, but at the moment he is being recognised by his government administrators as a troublemaker.
Mr Toomer ‘s original sin was that, as a public servant, he said in public that our quarantine regulations were sub-standard; that we did not have adequate protection from exotic diseases; that we did not have protection from such diseases as foot-and-mouth disease and bluetongue; that he condemned the fact that he was unable to take unto himself authority to destroy vessels which had landed illegally on the west coast of Western Australia and which he considered could have contained some vermin which we did not need, which could have affected our natural flora and fauna, and which he wanted to prevent. Mr Toomer has now been transferred to the Tullamarine Airport as a quarantine officer. One can only presume that at some stage those of us who travel through Melbourne fairly frequently might even meet him at the funny little bin there where one is asked whether one is carrying any fruit or plants. Perhaps one of these days I shall take along an apple for him because I get very upset about people having to stand there and ask whether we are carrying any fruit.
I do not believe that the Government will uphold the promises made in this place last week by the Governor-General, any more than I believe that the Government upheld the promises it made prior to the last general election or the previous general election in 1975. We on the Opposition benches will be diligent. When this Government falls down on the promises it has made, and fall down it will, we will bring it to the attention of the people. I do not believe that this Government will look after the interests of the Australian people. That is my prime concern. We in this chamber represent all of those people all of the time.
– It is with pleasure that I congratulate the new Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, for the manner in which he presented his Speech to the Senate on the occasion of the opening of Parliament on 21 February. I congratulate the Government for the contents of that very excellent Speech. I congratulate Senator Walters for moving the Address-in-Reply motion and I congratulate Senator Collard on his speech in seconding that motion. I congratulate honourable senators for the many useful contributions which have been made during the AddressinReply debate. I also congratulate Senator Haines on her maiden speech, which contained a great deal of interesting information. I wish her well in the short time she will be with us. I shall quote some passages from the Speech of the GovernorGeneral to which I wish to refer in my address. One of the Government’s priorities was stated to be as follows:
To promote vigorously the development of Australia ‘s resources and enlarge our external trade.
Under the heading ‘The Economy’ it was stated that the Government’s economic policies will continue to be based on, amongst other things:
A monetary policy which will enable a sustained growth in economic activity . . .
Under the heading ‘Growth and Development’ it was stated:
Essential to my Government’s economic program is the growth of Australian industry, the development of our resources, and a renewed emphasis on growth in exports. These hold the key to greater prosperity and the creation of more jobs.
It was stated further under the same heading:
My Government has embarked on a major program to boost exports.
Finally, under the heading ‘ Rural Community’ it was stated:
My Government believes that it is of vital importance to Australia’s interests that its rural community be strong and viable. High priority will be placed on assisting rural producers through the present difficult period.
I wish to quote briefly from Senator Bonner’s fine contribution to this Address-in-Reply debate. He is recorded on page 121 of the Senate Hansard of 23 February as saying:
Something must be done to assist the man on the land much more than he has been assisted in the past.
What I am suggesting is that the farmer certainly wants assistance but with less hindrance. He wants to be allowed to prosper without hindrance. I happen to be one of the growing number of Federal politicians who believe that the solution to many of our problems is reducing our tariff burden. Unfortunately many of those politicians who so believe keep silent in their own electorates for obvious reasons but they are certainly prepared to speak out in my company.
Let me list some of the problems. As I move around Australia and particularly parts of my State of Western Australia I see many abandoned station properties. Many that are not yet abandoned are being run by farmers or pastoralists on their own. They have vast properties with large numbers of stock and cannot afford labour. Naturally the standard of improvements on those properties is declining rapidly. In my own area around Geraldton I see many deserted farmhouses and declining country towns that are becoming almost ghost towns. The huge migration to the capital cities is creating problems in those cities in housing, the provision of facilities and employment. On the wider scene I see that metals and minerals are pricing themselves out of world markets. The build-up of cattle numbers in Australia is particularly disturbing during a period of low cattle prices, low demand from overseas and no profitable markets within reach of production areas.
I see a quite significant decline in the rural work force. In 1953-54 468,000 persons were directly employed in rural industries and in 1975-76 there were 336,000 persons. That was a 30 per cent fall and represented 132,000 persons who were formerly directly employed in agriculture. This means that for the last 23 years 1 10 persons per week have left rural employment. If we assume that a large percentage of those employed are married people it means that possibly about 300 persons per week over the last 23 years have been affected by this move from rural employment. Another matter that is apparent as I move around the countryside is the decline in the number of rural holdings. Certainly an investigation of the figures would show a decline in terms of trade. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics defines a term of trade as the ratio between prices received and prices paid. If we use 1962-63 as the base year with an index of 100, 1974-75 has an index of 69 and 1977-78 an index of 56. Projections into the early 1980s are quite horrifying. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate a table in Hansard. I have sought the permission of one of the shadow Ministers and he saw no problem with its incorporation.
The table read as follows-
– This table is from a publication of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and is headed ‘Volume of Rural Output and Inputs and Farmers’ Terms of Trade’. I appreciate that many farms are extremely profitable, particularly those in some of the grain growing areas and some of the more closely settled wool growing areas, but in most areas there is an acute low farm income problem and this creates many sociological problems in addition to the pure economic problems. I refer particularly to the stress brought about by the lack of work opportunities which in many country towns is forcing people to move their place of residence. My home town of Geraldton has a population of about 20,000 persons and is the centre of one of the largest fishing industries in Australia. It is the second largest fishing port in Australia and the centre of a large and profitable grain growing area. Yet about 20 per cent of its work force is unemployed. Geraldton is a very fine place to live and many of those from outlying areas who are unemployed have decided that if they are to be unemployed they might as well be unemployed in Geraldton. However, the fact remains that, according to the figures, 20 per cent of the work force in Geraldton is unemployed.
Among the sociological problems created by unemployment are education problems, communications problems, problems with health and welfare services and problems caused by the lack of retraining in other occupations. Many of these problems are being overcome. I am pleased to see that the cost-price squeeze in country areas is being reduced. Inflation in rural expenditure was running at about 30 per cent. It is now down to about 10 per cent but even if it were reduced to nil today the situation would still be intolerable for many producers. Problems have been overcome in other ways. Farm amalgamations are continuing at a fast rate. This creates greater efficiency in many areas. Larger machinery is being employed and less staff is being employed on farms. In the more intensive wool growing areas in my State up to 12,000 sheep per labour unit are being run. In some areas of the State producers can change to other areas of production.
I congratulate the Government for the added incentive and assistance it has provided through the rural adjustment scheme for farmers to move from one area of production to another. Many other government actions have been taken in the last 2 Vi years, which have assisted the producer, but I do not wish to enumerate them today. However, I remind the Government that much of the assistance is in the form of taxation relief. This is of assistance only when persons have a taxable income. I strongly support the actions of the Government in recognising and reinforcing our marketing efforts overseas.
I suggest four possible solutions to the problems of our exporters. The first, which is probably the most obvious, is more subsidies. I agree that subsidies to certain areas of production are most useful, particularly when there are short term downturns in prices or bad seasons. But generally speaking producers do not want subsidies. They are aware of the increasing resistance of the taxpayer to what he sees as unwarranted handouts to farmers. Subsidies tend to discourage the normal adjustment between occupations. This adjustment must continue as an evolutionary process. Many subsidies are inclined to help those who need help least. It should be recognised by everybody in government that we must treat welfare matters as welfare matters and not try to confuse them with subsidies.
The second of my long term solutions is tariff compensation, which is widely supported by most rural organisations. The Industries Assistance Commission recently calculated that the cost of tariffs to the Australian consumer in 1975-76 totalled $4, 190m, compared with the direct assistance to rural producers by the Government in the most recent Budget of $127.8m. One of the direct results of this increase in tariffs is increased inflation. It is the consumer who pays the cost of protection. In discussing tariffs I find it most difficult to try to explain to and convince the unconverted that the people who eventually pay for tariffs are the exporters. Others in the community merely pass on the cost. Certainly, some of that cost stays with the consumer but eventually the major portion of tariff costs is borne by exporters. As I have said, the primary production area of exports attracted from direct government assistance the sum of $ 127.8m. The cost of tariffs which was largely borne by rural producers was $4, 1 90m.
– Could you give us some indication of where you got those figures? I made a written request to the Industries Assistance Commission to give me more detail about those figures and it has not been able to provide that information.
– The question was asked: Where did I obtain those figures. I obtained them through the Wool Growers and Graziers Council. It in turn obtained the figures from various sources but principally from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Industries Assistance Commission. I continue with the long term solutions which I recommend; tariff compensation. 1 ask: How should that be done? We have established that the amount of money that we are talking about is $4, 190m. But how should that be split up? Which exporting industry should receive it? Which producers in which industries should receive it? I suggest that if we talk about tariff compensation we will get into an extremely difficult equity situation.
The third long term solution I see is that instead of charging tariffs, we convert them into bounties. I notice that this is already beginning to happen. I am pleased that there are some moves in this direction. Bounties are of tremendous advantage to exporters. The main advantage is that a bounty does not add to the costs of exporters. It does not flow onto the cost which exporters have to meet. But probably the most significant advantage to be gained from bounties instead of tariffs is that the costs of protection would be immediately apparent to government and to consumers. I am quite certain that if the total amount of tariffs was known by consumers and by government there would immediately be a more preferable solution which would contribute a long term solution to many of our problems. I refer to the gradual and planned reduction in tariffs. I read from page 37 of the Government’s White Paper on Manufacturing Industry which was published in 1977:
In the changing environment now being encountered, Australian manufacturing industry needs in the long run to achieve a greater degree of specialisation, with less reliance on government assistance. As a long term objective the community will be best served by a manufacturing industry with a structure which requires minimum levels of government support.
I strongly support that portion of the report. Many academics in Australia and certainly throughout the world support this line of action. Those academics include Milton Friedman who is a recognised economist. He is asked by many governments to advise them. A large and growing number of Australian business people support this action. Pressure from exporters is increasing. Consumer organisations are starting to realise that tariffs add to their costs and they are also putting on pressure. Developing countries are critical of our trade barriers.
Recently I was in Malaysia. I think that the Australian Government and the Australian people do a great deal of good for the people of Malaysia. But all that is lost because of the preoccupation of the Malaysian people to whom I spoke with Australian trade barriers. I refer honourable senators to the situation in West Germany where this solution was tried. In 1956 the West German Government reduced tariffs on industrial products by about 25 percent. The following year that Government reduced tariffs on industrial products by another 25 percent. Domestic industrial production continued to increase and unemployment fell from 5. 1 per cent in 1 955 to 3.5 per cent in 1958 and to 1.2 per cent in 1960. I realise that that is over simplifying the situation and that other factors are involved. But those are the facts.
In Spain in 1959 quotas and tariffs were reduced substantially and the currency was devalued by 43 per cent. There was a continuing reduction in trade barriers until 1968 when 80 per cent of imports were completely free of duty. The result of that action was that between 1959 and 1969 the gross domestic product in Spain rose by an annual rate of 7 per cent. Manufacturing output grew by nearly 10 per cent per annum. Both countries have increased growth and achieved a more stable employment situation. I ask: Why is this not done in Australia? I list some of the arguments commonly used against reducing tariffs. The first argument is that if we reduce tariffs we will make Australia susceptible to dumping. I point out to honourable senators that we already have two organisations, namely the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority, which can and does protect Australia against that situation. The second argument is that there will be loss of jobs. I happen to believe that there is very little positive relationship between jobs and tariffs. I certainly know that there are many negative relationships. I read from an article by Peter Samuel in the Bulletin of 29 October 1977 headed ‘Protection racket must go’:
What is described as the ‘scotch disease’ is seen to be plaguing major sections of Australian business, inhibiting investment, raising costs, causing tensions with trading neighbours, disadvantaging exporters and creating continuing demands on government. That those demands can be deeply humiliating was demonstrated most spectacularly in the case of the whisky quotas . . . proposed duty increases and import licensing that threaten to boost the cost of a bottle of scotch to $10 before Christmas, put nearly 1,000 people out of work and lose the Government many millions in excise revenue. The only possible beneficiaries would have been a couple of companies that had been losing their market share over the past two years due to vigorous competition from discounters. Usually the Government is able to make such log-rolling for companies respectable by saying it is saving jobs. But in the case of the scotch schemozzle the Government was left completely naked, since there is no manufacture of whisky in Australia at present . . . there are estimated to be more than ten years ‘ stocks maturing in wood casks from which the small demand can be met for some years. So there is no employment to be protected in local manufacture. There is, however, considerable employment- estimated at between 3,000 and 5,000- in the bottling and distribution of the Scotch which is imported in the wooden casks in concentrated form to be diluted with distilled water and bottled and labelled and cartoned. The Government’s protection measures for what turned out to be a non-industry were threatening perhaps 1,000 jobs handling the imports. Last week the Government admitted it had erred and announced the abandonment of the proposed tariff increases and import quotas.
I have many other examples where an increase in tariff actually resulted in a decrease rather than a increase in the number of jobs. I also happen to be a member of the Federal Parliament who does not believe that the 25 per cent acrosstheboard tariff cut which was introduced by the previous Labor government was a major contributor to unemployment. I remind honourable senators that many things which the Labor Party did during its period of office had a far greater influence on unemployment than that single measure. I remind honourable senators that that decision corresponded with a huge increase in the general wage level. It corresponded with a high inflation level. It corresponded with an equal pay decision, which added immensely to the cost of some of the high labour industries such as the footwear and clothing industries, and with a general compression in wages. I believe that all these factors contributed far more greatly to the increase in unemployment than did the 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cut.
I should like to list some industries that could absorb much more employment if tariffs were reduced slowly and gradually. I have demonstrated already that in the rural industry many rural properties need more people in order to maintain property improvements, something which is being neglected at the moment. In areas such as metals and minerals exports, meat products, food processing, flour mills and cereal food products, fibre processing, chemical processing, agricultural machinery, the transport industry and many others, direct and indirect jobs would be created by a reduction in tariffs. What I am suggesting is that a reduction in tariffs would lead not to a loss of jobs but a transfer of jobs from some uneconomic industries to industries which are more economic.
The third frequently heard complaint against cuts in tariffs deals with the disruption that might be caused to the work force. I have in front of me a copy of a report entitled Population Report 1 which was produced in November 1977 by the Australian Population and Immigration Council. The chairman of that organisation is the Honourable Michael MacKellar, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. On page 5 of that report it is stated:
Australians are comparatively mobile by international standards. Some 40 per cent of Australians changed their residence between the 1966 and 1971 Censuses.
I am suggesting that tariff cuts would not disrupt the work force because the Australian population is already extremely mobile, and I look forward with a great deal of interest to the report that is to be made by Sir John Crawford on that very issue.
The fourth argument that is used against tariff cuts relates to the disruption that would be caused to industry and investment. I am suggesting that the Government should call its shots long before the event in order to give industries time to adjust. I recommend strongly that the Government should establish a scheme similar to the rural adjustment scheme which would allow industries to adjust from one area of production to another. Many industries would benefit enormously from a reduction in tariffs; only those that are heavily protected would be disadvantaged.
The fifth area of complaint in relation to tariff cuts is that we need to achieve economic recovery and full employment before we embark on tariff cuts. I am suggesting that many export industries cannot wait for that to happen. 1 am also suggesting that manufacturing industries might not increase employment. I was fortunate enough recently to be able to visit Japan, in company with Senator Missen and others, where we saw the Toyota factory at Nagoya. In many sections of the car manufacturing industry in Japan whole portions of the machine are constructed without any labour being used. If Australian manufacturers developed in more economic and streamlined ways their employment needs would be reduced and not increased. 1 am also suggesting that lower tariffs would create their own economic recovery. The sixth and final argument often used against tariff cuts relates to the area of strategic industries such as defence, and I agree that perhaps there are some industries that need to be maintained against the event of a future conflict. But let us identify those industries before we say too much about that argument.
In conclusion, I suggest that the risks of not reducing tariffs include a lower gross domestic product, higher consumer costs, continuing trouble for our export industries, the loss of overseas markets, the upsetting of other countries, particularly the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations, because of our high tariff barriers, and the upsetting of the States. I refer in particular to Queensland and Western Australia who are more disadvantaged by tariff protection than any other State. In advocating lower tariffs I believe that I am representing the interests of the electorate of Kalgoorlie, where I reside and where the bulk of production is in export industries; the State of Western Australia, in which 1 live; exporting industries in particular, and I happen to be a lifelong and active farmer; and the interests of Australia.
– When Parliament resumed this session we were given some unsolicited lectures by Government members on the role of the Opposition. I am going to return the compliment and say to the Government that in the course of the exercise we are conducting on the GovernorGeneral’s Speech I hope that Ministers will adopt the same attitude as that adopted by a trade union secretary at a mass meeting. He takes notes of all the points that are made and answers them when he replies. If we are to protect the parliamentary procedures and the value of debate we have to get responses to the points we raise. I will be referring to a number of matters on which I think various Ministers should reply, and in this sort of debate I follow a standard practice. I send the relevant Hansard extracts to the Minister with an explanatory note. If our parliamentary procedures are to be revamped, in debates such as this one dealing with the Address-in-Reply I believe that there is an obligation on the Ministers, at the end of the debate, to reply to the points raised, even if it takes one and a half hours. I am not playing party politics on this matter. Whilst my extremely competent Queensland colleague Senator Keeffe raised matters that merit an answer, Senator Martin also raised some matters relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that merit a reply. I do not necessarily agree with her but the issues were ventilated and deserve a reply.
I want to deal firstly with a statement on the first page of the Governor-General’s Speech. It has become something of a tradition for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to refer to governing for all the people, and in this Speech the Governor-General said: ‘and that their efforts will be rewarded ‘. I will begin by referring to the report of the Snowy Mountains Council. As many honourable senators know, the Snowy Mountains scheme was built as a result of the titanic efforts of the Australian work force and I use those words advisedly. The people who worked on the Snowy Mountains project came from virtually every country around the globe. The Prime Minister has talked about recognition, but the fact is that the workers on that project broke many production records and, in the process, suffered a fair number of industrial casualties. Over the last 12 months I have spoken to many men who are now in their forties but who gave their best years, when they were in their physical prime, as Snowy Mountains workers. They have said repeatedly to me: ‘after each war we build monuments and list the names of those who have fallen; surely we ought to have a tablet listing the names of the casualties on one of our major peacetime industrial projects. ‘
The annual report of the Snowy Mountains Council details the amount of energy generated and the volume of water harnessed for future use. When we see this information we can realise the value of the work these people did. When I came into the Senate in 1965 or 1966 the then Minister for National Development, David Fairbairn, said to me: ‘We will be attending the openings of various power stations and we will make reference to the engineers, the pioneers and the workers. ‘ That was very nice, but I return to the point I made previously: After each of the two major wars in which Australia has been involved people have held reunions at which they have paid their respects to their fallen comrades. Over the past 12 months I have attended various union meetings and club gatherings- Senator Lajovic will probably remember that this question was tossed up to me at the Triglav club about a month ago- and been asked by former Snowy Mountains workers- particularly by a Canberra resident, Roman Bizjak- why they cannot get recognition.
I say with respect that the Snowy Mountains project is earning a fair amount of revenue and I see no reason why we cannot go through the archives of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, find the names of the 50 or 100 men involved, and have a suitable tablet erected in Cooma. There are people today who can say proudly to their 12 and 15 year old sons and daughters that in their early days in Australia they helped in the construction of the project. But it goes beyond that. Many men from many countries came here as single men and were killed in industrial accidents and perhaps if their relatives were to visit Australia they could view our recognition. I know of one instance of a man who fell into a big concrete pour and there was no way of getting him out. I am not being critical in saying that because industrial matters were dealt with by people such as Mr Justice Taylor, who was an extremely competent conciliator, and Sir William Hudson, who was a good administrator. As rough and tough as he was, Charlie Oliver was a top trade unionist; he could read an industrial situation in full. With those three men at the top and with a work force that was imbued with making tunnelling history the project was completed. I simply say that the Government should pay regard to the wishes of a work force that would like to remember its fallen comrades. One talks to people sometimes at a smoko, late in the evening, and they become nostalgic. Many of them had good friends whose bones lie up there under that project. It would not cost us very much to recognise their sacrifice. I propose that definitely and respectfully to the Government. In the next six months- though I do not think it will be necessary- I could obtain petitions and trade union resolutions on that subject. The cost involved would be minimal. That is the first proposition that I wanted to put to the Government.
The second item I raise concerns a brief aside I had yesterday with the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) on the vexed question of security, and the give and take of security, while protecting civil liberties. I am glad that Senator Withers is in charge of the House. He would recall that, before the Hope report was released. I raised with him- I think it was one of those occasions when he was ducking and weaving on the ropes- the subject of the way in which Mr Justice Smithers was able to obtain information about the calibre of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation operatives and their recruitmenttheir immaturity was under consideration in this case- that had been denied to the elected members of parliament. I would not mind if we had had a secret session, such as we had in war time, at which honourable senators could ask questions. But we never had that.
I followed closely the proceedings in the United States of the committee chaired by Senator Church that examined some of the shortcomings of the United States security agencies. I believe that an examination of my record will reveal that I have never said that there should not be any security agencies. I have suggested that, in the light of some of the errors that have occurred, we ought to have a monitoring system. This morning the Attorney-General took refuge in the report of Mr Justice Hope, indicating that it did not go that far. As honourable senators know, I spent about 45 minutes making submissions to Mr Justice Hope concerning certain injustices among some ethnic people. I felt he was extremely competent, but I have never known a case where the Government has accepted totally the findings of any royal commission. Often adjustments are necessary.
About three weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Scott, the retiring leader of the Republican Party in the Senate of the United States. I asked him his views on all that had gone on recently regarding security in the United States. He said, ‘We have too many committees. One committee is essential’. I make that point because, obviously, the expenditure on security that the Prime Minister plans- and I am not at this time cavilling at that- is such that we are entitled to such information as Mr Justice Smithers obtained. For example, we are entitled to know how we recruit people and why we get people that are so immature that they make silly mistakes. I am not referring just to the person who appeared in a Canberra court. There was another man, to whom Senator Brown has referred, who also was a little bit odd. In war time service parlance, I think it is referred to as lack of moral fibre. I like to be assured that we are not recruiting such people. From reading numerous authoritative statements made on security it appears that there is even security rivalry, which is something we cannot tolerate.
It may well be that, given the present scientific and highly-sophisticated electronic devices, we do not need the operatives we once needed. I am on record as arguing that there are always elements in the community that have to be dealt with at close range. There was a terrible man in Sydney named The Skull who was ultra right wing and who had peculiar ideas. His main idea was to attack female demonstrators. We must have an authority that can keep such people / under surveillance. He is not the only one, but I mention him to make my point. We are not, as the Attorney-General implied, going dossier hunting, but we have to have a top level committee which can ensure that there are no deviations from the set ground rules.
To take the matter a little further, recently I was in Wollongong and came into possession of a photocopy of what was alleged to be a list of people in one ethnic community whose names commenced with ‘D’. I had a look at it to see whether it contained the names of people who may be regarded as being too extreme in their politics. There were a couple of names that I thought might have been there but were not. On the other hand, there were names on the list that should not have been. I am sufficiently sophisticated to know that it might have been a set up. People sometimes circulate what proves to be a phony document. However, I would like, as a senator, to be on a committee which could call in the senior security people and the responsible Minister and ask: ‘Is this dinkum or not?’
The New South Wales Government and every other State government is embarking upon the extensive recruitment of translators and interpreters. I know one applicant who is very worried, as is his daughter- who was a social worker in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs- whether, if their names were on this list, it has militated against them. I know that when we were in government I asked questions on this score. I did not get all the answers I needed. I got some that satisfied me to a degree, but now that I have this other information I am very sceptical. I am not the sort of person to use this parliament to drag in names, but I think the Minister will agree that it would be much better if we had such a monitoring situation. After all, the game changes from one side to the other. The very illustrious member of the High Court and former Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, was much maligned for his dealings with ASIO. The people that were critical of his using preventive measures were almost hysterical the other way when the Hilton Hotel episode occurred, asking what were we doing.
I am not here to take party-political points, but I would say that every country in the world appears to have some monitoring system. I conclude that theme by saying that there has been some joking whenever the activities of the Townley committee have been mentioned. No member of that committee has written a book on the subject, although I can assure honourable senators that there was questioning of the then ASIO chief, Mr Barbour, that might have formed the theme of a good book. None of us have ever done that or breached any confidence. So the implication that honourable senators cannot be on such a committee is wide of the mark.
Senator Scott of the United States, who is a very blue-veined Republican and who would be the last to want to upset US security, said to me: Senator, after what we have gone through it would have been much better if, whenever a senior security officer abused his trust, we were to nip his actions in the bud’. It may be argued that I am taking a narrow Senate attitude. It may be that a joint committee is needed. But I believe that a parliamentary committee should be set up. I have spoken from time to time to other authorities on the subject and can say that there is no doubt that when James Callaghan, the present Prime Minister of Britain, was the Home Secretarya portfolio which involves delving extensively into security matters- Britain had a far far better monitoring system than we have in this country.
If we want to alleviate the suspicion that is present we must act as I have suggested. Whatever may be the byplay and the give and take in the New South Wales Parliament, one wonders what would have happened if, when we were in government, a Labor Party member had been caught in a coffee shop talking to an ASIO manand ASIO had a list of all the people on the extreme Right. What sort of hubbub would there have been then? One cannot get away from the fact that the present leader of the Liberal Party and Opposition in New South Wales was, to say the least, belittling democracy when he went shopping with people who ostensibly were going to give him some inside information. I do not say that that did happen but, to say the least, he was very indiscreet. If I went around shopping in that way I do not know what would happen.
Some of us apply more of a democratic standard in our dealings than do others, but peculiar things have happened. If ASIO is to maintain its rightful role it must cease its party-political activities. I am not suggesting that ever again we should have a situation where, because some mother was interested in a pacifist movement and her son did not want to join the cadet corps at a GPS school, it should make the front pages. I think, as Senator James McClelland has said on a number of occasions, that is kid stuff. I just want a little sanity on security. We have to have security agencies, but I would like to know, insofar as recruitment is concerned, whether we are getting people with a hangup, such as those ex-Army officers who regard every trade union official as suspect. I might be over-reacting, but I can assure honourable senators that if we had a six-man committee which dealt in generalities and guidelines- not seeking access to files- some of my fears and those of a lot of other Australians would be removed. I also refer to the battle about the safe handling of uranium. It is significant that when the Parliament went into recess I received a delayed answer to a question I had directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I will only deal with the last part of it. He said: ‘No special medical tests are carried out by the Queensland Railways in relation to its employees who may be handling uranium’. I know that is only one part of the answer. I make the point that my colleague, Ralph Taylor, the Federal Secretary of the Australian Railways Union, has been abused about this matter. It is remarkable that, with all these efforts to remove the evils and dangers of radiation, the Queensland Railways Department and the Premier of Queensland have made nothing like the efforts of the other States to bring in a worthwhile safety code.
I move on to the problem of the injection of outside staff into the Commonwealth Employment Service. This matter has been before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and I am not going to canvass the pros and cons of even the union’s attitude, although I am extremely sympathetic. I first came into the Senate in 1966 at the same time as Senator George Poyser. We received a lot of complaints from British migrants. Some of them were legitimate, but one of the complaints they made was that they came before Mr Justice Berry who was an Englishman himself. They got through five matters and when they came to the sixth matter they argued that a fellow who had been a bus driver in Birmingham should immediately become a bus driver in Australia. We argued from the trade union angle that he had to be a conductor first. That may be a mundane analogy but I do not think Commonwealth Employment Service unions are worried about new blood coming in. I think it would get anyone’s back up if a person walked into an office and took over.
What worries me- and I say this respectfullyis the position of the typical industrial officer in a firm. He is there to maintain production and to enforce discipline. I believe most of the Commonwealth Employment Service officers are fairly balanced men. They try to keep a balance in that no-man’s land between the employers’ demands and the employees’ rights. Honourable senators know just how tough some of these hot-rod officers are. Nobody can look crooked at them. If some of them are going to infiltrate the CES I think we are heading for a grim time. That is my fear about the whole situation. When Senator Bishop and I are sitting on the Estimates Committee dealing with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations we will want to know just what sort of people have been employed.
While I am speaking on the employment theme, I have read the current journal of the Electrical Trades Union and I find that Utah Development Co. in Queensland is involved in a dispute with the ETU. What is that dispute about? Apprentices are completing their time and yet Utah, with its enormous profits, cannot continue their employment. Most of Australia’s State railways systems continue to employ most of their apprentices, although they take in a higher ratio of apprentices to journeymen. I make this point in relation to these firms, whether it be Utah or Clutha: They probably have a place in our society but we do not like their colonial approach to these matters. I think some of them still have the attitude of some Latin American companies before World War II, which gave a few beads to the natives and expected the workers to wear only loin cloths. That is the attitude of some of these people.
I turn to the matter of inspired agitation about weekend penalty rates. I think the pilot union that first raised the matter of weekend penalty rates was the Federated Gas Employees Union. That was a dirty industry largely involved with coal, water and gas. Officials like Weston Thompson pioneered the case. In subsequent times, with all the different forms of transport, penalty rates have become par for the course. What has happened in recent cases? One such case involved the Merchant Service Guild. Another involved the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. There is a great strain on the families of shift workers and a high breakdown of marriages, in contrast to families of workers who work from nine to five, five days a week. These stresses are growing. I think there is something wrong with society if we have to turn back the clock by encouraging people, often in public utilities, to work these unusual hours. I have heard many people who work from only nine to five, Monday to Friday, say: ‘Well, they will get a day off during the week’. But the impact hits when Fred has to go on shift all day Saturday and there is a twenty-first birthday or a younger child’s party. All these things put stresses on a marriage. They are things which cannot be gauged in terms of money. They are things that the trade union movement when the new order came after World War II, chalked up as victories. There is no question about that.
There is another spin-off completely in relation to long service leave. In relation to our tourist industry- it is part of the sector in which the service work force is involved- on many occasions the patrons of motels and holiday resorts are the people who have had 1 5 years or more experience in an industry. So when governments and trade union agitation brought in long service leave money was channelled into the service industries. That is not just some sort of a myth. No matter how much is said about diminishing overtime the plain fact of the matter is that the recognised 40-hour week was introduced in 1947. That reduction in working hours which took place 30 years ago has been more than offset by the technological advances that have been made. There have been very few major changes beyond the 40-hour week. It is true that some employers have offered incentives to work an extra shift or nine days a fortnight and that sort of thing. In relation to some of the isolated industries it is quite obvious- I think many honourable senators, even on the Government side, will agree with me- that people will put up with those conditions for a couple of years in order to obtain money for a particular project but they do not want to be permanent shift workers. Those people who do remain in the industry must have incentives. If we use the word incentive’ as a sort of carrot it has to apply to the people who perform the arduous work. There is no other solution.
I want to make some friendly criticism of Senator Martin’s speech about the Australian Broadcasting Commission and her suggestion that there should be some redress of an action taken by the ABC. I made the point when I interjected that it is completely wrong to claim that the commercial radio and television stations are the sea green incorruptibles. On one occasion I had an altercation with a sports broadcaster. I will not name him because he perhaps feels that I was too harsh with him. We reached a gentleman’s agreement to differ but three days later he gave me another serve. I said to Senator Martin that at least Talbot Duckmanton did not appear on the ABC and give her a serve. That indicates the difference between the ABC and the commerical television and radio stations. By all means, as Senator Martin says, we should come in here and say that private enterprise is wrong here and the Government service is wrong there. Let us be bi-partisan. But from the point of view of ethics- this will be repugnant to a few Government senators- I have been to eastern Europe many times and seen things with which one would agree and with which one would not agree, but I have never known a European radio or television station to use women as show ponies in order to sell goods. Commercial radio uses certain gimmicks. I know Senator Coleman agrees with me. From her involvement with various women’s liberation movements she has been in the forefront of some of this exploitation. I just wonder at these people who talk about the virtues of private enterprise and how they try to exploit women with some of these gimmicks to sell commodities, many of which are pretty shoddy.
I wish to go on to only one other matter and that is the co-ordination of Federal and State authorities. We have a problem in New South Wales because the mining barons want to go underneath our major water catchment areas. There is a big battle on there and I hope that the Deputy Premier and people here will not try to bludgeon the Premier to give in to what they think should happen. As much as we are in an era in which we want energy I know what a problem we would have in any State represented here if there were massive catastrophes in some of our dams and the water disappeared into the bowels of the earth.
I think I have dealt with a number of topics that were not mentioned before. I hope that Senator Withers will convey to the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) the suggestion of an overdue monument to over 100 workers who gave their lives in the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
– I am pleased to take part in this debate. Firstly, I wish to reaffirm my allegiance to the Crown, to Her Majesty the Queen. I congratulate the Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, on his appointment. There is no doubt that he was a very great Queenslander while he was in the State of Queensland. He was highly respected by the people there. He has a great record throughout this nation and I have little doubt that he will carry out his duties with the competence and dignity that is expected of him and that he will earn the respect of the people. I also wish to congratulate Senator Walters for moving and Senator Collard for seconding the motion in respect of the Address-in-Reply. I assure them that they will have my wholehearted support. I also wish to congratulate Senator Haines on her maiden speech. I was very interested in what she had to say, in particular to her reference to pornography, which I think Senator Sheil had mentioned earlier. I wholeheartedly agree with her but would suggest that she contact her Federal leader and discuss the matter with him. If I recall correctly the days when he was the Minister for Customs and Excise- I remember the Little Red School Book as a particular example- his views did not coincide with those of Senator Haines.
Before going on to the general topics I wish to refer to a matter brought up here, I think by the first Opposition speaker, concerning a Mr Bill Wood in Queensland and the fact that he was not re-engaged in the Queensland Department of Education. I know that this is a State matter and I hoped that it would be left in the State of Queensland. However, because it has been raised here I think it is only right that I should put the record straight and give the other side of the story. Mr Bill Wood was a member of the Department of Education until he resigned to contest the State seat of, I think, Cook in 1968 or 1 969. He held that seat and was a member of the State Parliament for some six years and then was defeated. He was re-employed by the Education Department but then, a year later in 1975, he decided to enter politics again so he resigned from the Department to contest the seat of Leichhardt. He was defeated at that election and was reemployed by the Education Department. Two years later, in 1977, he resigned again to contest the seat of Leichhardt. From then on the problem has arisen.
I think the position in the Education Department in Queensland should be stated here. Firstly, there are staff limitations. While the economy is in its present state the Queensland Government has placed limitations, as has the Federal Government. At present the Education Department in Queensland is overstaffed according to the levels that have been authorised by the Government. About 500 teachers are awaiting re-entry into the Department. Many of those teachers resigned to further their studies to become better teachers and so forth. Surely it is fair that if Mr Bill Wood cannot make up his mind whether he wants to be in politics or teaching he should not go to the top of the list above those other people every couple of years.
– Where is he on the list now?
– I do not know. The last I heard is that the Premier said that he can go on to the list. Let us remember that there are different areas in the teaching profession and if a vacancy occurs in the particular area in which he is interested he will probably get the job. However, I do not think he should go to the top of the list. The other point that I think should be made is that during the whole period his wife has been employed by the Education Department, so it is not as though the family is without means.
The next item I would like to mention is a matter that has concerned the Senate for a long time. It has been the subject of great debate around this place. It is the matter of uranium exports. I honestly cannot quite follow the policy of the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement in this matter. I have taken a great deal of interest in it and have tried to gain all the information I can and to reach a conclusion. After all, it is a very serious matter and one which concerns the nation. Therefore it must concern every individual and particularly members of Parliament.
The policy that has been adopted by the Labor Party and the trade unions unfortunately will not allay fears or bring about the results they wish to obtain. The decision we must make is whether we sell uranium oxide to an energy starved world that has already made a decision to develop nuclear power. There is some confusion as to what Australia’s role is in this area. It seems to me that the impression is gained around the place that Australia can decide whether or not the world has nuclear power and that if we refuse to supply uranium oxide to the nations of the world they will change to some other form of energy. That, of course, is absolute rubbish. The fact is that at $40 per lb for uranium oxide Australia has something like 25 per cent of the world’s reserves. At $60 per lb Australia’s known reserves are only nine per cent of the world’s known reserves. These figures are for the free world outside the communist bloc. We do not know the extent of uranium deposits in the communist areas. If the price of uranium oxide goes to $100 per lb our deposits will represent a mere drop in the bucket because at that price, and with present technology, uranium can be extracted from the greatest resource of all, the sea.
Under conventional systems of electricity generation the cost of fuel represents only about five per cent of the total cost of electricity generation. This figure varies depending on the area, but in most cases 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the cost of generating electricity is in reticulation. This will of course vary depending on whether electricity is reticulated to widespread country areas where consumers are not using much electricity. In that case, of course, reticulation costs will be higher. If electricity is reticulated to a highly industrialised area the reticulation costs go down. The figures I have cited relate to the mean cost of generating electricity.
I do not know the break-up of costs as far as nuclear power is concerned, but when one hears that nuclear power for electricity generation is somewhere near the cost of conventional type generation these days one can assume that the 75 per cent figure will not vary; each has the same means of reticulation. If we can assume that five per cent is about the figure for the cost of the fuel and the cost of uranium is doubled it would increase electricity charges by five per cent.
What will happen if the price of uranium goes up because Australia is a non-supplier? Other nations may bring into operation mines that are not now economic. Many of these nations might not be as responsible as we are. For example, who is to say that South Africa will insist on the sort of waste disposal safeguards on which the Australian Government is insisting? I think South Africa would use the bargaining power resulting from its uranium resources in order to protect its domestic policies. This is what the present policy of the Labor Party and the trade unions will bring about. A more important factor is that it will hasten the day of the breeder reactor for energy generation. That is the very thing we are trying to stop. Instead of the waste plutonium being stored in safe areas it will be stockpiled around the world close to the generating areas. We will then run the risk of terrorists and other people getting hold of the commodity, which we do not want to happen.
– Would that not be a possibility anyway?
– We must get away from the breeder reactor and make sure that plutonium is put where it cannot be touched by the wrong people. If we insist upon those people who secure our cheaper uranium storing the waste properly we will have done something to safeguard the interests of the world. That is my point of view. I should like honourable senators opposite to say that that is not correct. This is exactly what will happen. It is time the Labor Party really looked at this issue.
– Have we yet got a safe means of disposing of radioactivity?
– That is not the issue. If we do not supply uranium, other nations with less interest than us will supply it. This is my argument.
– You are like Pontius Pilate. You are washing your hands of our responsibility.
-Our responsibility is to insist that those nations to which we sell uranium institute safeguards for the disposal of waste products. We cannot do that if we are not selling uranium to them. That is quite obvious. If we can supply the major consumers in the world and place heavy restrictions on the disposal of waste material we will have some say in the future. But we will have none if we do not supply uranium to an energy starved world.
– That is provided they honour the undertaking.
– That is something on which we have to insist. As we have cheap uranium we can do something about it. If we do not supply other nations and they have to go elsewhere we will have no say in the matter.
– Would you mine uranium anywhere in the Northern Territory?
-That is another argument.
– You should read Mr Justice Fox’s report thoroughly. You have missed the significance of it.
- Mr Justice Fox said that we should export uranium. That is the issue I am raising. I am not going into back alleys. The mining of uranium is a different argument altogether. It is something that has to be decided after discussion by the Government with the Aboriginal councils and other people concerned. I am talking about whether we should export uranium. There is no argument today against the Government’s attitude in this matter. It is insisting on secure safeguards for the disposal of the waste by any consumer to whom we sell our uranium.
– Will that be the condition you put on the sale?
– Yes. That is enough of that matter. I now get on to another hobby horse of mine. It is a subject which has been bandied around here for years. Nothing has happened. Both sides of politics have made decisions in this area but they have dropped them. We do not know whether to go on with it or not. I refer to the abolition of the means tests for the pension. I have always been a great supporter of its abolition, though not for all the reasons that have been put forward.
– The Whitlam Government started to taper the means test.
– It did not know why it was tapering it off. It stopped after a while. I am giving the reasons why I believe the means test should be abolished. There are the old arguments that those who pay taxes throughout their lives should be entitled to some security when they grow old, particularly those who may have contributed a great deal in taxation over many years and who find in the last few years of their active lives that things have gone against them and they are more or less on the breadline. They should be entitled to the same sort of consideration as anyone else who probably has not contributed the same amount.
Another argument is that abolition of the means test would cost too much. I believe that in the long run it would be a cheap investment. I have been informed that on normal standards of inflation and interest rates and so forth, without taking extremes, a person would need to invest approximately $300,000 in normal securities in order to earn enough after taxation to cut off the direct pension for himself and his wife, plus all the indirect assistance to pensioners. There are not too many people in the $300,000 income bracket. What do people do a few years before the age of retirement? In order to qualify for the pension they dispose of assets.
Young people up to the age of 25 years or thereabouts are more concerned about securing what they want in life. They may want a carsomething they have had to borrow from Dad over the years. They have no money to invest. They decide to get married and spend their income for the next 1 5 years or 20 years on building a home, bringing up and educating children and so on. They have no money to invest. When they reach the age of 45 years, 50 years or 55 years they are probably at the highest earning capacity of their careers. They have foremen’s jobs or they are managers of departments. Their houses are paid for and they have all the normal material assets they require. Their families are off their hands. They have excess income to invest. If those people knew that they would get the old age pension no matter what happened they would not divest themselves of their assets.
As honourable senators know, some people buy palatial homes because they are allowed to own a home and still receive a pension. They are too old to look after a big home. They would be better off in a seaside cottage. They have great big cars when a little car would do. They do these things to satisfy the means test. If there were no means test I believe these people would invest in the resources of this country. They have an untold source of wealth that we could tap and use for the benefit of the country. We would not have to depend so much on overseas funds as we do now. The old story is that Australians will not invest and we have to get money from overseas. Those Australians who are able to invest are not given the opportunity to do so.
Here is an excellent opportunity for people to take an interest in the industries of this country. They would pass on their shares and investments to their families. People aged 40 years or 45 years would probably become interested in and part of the investment scene in Australia. I do not think it would be a bad thing if every worker in Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, through his father or someone else, happened to be a shareholder in that company. The workers would have a financial interest and a great deal more interest in their job. I think that is a far better method of establishing good relations between management and workers.
– What about worker participation on the board?
– I think that if one has a financial interest in a concern one participates to a greater extent in the working of that concern.
– They have it in West Germany, you know.
– Yes, I know. The workers probably have a financial interest in the companies in which they work. They are probably encouraged to buy shares in the companies. I believe that in the long run this sort of thing would be good for this country. Even if millionaires were to get the old age pension they would not be exempt from paying tax. The amount of the pension would be exempt from tax, but tax would be payable on the amount earned in excess of the figure at which taxation begins. Everyone would be paying his way.
Having disposed of that matter there is another issue with which I want to deal in the 10 minutes left to me in this debate. I believe that we should implement this proposal as soon as possible, although I know that it will be resisted. I am referring to the proposal to give back to the States the responsibility for raising their own tax revenue. I have always been a believer in the theory that a person who has the responsibility for spending money should also have the responsibility for raising the revenue. This is an excellent opportunity for the States. Today, direct grants to the States amount to half or threequarters of the total income tax received by the
Commonwealth, apart from company tax. I believe that the stage could be reached where the Commonwealth could withdraw from the field of the collection of income tax and leave it to the States to run their own house and put it in order. The Commonwealth Government would still collect revenue by indirect taxation. We could not have a situation in which the rate of sales tax and excise duty on cigarettes, beer and so on varied between States. We know what section 92 of the Constitution says. I believe that the Commonwealth Government must be the manager of those sorts of affairs. We must have uniform indirect taxes including uniform excise duties, throughout the nation.
I believe that the State governments, which are always hammering the Federal Government and saying that they are not getting a decent slice of the national cake, should be given the responsibility for raising their own funds. Under section 96 of the Constitution the smaller States such as Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia are able to receive extra money because of their large undeveloped areas and the fact that the population in those States is small. I do not want to interfere with those provisions. All I want is for the States to be given the opportunity to raise their own funds.
– Would that mean that they would meet their own education expenditure and we would not give them anything?
– No. At the moment we just give the States money. I suggest that the States should be given back the right to collect tax revenue to meet their commitments, and if they want more funds the decision is theirs. This would show half of the States what the Commonwealth Government is up against. The Queensland Government, for instance, is one government that has tried to develop its State. If a State government believes that by imposing lower taxes it can still get on with the development of the State it should tell that to the people. The people of Australia could decide whether they wanted a free enterprise system or a socialist system by comparing the operations between different States. At the present time most people do not know which system they prefer. I am not denigrating the views of Opposition supporters in respect of what they believe to be the right sort of a system. But I believe that we cannot have a hotch-potch of a free enterprise system one week and a socialist system the next week. We have one or the other. We know the problems which have been created over the last few years by switching course from one direction to another. I believe that this is the only way in which the people of Australia will be able to judge for themselves. They will be able to compare the operations of a free enterprise government in one State with the operations of a socialist government in another State. They can do this only if the States are given the responsibility for raising tax revenue instead of the Premiers coming cap in hand to Canberra to get funds.
I believe that the Government’s program to get this nation back on its feet is very sound. I know that it will take time but I think that the Government is on the right track. There will be a lot of problems for certain industries. We know that there are problems facing the rural industries today. I hope that this Government will tide over some of them to make sure that they will still be in business when things come good. One thing that the rural industries and the rural community must have is better communications. There also must be a greater recognition of the lack of amenities in rural communities and a greater recognition of the high cost of living for people in the outback. The Government has to ensure that people in the bush are not regarded as second-class citizens and that they have the same opportunities and standards of living as people in urban areas have. I am afraid that at the present time the only way in which we can do this is through government financial assistance. I have very great pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply so ably moved by Senator Walters and seconded by Senator Collard.
– I am glad that I am able to commence my remarks by agreeing with the final comment made by Senator Maunsell. I was wondering whether at some stage during the course of his remarks there would be something with which I could agree. His point concerning the position of rural people in Australia is something all of us must recognise, and I am sure that as time goes by the significance of the plight in which so many rural people find themselves will be recognised by this Government.
The subject to which we are addressing ourselves is of course a response to the Speech by the Governor-General at the opening of” this Parliament last week. Firstly, I should like to extend congratulations to Sir Zelman Cowen on his appointment to the position of GovernorGeneral. Although I have not known him personally, I believe from having met and talked with him last week and from my knowledge of his record in public affairs that he will discharge his duties admirably. I believe him to be a man of great integrity and a man who will be a credit to that office. I also take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Haines on her initial address to this Parliament last week.
Before commencing my remarks, on behalf of a good friend of mine, namely Bill Wood from North Queensland, I must take exception to the criticism made of him by Senator Maunsell when he commenced his speech. I know the broad circumstances of Mr Wood ‘s position. It is one in which so many of us who have been employed in government service at some time and who have then stood for parliament have found ourselves. I think it is a poor reflection on any government which sets out to penalise an individual who is prepared to undertake public life in politics. Every one of us knows of the drain on our private and family lives. I think it is unfortunate that Senator Maunsell should advocate, as I understood him to do, that Mr Wood should be penalised in some way. I understand that Senator Maunsell was supporting the State Government in the actions it would like to take against Mr Wood. Nevertheless, I am sure that one of my Queensland colleagues will deal with that matter in greater depth later.
As I have indicated, the Speech of the Governor-General is the subject of this debate. Of course, we know that it is not a Speech of the Governor-General ‘s own making; it is a speech prepared for him by the Government and it reflects government policy. It accounts for the Government’s actions over the past two years and indicates to us its intentions for the ensuing three years of this Parliament. There are several points which one would like to raise in the course of this debate but I want to refer to that part of the Speech which relates to the Government’s priorities. Early in his Speech the GovernorGeneral said:
After two years of hard work and substantial achievement, Australians now look to the future with new found confidence.
Later he said:
My Government’s priorities are clear. They are: To build on the progress we have made in the last two years, defeat inflation and unemployment, and restore full economic health to our country.
The third priority mentioned was:
To maintain the policies which have halted the excessive growth in Government bureaucracy and expenditure, and to continue the pursuit of greater efficiency and responsiveness by the public sector.
The next priority was:
To revitalise our Federal system by co-operating with State and local governments, and giving them a greater measure of financial responsibility.
The first stated priority which must be dealt with is the reference to unemployment. I do not argue with the Government in its claim that all governments have great difficulties: Some of the difficulties are borne of a government’s policies; others are thrust upon it by outside forces, about which I shall say more later. But there is no question that a government which has been in office for two years cannot claim after that two years that the faults it now experiences were inherited from a previous government. Two years is a long time in government and if a government’s policies are working effectively it should see the fruits of those policies.
– We have.
-Senator Walters said: We have’. I suggest that that statement is typical of Senator Walters’ attitude. The fact is that 160,000 more people are in the unemployed ranks after two years of this Government than were unemployed two years ago. In Senator Walters estimation1 that is an achievement. I know that many things she says in this Parliament reflect that attitude. Unfortunately, not only Senator Walters but also the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is not concerned about that fact. No government could claim to have a sense of proportion or a sense of morality when it has doubled unemployment in two years; it cannot claim to have made substantial gains. Yet this is the approach which the Government has taken.
– What did you do? Did you more than double it?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT Senator Devitt)- Order!
-With great respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, I appreciate your calling Senator Walters to order, but she can keep quiet from now on because I am going to ignore her. The latest figures reveal that only 20 per cent of the people registered on the enlarged unemployment roll were school leavers; the other 80 per cent were people who had been in employment of some description. Therein lies the message. It is not a matter of falling back on the argument that the figures are inflated by school leavers. The truth of the matter is that people who have been employed in the work force are finding it increasingly difficult to get work. That is the problem. The official figure for the level of unemployment is approaching half a million. As was said in the other place last week, the true figure is around the 600,000 mark. But the Government admits to an official figure which is approaching half a million.
I can sympathise with the Government in many of the problems it faces but I cannot sympathise with it in respect of the unemployment problems because its policy of increasing unemployment has been deliberate and intentional. Notwithstanding the loss of productive forces to our economy, there is this terrible social problem of drugs amongst the unemployed. There is even suicide and crime. Last year in this Parliament we listened to a report of a survey taken in Victoriain East Melbourne and, I think, in one of the provincial cities of Ballarat or Bendigo. The report revealed quite alarming figures relating to the increase in the suicide rate amongst the unemployed. But above all, these unemployed people lose hope; they lose a purpose in life.
Only recently I was pleased to read a statement made by Mr George Polites of the Employers Federation, the employers equivalent of Bob Hawke. He expressed his great concern about the effect that unemployment is having on young people. I congratulate him. He is there to represent the employers but obviously he is a man with a soul who has some concern, which stands him apart from some of the colleagues with whom he normally has to work.
There are risks for the Government if it goes ahead and takes stimulatory action, if it goes on a massive spending spree. We in the Opposition are not advocating that; we never have done. We believe, however, that there is room for expansion and I shall say more of that later. But no government can rightly claim that it is discharging its obligation to the community when it is prepared to take no action at all to arrest the unemployment drift. For all we know we could find that in six or twelve months’ time the position will be much worse than it is now.
Other factors have to be considered. The Government has been involved in a massive overseas borrowing campaign. This sort of activity was considered to be beyond the pale in 1975 when the previous Government talked of the need to borrow overseas, although it was for different reasons, but in the past 12 months this Government has been compelled to borrow in excess of $2,000m in order to shore up the Australian dollar. But that is acceptable; no one seems to be concerned about that. Yet 3 years ago, under different conditions, when a much more positive program was being implemented, such a procedure was greatly criticised.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to make an observation about the sorts of problems faced by all governments, regardless of whether there has been a change of government. Something which is not generally appreciated is the extent to which import prices of imported goods affect the inflation rate in any country. Three years ago we had a massive inflation input from imports into Australia. This Government can rightly claim that it has had some success in reducing inflation. But I want to point out to the Senate one of the reasons why this is so, apart from the depressed conditions in the economy and the level of unemployment.
In 1973-74 we saw dramatic increases in import prices. I shall not go through them all because it would take too long. In the main areas of imports in 1973-74 we found that the increase in the price for crude materials was 40 per cent; for minerals, fuels and lubricants it was 103 per cent; for chemicals it was 47 per cent; for manufactured goods it was 32 per cent; for machinery it was 27 per cent; for electrical machinery it was 27 per cent; for transport equipment it was 26 per cent; and for miscellaneous manufactured articles it was 22 per cent. In the years in which we were in government we had to contend with a massive jump in import prices and this produced an enormous inflationary input into our economy. We could do nothing about it. Of course, we were exporting inflation at the time by making massive increases in our prices for agricultural products and minerals.
Since then there has been a dramatic change. We find that in 1975-76- this was a particularly important factor in helping the Government to lower the rate of inflation- the increase in the price for crude materials fell from the 4 1 per cent I cited to 7 per cent. Mineral fuels and lubricants fell from 103 per cent to 10 per cent, chemicals from 47 per cent to 13 per cent, manufactured goods from 32 per cent to 15 percent, machinery from 27 per cent to 17 per cent, electrical machinery from 27 per cent to 14 per cent, transport equipment from 27 per cent to 16 per cent and miscellaneous manufactured articles from 23 per cent to 1 5 per cent. So we can see what a tremendous difference this has made to this Government’s battle against inflation. Good luck to it. I think it is good for all of us that we have seen a reduction in the level of inflation. However, at the same time we have seen measures taken by the Government which have created the other problems to which I have referred.
I turn now to productivity, which is the second item I wish to discuss. It is claimed that the record of the Government is one in which we can see, as the Governor-General has pointed out, substantial achievement. The facts are that the production sector of this economy is in a very sad state indeed. The Australia and New Zealand
Banking Group Ltd, which is one of the leading authorities in assessing levels of production and economic activity in this country, showed in its January 1978 report that all groups of factory production are declining. In October 1976 the factor was 153. In October 1977-12 months later- it declined to 137. If one goes through every sector that is tabulated- transport, building, furniture, textiles, food, drink, tobacco, chemicals and all the rest- one can see a significant decline in production in Australia. I relate that comment to what I said earlier about the increase in the incidence of unemployment amongst people who were formerly employed and who lost their jobs because of the reducing level of productivity in the community. These people are not able to find alternative employment.
In terms of the uncertainty that we have about the future we should ask ourselves: How can it be otherwise? The Government has embarked on a deliberate policy, as was in evidence today at Question Time, of reducing the real purchasing power of the consumer. There is no questioning that. All statistics show that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been influenced by the Government over the last two years to reduce the purchasing power of wages and salaries. The Government makes no bones about the fact that that is its intention. It went before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and argued for a freeze on wages and salaries. That may be a legitimate economic policy to follow, but what is the consequence of it? The business community is desperately in need of increased consumption and increased orders. This applies not only to the retail trade but also to the manufacturers. Factory production figures are declining because there is less capacity for people to buy and stocks are building up. The Government is determined to continue to reduce that purchasing power. So what sort of prospects can we look forward to in 1978 and 1979? I was interested in a comment recently by Mr David Block, whom we know is a very prominent Sydney financier and was a member of the Matthews Committee on taxation. He called upon the Federal Government to plan if need be for an additional $1 billion deficit in order to stimulate the economy. He said:
Our Government cannot see past the immediate figures of today’s deficit. It cannot see into the long term.
So it would appear that the policy is to depress the economy during the 1978-79 period in the hope that we will see a return to some levels of prosperity by 1980, which is when the next election is due. In the meantime, there is the effect that this will have on the families of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who will be unemployed and on probably thousands of small businesses which will go out of business. They are expendable in the eyes of the Government.
The international outlook also is not encouraging. I would not be unduly critical of the Government in this respect because it is not able greatly to influence what happens internationally. However, most of the actions which are being taken in Australia are actions for which it is responsible. Industry is crying out for specific action and guidelines that give it a long term understanding of what the Government wants. The Jackson Committee, which was formed by the previous Government, reported in 1975. The Government prepared a White Paper on manufacturing industry which was in fact a commentary on the Jackson Committee’s report. The Jackson Committee put forward some intelligent and reasonable proposals under which a Government can assist industry in the ‘long term malaise’, as the Committee described it, of manufacturing in Australia. One of the first steps of the Government was to introduce the investment allowance in 1976. It was introduced on the basis that it would help to bring about a recovery in the economy. If it has been of any help we have seen very little evidence of it. I hope that the Government will act to ensure that the essential points that were argued for by the Jackson Committee are recognised.
On the other hand, I congratulate the Government on a step that it has taken, that is, the formation of the Bureau of Industry Economics. That is a body which has been long overdue. I do not know why, collectively, as governments, we had not thought of it before. We have known from past experience of the contributions which the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Bureau of Transport Economics have made to government to assist it in its policy making. It is essential that this new Bureau establish as far as possible the trends that will develop in Australia in the years ahead. I noticed in the most recent edition of the Journal of Industry and Commerce, which is a publication of the Department of Industry and Commerce, that there is recognition of the fact that it will be desirable for the Bureau to concentrate its efforts on trying to establish what those trends will be.
What can we do to try to lift ourselves out of this present dilemma? I endeavour not to be unduly critical, but naturally in the course of a debate of this nature one must criticise the Government to some degree for much of its policies. Other aspects of the position in which we find ourselves cannot be laid directly at the feet of the Government. But I emphasise the point that the commitment of the Government to what it calls the free enterprise system at the expense of the public sector is one of the principal causes of the stagnation we are passing through. It would be just as wrong for any other government to say that it will bludgeon the private sector in order to develop the public sector. This Government has taken a very hard line in respect of the public sector and consequently the public sector has been literally starved. The GovernorGeneral made this point quite clear when he said that one of the Government’s priorities was ‘to maintain the policies which have halted the excessive growth in Government bureaucracy and expenditure and to continue the pursuit of greater efficiency and responsiveness by the public sector’. It is great to pursue greater efficiency. We should do it in both the public and private sectors. But this continual policy of rigid restraint on government spending will not work. Only this morning we heard from Mr Schultze the Chairman of the United States Economic Advisory Council, which is a senior body that advises the United States Government. He made a plea to all member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for stimulatory action. These are the major developed nations of the world, of which we are one. He called for governments to take positive action. This Government, unfortunately, is moving in the opposite direction. Mr Schultze reflects the type of policy which is now gaining greater strength in the United States of America as that country sees that governments must take the initiative. It is quite ludicrous to expect the private sector to do this on its own. It cannot be done.
My last comment concerns the continued restraints which are being placed on State government finances. I have spoken about this matter on many occasions. I re-emphasise that if the States are to be provided with sums of money which barely keep up with the inflation rate then it will not be possible for them to implement the capital works programs which they have been able to implement in recent years. This year the States are receiving an increase of about only 1 1 per cent in payments from the Commonwealth. We know that the inflation rate is about that level. So, in fact, in real terms the States are not able to do anything more than they are doing at present. Of course, this situation is taking place immediately prior to the introduction of State income tax legislation in the Federal Parliament. We will have an opportunity to debate that legislation later. But unless the States can advance their works programs and provide employment opportunities and contracts for the private sector, then it will not be possible for us to expect any lift in the economy, at least in the foreseeable future. On behalf of the Opposition I now move an amendment to the motion which reads:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that it-
fails to deal adequately with record levels of unemployment;
fails to stimulate productive output;
leaves serious uncertainty about the progress of the Australian economy;
ignores the serious recession in the international economy;
fails to provide immediate and long-term guidelines for industry; and (0 neglects to provide firm guarantees for the protection of civil liberties by legislative enactment within the powers of the Australian Government’.
– During one of the speeches in the Address-in-Reply debate an honourable senator mentioned that he was ‘jolted out of his slumbers’ when the Governor-General read a certain passage in his Speech. I am not surprised that the honourable senator was jolted out of his slumbers. The passage which His Excellency was reading is as follows:
By devoting all its energies to these goals, by emphasising those things that unite all Australians, my Government will strive to realise the hope and vision of every Australian- an Australia rich in opportunity for all its people to live the life they choose, fully and freely.
I consider that passage one of the most important parts, if not the most important part of His Excellency’s Speech. It dennes in a sentence the basic and most important difference between the philosophies of the Liberal Party and the socialist parties of Australia. It emphasises the issue which I consider the vital and decisive factor which decided the results of the last two Federal elections. The people of Australia had an opportunity for three long year to sample a socialist government. Those 3 years proved clearly to them what they can expect from a socialist regime. They have realised that under a socialist regime they have no hope of achieving their ambitions. They have no hope of achieving their visions, whatever they may be. Those opportunities will be limited to a section of the population. There will be no possibility for people to choose the life they want. There will be no possibility of people living their lives fully and, more importantly, freely. They have sampled the kind of life the socialist parties have in store for them. A former member of the Parliament called it a disciplined society. The goal of the socialist parties is to have a disciplined society, and we all know what kind of society that is. The Australian people have seen in action the regime of a small, select elite living in an ivory tower- an allknowing elite which was or would have been the final arbiter of the way of life that small elite would select as best for all of us.
During this debate much has been said about the role and conduct of Parliament in Australia. We all know Parliament is popularly viewed with ridicule and cynicism, and that it is believed that it has no worthwhile role in the mainstream of government administration and that generally the Australian people hold this institution in very low esteem. While I wholeheartedly dispute those ideas, I feel that the value and relevance of this institution are being questioned far more now than ever before. It is the responsibility of all members actively to disprove this criticism and, by their conduct and diligence, to ensure that the dignity and respect in which our Parliament is mostly held is deserved and maintained. Much of the criticism revolves around the code of conduct adhered to by members themselves. In pan this is reflected by the standard of debate characteristic of this chamber. One speech delivered during the current session would vindicate any such criticism of the Parliament and make cynicism the order of the day. If it exemplified all speeches delivered in the Address-in-Reply debate, it casts Parliament into the wilderness as an expensive anachronism.
I refer to the speech of Senator James McClelland. The honourable senator quoted Senator Button. He stated: . . the greatest threat confronting this country is cynicism, a corrosive, insidious, slow acting poison.
How true that is. If an Oscar were awarded for the most cynical speech I am sure Senator James McClelland would qualify for it. I wonder how many people inside or outside the Parliament who heard the honourable senator deliver his speech have ever heard such a vitriolic, vindictive, vicious and vulgar speech.
The speech was made by a man whom many of us consider to be a highly intellectual, welleducated and well brought up person. We all looked forward to having him in this chamber again and to hearing his contributions to the debates. What a disillusionment.
What upset me most was that the person in question was, I believe, Senator James McClelland ‘s long-standing friend and partner. It may be that my notion of friendship is a strange one. It is definitely not similar to that of the honourable senator opposite. How many of us have been at one time or other in our lives disillusioned with some of our friends? What is friendship for? Is it only for the time when everything is nice and tidy and friendly and easy, or is it only for convenience? Is it not for the time when we or our friends have difficulties, worries or what seem to be unsolvable problems. During my lifetime, and particularly during the last war, I have known of persons of both sexes who have risked their lives for a friend. What is even more telling is that they risked their lives for the sake of saving a friend who very often was of a different political persuasion. However, do we not say that a friend in need is a friend indeed? Somebody long ago said that ‘cynicism is intellectual dandyism’ and I must say that I found that description very apt when I listened to the honourable senator opposite. Senator James McClelland referred to the standards of political life in Australia in the following terms: . . I see no solution to our problems in disorder or bloodshed. But if a large enough section of the population comes to believe that the game is rigged and if the proponents of reasonable reform are just not given a fair go within the democratic process, the day of the urban guerrilla may arrive in this country earlier than people believe.
It would be interesting to analyse the honourable senator’s statement to find out what he really meant. I am convinced that the first sentence is sincere and genuine, but I am intrigued by the next sentence, which refers to a ‘large enough section of the population’. I wonder what is a large enough section of the population? Was the honourable senator referring to the minority number of members of Duma who dismissed the majority by occupying the parliament with the militia of the Bolshevik Party? How and why would the population believe or become convinced that the game is rigged? Who would tell them that? Or was the honourable senator implying that that was so? Further on, the statement became more interesting. The honourable senator said:
I ask: What is reasonable reform? Reasonable reform may mean something different to me from what it means to my son. Who will decide what is reasonable reform?
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was discussing a passage in a speech by Senator James McClelland and asking the question: Who will decide what is reasonable reform and a fair go within democratic process? Does the honourable senator imply that the 1975 and 1977 elections were not a fair go, or that elections as we have them here are not a democratic process? I wonder if he would prefer some other kind of elections, such as they have in some of the so-called people ‘s democracies, elections which are held every blue, or should I say, red moon, and then on only one day. We all know what kind of elections those are: There is one party, one candidate and one leader.
Finally, I would like to find out whether the passage in the honourable senator’s speech was just thinly veiled blackmail, or maybe a warning or, even more, a signal to action for the guerillas. Does he intend that, in case something happens, he will be able to say: ‘Didn’t I say so?’ Maybe then he will say to us: ‘You are guilty; you have provoked urban guerillas. ‘ Will he say: ‘ Well, I understand them. They are quite right. They were provoked. ‘ Or maybe he was just maintaining the rage which his ex-leader urged his supporters to maintain.
Parliament represents a forum where contemporary problems can be debated, their solutions discussed and popular myths surrounding them refuted. Immigration is one such subject that I hope will be debated at length during this session, if only to overcome some of the popular myths which surround it. There are many myths in Australia about immigration and several of them have been aired since this Parliament resumed.
I was really surprised when Senator James McClelland retorted to my interjection by saying that I was a friend of Hitler. I must admit that I did not expect such a retort from a gentleman of his intellectual standing in the community. That is the kind of retort used by an ignorant person who has no better argument to counter that of his opponent. But then, socialists everywhere in the world, including Australia, describe as fascists all who do not agree with them. The Australian Labor Party, although claiming to be the champion of the migrants, automatically considers anyone who speaks with an accent and comes from Europe as a fascist.
– That is utter rubbish.
– Who does not remember Mr Whitlam ‘s statement about Baltic nations? The Labor Party apparently has never heard of Monte Cassino in Italy, where tens and tens of thousands of Polish soldiers died fighting the Germans. Do they call fascists those who survived that fight and are here today? It is an insult to all who suffered brutality under the fascists, whether of the left or right. To be called fascist is an insult to all loyal Australians after 25 years of residence here; and that by a socialist party which has been described by one of its prophets, the great Stalin himself- on that occasion speaking of the Social Democrats- as ‘twin brothers of fascism’.
Recently Dr Cass, the shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, aired certain myths about immigration. He stated that immigration should be cut to the bone. I should like Dr Cass to go to the ethnic Press and to the ethnic clubs and tell them that. I would like to see what their reaction would be. The statement of Dr Cass clearly shows Labor’s discrimination against migrants and exemplifies the Labor Party’s position on that subject, which can only be compared with that of Hitler’s Germany. We all know that Hitler used a certain minority in Germany as a scapegoat for all the problems of that country. This is what Labor is doing today in Australia. The Labor Party is saying: ‘Who but the migrants are the cause of all our problems. They are the cause of unemployment. Therefore, sack the migrants and prevent them from coming here. ‘ That is what they are saying.
Dr Cass also stated that the intake of migrants this year will be 80,000 persons. ‘This is absurd,’ he said, ‘when we have this high level of unemployment’. By quoting such a figure he showed his ignorance of the whole problem. He had simply doubled the gross figure for the first six months of the current financial year, forgetting that during that time we received many refugees from different countries. The fact is that the net intake is almost certainly less than half the figure upon which he based his calculations. When it is discounted for the migrants who will never enter the work force the threat to the unemployed is really small.
Secondly, he accuses the Government of recruiting workers, with unspecified skills, from foreign countries at the expense of Australian workers. There are three main categories under which migrants are admitted to this country today. One is skill. The other two are family reunion and refugee, and these two have been expanded considerably. Whilst the Government is certainly attempting to overcome current and projected shortages of skilled manpower, the avenue of immigration is only one of those that are to be followed. The policy for an immigration program certainly is not based purely on such economic criteria. The Government’s immigration policy is not as Dr Cass asserts, singularly devoted to the goal of economic growth. Rather, it sees such a consideration as integral to a whole range of goals. Economists could present innumerable papers on the economic benefits
Australia has derived from its immigration program. Sociologists could provide similar evidence but Dr Cass has chosen to quote from only one such paper and has disregarded endless evidence by the economists demonstrating the economic benefits this country has derived from the migrants. Dr Cass is certainly perpetuating myths and one can only hope that with sufficient debate and circulation of information they are refuted permanently.
Before I finish my remarks I would like to quote from a statement made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). He said:
In the field of population, our action or inaction today will have a permanent effect upon the future size or composition of our population, its age structure, the worker/dependent ratio and other characteristics of vital importance to Australia. We must also recognise that major changes in the size or composition of the population take many years to come about and that we cannot, therefore, dismiss the task of demographic planning for our future as something that can be left for another time when our immediate problems will be less pressing.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Senator Haines on her maiden speech and I wish her well for her brief period in this House. I oppose the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and I support the motion moved by Senator Walters and seconded by Senator Collard.
– It would be tempting to devote the half hour that one has to address the Senate tonight on the Address-in-Reply to having some fun at the expense of Senator Lajovic. I think that there are more important ways in which one can spend that short span that is allocated to us but I think it would be quite remiss of me not to comment on some of the matters that he raised, in however cursory a manner. I can well understand that the honourable senator was distressed by what was said to him the other night but I must confess that to hear a member of the Liberal Party complaining about false accusations made against members of one political party by members of another political party is a most disarming experience. As one who for years has been subjected to accusations of being either a Russian spy or a Chinese spy and sometimes simultaneously both, I find it very difficult to take seriously the statements of members of the Liberal Party that they are so sensitive to these accusations.
In case any honourable senator is under the misapprehension that because Senator Lajovic happens to come from Europe he knows anything about European history, there are one or two small points that I would like to clear up before I go on to more important matters. Having objected so strenuously to accusations that members of the Liberal Party could be fascists he promptly turned around and said that members of the Labor Party were communists and that the guiding star of the Australian Labor Party was Stalin. This statement comes from a man who does not like to hear false accusations made in the Parliament but is perfectly happy to accuse members of the Australian Labor Party of being friends of the communists, if not communists themselves, and supporters of Stalin. He then, in making a most extraordinary alleged quotation from Stalin, said that Stalin had claimed at some stage that social democrats and communists were brothers.
What a remarkable rewriting of the history of the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s and the 1950s. Anybody who is aware of the history of that period would know that Stalin’s slogan was: Scratch a social democrat and find a social fascist’. It was Stalin who organised the campaign by the German Communist Party in collusion with the German Nazi Party to bring down the social democratic government in Prussia in 1931. There was no more committed enemy of the social democrats and of the principles for which the Australian Labor Party stands than was Stalin himself. Indeed, the only reference that I can remember about brothers- and it was certainly not the remark that Senator Lajovic, this latter-day Haldane, attributed to Stalin, that social democrats and communists are twin brothers- is the exchange that once took place between Otto Grotewohl. the leader of the socalled Socialist Unity Party, the communist party of East Germany and Kurt Schumacher, the great socialist social democratic leader in West Germany. Grotewohl said to Schumacher: Communists and Social Democrats are really brothers’, to which Schumacher replied: ‘Yes, like Cain and Abel’. Senator Lajovic, in bleating about his misfortune in being accused of being a fascist and going on to accuse the Australian Labor Party of being communist, shows not only his hypocrisy in relation to these questions but also his ignorance of history.
– You must be very sensitive. He did not say that at all.
– I must be what?
– Very sensitive; he did not say that at all.
-Then I invite you to look at Hansard before it is corrected.
– George Lukacs said that.
-You said Stalin said it. It was not Stalin; it was George Lukacs? The honourable senator says that George Lukacs has quoted Stalin. I would like him to show me the quotation. But if he did say that he certainly contradicted himself both in words and in practice. I find it very strange to hear somebody, who objects to personal abuse and who objects to attributing to people ideologies other than those which they claim to hold, doing the same thing himself at a time when he is supposed to be exposing the evil which has been done him.
To return to what Senator Lajovic was saying about Senator James McClelland, Senator Lajovic apparently is of the opinion that Senator James McClelland was inciting urban guerillas by his reference to the Governor-General. I have never been aware of Senator James McClelland ‘s having any affinity with the Baader-Meinhof gang or other guerilla groups. In fact I would have thought that Senator James McClelland, as other members of the Australian Labor Party have done, was exposing the fact that through the actions of Kerr while he was the Governor-General of Australia the whole democratic constitutional parliamentary system was brought into contempt amongst a great many Australian people. Whether Senator Lajovic likes it or not, the fact is that whenever this is done, whenever you find a substantial body of people who do not believe that the democratic system is fair and just but that they are living under an un-democratic system, you find that they do turn to violence. If we ever find substantial urban guerilla activity within Australia, the man whose name should stand at the head of the list of responsibility for that sad state of affairs will be Kerr, the man who is now looking after our educational, scientific and cultural affairs in Paris.
I do not want to dwell on Senator Lajovic and I do not want to dwell on Kerr. The sooner he vacates his present occupation and retires into oblivion, the better it will be for the Australian people and certainly the better it will be for Paris. What I would like to talk about, however, is a matter which received very cursory attention indeed in the Governor-General’s Speech; that is, the question of international affairs. I invite honourable senators to look at the GovernorGeneral’s Speech where they will find a few bromides and a few platitudes about Australia’s friendly relations with the United States of America and about how the Commonwealth of Nations is going from strength to strength. But there is no theme, no policy about what Australia proposes to do in the future about the very many serious problems that confront this country as they confront all other countries at the present time in the field of international relations.
I think one of the most important events which has taken place over recent years, however little it may so far have accomplished, has been the statement by the President of the United States of America shortly after his election that in future the United States Administration would not look merely at the national interests of the United States of America in assessing its relations with foreign countries but would also look at the human rights of citizens within foreign countries. It would look at not only those countries with which in the past it was unfriendly- countries such as the Soviet Union or China- but also countries with which the United States had had friendly relations, countries such as Argentina and Uraguay. There is no doubt that however difficult it may have been and however little may appear to have been accomplished, the very fact that the President of the most powerful country in the world once again drew attention to the lack of human rights in so many countries and said that the foreign policy of such a mighty country would have as its objective achieving human rights for people in a number of different countries is a significant change from what we have been used to in the recent history of the world.
It is not so long ago, only a decade or two, that the ‘Free World’ was the expression used by the United States and the supporters of the United States. John Foster Dulles, that powerful figure in the formulation of American foreign policy and for so many years Secretary of State in the United States Administration, when asked to define what he meant by the ‘free world’ said he meant those countries which were free from Soviet domination and undue Soviet influence. That was all that was meant by being free. It did not matter how dictatorial it was inside a country, whether it be the Greek colonels, Park in South Korea, whether it was South Africa or the dictatorship in Bolivia, so long as the country was free from Soviet influence it was part of the free world. It has to be said of President Carter that he has dropped this sort of terminology. However little may have been accomplished he has turned the clock back in a desirable way, back to an era when leading statesmen in Western countries were concerned about the human rights of people in the most scattered parts of the globe.
One can recollect that in the nineteenth century Gladstone, the British. Prime Minister for so many years and one of the most powerful figures in Britain in the nineteenth century, was able to devote a large part of his time and writing to the exposure of the persecution of Bulgarian Christians. One of the ingredients making up the formulation of British foreign policy, not only under Gladstone but even earlier under the more conservative Palmerston, was directed to the achievement of or the endeavour to achieve human rights for people, for victims of the slave trade, people suffering under the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Czarist empire. When one compares this with the situation which prevailed, at least until President Carter achieved office, when national leaders felt that however much suffering took place in other countries it was no concern of their governments, that the only concern of their governments was to look after their own citizens and what they regarded as being the national interests of their countries, this is certainly a considerable step forward.
As I understand it, in the past members of the present Government, the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), have said that they support this policy and the extension of human rights throughout the world. What did they have to say about it in the Governor-General’s Speech, a speech written for him by the present Government? Not one word whatsoever. Once again, as throughout the 1 950s and the 1 960s we find Australia taking a more conservative, reactionary and unproductive position on human values than that of the United States, even in that country’s most conservative era under the Eisenhower Administration.
I repeat, not one word was said on human rights in the Governor-General ‘s Speech.
There was no mention of the situation in East Timor. If anything, it shows the real position and the hypocrisy of the present Government. One should compare the position it adopted towards the Baltic States and the position it adopted over East Timor. On the one hand it said that it was quite improper to recognise de jure the incorporation of the Baltic States within the Soviet Union because they had been acquired by force; there was no act of self determination by the people of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia; they had been incorporated into the Soviet Union against their will. It was said that this was wrong, that it was something that ought to be remedied and this Government would revoke the previous Government’s recognition of that incorporation.
Hard on the heels of that statement came another statement, that the Government recognised the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia, an incorporation which took place in precisely the same way as the Soviet Union’s incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia into the Soviet Union. It was by force, without an act of self determination and against the will of the people who lived there. If it is argued, as someone may well argue, that the Australian Labor Party while in office recognised the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union, I wish to make my own position clear, Mr President. That is that I do not approve of the action that was taken then. I do not believe that a majority of members of the Australian Labor Party approve of the action that was taken then. It was not in the policy of the Australian Labor Party. I hope that any future Australian Labor Party Government would see that no such de jure recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union would continue under an Australian Labor Party Government. Certainly I was not consulted and I do not think any of my colleagues were consulted about it.
– You were a Minister then.
-As Senator Devitt has reminded us I was a Minister at the time and when it came before the Senate I made my views on the matter quite clear. I am not speaking solely for myself. I believe I am speaking for a clear majority of my colleagues and a clear majority of members and supporters of the ALP. To make some debating point about what the Australian Labor Party did or did not do is quite irrelevant to what this Government has done. This Government has adopted a posture of principle with regard to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, countries at the other end of the world where Australia has virtually no influence whatsoever; but it has adopted a quite different position with regard to East Timor, which is right on the very borders of Australia, nearer to Western Australia than is Canberra. At the same time it has shrouded itself in a mist of humbug about its dedication to fine principles which are occasionally adumbrated for us, in however garbled a manner, by Senator Lajovic.
– There has been no de jure recognition of the situation in East Timor.
-There has been no de jure recognition of East Timor.
– It makes a difference.
– If I may say so, with the greatest respect to Senator Baume, I do not believe that in the case of East Timor the distinction between de jure and de facto recognition is a relevant distinction because once we have given de facto recognition to the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia, by so doing, ipso facto, no longer are we continuing any son of campaign for an act of self determination. It is a sign that we no longer oppose its incorporation. Apart from a few bits of legal verbiage- I think this is one occasion when one can talk about legal verbiage as not having any substance- what is the difference between the Australian Government ‘s saying it gives de facto recognition or de jure recognition to the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia? I do not see it, at all.
I fear that one of the besetting sins of the present Government is its inability independently to hold a foreign policy. That was its problem during the 1950s and the 1960s when Australia followed in the wake of the United States of America; when we had a Prime Minister who said that his motto was ‘All the way with LBJ’; when we had governments which did not step out of line with the United States of America except on those rare occasions when they could find someone farther to the right than the United States. This occurred at the time of the Suez crisis. That was the only time they disagreed with the United States of America, then the United States took a sensible position on the withdrawal of Anglo-French forces and Australia took a position which seemed to suggest that Eisenhower was an undercover communist. Apart from that occasion when they disagreed with the United States from the right they did not vary from the policy of the United States in any significant way whatsoever. Throughout the world national liberation movements have suddenly become respectable. For a mixture of reasons, including, I think it is fair to say, the genuine humanitarian convictions of people such as Mr Young, the present United States Ambassador to the United Nations and probably Mr Carter and Mr Mondale, the United States feels sympathy for the various national liberation movements in Africa- a sympathy which I do not doubt is accentuated by the fact that those people know that there is a 20 per cent non-white electorate inside the United States of America which would also have some views on this subject.
– It certainly would be understanding.
-That is right. The United States of America has now taken a position in which it is certainly in opposition to if not in confrontation with the present regimes in Rhodesia or Zimbabwe and the Republic of
South Africa. I shall speak briefly about both of those countries. I believe that through not having our own policy but merely going along with a trend we could find ourselves in a very difficult position. The whole world could be in a very difficult position. These are situations to which the Australian Government could make some contribution in helping to find a settlement. For example, at present two sets of negotiations are taking place concerning Rhodesia. There are the so-called internal settlement negotiations between the illegal Smith regime, which clearly represents the overwhelming majority of the white inhabitants of Rhodesia and certain Rhodesian African national organisations which in the past, at any rate, appeared to have the allegiance of a fairly substantial number of Rhodesian Africans. Other meetings are taking place at which the United States and Britain appear to be taking the leading role as the foreign powers- this is not an occasion when the Soviet Union, China, Cuba or other forces are involved- that are pressing for the so-called external settlement with the Patriotic Front in Rhodesia.
I do not have the slightest idea- I do not think anybody else has- what is the Australian Government’s position on these matters. What does it say? Rhodesia is a country on which we could exert some influence. Some of the leading white people in Rhodesia are themselves of Australian origin. Colonel Knox, Air Vice-Marshal Hawkins and Mr O’Donnell, who is or was the Secretary of the Rhodesian Department of External Affairs, are all former Australians. Some of them are still travelling on Australian passports. What does the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) have to say about that? What does the Government say about it? Do we believe that there is some possibility of an internal settlement by Smith’s negotiations with the people who are prepared to negotiate with him or does the Australian Government say that they are quite useless and agree with the position taken by Dr Owen and Mr Young that a 24 per cent representation for whites in the Rhodesian Parliament is too high? I do not know. I do not think anybody else knows.
This situation could cause untold bloodshed but not one word have we heard from the Government about what is its policy, what representations it has made or what it has said to the British, the Americans, the white Rhodesians or any of the conflicting African forces. If we are to avoid a bloodbath in Africa we will have to talk about settlements. Countries such as Australia which are geographically closer than the United States and which have a historical association with many of the white South Africans and the white Rhodesians ought to be playing a part in the settlement of these disputes.
Recently the Minister for Foreign Affairs attended an anti-apartheid conference at Lagos in Nigeria. A statement was issued at it condemning apartheid. I certainly would not disagree with that. I do not think any member of the Australian Labor Party would disagree with a resolution condemning apartheid. But, having condemned apartheid, what do we do? What happens? Having condemned it do we then say that that is all we need to do and that that is the end of the matter? Is it to be like saying one’s prayers at night? I apologise to those who believe that that does make some difference. Is voting for a motion moved by somebody at Lagos merely some form of incantation? Should we simply hope that all sorts of good things will follow from it or should we do something about it?
I may digress from the views of some of my colleagues on this matter, but I believe that talking about military confrontation- with or without the assistance of the Cubans, Russians or Chinese- with the present Government of the Republic of South Africa is asking for a massive bloodbath which will not only bring about the extermination of the whites in South Africa, which may or may not matter, but also bring about at the very least the decimation of the black African population at the same time. Over four million white people live in South Africa. They are a very significant part of the population. They are technologically highly advanced, particularly in the field of military technology. They have a divided non-white population against them. I know the South African Government likes to exaggerate but without any exaggeration there are very great differences between the Indian minority, the coloured minority and the African majority and within the African majority itself. Despite the exaggerations- I am not relying on handouts from the South African Embassy in saying thisthere are real differences, political and ethnic within the African population. They are not in a position to rebel and take military action against the South African Government with its highly sophisticated weaponry, administration and armed forces.
Carrying resolutions in Lagos calling for the end to apartheid and taking no position whatsoever on the Soviet and Cuban presence in Africa is once again merely striking a posture instead of having a policy. What do we say are the minimum requirements which the South African
Government would need to fulfil before we would be prepared to regard it as acceptable in any way? I have heard nothing from the Australian Government as to what it believes to be a minimum requirement of the South African Government before we would be prepared to say that it is making progress towards the elimination of apartheid and adverse racial discrimination.
It is interesting that some people try to avert the legitimate criticisms which are being made of South Africa by saying that people who are prepared to criticise South Africa are not criticising torture in Haiti, the Central African Empire or some other place. As the Rand Daily Mail, which is one of the leading South African newspapers, said a month or so ago in a leading article, the difference is that whatever divisions there may be between the other nations of the world all the nations of the world have united in condemning racialism. They may not have united in condemning other forms of oppression but they have united in condemning racialism. I believe that this is quite proper. I believe that they should have done so. But merely to condemn racialism is not sufficient in seeking a solution to the problems of South Africa.
There are some hopeful signs within South Africa. In the elections held in South Africa in 1974, which were elections in which only whites were able to vote, the Progressive Party- a party which may be a capitalist party and which may have all sorts of planks in its platform with which I would not agree but which is certainly a party that is committed to racial equality within South Africa and an equal voice for all citizens in the government of South Africa- won seven seats, having won only one seat in the previous elections when Mrs Suzman, who for many years was its only member, was re-elected. In the most recent elections held in South Africa, despite the fact that the National Party gained an overwhelming majority in the South African House of Assembly, the Progressive Federal Party, which is a new party that is committed to the same basic policies as the older Progressive Party, achieved the election of 17 members. I know that this is a small number of members in a House with 165 members. It is even smaller than the Labor Opposition in the Australian Parliament. I agree that it is small, but the very fact that one is able to find amongst white South Africans enough voters in 1 7 electorates to give a majority to people who are openly committed to racial equality shows that there is a substantial number of white people within South Africa who do believe in racial equality.
What are we saying to those people? What are we saying to those people who voted for the National Party or who support the National Party in South Africa because they believe that the only way in which they can influence South African policies is to belong to the Party which appears clearly to have the majority support of the white population permanently? What are we saying to these people? What are the minimum requirements which we accept that they must meet?
I suggest that by merely carrying motions condemning apartheid but not exercising any good offices whatsoever with any of the African national organisations, without applying to the white population of South Africa any pressure directed towards any particular goal, the Government is being shockingly derelict in its duty. Having once mouthed sentiments of sympathy for white South Africans, it is now mouthing platitudinous generalities of condemnation; but there is the same total lack of policy in both. South Africa is an area which, if it becomes convulsed in violence, could involve the whole world. It is an area which is close to Australia. It is an area on which Australia could have influence. It is an area about which this Government has said nothing of any use whatsoever. This inactivity typifies the whole of this Government’s approach to foreign policy and it typifies the Governor-General’s Speech.
– The debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply provides one of the more formal occasions in a parliamentary session and provides an opportunity for strong political comment, as it indeed should. It also provides, I suggest, the opportunity for some attention to be directed towards matters which may not be convenient to raise in debates on other legislative matters. This is a debate which I believe should be completed with some briskness and some dispatch. Indeed, as its very name suggests, it should be in every sense of the word an addressinreply.
Firstly, I offer my congratulations to South Australia ‘s new Senator, Senator Haines, on her maiden speech. I am quite sure that the emphasis she placed on a variety of matters but particularly on education and its practical needs will find a ready and interested response. Senator Haines came to the Senate in what might be described as peculiar circumstances, filling a casual vacancy which was caused by an unusual situation. The very circumstances called upon the South Australian Government to take note of a constitutional amendment. This amendment was approved, of course, by a majority of people but it was strongly disapproved of by others on the grounds that political parties in their growth, development and in their response to various environmental circumstances can undergo some changes, and indeed some strange changes. We have seen this happen in history, and I have no doubt that it will happen again. I have no doubt it will provide further problems for State governments from time to time, but whatever those circumstances Senator Haines has arrived to grace the Senate until 30 June. She has already applied herself to her duties and in a variety of ways has given evidence that she will involve herself in many areas and will make a contribution to the Parliament. We renew our congratulations to her. We wish her a very satisfying stay in the Senate.
I turn to the motion before the Senate this evening. I support the motion moved by Senator Walters and seconded by Senator Collard. I hope that it will be adopted soon. We were pleased to have the new Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, and Lady Cowen here on the opening day of Parliament last week. The opening ceremony for them was one of a number of appointments in a very long day. I have a special personal appreciation for their attendance early in that day at the tenth annual church service to mark the commencement of the parliamentary year. His Excellency read one of the lessons; the Reverend Principal Inglis preached. Some 400 people were present.
The role of Sir Zelman as Governor-General at present is what we are particularly interested in. The present state of Australia is in need of what I will call an attitude of consensus rather than one of confrontation. His Excellency’s Australia Day statements gave some indication of the statements which he is adopting towards his present tour of duty. Many people are seeking ways of expressing this consensus and interpreting it. I get a very strong feeling that Sir Zelman is giving a lead in this situation and Australia will be indebted to him for his efforts. His already apparent humanitarian approach indicates something of his attitude to his office.
The opening sentence of His Excellency’s Speech referred to the recent meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government of the Asian and Pacific regions. As honourable senators will know, it is very difficult to assess the values of meetings of Heads of Government coming from a variety of countries. It is difficult to assess the value of such meetings in the same way as it is difficult to assess the value of international conferences of any kind. Truly they are impressive occasions and they bring together a wide variety of people. There is always an atmosphere of opportunity to develop good relationships and even better relationships. This recent Heads of Government meeting was an Australian initiative. The tragic circumstances of the bombing incident marred the conference considerably. It is to the credit of the participants that they brought the meeting to a good conclusion. The communique issued at the close of the meeting noted:
Heads of Government welcomed the Australian Government’s initiative in proposing the Meeting which they felt provided a valuable opportunity at the regional level to discuss matters of common interest, including problems of a global nature, from the varied viewpoints and perspectives of their several countries.
The communique went on to indicate that a number of practical decisions had been made about economic and functional co-operation. They included the setting up of several working groups on a number of subjects. Four in particular that I recall were trade, energy, drugs and terrorism. It is well known that the Heads of Government agreed to meet again in Delhi in two years’ time to review the progress that has been made. More particularly they agreed to instruct the secretariat in London to provide the machinery so that the various decisions made can be appropriately, regularly and adequately followed up. The Heads of Government had discussions on topics ranging from political to economic issues and Australia took the opportunity, as I think it was quite appropriate, to make a number of announcements on trade, development assistance to countries represented at the meeting, including loan assistance, trade survey missions going to a number of countries, market survey assistance to India and a whole series of items relating to grain storage technology as well as some funding for a series of international aid projects.
It is important to record the Heads of Government noted in their communique that the countries of the Commonwealth whose leaders gathered at the conference together contain nearly one-fifth of the world’s population and are scattered over a whole hemisphere of the earth’s surface. The countries represented have a wide variety of human and natural resources with many pressing problems of population and development. I think it is of significance that the communique stressed that the area was, in the view of the Heads of Government, one of key importance to the world’s future. The Heads of Government believed that this factor was too frequently overlooked and that the region and its problems deserved a greater share of international attention and recognition. It is very important to stress this fact because of Western style countries Australia is the most affluent and indeed the strongest of the nations within this part of the world.
It is interesting to reflect back to when the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was Prime Minister and when, speaking here in this building on the occasion of a visit of Her Majesty the Queen, he reminded his audience of the extent of the Commonwealth in this pan of the world and the nature of the countries which make up the Commonwealth of Nations in this area. I was pleased to note that in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting there was a realistic approach to the fact that there had been an unfortunate delay in introducing measures designed to stabilise commodity prices at levels which did not have an adverse consequence on the producing and consuming nations alike. The Heads of Government noted that the continuing instability in commodity prices and the sharp decline in the price of some commodities were not only adversely affecting development in all producing countries but also aggravating the already very serious balance of payments situation.
The Heads of Government agreed to promote action in the appropriate international forums to secure greater progress in these kinds of negotiations and resolved to look again at the resolutions of the Fourth Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Communiques do not solve the problems of international gatherings; they do not solve the problems of the developing nations in our part of the world. The various styles of administration in the various nations with all their differences add another dimension. However, as I think we all agree, every step must be taken in this matter. This regional conference was another step. I think that it was very useful indeed.
Associated with any heads of government conference are not only the heads of government and the departmental officers and others who accompany them, but also, as is appropriate, representatives from legislatures from which Prime Ministers and heads of government come and from which they derive their authority. Because the recent CHOGRM conference was a Commonwealth occasion it placed importance on Commonwealth matters and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association received recognition. Australia is a leading member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, not only for its contribution as a Commonwealth, but also for the efforts and contributions made by the States.
Because the CHOGRM conference was a Commonwealth conference the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association received recognition. The headquarters in London sent a message drawing attention to that Association’s role in the various negotiations that had been carried out between several parliaments. The Australian regional representative was recognised. The agenda for discussion at the CHOGRM conference reflected again the issues to which the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has been drawing attention in its recent conferences. One does not suggest that conferences such as CHOGRM or CPA conferences provide all the answers to all the questions, but I think they point out to all participants and indeed to all people who watch the proceedings of such conferences not only the problems which exist but also, I suggest, the problems which exist within the solutions to those problems.
One looks with approval upon such a conference but also looks with a recognition of all the related factors and, indeed, with a practical concern about such a conference. One looks at the role of the Commonwealth of Nations in a modern world. My experience in this area leads me to note with interest the way in which new and developing nations not only seek to belong to the Commonwealth but also seek and desire to retain their membership of the Commonwealth. What is more, they seek and desire to use the various instrumentalities within the Commonwealth for the development of not only their economies but also and particularly their government instrumentalities. There are an enormous number of Commonwealth organisations in the world which bring together a great range of disciplines and professions and provide a great range of opportunities, scholarships and foundations. Of course, international aid takes on a special significance.
The Commonwealth of Nations is a unique organisation possessing a kind of practical mystique. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, as the senior Commonwealth organisation, takes a leading role and has been part of the process which has established so many of the features of the Commonwealth. On this first day of March 1978 I am reminded of a motion moved in this Senate on 10 March 1977 by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers), calling attention to the proclamation of Commonwealth Day, the initiative in respect of which was taken jointly by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth
Parliamentary Association. Speaking to the motion, Senator Withers said:
Nowhere else, not even in the United Nations, do more than 30 heads of government come together as they do at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and spend a week or so discussing major issues concerning the world.
The Government -
That is, our Government- regards the Commonwealth as a significant force for cooperation and understanding in the international community and believes it should be used to make a real contribution to resolving contemporary international problems.
The motion, which was carried by the Senate that day, commended the maintenance of the institution of the Commonwealth as a unique forum for discussion and the exchange of ideas between member countries, irrespective of race, creed, culture or colour. The final paragraph of the motion read:
That the terms of this resolution be conveyed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
I therefore hope that in due course there might well be another ministerial statement relating to Commonwealth Day, simply because it carries with it the overtones of the kind of negotiation which forms part of CHOGRM conferences, one of which was held in Australia quite recently. I hope that the Parliament will again indicate its support not only for the Commonwealth but also for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as it is the institution of Parliament which is the spearhead of the parliaments of the Commonwealth, and the parliamentary governments throughout the Commonwealth become the cornerstones of this group of very diverse but nevertheless very important nations.
This reference to the role of the Commonwealth and of the parliaments within the Commonwealth brings me to the portion of the Governor-General’s Speech in which he refers to the place of parliament in the program which His Excellency was pleased to put before us. I welcomed the reference not only to Parliament but also to parliamentary committees. Of course, the reference in His Excellency’s Speech to the development of parliamentary committees is nothing new: Parliamentary committees, particularly Senate committees, have been operating for some time. The Senate gave the lead in parliamentary committees and has continued to do so for some considerable time. I think the time has come when the role and performance of Senate committees must be recognised further. They must be understood and encouraged. Indeed, they must be looked at again for purposes of necessary reform. If the Parliament and the Senate are to survive, if the Parliament and the Senate are to be relevant and useful, there must be a greater recognition and reconsideration by the Government of the role of the Senate committees.
I have expressed my disappointment at the fact that governments of recent years seem to disregard some of the work of Senate committees. This reflects something of the address given by Professor Reid, to which earlier references have been made in this debate. I make no apology for again drawing the attention of the Senate to this address. Professor Reid, in his address to the Australian Institute of Political Science, drew attention to what he described as the Senate having succeeded because the Senate, he said, has borne the responsibility, through one of its committees, for the scrutiny of the expanding volume of delegated legislation. He also pointed out that for a number of years the Senate through its several standing committees, has been bearing most of the burden of providing a parliamentary oversight of Executive departments. Only the Senate, he said, is attempting to subject the annual estimates of expenditure to a scrutiny by parliamentary committees each year, and in a series of succeeding sentences he points out the way in which the Senate has established not only its authority but also is applying itself to day-to-day legislation and looking at the way in which funds are being spent and decisions are being made. However, he added:
But despite the Senate’s contribution to the parliamentary function in Australia, successive post-war Prime Ministers . . . have all expressed impatience with itparticularly its obstruction of their Government ‘s legislation. And now Prime Minister Fraser has presented again to the electorate . . . referendum proposal which, if passed, would have strengthened the Executive Government’s bargaining power with senators empowering it at any time to threaten to take senators to the polls, with the House of Representatives . . .
He added that all these Prime Ministerial initiatives to curb the Senate have failed. Later on he said:
The elected Senate has managed initiatives independently of the Executive Government but it is a threatened institution for doing so.
I take the liberty of mentioning these remarks because this is an occasion on which we review the activities of Parliament and in particular put on record the importance, the role and the responsibility of the Senate.
Senators are not looking for extra privileges but they are seeking to make this House and its work relevant and effective. In our Senate proceedings the present system of second reading debates in my view does not meet the contemporary situation. The process of three readings is essential but we cease to be a States house or a house of review if we simply repeat performances in another place. The time has come for thrashing out in detail the role of Senate committees, to give them the opportunity to look at details of legislation under appropriate committee circumstances. I am not suggesting for a minute that a committee system will solve all the problems. We may have to go through programs and processes of further review before we find an effective, efficient and satisfactory system. After all, we are all politicians and we will continue to differ. Politics occurs because of the diversity in society. Because this diversity makes itself felt in a form of disagreement about how government ought to act, we will continue to disagree and differ whether we be in this place or in a committee room.
I suggest that the time has come for serious attempt to make the Senate more effective. The first step could be a new look at the committee system as it affects legislative matters because I am convinced that this will bring the pattern and processes of government closer both to the Parliament and the people.
- Senator, do you think that if the Water Pollution Committee’s recommendations had been adopted in full it would have been indicative of the powers of Senate committees?
-Senator Mulvihill has answered his own question because the recommendations of that excellent and splendid Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution have not been adopted in total by any government. It is true that some of the sentiments expressed in its recommendations- and Senator Mulvihill had a notable and leading part in drawing up those recommendations- have found their way into legislation but what irritates me, as the honourable senator very well knows, is that no Minister or government of any persuasion has acknowledged that fact. Coming back to the point I was making about committees examining legislative measures, I do not think that a government of any persuasion should feel that the end of its political world had come simply because one of its Bills had been amended in some way. In my view that would cast no serious reflection on a Minister or anyone else connected with the Bill. A system such as I am trying to formulate will strengthen the confidence of the people in the legislature and the parliamentary system.
More than one speaker in this AddressinReply debate has drawn attention to the fact that parliament has not got a very good image in the eyes of the Australian people and the only people who can rectify that situation are members of the Parliament. The AddressinReply debate, in its generality, provides a good opportunity to express and to repeat this point of view. The Senate committee system deserves the attention of the Parliament and I welcome the Governor-General’s reference to it. It is not sufficient to say, as His Excellency has said, that it will provide for greater scrutiny. Members of parliamentary committees must be provided with more opportunity for positive approach rather than be concerned with merely looking at things that have happened.
My dialogue with Senator Mulvihill a few moments ago indicates something of our concern and interest in this matter. We are critical of lack of response and lack of recognition of our committees. It is only natural, I suppose, that members of committees react when they appear to be overlooked. It is true that governments and other statutory authorities have taken some notice of committee recommendations in the past but I do not think that they now take as much notice of them as they used to. I noted with appreciation the reference in His Excellency’s Speech to the Government’s proposal to provide further assistance for education of children in isolated areas. The matter of the education of children in isolated areas was referred from the Senate to the Senate Committee on Education and the Arts, which later brought down a report. I appreciate the fact that the Government is noting some of the recommendations in that Senate Committee ‘s report.
I want to continue speaking for a moment or two in relation to the area of parliament in order to refer to the important matter of information services. This is something with which I have had some association, not only in South Australia but also here as the representative of the Senate on the Council of the National Library. It is important to say again that there is a quiet revolution going on in the field of information sciences and too few people are aware of it. Certainly parliaments and governments are not sufficiently aware of it. The introduction of computerised data collection, the storage, search and retrieval of information, is changing the whole nature of information sciences and disciplines and the amount of information which is available. It is important that information should be available not only to leaders of industry and commerce but also throughout the community. The library system throughout Australia should be able to provide information services to communities wherever they are because information is already established as a national resource and should be regarded as such by governments and parliaments. In the world of parliament the information sciences are becoming particularly relevant to Parliament because if members are properly to discharge their responsibility as legislators not only within this Parliament but also among their constituents they must have the best resources that information sciences can provide. 1 wish that the National Library could have greater freedom for development than is presently available to it and that the Parliamentary Library, with its legislative research service, dealing as it does with a wide range of mattersincluding the matter of its futures, following very hard on the heels of the Congressional Research Service in Washington- could be developed not just for the convenience of members of parliament but also to facilitate an effective appraisal of policy matters and their inferences for members of the community.
The Governor-General’s Speech contained many features relating to priorities, economic policies, rural communities, social policies, civil rights, environment and the sciences and all these matters will find expression in the various legislative measures that will be brought forward in this session and discussed. I look forward to taking part in those discussions. I reject the amendment and support the original motion.
– I support the amendment which was so ably moved by Senator Wriedt and which comments critically on the failure of the Government to deal adequately with the record levels of unemployment, the failure of the Government to deal with the serious uncertainty which exists in the Australian economy and the ignoring of the serious international recession which faces the world as well as on a number of other matters which were dealt with by Senator Wriedt. I agree that traditionally the Address-in-Reply debate gives honourable senators an opportunity to talk about problems generally, but what I have found most disappointing about this debate so far is that not one of the Government supporters has endeavoured to grapple with the grave problems which are besetting this country. In their desire to speak they have ignored the basic issues which are facing this country. One of those issues is the economic uncertainty and all that flows from that.
Senator Wheeldon put his finger upon the failure of the Governor-General’s Speech to give any sort of lead in respect of foreign affairs. We can apply that criteria in respect of economic matters and the failure of Government supporters to grasp the nettle in that regard. As a consequence it has been left to the Opposition to point to the deficiencies which exist in the Governor-General’s Speech and to contrast that Speech with the Speeches which were associated with the opening of the twenty-eighth and twentyninth Parliaments, one by Her Majesty and the other by the previous Governor-General. In relation to those Speeches supporters of the Government went on the record in both Houses of the Parliament as seeking to explain and defend the policies of their Government.
It is a sad commentary that not one Government speaker to date has sought to defend the deficiencies in the Governor-General’s Speech. It was a tedious speech. It was a dull speech. It was a speech which reiterated what was said in the Speech delivered some two years ago. Unfortunately, those Speeches have not contributed to the important public debate which ought to be taking place in this country about the state of the economy. We are lectured by Government supporters that we should forget the past and concern ourselves with the future, that we should never raise again the infamy of 1 1 November 1 975 and that we should not speak in the Parliament or elsewhere about the deceptive roleleaving aside the rights or wrongs of the matterwhich the former Governor-General played during that period. As the former Governor-General deceived not only the elected government but also his friends in the Labor movement, one can understand why from time to time very strongly voiced views are expressed by those members of Parliament who are rightly aggrieved about the actions of the Governor-General.
We are asked to turn our thoughts forward. All I can say is that the contributions made by honourable senators on the Government side have not been very thoughtful in relation to meeting our problems, with one or two exceptions. One or two Government senators made contributions in a general sense which were interesting. For example, I found some compassion in the speech made by Senator Missen and some reasoning in the views he expressed about the issues he raised. I found some interest in the speech made by the new senator- Senator Haines. Importantly, she drew attention to the fact that this Government, in terms of numerical support, does not enjoy the majority support of the Australia people. If this Government relies entirely upon the general public as part of its general strategy to get the economy movingthat is, it expects consumer demands to increase, one is entitled to say that the Australian people are not responding. During the two years that this Government has been in office the real value of wages- the purchasing power of the general mass of people, the consumers- has been reduced by approximately $10 per week and savings are increasing. So I do not think we are entitled to say that this Government can rely automatically upon the support of the Australian people.
Some honourable senators, including Senator Davidson, who was the previous speaker, have talked about the role of the Parliament. The very cynicism of this Government, as expressed in the Speech of the Governor-General, the very cynicism of Senator Withers and the very cynicism of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) are one reason why many people in Australia are disillusioned with the parliamentary system. I think it has to be recognised by those who claim to support parliamentary democracy that a very sizeable minority of Australians have lost faith in the Parliament as a place for genuine debate. Those honourable senators who have raised matters about the Parliament must surely be unhappy about the way in which the Parliament functions. What ideas are thrown into the melting pot in parliamentary debates? Very few ideas are taken up and debated in the way in which debates should take place. We are entitled to say that debates in this place have very little meaning unless the subject matter of the debates is grappled with fully. There is little evidence from the contributions made so far by Government senators that they have learnt very much about the events of the last few years. Certainly, not one honourable senator on the Government side has gone on to the offensive or developed any initiative about the economic issues which beset this country. Opening the thirty-first Parliament, just eight days ago, the Governor-General stated:
My Government’s resolve is strengthened by this decisive expression -
He was referring to the results of the election- of the people’s conviction that the basic direction of the Government’s policies reflects their aspirations and interests.
If that is true the Government must have a very perverse view of the aspirations and interests of the Australian people because they are just not responding to all the blandishments of this Government. There is abundant evidence from intellectuals and from the community generally that there is not a great deal of confidence in the Parliament performing a proper function. What is the basic direction of the Government’s policies? It is towards ultra-conservative monetary and fiscal policies of a type which have long since been rejected by other Western developed nations. These policies are leading to higher and higher unemployment. There are now 445,000 people out of work with every prospect of that figure rising in the future.
When the present Prime Minister was the shadow minister for Labour and Industry some four years ago he berated the Australian Labor Party Government about unemployment and said that within a year or two about 400,000 people would be out of work. Little did we know at the time that the Labor Government would be overthrown in the way it was. Little did we appreciate that the man who made that comment would himself be presiding over a substantial increase in the numbers of unemployed, exceeding the figures of the Great Depression. Not only do we have such a large number of people out of work with every prospect of that figure rising but also we have the attendant waste of resources, social dislocation and misery. The Government’s policies are leading towards reduced standards of living for the vast majority of Australians not only through the decline in real wages but also through a reduction in the scope and efficiency of services provided throughout the public sector. We reject out of hand any suggestion that the services provided in the public sector are not serious matters for the consideration of Parliament and the Australian people.
Confronted with a continuation of such policies, can Australians look to the future with a new-found confidence or to a future made bleak and uncertain with declining standards of living and the threat of unemployment hanging over each and every one of them. It was interesting to hear Senator Lajovic say that the unemployed of this country had been made scapegoats for the deficiencies of the capitalist system. The unemployed are being hunted, harassed, persecuted and libelled by many government speakers, by many people in the media, and by too many people in the Australian community who have no responsibility for the inability of the unemployed to find jobs. That comment applies particularly to the last two years, when something like 100,000 jobs in this country have actually disappeared as a result of the economic policies pursued by the Government.
Prospects for the future are not such as to inspire confidence, and especially is that true given the Government’s failure, as evidenced by the Governor-General’s Speech, to recognise the true nature of the Australian economy and the fact that our current problems arise from that nature. Even such an eminent economist as P. P. McGuinness, writing last weekend in the
National Times, argued that the Government’s policies are ill suited to the current economic environment. The Government has been following blindly, and has given every indication that it will continue to do so, conservative monetarist policies placing prime emphasis on reducing the rate of expansion of the money supply in the forlorn hope that it will cure the evil of inflation, as though inflation was the only problem and was caused by the working people of this country. Unfortunately, such an approach to controlling inflation tends to have its major initial impact on output and employment, with the effect on prices coming much more slowly. McGuinness went on to say that this is because modern economies are not the smoothly working competitive mechanisms that traditional economic theory takes for granted.
More than that, at the same time the Prime Minister has been interfering in the economy in such a way as to ensure that there will be still less rather than more price and employment flexibility. He is in fact adding to the social costs of his ill-conceived and ill-fitting policies. McGuinness pointed out that it is not part of an effective monetarist anti-inflationary policy to attempt artificially to control interest rates or to bring them down in anticipation of a reduction in the rate of inflation. In the second place, additional market sharing arrangements, import restrictions and tariff barriers tend to add to inflation, and it can be argued that any employment created by such protective measures will be offset by the restrictive fiscal policies required to compensate for this extra inflation. Yet none of those matters has been raised to date by Government speakers in the debate. Even when judged on traditional economic standards, the Prime Minister’s economic policies emerge in abysmal disarray. As most honourable senators will realise, however, I am not accustomed to looking at things from a conservative point of view. Thus I am of the opinion that criticism of the Fraser Government can be carried well beyond the point at which McGuinness leaves off.
I believe that our current problems are more than the result of a temporary disruption of the growth paths to which we have become accustomed. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that for the next 15 years there is unlikely to be any relief from Australia’s relentlessly rising unemployment. We will see a further decline in the labour intensive industries that helped to make Australia and the West prosperous in the postwar years, with nothing emerging to replace them. No proposals have been put by this
Government to replace the movement towards capital intensive industries as opposed to labour intensive industries. Ownership of household consumer items such as cars, washing machines and refrigerators is approaching saturation point. The only growth will be in the replacement of obsolete or irrepairable items by the substitution of colour television sets for black and white sets, for example. What then are our alternatives? Are they to shift from the labour intensive industries in our industrial structure to more specialised capital intensive industrial or mining operations? Will they be capable of providing the required employment opportunities? I am led to believe that some 800,000 more jobs will have to be created in the next four years if we are to maintain full employment.
It is doubtful whether the Government has any plans to meet these eventualities. Will production for export provide a market? These matters are not dealt in the Governor-General’s Speech. Certainly the prospect of markets in the developed nations appears limited. A recent OECD study group has discounted the hope of some people that increased demand from Third World countries may help to keep up the growth rate experienced in the 25 years after the war. The group has stated that a big problem for the OECD countries has been increasing competition from some developing countries, including Korea and Taiwan in our region. Such countries have progressed through labour intensive development in textiles, clothing and footwear into more capital intensive industries to the extent that they are now competing in the high technology industries monopolised in recent years by the developed nations of the West. Will new consumer goods emerge to take the place of those we have today? They may well do so, but one of the features of the problem that has to be recognised by governments, oppositions and the community generally is that over a period of time capitalism has lost a great deal of its innovativeness. For the time being, businessmen are losing the race to find new consumer goods to sell to the masses. We are told that we will have on the market heated toilet seats and musical toilet paper dispensers. They have not yet captured the imagination of the consumers, but if that is the limit of the initiative of those who own our industries and are amassing great amounts of capital, if that is the way they see the future of the developed countries of the West, then God help us. Those sorts of innovations will not succeed in bringing about the regeneration so essential to the economies of the Western countries, particularly our own.
In these circumstances, is it feasible to suppose that the mere rigorous restraint of government expenditure will by some automatic process provide for longer term expansion in the private sector, as the Government would have us believe? So many of the economists are saying that governments must rein in public spending, yet I have heard rumours suggesting that, because of the lack of progress in the Australian economy, this year the deficit will exceed the deficit of the last Labor Budget- something in excess of $6,000m. When almost half a million people are out of work and real Jiving standards have been reduced, there is no way in which government can collect taxes to finance its budget. Is it feasible to suppose that the mere reduction of inflation will lead by some automatic process to a sustained reduction in unemployment, as this Government would have us believe? That has not happened anywhere in the world. None of the Western countries that have had to contend with the problems of unemployment and inflation have been able successfully to solve that particular problem. The conservative government in Japan has been spending money in the public sector to bring about a regeneration. To delude the Australian people, as the Governor-General has done, into believing that such policies can provide them with the knowledge that they can plan ahead with security and that their efforts will be rewarded is nothing short of criminal.
The Fraser economic policies have failed dismally and unless there is a change of direction we will go further and further down the path of misery in Australia. The National Bank Summary of December 1977 states:
The consumption of consumer durables has stagnated- . . hesitancy and cautiousness have been the distinguishing characteristics of the Australian consumer . . in recent years. Some countries have experienced a recovery in consumer spending to more satisfactory levels, but few have been able to maintain this momentum and have subsequently been forced to introduce additional stimulatory measures.
Yet we have Senator Carrick today, and other Government speakers, including Mr Lynch in the other place a couple of days ago, the Prime Minister and the Governor-General, in his Speech, ignoring the rationale, the figures, and all of the experience of other developed countries and also ignoring the basic facts about our own economy. The policies which Fraser is still pursuing have failed to provide sustained recovery overseas. Is there anything to suggest that the situation will be any different in Australia?
It can be argued that traditional Keynesian demand management policies, developed in the light of circumstances which occurred almost 50 years ago. policies which are followed almost ipso facto in Australia, will fail to be relevant to the economic environment of the 1970s and 1980s. It is clear that there are great challenges facing the Australian economy and, I submit, also the Australian Parliament and Australian people.
It is equally clear that traditional economic policies may not be capable of meeting these challenges. What may be necessary is a more fundamental reappraisal of the role of the publicsector in the Australian economy. Everybody, except perhaps Fraser, his cohorts, and his few supporters in the Parliament, would accept the proposition that improvements in the quality of life are needed in activities such as helping handicapped and disadvantaged citizens, adapting education to ensure personal fulfilment, improving working and playing conditions in the cities, extending modern amenities to rural areas, and reducing environmental decay.
In the past, the profit-stimulated private sector has not been too adept at providing such things. That has been left to the public sector. There seems to be nothing to indicate that this situation will change in the future. Such improvements can be achieved only by government intervention in the economy. Over and above this, it might be necessary, in order to make enterprise more responsive to the needs of the community, for the public sector to move into the economy in areas traditionally regarded as private.
For example, one often hears that the answer to Australia’s current economic problems is to seek greater and greater efficiency, which is usually taken to mean the substitution of capital for labour. This, of course, is what has happened in the rural sector: The rural labour work force has dropped by 25 per cent to 6 per cent, and is expected to drop another 25 per cent to 4 per cent in the next 10 to 15 years. What has happened is that Australian agriculture has become very efficient and capital intensive. We are producing three times what we did 20 or 30 years ago, but that has not solved the problems facing our rural sector.
So one has to look a little more closely at the expression that there is efficiency. There seems little point in pursuing such a path if it merely means producing more and more goods, which less and less people will be able to buy because they are unemployed. The pursuit of efficiency must be recognised as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. And if the pursuit of efficiency affects other ends, such as full employment, a more critical appraisal of the desirability of pursuing efficiency must be undertaken. Private entrepreneurs, obsessed with maximising their private gain, appear ill-suited to make such an appraisal, as it relates to community gains and losses. We suggest that there is a need for governments to accept some responsibility in this area.
There seems little basis on which to make the conclusion, as did the Australia and New Zealand Bank Quarterly Survey of January last, that an expanding public sector leads to lower productivity, aggravates inflation and ultimately reduces the real standard of living. A survey of countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development does not suggest any correlation between a country’s rate of inflation and the size of its public sector. A study by R. S. Pryke of the performance of Britain’s nationalised industries found no evidence to suggest that productivity in those industries towards the end of the 1 960s was any lower than in the private manufacturing sector. Rather, Pryke concluded that the productivity- that is, output per unit of labour and capital- in the nationalised industries towards the end of the decade 1958-68 was higher than that in the private manufacturing sector. Even if productivity were lower in public enterprises, this would merely reflect the fact that public enterprises look towards ends other than the mere pursuit of efficiency for its own sake.
What I want to do in the few moments remaining is look at the way in which modern economies have developed in the post-war years. During the Depression, Lord Keynes advanced theories designed to humanise capitalism. In those days it was in unbelievable crisis. He set about developing a theory that would enable the system of capital to survive this, its greatest, crisis. The Keynesian theory was that mass unemployment could be avoided provided governments exercised moderate and indirect control of the economy.
He advocated that once governments secured control of the level of consumer demand, the competitiveness of capitalism would maintain a reasonable profit which, coupled with private self-interest, could ensure an efficient supply of goods and services for and on behalf of the public interest. Even though he saw the development of monopoly, likely to take place, as interfering with his theory, he expected that national and international competition would in the long run keep profits at a normal level.
He saw governments exercising economic power over the macro-economic factors in the economy, and mild government intervention as keeping capitalist organisation healthy. He was able to see that public management of demand would help iron out the ripples. At that time he set orthodox economics on its head. He advocated a combination of fiscal and monetary policies involving changes in taxation and reduction in interest rates, the very cornerstone of this Government’s policies. By this means, Keynes believed that the demand for goods and services would rise; that this would lead to a rise in the level of activity and employment.
So we see here in Australia an application of this policy. The Government has set about to reduce taxation and prod the banks into reducing interest rates- both popular measures with the people- in the simplistic hope that it will stimulate the private sector. But this policy will not work, and none of the rhetoric of the Fraser Government, or in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral, or the lack of attention to the situation in parliamentary debates, will make it work.
What this policy ignores is that, while nearly 50 years ago these theories did have some marginal success, they are not applicable in the modern world. What has emerged, I submit, is a major new factor, the development of the major trans-national corporations or, to use economic parlance, the masoeconomic forces, that now superimpose their decision-making upon those of governments, citizens and smaller companies.
To try to create some order in a messed-up economic system, and solve the problems of unemployment and inflation, without considering the influence weilded by these major corporations, is ludicrous. Since 1967, more than a decade ago, we have had a decline of private investment in Australian industry. With industry producing only 77 per cent of its potential, why would the captains of industry invest in it? So capital leaves our country, is being manipulated in the currency areas, goes off-shore and is invested in the high-profit areas rather than in those that will create employment. Yet the Government states repeatedly that it is relying on the private sector to make the investment decisions that will regenerate the economy. This will not happen. It has not happened anywhere in the industrialised countries of the world. Investment capital will flow to the areas where the greatest profit can be made.
These are the matters that ought to be debated in the Parliament: The new factors, the new influences of those who make decisions outside the Parliament. As we found in 1975. there are other centres of power. Parliament is but one centre. There are also centres of power in the regal area, in the judiciary and in the top echelons of Australian industry.
- Mr President, it is barely a year since the Senate participated in an Address-in-Reply debate. On that occasion the Australian Houses of Parliament were honoured by the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Australia. Last week we were honoured by our new Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen. One of his first official duties in Australia has been to open the Parliament. I hope that in the ensuing period when he is Governor-General of Australia the country will progress and that those problems before us today on which Senator Gietzelt has spoken at length tonight, including unemployment, will be in a much improved situation at the end of his term. I congratulate Senator Walters and Senator Collard on moving and seconding the Address-in-Reply. I also commend Senator Janine Haines, the new senator from South Australia. One point that struck me in her speech was her emphasis on pornography. I think that part of her speech was well worth listening to.
Senator Gietzelt said that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was tedious. For many people in Australia, including myself and the people of the outback, I would not consider that that Speech was tedious. Firstly, it contained the very good news that the fuel subsidy scheme is to be renewed. The scheme that made so much difference to the people of the outback is once more to come into being. In the years following removal of the fuel subsidy scheme costs in outback Australia increased tremendously, bringing in their train considerable hardship. They brought a higher cost of living to the working family, to the business man, to the carrier and in particular- I have noticed this in the last two years- a higher cost of living in those isolated settlements on our northern coast. There people are dependent on transport by barge and so on at very high costs. I am very happy to see that the fuel subsidy scheme is to be reintroduced. It will be a tremendous thing for the outback.
The Governor-General’s Speech also made mention of a program of assistance to the rural areas and examination of ways to offset the uncertainties of export markets for the primary producers. This is a measure that is essential. More assistance is to be given to disadvantaged people and their children, of whom there are many in Australia today. So I would not say that the Speech was tedious. I would say that it was a Speech of hope and I expect that in the next three years many things will happen within this Parliament that will be of assistance to the Australian people.
Senator Gietzelt has spoken, full of misery, about unemployment. Unemployment is a very serious matter; it is a cancer within the Australian community. But things are being done that will bring about a remedy of this situation. These measures were taken to control inflation. A short while ago inflation was running at about 18 per cent. The figure is now about 8 per cent. The very damaging period when inflation was running at the high level of 1 8 per cent was the beginning of the current period of unemployment. Matters cannot be cured overnight. So let us not have this misery because I am sure that the actions to be taken will bring about in the next 1 2 months a drop in the rate of inflation. Many matters were covered in the Governor-General’s Speech that would prompt discussion. As a representative of the people of the Northern Territory, I think there is much to be said on behalf of the majority of the people of the north. But time tonight will not permit me fully to cover the Governor-General’s Speech. There are many matters that I would like to highlight, including the seven priorities laid down within the Speech. Because of the various matters that have arisen within the last few weeks, I feel that whilst I would like to speak about the situation in Timor- I will speak on that at a later date- I would also like to speak on what I would term the ‘Pacific family’. I refer to Australia’s becoming more and more involved with the Pacific nations, such as China, Japan and the Phillipines. I believe that is where our future lies. This will have to be a subject for discussion at a latter date.
The matter on which I wish to speak mainly tonight is one that concerns me. I believe that it concerns most Australians although many Australians pay very little heed to it. But certainly the people of the outback and the people of the north heed it and it is in their minds constantly. I refer to the defence of Australia. Australia has an area of some 3,000,000 square miles. Its coastline is some 12,000 miles long. If Australia, as it obviously will, claims the 200 mile offshore limit, it will mean that Australia’s burden of responsibility will be doubled. While Australia has a population of 14 million people centered in the south east of Australia, bundled there where the climate is more suitable for the people, there is a large area that has very few inhabitants. With a defence budget at present of less than $2.5 billion, which is low, its effectiveness will be further reduced by the necessary surveillance of the 200 mile limit.
I would say that Australia’s defence forces have, since the last war, been given low priority. The only time that Australia has given the priority necessary for the well being of Australia has been in time of war. The principle of using our defence forces has changed. It was in the times of the Boer War, the First and Second World Wars and the Vietnam War, that we used to send our troops, our sons, to far distant places to fight the enemy. But times have changed and I believe that in future we will not be sending our troops overseas. We will have to defend our country on our own homeland. Principles are changing overnight. We will have to endeavour to protect and to keep under surveillance that area of land and sea belonging to Australia which is of immense proportions. In reading the Pacific Defence Reporter of February 1978 I was struck by an article entitled ‘New Military Technologies for the Defence of Australia’. It reads:
From these two new basic elements of Australia’s national security policy- i.e., Defence of Australia rather than Forward Defence and self-reliance- flow a number of important new strategic considerations.
First, Australia’s defence forces are now to be based principally in Australia.
Second, self-reliance involves the development of an indigenous defence infrastructure- defence industry, logistic support, etc.
Third, to a very large degree, initiative is now to be given to the aggressor. Since, for various technical, strategic and political reasons, pre-emption is not a viable policy for Australia, the environment for future Australian military operations becomes the Australian continent, its off-shore island territories, and its air and maritime approaches.
Fourth, warning times are likely to be rather short and force expansion times no longer matters for our decision only as essentially they were during the Second World War and the Vietnam involvement. Hence, forces-in-being assume much greater importance than in the past. And, fifth, in the new strategic environment, joint force operations assume much greater relevance.
Today most of our defence forces and equipment is positioned in the eastern seaboard, the southern part of the continent, and apparently no further north than Townsville. In the north there is what can be described only as a smattering of defence units, a few patrol boats, a few aircraft and little Army. In Darwin there is a DC3 aircraft and the only helicopter in the Northern Territory was removed to a southern base. The Navy has four patrol boats- Assail, Adroit, Aware and Ardent. The Army has an administrative unit. The defence of the north has always been a matter of frustration for the people of the north, I would say from 1824 when Fort Dundas was established. Fort Wellington was established in 1827 and Raffles Bay was established in 1829. They were established there to claim and protect the north from the enemies of the day. They were all abandoned.
The people of the north are also frustrated in times of crisis. During the Second World War in the bombing of the north many people were killed. The people are frustrated because in the bombing of Darwin- the little Pearl Harbourmany hundreds of people were killed mainly because warnings were ignored. The Darwin bombing need not have happened and the number of deaths need not have happened because the Japanese armada which was approaching Darwin at Garden Point, an island in the direction of Timor, sent a warning to the defence forces in Darwin but it was ignored.
One can understand the frustration there during that period when the people of the north were so aware of the necessity for defence and there came about the incredible principle of the Brisbane Line. Today one finds it very difficult to see who was the author of it. Everyone disclaims ownership. The Brisbane Line was to ignore the north and to retire behind a line across Brisbane and to leave the north to itself. Indeed, this is the thinking about development in the north today. Quite often it comes across, particularly in the bureaucratic system. Why develop the north when it can be left as a barrier against the development and the people of the south? A little later, just a few years ago, there was the Indonesian crisis. Aircraft were rushed to Darwin and some came from England. This created some excitement and interest. It was said that the north should be defended but after that everything went back to a quiet situation.
Canoes came from Indonesia. There was the threat of disease and over this particular period many kept drifting through. Australia came alive again and it was said: ‘We must do something about it. Disease will enter Australia and we will all be lost’. Then the canoes did not come after a while and the interest of Australia lapsed again. There was the Van Gogh incident in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I understand that shots were fired in anger because a Russian ship was trawling in the Gulf of Carpentaria. There was a very tense incident there. Once again it was said that we must protect the north and bring in the defence forces because the north coast is undefended; but then that was forgotten too.
Then there was the Timor debacle. To some degree that branched off to Australia because the Indonesians were, I can describe it only as annihilating, the Timorese. This was occurring only 13 minutes by jet from Darwin to Timor. We had a war on our doorstep. There was interest about it but that is dying away. The Vietnamese refugees, the unfortunate people, have been coming down in shiploads. Some people have said that they were helpless people and that they had a right to come. I agree with them. They came right into the heart of the north in decrepit little vessels. They were able to approach right to our northern coastline before they were found. In fact the only reason why we took it up was that we found that there were more vessels with Vietnamese refugees on the way.
The latest problem is the drug runners. Aircraft are used for smuggling. Australia comes awake again. I would say I am very critical and so are the people of the north. Australia has come out of its pleasant dreams and apparently enjoys the sensation of excitement, a two-day wonder, and then returns to its comfortable feeling of ‘I am all right Jack’. In the north, where people have personally felt the effects of war and see the possibility of the introduction of disease and the increasing amounts of smuggled drugs, there is continuing frustration because so little is done or can be done by authorities in the area. As an example, I have indicated that canoes land in isolated areas and small boats appear from anywhere. Unidentified aircraft are reported by other aircraft and by air traffic controllers.
Wildlife inspectors have seen low flying aircraft off the coast with no apparent reason for being there. An environmental committee of the Federal Parliament reports that evidence suggests that outback airstrips are used for smuggling, illegal export of exotic birds et cetera. Aboriginals report unidentified ships, including what appear to be mother ships with several ships in attendance. Lights are seen off-shore by night but by sunrise they have disappeared. Aboriginals report boats sheltering in isolated bays, yet none of them has been identified or known. Very little can be done to investigate. The Northern Territory police have one boat in Darwin. Along the coast they are equipped with boats a little better than 12 feet or 15 feet long, with outboard motors. At times of crisis police have had to charter boats.
The time has surely come when the importance of surveillance and the defence of the north are put into proper perspective and to combat the considerable distances involved defence forces, customs emergency services, police and people of the north are joined together to defend this country, not only in the event of an attack by a hostile country but also to prevent the introduction of disease and, probably the most important of all at present, to prevent more drugs coming into Australia through our northern coast. Drugs must surely be one of the biggest enemies of the day to the Australian community. One had sympathy for the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) when he said he had ‘Buckley’s’ chance of obtaining sufficient funds from Treasury to provide adequate equipment to defend this vast area. Nevertheless I am more optimistic and believe that if Australia realises the potential danger that lies in the weakness of our defence, funding will be sufficient. If not, we will remain a cream puff’ society that will surely be devoured in one way or the other in the coming decades.
Would it not be common sense to have the Orion aircraft of the maritime wing now being formed and based in Edinburgh, South Australia, positioned in the north and merely returned to that base for maintenance et cetera? The Jindalee ‘over the horizon ‘ radar could possibly be the basis for our northern surveillance. It could work in conjunction with radar stations on the north coast. This ‘over the horizon’ radar is one of the new technologies in which Australia ranks with America and England. It is stationed in the outback of Australia and has the ability to pick up aircraft way out in the Indian Ocean. It has tracked and traced Qantas Airways Ltd aircraft flying between Sydney and Singapore. Surely this must be the basis on which we should build our defence. It could well be that further radar stations are required on the off-shore islands or in the Indian Ocean. Could not airborne early warning aircraft also be slotted into this radar system if Australia thinks it is warranted? We in the north believe so.
It is a matter of considerable urgency that the Navy forces in the area be built up. As I have said before, the four patrol boats, Assail, Adroit, Aware and Ardent, and their crews are giving sterling service but surely blue water ships are also required. A small ships base should be constructed in the north, say in Darwin Harbour, for servicing, maintenance et cetera. Last year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicated that Darwin Harbour was to be upgraded and a land-backed wharf was to be constructed. That was welcome news. The first recommendation for such a move was made in about 1888, 90 years ago. I commend the Government for this move. It is essential for the maintenance and development of that area. While on the subject of Darwin, one presumes that the radar and communications stations that have been or are being constructed since Cyclone Tracy can withstand the strongest of future cyclones. The former sophisticated stations were blown away in Cyclone Tracy. Darwin made contact with the outside world after the cyclone by a radio ham and light aircraft radio.
I have indicated previously during Question Time in this House that I believe that the customs authorities do not have the strength to declare war on the smuggler. I hope this situation is being rectified. As well as requiring a Navy and Air Force, the north requires a coast guard service with Customs authorities suitably equipped with vessels to play their proper role in attacking the aggressors who are bringing in illegal drugs worth millions of dollars. I understand that Customs vessels are to be stationed in Cairns, Broome and Darwin. Is this sufficient? Are these boats positioned already? The equipping of the Northern Territory Police Force has been neglected over the years. Perhaps now, with the transfer of powers and responsible government in the Northern Territory, this can be overcome. A promised fleet of patrol boats has never eventuated. Only one has been provided for Darwin Harbour. The Northern Territory Police would have considerable capacity if it were properly equipped with patrol boats of sufficient size to patrol the coast from Nhulunbuy to the Gulf of Carpentaria and through to Port Keats where it would be expected that the Western Australian authorities would pick up the responsibility. Why can Australia not have this type of equipment for its police when large countries such as Canada have it? They too have aircraft which I consider essential.
The Army has a place in the north. In fact, the front line troops of the Army should be in the north. During the last War the Army was effective, using small groups out on patrol, in keeping isolated areas under surveillance. Groups of platoon size with mobile support provided by helicopter can do much to keep check in these isolated areas and keep up a close liaison with the people of the bush, the police and the Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal people are there to help. Last year in Yirrkala- that is near Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land- the Council discussed its problems with me and their concern at the movement of vessels in the area. They too, over the decades, have come to fear the strangers from the sea. This is a big problem for them. The Aboriginal people, with their highly developed senses for the strange, could make able watchers on the coast or in the bush where many isolated airstrips abound. It is not a question of saying that we will use them; the Aboriginal people have offered their services. They proved their worth in this capacity during the last war.
Then, of course, there are the charter aircraft, the light aircraft of the Northern Territory, the private fliers, the people in the bush and the public servants on their rounds in the outback. These people can be brought into this system of liaison to combat the drug runner and bring better surveillance of the north. As I have been endeavouring to indicate, much can be done without the undue expense that concerns the Minister who said he had Buckley’s chance of financing surveillance. The outpost radio telephone service based in Katherine and Alice Springs is overloaded and communications are extremely slow. The North should have better communications. These things are necessary for liaison, communication and surveillance. Radio Australia is still awaiting reconstruction but probably more important are the two transmitters that were to be established to beam communications through the outback. They have not been positioned there. I do not know whether they will finish up in Shepparton or elsewhere.
It is true to say that other than for notable exceptions, such as when the people of Australia came so magnificently to the help of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, since 1 824 when the north was first settled- over 150 years ago- the north and Australia’s defences have generally been ignored by the people of Australia. Perhaps the sands of time are running out and our north is crumbling to the invader. We do not know how many drugs are coming in but we know of their effect on the Australian community. In closing, I suggest that the people of Australia look to their priorities. I recommend that they invest in insurance for the future and, if need be, do without some small comforts in order to strengthen the north. Perhaps this is harsh criticism but for the people of the north, because of their frustrations over the decades, criticism cannot be too hard if it will bring results. I ask that the people within the House of Representatives and the Senate also become aware of the potential danger in the north from drug runners, the lack of surveillance and the lack of communications. The north is part of Australia. If the north goes under so does the cream puff society of Australia.
– I congratulate Senator Haines on her maiden speech. One of the rewarding things about this place is that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber are always helpful to new senators. Unfortunately for Senator Haines, unlike other honourable senators who belong to major political parties, she will not be able to use her undoubted talents and persuasions in the party room to advance the causes for which she showed a special interest in her maiden speech. After all, it is in the party room that honourable senators can bring about reforms by persuading their colleagues. I feel, as I have always felt since becoming a member of this place, that honourable senators have a better chance in the party room of achieving something than they have in the Senate chamber, where they are bound by party disciplines.
– Why do you not have the courage to do it in here?
– It all depends upon how one seeks independence. If, for some expediency, one denounces the principles in which one has been brought up to believe and in which one still believes, I do not think that it is a very good way to advance one ‘s persuasions.
In addressing myself to the business before the chamber I point out that under ordinary circumstances I would religiously refuse to take part in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply because I have always believed that it has proved a great waste of time and has seldom had any enlightening influence upon the affairs of the country or the state of the Parliament because the words of the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech are put into the mouth of His Excellency by the Government. The Speech from the throne is prepared by the Government and is read to the gathering by the Queen ‘s representative. However, I have been prompted to rise in my place on this occasion to reply to some of the claims that were made earlier in the debate by Senator Baume.
Senator Baume used his time in this debate to make a blistering attack on Mr Milan Brych, who claims to have successfully treated cancer patients. I have no brief whatsoever for Mr Brych and I have the highest respect and admiration for the medical profession, but for the life of me I cannot accept what Senator Baume would have us believe the other evening, that is, that the medical profession is composed of a band of lilywhites. History has destroyed that claim, as it is presently being destroyed by the activities of a minority group of doctors- I repeat, a minority group of doctors- who are defrauding Medibank. I should have thought that Senator Baume in particular, being mindful of his influence in the medical profession and being a highly esteemed member of the medical profession, would have been concerning himself with the actions of a minority group of doctors who are blatantly breaching the accepted principles of the doctor-patient relationship and whose main purpose in life seems to be to amass as much money as they possibly can at the expense of the community and the Government.
I do not accept the implication in Senator Baume ‘s speech that any person not within the medical profession who makes a suggestion or advances a theory about medicine is a fraud or a charlatan. Over the years many people have been denounced and persecuted, yet now their theories are acknowledged as an advance for mankind. Louis Pasteur was denounced and persecuted but his theories not only have been proven correct but also represent the greatest advance to mankind. The noted bone manipulator, Sir Herbert Barker, was knighted by King George when he cured the King after all medical advice failed to do so. There is the example of Sister Kenny, a member of the nursing profession in Queensland who successfully treated infantile paralysis. She was denounced and persecuted. If a gentleman by the name of Mr Charles Chuter, who was then the UnderSecretary of the Department of Health and Home Affairs, had not championed her cause the knowledge of Sister Kenny may have been lost to mankind.
Many books have been written by her and about her. They include My Battle and Victory, They Shall Walk and / Knew Sister Kenny by Herbert J. Devine. Sister Kenny was invited to America to explain her theories. She was immediately an immense success- so much so that Hollywood made a film about her life. Sister Kenny was portrayed in it by Rosalind Russell. A royal commission into Sister Kenny’s methods of treating infantile paralysis was appointed in Queensland in 1 937. 1 believe that it is fitting that a reference in the latest edition of The Australian Encyclopaedia records that many of her methods are acknowledged and in use today even within the medical profession.
As I said earlier, I hold no brief whatsoever for Mr Brych. I have admiration for the medical profession, but I must again remind Senator Baume that the history of progress in medicine over the years has brought forward many cures that have come from people without medical degrees.
– You are on BielkePetersen’s side
– These cures have come through research and the laboratories. I do not think that can be disputed. As a final word on this point, let me say that I am not in the least interested in what the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, wants to do with Mr Brych. I could not care less about it. But 1 cannot accept
Senator Baume ‘s assertion that the medical profession is composed of a band of lily-whites. I sincerely hope that he will concern himself with the minority group of doctors who are interested mostly in chasing a dollar and defrauding Medibank. If he will do that, he will be doing a service to the Parliament and the nation. Perhaps Professor Lou Opit, the head of the Social Medicine Department at Monash University, hit the nail on the head when he claimed that medical fees give doctors an overwhelming incitement to cheat. He claimed that the Federal Department of Health offers doctors separate payments for more than 8,000 items and that it encourages doctors to treat everything they can and prevent nothing. That is not my opinion; that is the opinion advanced by Professor Opit.
I turn to a criticism of the Government which was made by Professor John Cox of the School of Travel Industry Management at the University of Hawaii. He said:
One day the Federal Government will wake up and understand that three-eights of Australia’s balance of payment deficit is caused by the outflow of tourist money.
What Professor Cox was saying was that the Government has never really supported the Australian tourist industry. What is more it has never understood the industry. The way things are it is easier and more exciting for Australians to go to places like Fiji and Singapore than it is for them to see their own country.
– It is cheaper too.
– That is the point I am making. The Federal Government should look at the high cost of fares, particularly air fares within Australia. It should be looking at the package tours for overseas visitors to allow them to see more than Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. This should be encouraged by the Government if it has a genuine interest in the tourist industry. The industry should not be treated as it is being treated. At Question Time yesterday my colleague, Senator Bishop, asked a very pertinent question of the Government regarding tourism. The question is worth recording again. Senator Bishop said:
My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce relates to the tenth annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission which he tabled on Wednesday last. In the opening remarks the Chairman of the Commission included the contents of a letter directed to the Minister on 1 1 October last year in which the Chairman claimed that the Commission ‘s resources were the lowest for any of the years of its operations and the present budgetary position meant that the Commission could not carry out its task, particularly at overseas posts. It also referred to the fact that despite the attempt to maintain staff ceilings at the government objective the Commission was finding great difficulty in running its business. Is the Minister able to state what consideration has been given to that representation of 1 1 October to the Government? Have those matters referred to been attended to and have they been corrected?
I return to what Professor Cox had to say regarding our export earnings. He said:
Surely the export earnings from tourism are urgently desirable -
One would think that they would be- particularly when one recalls that the Government has already borrowed 2 billion dollars in the past 12 months to support the dollar and reduce the deficit in the balance of payments.
The reply given to Senator Bishop must surely be a declaration of Government poverty in policy on tourism. It clearly indicates the poverty of its resources in defending its position. Last week I addressed a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) concerning the prices for crude oil which will be payable to the Esso-BHP consortium. I asked:
Has the Government’s formula for bringing the prices for Australian crude oil to the level of import parity prices resulted in the Esso-BHP organisation receiving for its crude oil $3.40 a barrel instead of $3.20 a barrel, as is indicated in the Budget Papers? Does that constitute a financial windfall to Esso-BHP of some $ 14.8m in excess of the $ 109m increase in profit it would make over and above the normal operating profit as a result of the phasing in of the import parity prices policy? If so, is that appropriate at a time when motorists are paying higher prices for petrol, small business is struggling to survive and the worker is continually being asked to tighten his belt?
If one was not astounded at the financial windfall of $ 14.8m given by the Government to the multinational organisation Esso-BHP on top of a $109m increase in profit, and if that was not a shocking indictment of the Government’s double standards on wages and improving the working conditions of the working class, to add insult to injury we now see disclosed that this year nearly 90 per cent of the record profit of the Utah Development Co. of $ 158.3m was distributed as dividends. Ninety per cent of that was sent out of Australia. I freely admit that Utah pays corporate tax, withholding tax, royalties, transport charges and other levies imposed by the Government. It pays wages too. But as a return on funds employed, Utah’s net profit after tax and all other charges certainly is breathtaking. The Fraser Government has generously fattened Utah’s profits by its progressive elimination of the coal export duty. The phasing out of the levy contributed close to $25m of Utah’s profits this year, or about 20 per cent of the $126m Utah sent to its United States parent, Utah International Inc.
– You would be happy if Utah did not make a profit.
– What I am upset about is that this was done at the expense of financial support which could have been given to Australian manufacturers, especially for the development of new export products and markets. If the Government is not concerned, we on the Opposition side of the chamber are gravely concerned. Honourable senators should not forget that this was paid for by slashing back on health, welfare, education, Aboriginal programs and urban improvement projects in the Budget. With this Government the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In the light of the performance of this Government, the amendment to the motion which is before the Senate, which has been so eloquently proposed by my leader, Senator Wriedt, should receive the enthusiastic support of this Senate.
– I take this opportunity to speak in the AddressinReply debate and to say how much I appreciated the presence in the Parliament of Sir Zelman Cowen. I also take the opportunity to welcome Senator Haines and congratulate her on her maiden speech. I am sorry that she will not be here very long, but in occupying the interregnum position that she does between the former Liberal senator, Senator Hall, and her successor I regret that she is unfortunately to become another in the long run of unsuccessful political ploys of Don Dunstan, and I am sorry for that. I am pleased to have been told that a proposed joint venture fishing proposal put forward in Tasmania and recommended by the Tasmanian Government to the Federal Government for approval has not been approved and, I suggest, rightly so. The detail of the proposal is important, but it is the principle as much as the detail I wish to discuss.
The proposal was known as Tasmanian Fisheries Co. Pty Ltd and was a joint venture on a 50-50 basis comprising on the one hand Sir Francis Duval or his nominee and on the other hand Japanese interests- the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations and Hachinohe Fisheries Co-operative Association. The proposal was for feasibility fishing and encompassed a fleet of 10 boats, three 350-tonne trawlers and seven 300-tonne squid boats. The feasibility period was to be three years and another seven years of additional fishing were to follow.
I am not totally opposed to joint venture deals and could even favour good ones but by a long shot they are not all good, and in regard to them great care needs to be taken by all parties, the industry and governments both State and Federal, before anything further takes place. I see no purpose in having a joint venture arrangement unless it is impossible to arrange an Australian operation, and I think it is reasonable to endeavour to deal direct with overseas interests and to go around joint ventures if that is more desirable. In Australia the history of joint ventures is only fair and I believe that the history is relevant to the matter under review. Northern Australia Fisheries Pty Ltd was a joint venture which started operating in February 1 969. It comprised 50 per cent Japanese investment from Taiyo Fisheries of Japan, 25 per cent investment from Peko- Wallsend Ltd and 25 per cent investment from Duval Holdings. It was formed to undertake exploratory fishing and involved nine boats, eight catchers and one mother ship and was licenced to operate out of Darwin. It was provided with a five-year exploration permit and it was required to replace imported vessels with Australian vessels and Australian crews within five years. It was also to build new shore stations.
The full information on the venture is not easy to get but it is fair to assume that in the period in which the venture operated it would have taken not less than 20 million lb of prawns which then would have had a landed value probably in excess of $15m. Within months of facing its obligations- within three months, I believe- the operation suddenly ceased, the boats fled and the operation left nothing for the industry or for Australia. There was no technology and there were no markets, no trained men, no ships, no shore stations, and the profits went to the Japanese and their connections.
In 1967 South Sea Fishing Co. Pty Ltd was a joint venture which comprised Fishmaster Pty Ltd of Brisbane and a subsidiary of Taiyo Gyogo and it got a territorial licence to operate from New Guinea. All sorts of proposals were put forward about training New Guineans and using joint crews. The venture operated in the waters of New Guinea for a month or two and then moved straight into the Gulf of Carpentaria. By 1973 the venture had reached the stage where replacement of its boats and crews was due, so after taking, we presume, approximately 14 million lb of prawns with a value in excess of $ 10m it moved out. This was another disaster. I must add that during this period Gollin Holdings Ltd had a joint venture and carried it through fully at Groote Eylandt and Darwin and that business while not in Gollin ‘s hands at present is still operating satisfactorily today. The Northern Research company has also established and performed a joint venture satisfactorily. The history is not good enough and clearly there need to be rules made and enforced. I no longer see it as a case of a first in any deal situation, and clearly joint ventures need two components to make them work. Firstly, we have to find reputable overseas interests and, secondly, we have to find reputable Australian nominees with Australia’s interests at heart.
I refer again to the Tasmanian situation. I regret that it apparently was not possible for the Tasmanian Minister for Fisheries to participate in this deal. Even when there was a fairly lengthy Press conference it was carried out by the Tasmanian Minister for Development, Mr Batt, and. not by the Minister in whose portfolio fishing comes. In a hour-and-a-half Press interview on 22 February Mr Batt, besides not answering any questions, left many more questions unanswered. For instance, he has not yet stated why he believed that Tasmania needed a joint venture. He did not say why it was necessary to tie the project up for a 10-year period when there was absolutely no benefit for Tasmania, or why it was necessary to call the project exploratory when it was clearly exploitation, or why it was necessary to approve of seven exploratory squid boats when squid fishing in eastern Tasmania has been thoroughly carried out by Tasmanians in Tasmanian boats, the records of these operations being held by the authorities in Hobart.
Why did we approve of three exploratory trawlers when only last week we prevented a local trawler from netting in the area in which there were Japanese boats? He did not say why we were to accept a 10 per cent processing clause when it was a 50-50 venture, nor did we find out whether the 10 per cent that we were going to be allowed was the prime fish or the cats’ meat. I believe that is of great importance. He did not say why the Government backed down from the 5 1 per cent, 49 per cent proposal, which would have given Australian control, when pressured to do so by the Japanese interests. He did not say why there was no list of the loosely mentioned benefits for Tasmanian fishermen. They were mentioned but there is no list of them to enable us to determine whether they could be considered benefits. He did not say where the development ports would be, and I do not see why they should not be named. Why was no date announced for the work? If those wharves are to be built and if work is to be provided within the period, that should be stated. He did not say why there was no cost estimate of the works which would be required by the joint venturers or why there was no advice as to who would pay for the work which was to be done. Nor did he say why it was recommended that there was no licence fee or why no indemnity payment was sought against us going through another of these northern Australian fishery deals where the joint venturer takes the fish and leaves us with nothing. He did not say why a proposal of this sort had not been discussed with Tasmanian fishermen or existing interests in Tasmania, or why this deal appeared to be better than the one which was rejected out of hand only last year.
I have investigated some of the local issues with the local people and I have received some information. Over the last few years there has been considerable exploration around Tasmania. It has not been total by any means but we have considerable information on the catching of squid, jack mackerel and other species which were listed in the agreement. There are men in Tasmania, for instance Paddles Taylor and Captain Dick Davies, who are well known in fishing circles around Australia and who have done considerable research. They have carried out work recently and in fact are still doing exploratory work in Tasmanian waters. There are people like the Hurseys, who are well known in other circles, Peter Rockcliff. Dick Richey and the like who know these waters and who have done all manner of exploratory work. They can provide a considerable amount of basic information. They have provided this information and apparently, it has been completely disregarded at a time like this. There are certainly circumstances where extension of the exploration is desirable but at this juncture surely it is not necessary for this exploratory work to be carried out within the 12 mile limit. 1 was on the east coast of Tasmania two or three weeks ago and I was told by local residents that they had had difficulty sleeping at night because of the noise of the Japanese boats and the squid lights on board. I am sure this would not have been the case if the boats had been outside the 12 mile limit.
We know that there was no Commonwealth approval for these Japanese boats. We know that the whole deal was fixed by the Tasmanian Government some time last year- November or earlier. We know that approval for them to leave Japan and to start fishing was sought by 29 December last year. We know what they were coming for because all the details of the ships, the dates and the functions were published quite openly in Japanese newspapers. We know that they were fishing for squid in Tasmanian waters because this could be seen quite readily from the shore. We also know that the Government was fully aware of the situation and that arrangements were made quite openly by it. We know that the ships caught squid because when a boat was taken into custody it had squid on board. We know that the captain believed that he had all the necessary approvals to be within a few miles of the shore because he said so at his trial. From all this we know that either the Tasmanian Government or the joint venturer believed that obtaining a Commonwealth licence must have been no more than a trivial formality. But the term ‘exploratory fishing’ is certainly a misnomer.
The boats were fishing hard and they fished consistently. The Tasmanian fishermen can tell honourable senators exactly when the Japanese fished and where they fished. It would be very hard to justify that what they were doing was an exploratory operation. Mr Batt affirmed in the Press that Australian observers would be on board all Japanese boats to supervise the operation to make sure that only the allowed species and areas were fished and to assess the operation from a scientific and technical point of view. That is the announcement he made. But in all the information we have I am unable to find where he ever bothered to complete arrangements with the Federal Government, the Department of Primary Industry, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or anybody else to do with fishing, and to see who would be on board any of these ships. Although, as Mr Batt would say, exploratory fishing was clearly under way as arranged, there was apparently no observer on board. Even now I am unable to find whether there has been any technical or scientific assessment record provided by the operators of this fleet since it arrived in Tasmania at the end of January.
I think the concern which has been shown is very clear. This is obviously a very poor deal. But what we have not found out and what we hopefully may find out one day is from where the benefits of the deal will come. I assert that undoubtedly substantial benefits will go to the Japanese joint venturer. I also assume that Sir Francis Duval will have been amply recompensed for his involvement. But having read all the information I can obtain I am unable to find any reference to how good this project will be for Tasmania. Nor am I able to find any advantage in it to the Tasmanian fishermen. There are vague references to participation but there is no single item in writing, or even a suggestion, as to how this will happen. Mr Batt rebuked Mr Bingham who very correctly saw through the whole mess. Mr Batt admitted that he had sought Commonwealth approval for the venture on what he described as an internal document between the joint venture partners. He expected the Federal Government to approve of a deal and, as he said, once the company had been issued with a Commonwealth licence it would have had to put its plan to the Tasmanian fishing authority for approval. I find it incredible that Mr Batt or the Tasmanian Government would put forward a proposal about which they had no details and, expect their own gullibility to get through to the Federal Government.
If it is possible to have a good fishing venture in Tasmania I, and I think all the fishermen and other interests will certainly be wholeheartedly behind it. But there is no future for Tasmania in being sold a deal which has no virtue and no continuing value. If we approve a deal which is as disadvantageous as this we will prejudice the whole operation of fishing and joint venturing in Australian waters as a whole from here on in. I had no hesitation then in expressing my opposition to it nor do I have any hesitation now.
Another point on which I would like to touch quickly in the time remaining deals with industry generally. I do not wish to enlarge on matters such as employment and unemployment, but I do wish to say that Australia as a trading country obviously has to buy and sell. The best market for Australian goods surely must still be Australia. We are a major manufacturing country. We need to remember that. I am wholeheartedly behind the appeal to ‘Buy Australian’. I am not saying that we should buy Australian regardless, but I am saying that we should look first at the label. Whenever possible we should choose an item with an Australian label. That applies to textiles and clothing, footwear and carpets, motor vehicles, paper and paper products, timber and timber products, and goods such as cheese and wine.
Over the last few years it has been possible to see the way in which our position in some of these industries has tended to decline. In 1968-69, 33 per cent of the market supply of textiles, yarns and woven fabrics was imported. By 1973-74 that figure had reached 43 per cent, which represented an increase during the period of 30 per cent. I might point out that these are the latest figures I was able to obtain from the Industries Assistance Commission. In the same period the figure for knitted materials increased by 77 per cent, clothing by 160 per cent, footwear by 140 per cent, wood products and items of that nature by 40 per cent, electrical appliances and equipment by 26 per cent, and leather and leather products by 33 per cent. There were many reasons for that increase and for its continuation beyond 1973, but, whatever the reasons, it is absolutely deadly for our economy at present. I understand very well the position of the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and I also understand the Australian position. In the case of many of the imports there is no quality advantage and no price advantage, but in the majority of cases, regrettably, the goods are coming in because of the higher retail margins. These imports are very damaging to local manufacturers and there is little benefit to the consumer.
I implore people to look first at the label and, if the item is imported, to check the local alternative. It may be their jobs that we are trying to save. It may even be the firm for which they or their families work that we are trying to save. A friend of mine usually gives quite nice gifts to .his employees and to various friends at Christmas. He is in an industry which is very substantially import competitive I noticed that this year his gifts were import competitive goods. In that respect I would say to Australians: Before you look for imported liquor from Portugal, France or Germany, look at the Australian product. Until you have tried all the Australian wines, please do not buy from overseas. Do not buy an imported car until you have proved that you cannot get an Australian car that suits you. The Australian cheddar, edam and gouda cheeses are equal to any in the world, but the retailer margin assists the imported cheeses and consumer snobbery makes it ‘flash’ for customers to be seen at the counter for imported cheeses. It may be those customers whose jobs we are trying to save.
I do not want to attack the local retail trade but I would like to throw up a point for consideration. In the case of the big retailers particularly I have found that the situation is quite acute. The treatment of the Australian clothing industry has been both rotten and disgraceful. Absolutely no credit should go to the firms involved. I have had many complaints, and I imagine most other members of this chamber have had them, of the treatment of the industry not by overseas countries but by Australian firms. Many of the big retailers think that it is quite reasonable to go overseas and place orders for goods with a six, nine or even twelve months delivery date. They have no guarantees, no recourse of any sort. They then come home and grind the local manufacturers into totally unreasonable terms of delivery to fill in around their imports. The retailers do this on a basis that they could not get and would not seek from their overseas suppliers.
In many cases they leave orders for the local manufacturers until it is too late to supply for the season for which the goods are required but they expect the local manufacturers to stay solvent, to stay in business, and to be ready to go into action at a moment’s notice. That is totally unreasonable. The solution to the problem lies mainly in the hands of the largest Australian firms. The big firms have the ability to make or break and, regrettably, too often it seems that they deliberately take the latter course. I ask all customers to look at the label and to buy Australian.
It is my wish that the Government should sponsor an Australian trade fair, which I think should be held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, to display in one area items of clothing, footwear and so on for the whole of the Australian trade. Whilst I recognise the problems retailers have in adequately covering the manufacturers and the vast distances involved, it is necessary to do something to make that possible. The benefit of holding a trade fair would lie in the fact that the manufacturers could get together and see how they compared with one another. They could meet the widest possible range of potential customers, they could assess the products of their opposition in a variety of fields, and they could meet their competitors for general discussions, planning and co-operation. All sorts of benefits accrue to the customerretailer when in one place he is able to see and compare a whole range of goods. He can make real comparisons as to price and quality when he can see all the goods together. Such a trade fair would avoid the necessity of visiting many factories in many different cities and would enable the suppliers of accessories and so on to get together.
I ask: Would any of the six big retailers welcome a major Hong Kong merchandiser coming in under Hong Kong rules and setting up next to them? If they would not, then 1 ask those retailers to think a little more about the clothing manufacturer because he is in exactly the same position. I would like the Government to support the provision of signs to retailers for display in their shops stating that all the goods in the shop, the window or display, as the case may be, were of Australian manufacture and that for Australia’s sake one should buy Australian. Remember, whenever we hear people talking critically about unemployment we should make sure that in the first place they are buying Australian.
– There is very little time left for me to make my speech this evening, although I do follow Senator Archer on the list of speakers and I take it that he has finished his contribution. All I can do is fiddle around for a little while until you put the motion for the adjournment, Mr President. In my opening remarks in the AddressinReply debate I should like first of all to thank the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party for selecting me for the fourth time to stand on the ALP Senate ticket in South Australia. I thank it also for affording me the honour of being the leader of that team at the December 10 election. I intend to say a little more about how that quick selection came about on four occasions, not through the fault of the Australian Labor Party, but because of the very undemocratic actions taken by the people who now sit opposite, in collusion with that person who is now known, I suppose, as ‘The Phantom of Paris’.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m. in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780301_senate_31_s76/>.