31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 222 citizens of Australia:
The President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we are gravely concerned over the extreme weakness shown by our Prime Minister and his Government in his handling of the uranium mining situation in the Northern Territory.
While the Parliament allows a small group of antigovernment advisers to Aboriginal organisations to delay the commencement of mining the great majority of citizens and business people are being caused financial loss, and being denied the right to participate in a legitimate business.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that permission be given- and not again withdrawn- for mining to commence immediately.
Petition received and read.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled-
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index figures; and whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November; it is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics of democratic government and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the undersigned Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that the trustworthiness of governments should at all times be above question, and to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian pensioners by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of pension rates.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Scott.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the people of Australia having taken part in the government of Australia through universal suffrage in December 1975 and again in December 1977 and that on the basis of their expressed choice at the ballot box the people of Australia gave authority to the LiberalNational Country Party Coalition to form a federal government to bring into effect specific policies promulgated throughout the length and breadth of Australia by the said Coalition and that, whereas by virtue of being elected through universal suffrage, the Government Members now sitting in the House of Representatives were authorised to implement their state objectives by legislation and that such authority did not extend to acting otherwise or to enact legislation not previously submitted to the will of the people, namely:- ° Revoking the legislation for twice-yearly pension payments. ° Imposing a freeze on the free-of-means-test pension. ° Unemployed divided into those with dependents and those without. ° Imposing income tax on pensions under age pension age- invalid and repatriation service pensions; rehabilitation allowances and incentives; sheltered employment and allowances for tuberculosis sufferers (civilian and service) and any other impositions.
Your petitioners submit that all or any of the foregoing proposed legislation of the Lower House, if implemented, will greatly disadvantage many thousands of citizens as either against their expressed will or not submitted to universal vote as the democratic right of the Australian people, therefore,
Your petitioners call on the Senate as the House of Review to take appropriate action to release these persons from burdens unfairly placed in order to finance a deficit not of their making.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Lewis.
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
– by leave- I am making this statement on behalf of the Senate
Regulations and Ordinances Committee. The Committee has received, and individual senators have also received, submissions from a number of persons concerning the Superannuation (Allocation of Previous Fund) Regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1978 No. 156. The various submissions claim that the regulations, which are concerned with allocating the assets of the old Superannuation Fund, are unfair to long standing contributors to that Fund. The Committee has given careful consideration to these submissions and concluded that it ought not to take any action to have the regulations disallowed or altered. The Committee’s reasons for this conclusion will be set out in a report which will be ready for presentation to the Senate on Tuesday next.
I am making this statement because the next sitting day will be the last day for giving notice of a motion to disallow the regulations, and the Committee considered that it ought to acquaint the Senate with its conclusion before the next sitting day in case any Senator wished to give notice of a motion in relation to the regulations.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and refer to an article, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, written by Isabel Lukas, the ethnic affairs reporter for that newspaper. It claims that the Special Broadcasting Service is considering a major reorganisation of ethnic radio which could involve the dismissal of about 400 broadcasters, co-ordinators and contributors in Sydney and Melbourne. I ask the Minister: Is the sacking of these 400 people intended by the special Broadcasting Service? If so, why is it so? What is the intention of the Government in regard to ethnic community participation in the future administration of the Special Broadcasting Service, in the appointment of co-ordinators for the service and in the development of programming policy by the Special Broadcasting Service.
– The honourable senator asked a number of questions of detail to which I will have to seek a reply from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I can only point out to her that the Special Broadcasting Service is an independent statutory body and that, therefore, it has a right to organise its own administration in the manner which it believes to be the most effective. As I understand it, a great deal of discretion is left with the Special Broadcasting Service. I will refer the matters which have been raised by Senator Ryan to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and seek a reply from him.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Has any approach been made to this Government for the purchase of the land mark at Stanley in Tasmania known as ‘The Nut’? If not, should the Government be prepared to transfer ownership of this piece of land, would it have to be a transfer to the State Government or could the local government authority seek to have ownership vested in it?
– I was somewhat mystified when I understood that I was going to get a question about ‘The Nut’. Indeed, most of the information in front of me seems to refer to matters which could be categorised under that word. I understand that The Nut is a prominent hill in Tasmania which is regarded to be of considerable significance to tourism. I understand that on a number of occasions my Department has been in consultation with the appropriate Tasmanian authorities concerning this issue. On 1 1 October the Tasmanian Minister for Environment, National Parks, Wild Life and Water Resources wrote to, I think, the Federal Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development regarding the future use and management of The Nut. Basically, the facts are that The Nut is a former telecommunications property and, as a commercial organisation, the telecommunications organisation is seeking current market value for the property. The Tasmanian Minister is seeking sympathetic consideration for the reversion of ownership of the property to the State without cost. Those representations are being considered and it is hoped that we will be in a position to make a decision in the near future. In fact, only yesterday I received a letter from the Minister and that letter is yet to be given proper consideration.
-I ask the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is the Government aware of the disastrous flood situation in Vietnam? What aid, if any, is currently being given to Vietnam by the Australian Government? Has the Government given consideration to providing some special relief to victims of the floods in Vietnam?
– I am advised that the Commonwealth Government will provide immediate shipments of rice to help to cover the severe food deficit in both Vietnam and Laos. I acknowledge that what Senator Button has said is true- that this is a serious situation which should be responded to in the interests of humanity. Australia will contribute from its bilateral reserve for emergencies 500 tonnes of rice to Vietnam and 200 tonnes of rice to Laos. Freight and transhipment costs will be met by our Government. The Australian contribution is a timely response to urgent appeals for international assistance by the United Nations Disaster Relief Office, World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organisation Office for special relief operations. Fact finding missions from the international agencies have recently visited the region and identified emergency requirements in Vietnam and Laos.
Australian Embassy officials at the relevant missions in Vietnam and Laos have also participated in surveys and have reported extensive losses. As a measure of those losses, I am advised that in the south and centre of Vietnam floods have seriously affected 300,000 hectares of rice fields and have totally destroyed 100,000 hectares of rice fields. The magnitude of that destruction will be appreciated. Other areas have been badly damaged by consequent pest infestation. Damage in the north is now believed to be approaching a similar level. In Laos some 50 per cent of the total area planted to rice has been inundated and many areas have been completely destroyed. The floods occurred at a time when both countries were already facing serious food shortages. This immediate shipment of food aid will assist the governments of these countries in coping with the disaster and, I am advised, will be followed up with additional food early next year.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of recent questions in this place on interest rates, employment, the balance of payments and the construction industry, I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the latest Round-up of Economic Statistics- that for October 1978- issued by the Treasury.
– Another full toss outside the leg stump.
– If so, could the Minister inform the Senate of the latest indicators in these vital areas of the economy?
-I think that Senator Mulvihills allusion to cricket could more aptly be ‘a ball aimed by Senator MacGibbon directly on the stumps and bails’. If I understand Senator MacGibbon ‘s question aright, he related his question to the document, Round-up of Economic Statistics.
Opposition senators- Oh!
– I can do better than that.
– What about answers to our finance questions?
– Order !
-Mr President, I enjoy the interjections. If there are outstanding answers to Senator McAuliffe ‘s finance questions, I would love to give them to him.
– You cannot.
-I will do so. Since the question was asked by Senator MacGibbon, I take it that no one would quarrel with the bipartisan source- the Round-up of Economic Statistics issued by the Treasury. This is what it says on the front page:
The Treasury, October 1978
Retail sales rose moderately in August; registrations of new motor cars and station wagons increased strongly.
Private dwelling approvals rose in August from a low level. Lending for housing continues to rise strongly.
Private non-residential building approvals rose sharply in August; non-building construction activity remained high in the June quarter.
Estimates derived from the Statistician’s labour force survey show that unemployment among the full-time labour force fell by 7,900 . . .
Total employment rose firmly between May and August.
The faster pace of money growth recorded in recent months continued in August.
Notwithstanding continued inflows on both private and official capital accounts, the (seasonally adverse) current account deficit again resulted in a moderate balance of payments deficit in September.
I take it that all Australians, including all honourable senators, would be delighted with such a uniformly progressive and favourable result.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science, deals with Northern Territory matters. In asking my question, I refer to that old adage about he who pays the piper calling the tune. It is in that vein that I refer to the $900,000 that the Federal Government gave to the Northern Territory Government to rehabilitate the Finniss River. I ask the Minister: In view of that expenditure, what control are we exercising over the Northern Territory Government as to excessive fishing in the
Finniss River? Also, if crocodiles are a protected species, are they now being culled out there? In other words, just what control do we have over the Northern Territory Government in this field, in view of the $900,000 given to that Government for river rehabilitation?
– I am unable to add very much to the honourable senator’s question other than to say that responsibility for this matter has been turned over to the Northern Territory administration. The Northern Territory is now responsible for whether there will be excess fishing in the Finniss River area. I am unable to say what action the Northern Territory Government is taking about the protection of crocodiles in that area. However, joint Federal and State committees are concerned with this matter. I know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation takes part in environmental discussions with all States and the Federal Government. I know that the matters about which the honourable senator over many years has expressed concern, including the various endangered species in the Northern Territory, become a basis for discussion as to whether protection is required. I will attempt to obtain a more detailed answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister closely consider a visit by members of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation under chairman Jessop to see the situation for themselves?
– When the honourable senator speaks of chairman Jessop he speaks of a great friend of mine. I am sure that if he wished to take members of his committee to the Northern Territory they would be most welcome. Whether I should encourage such a visit is not, perhaps, a matter for me to determine. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development should make such a decision. If within the portfolio of Science or any of the portfolios I represent I can be of assistance to the honourable senator’s aim I certainly will take appropriate action.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Transport seen a statement by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory urging Central Australian business to boycott trade with South Australia until 800 kilometres of the Stuart Highway has been upgraded? Has the Minister further seen the claim that this responsibility is with the Federal
Government? Can the Minister indicate the present position in relation to this matter? Does the Government prescribe the priorities, and if so, will it recognise the claims of $80m market of South Australia in this regard?
– I have not seen a call for a boycott of trade with South Australia on the part of anybody from the Northern Territory. But I have seen suggestions from South Australian Ministers that the Stuart Highway is in some peculiar way a responsibility of the Federal Government. The position is that the Commonwealth does see the development of that highway as a high priority and it is committed to it being reconstructed as soon as possible. The Federal Government has provided about $66m for national highway construction to South Australia in the last four years and this highway has not been given particularly high priority by the South Australian Government. I think in last year’s national highways program South Australia did not include any construction work on the Stuart Highway. In fact the Federal Minister wrote to Mr Virgo, the State Transport Minister, expressing his concern and urging him to ensure that a substantial start was made on reconstruction of the highway in this year’s program.
The fact is that when the national highways program was submitted to the Federal Minister for Transport by Mr Virgo in May of this year there was a proposal to spend only about $270,000 on that section. It was the Federal Minister who suggested that additional funds be diverted to that project. I understand that that now has been done and the State Government of South Australia has agreed to spend some $900,000 on the commencement of that work.
– My question which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs concerns the reported granting of visas to six white South African cricketers in what I believe is a contradiction of the United Nations policy on South Africa and the Gleneagles agreement which this Government supported. Is the Government pretending that these cricketers are not South African and will not be billed as South African players in the World Cricket Series? Does not the granting of these visas amount to a change of Government policy and contradict the line taken of late on apartheid by Mr Peacock? Will the Government review its decision to grant such visas?
– I am not aware of any decision that has been taken along the lines suggested by Senator Primmer in his question. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and seek information for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development whether he is aware that the Sony Corporation of Tokyo, Japan, has developed a sporting aid machine called the videostrobe and that it can play back all individual movements that make up a continuous motion, thereby enabling the pinpointing of any flaw in the action of an athlete? If so, Will the Minister endeavour to persuade his Government to provide such machines, which I understand will retail for about $34,000, to all major sporting bodies in the Commonwealth so as to assist our athletes who are at present lagging well behind the rest of the world in financial support?
– Yesterday, an honourable senator drew my attention to the New Products page in Newsweek which contained a report on the videostrobe. I am afraid that I did not give the matter quite the attention that I might have because the same page mentioned a machine which cost only $30 and which measured one ‘s emotional state. I thought that was an even more useful piece of machinery to purchase, perhaps for use in the Parliament. I am a little surprised at the suggestion by Senator Bonner that this machine costs $34,000. I suspect that if it costs $34,000 the prospect of making it available to every major sporting body is somewhat remote. I think the machine will be of interest to Australian athletes. No doubt, it will be of interest to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Groom. I will draw the matters which have been raised by Senator Bonner to the Minister’s attention to see whether there is any way that this machine can be used in Australia within the constraints of our policy with respect to sport.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, although it also concerns the Minister for Social Security. Is the Minister aware that employers, particularly in the retail and wholesale industries, make a practice of employing juniors and then discharging them, often on spurious grounds, when they become eligible for full adult pay? This means that juniors then have difficulty in applying for unemployment benefits and may even be deprived of benefits. Is the Minister considering any action to prevent this practice and/or of alleviating the difficulties they experience when applying for unemployment benefits, especially at this time of tragically high levels of youth unemployment?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and obtain an early answer from him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In view of the fact that the Northern Land Council tapes of the Aboriginal Red Lilly meeting relating to the uranium agreement were used by Mr Bob Collins, MLA, on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM to discredit the results of the meeting of Aboriginals which was to honour the agreement by the NLC negotiators and the Federal Government, will the Government request that the tapes taken by the two Australian Labor Party solicitors, James and Waters, advisers to the dissident faction at a later meeting at Oenpelli last week, be released for public scrutiny? The tapes are referred to by the people of the Northern Territory as the Oenpelli tapes.
– My advice from the Minister on this matter is that he is not aware whether tapes were taken by Messrs James and Waters at the Oenpelli meeting to which Senator Kilgariff referred. The Northern Land Council usually takes its own record of proceedings. Inquiries will be made to see whether that was done on this particular occasion. If this is the case, the tapes might be released for public scrutiny as requested by Senator Kilgariff. I point out that an express term of the settlement of the injunction proceedings in the Northern Territory Supreme Court on 22 September of this year was:
No lawyer will engage in advocacy in relation to any point of view and all lawyers shall absent themselves from the proceedings of the Northern Land Council when not actually giving advice.
The Minister states that it would be greatly disturbing if the two solicitors, James and Waters, did engage in advocacy or did not absent themselves from the proceedings of the Oenpelli meeting contrary to the conditions of the court settlement. However, the Minister says that he will investigate the matter and if further information is provided I will see that Senator Kilgariff is advised.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Defence and the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs will recall that on Tuesday, 10 October I raised a number of questions relating to radioactive material at Maralinga. One aspect of that question to which the Minister did not refer was the report that the Australian Government had submitted to the British Government the alternative that the transportable quantity might be shifted to Woomera. I raised with the Minister the question of the reported exercises of the Services at that place. As the Minister promised to give me information, I now ask: Is he in a position to state whether the report is correct and what is proposed?
– The honourable senator asked me- and I am aware of his requestwhether the Government would put to the British Government or had put to the British Government that the buried material be shifted to Woomera. I can now give an unqualified no to that question. No such proposal has been put to the British Government, nor will such a proposal be put to it. Furthermore, no removal of the buried material from the nuclear test area of the 1950s, with a view to reburial is contemplated at the moment. Reburial anywhere near Woomera township has never been contemplated. That is my advice.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, with a reminder that since 1974 a total of $95,000 has been allocated by the Federal Government to the Australian Council of Trade Unions for research into the needs of trade unionists and their families. Can the Minister say whether the results of this research have been published and whether in fact the research has provided the basis for any decision which may have been taken in regard to trade unionists and their families?
– I confirm that grants totalling $95,000 have been allocated to the ACTU since 1974 to establish and support a social welfare research unit for research into the needs of trade unionists and their families. I understand that some $75,000 has been paid to this point. The purpose of the grants which have been made is to enable the ACTU to undertake relevant research in the area of social welfare which is essential in relation to the welfare problems of people in industry and their dependants directly or indirectly related to the circumstances of their employment.
I am able to advise that as a result of the research unit’s activities the ACTU has made a significant contribution to a number of government inquiries and parliamentary committees as illustrated by a number of submissions and public reports that it has made. They include: ‘Welfare in Industry: Changing Perspective’, reports; Worker Participation in Management: The Australian Context’; a submission to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on migrants in the work force: ‘Social Policy and Problems of the Work Force’, volumes 1 and 2; ‘Adequacy of Income Derived from Work for Low Income Families in the Williamstown- Altona areas’; Development of a Working Women’s Charter’, submission to the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health; a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare concerning the inquiry into the adequacy of Australian health and welfare services; and ‘The Collection and Dissemination of Information on Social Welfare Programs and the Role of Trade Unions in the Direct Provision of Welfare Services’.
In addition, the research unit is directly responsible to the Executive of the ACTU and contributes on a day to day basis to policy deliberations in that context. The staff of the research unit in the ACTU has maintained regular contact with my Department and I am assured that the work being undertaken is of excellent quality and that the reports which have been received have been of great assistance in many of the discussions and decisions that have been taken.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the Government would be prepared to issue a statement explaining the moral distinction between the South African Government’s refusal to allow non-whites to belong to South African cricket teams and the Australian national airline’s refusal to allow Jews to fly on Australian Government aircraft. Would the Minister not agree that the position which Australia is following with regard to apartheid in South Africa and racial discrimination in other parts of the world such as Rhodesia, may be taken by some critical observers to be somewhat hypocritical for so long as Qantas either refuses or discourages the travel by Australian Jews on Australian aircraft?
-I think that the Commonwealth Government’s stand on apartheid is taken in an unqualified fashion. I attempted, as far as I could with the Qantas issue, to keep it as apolitical as possible because I believe the issue transcends politics. However, I must remind Senator Wheeldon that this issue apparently has been in existence for the past five years and therefore one could ask the same question of the previous Government. I say that in no combative way because I share with him the principle that we ought to oppose religious or racial discrimination wherever it should he. Let me say that in an unqualified way.
I do not think there is a need for Australia to have to justify its stand against apartheid. The Qantas situation, now that it has been discovered- and well it may have lain undiscovered with the previous Labor Government- is something to be investigated, to be studied and to be determined to the point that we can, and so the Minister for Transport has understood. I do not involve myself in terms of the transport of cricketers or footballers throughout the world. I well have in mind the problem of the overflight to New Zealand I think of South African footballers or cricketers and other sportsmen; I do not think it helps the matter. What I think happens is that we live in a very ugly world in which a large part of the world has racial and religious discrimination and a lack of civilised behaviour. It is for us, as far as we can, to reduce it wherever we can. I think that is the test that we are going to apply to deal with the Qantas matter.
– I have a supplementary question: Whether the Qantas ban has been in force for five years or 55 years, does it not follow that, if Australia is to condemn other countries, for whatever reason, ideological or other, for practising racial discrimination, for as long as the Australian national airline continues to practise racial discrimination for whatever reason- commercial or other- Australia is in a most hypocritical situation if it continues to condemn other countries?
-I would find that unobjectionable. I merely related it to the fact that the honourable senator had related it to the current Australian Government- its attitude to apartheid. If in fact he says to me, and he says to this Senate, that the action that has been disclosed must be an embarrassment- and a significant embarrassment- to the unqualified stand
Australia has been taking I would have to say yes, and that is why we are looking at it.
– Has the Minister, representing the Minister for Health seen an estimate in the Australian Journal of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence that the cost to the community of the victims of cigarette addiction was $625m a year in 1975-76? Would these costs be much higher now? In view of these very high costs to the community of cigarette addiction, would the Minister suggest to her colleagues a levy on the profits of cigarette purveyors to pay for antismoking television advertisements at prime viewing time for young people? Does American experience show that these types of advertisements were so effective that the American tobacco industry voluntarily ceased their own television advertisements in order to stop the showing of these educational anti-smoking advertisements?
– The Minister for Health is aware of the estimate in the May 1978 issue of the Australian Journal of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence concerning the costs of tobacco-caused illness in Australia. Without careful and detailed examination it is not possible to say whether the estimate can be justified. The Government is most concerned at the damage to health caused by tobacco smoking and the cost of this damage. It is seeking to do all it can to reduce them both.
As the article containing the estimate repeated many of the recommendations relating to tobacco made by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare in its report entitled Drug Problems in Australia- An Intoxicated Society?’, honourable senators might like to know that the Government’s examination of this report is well advanced and that an announcement will be made later in the current session. As the honourable senator may know, in the American situation, to which he referred, advertisements for smoking were permitted and the antismoking advertisements were required to obtain balance. As in Australia advertisements on television and radio for cigarettes and cigarette tobacco have been banned since 1 September 1976, the question of balance does not arise. Nonetheless, the Minister would be glad, I am sure, to consider the suggestion that was made by Senator Hamer to see whether such a practice might be applied in Australia. I will refer this matter to the Minister and seek further information from him in response.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the statements made by the Treasurer relating to tax evasion proposals or the closing off of loopholes. Will the Government agree that it is not enough to block specific tax averaging schemes while other schemes can be devised almost at will by artificial or contrived financial transactions? As section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act has been emasculated by judicial interpretations, will the Government consider an amendment to provide that when the commissioners or the courts are of the opinion that transactions, dealings or financial affairs of taxpayers are artificial or contrived, they- the commissioners or the courts- may determine the tax liability according to the commercial realities?
– The Government would agree that a phenomenon of recent years has been that as fast as a government has acted to block tax avoidance or tax dodging loopholes one or more new schemes have arisen. The Government does not feel that it is in business simply to block up holes in a dike as fast as they are formed. I will ask the Treasurer to put the second part of Senator Gietzelt ‘s question under study to see whether it suggests some effective measures. The Government will be looking to ways in which the valid tax laws are enforced; that is, it does not argue against legal tax avoidance but it does argue against tax dodging which is done by finding loopholes. Anything that can be effective in doing that, I think, would have the Government’s blessing, and I will ask the Treasurer to put the question under study.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. Is the Minister aware of an item on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio news this morning stating that raw sewage was being discharged from the lower Molonglo River into the Mumimbidgee River system to the detriment of the water quality in that river? Can the Minister say how often this raw sewage has been discharged into the lower Molonglo River and what action the Government is taking to ensure that the health of people using water from the Mumimbidgee River is protected?
- Senator Jessop raises a very important question for people who have interests lower down the Mumimbidgee River system. I heard the news report this morning. I have some idea that this matter was brought up within the last few days in the general context of the new sewerage plant having some running-in difficulties. However, a proper answer to this question is a matter for the Minister for the Capital Territory and I will attempt to seek that information today.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am prompted to ask this question after having studied a statement tabled by the Minister on 9 June on foreign investment policies. I refer to paragraph (f) of the statement relating to a review of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and ask the Minister. Is the review complete? If not, when is it likely to be completed and when can the Senate expect to be informed of any changes? Does the Government anticipate any changes to the existing provisions which require an environmental impact study to be undertaken before approval can be given by the Reserve Bank of Australia to an application by a foreign investor for a project to proceed.
– I do not have within my mind the details of that statement I tabled on 9 June but I will refresh my mind on that matter. Senator McAuliffe has asked a series of significant questions which require detailed answers. I will get those answers and let him have them.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. Has the Minister noted reports of the continuing exploration success of the Western Mining Corporation Ltd at Roxby Downs in South Australia demonstrating the extensive potential value of the copper and uranium deposits located there? Is the Minister discussing the possible development of this project with the South Australian Government? Has the South Australian Government indicated its attitude to mining such deposits even though the South Australian Premier has publicly stated his attitude to be against uranium mining? If not, will the Minister use his good offices to determine whether the Premier would be prepared to encourage the development of this promising and sorely needed employment generating project in the interests of the people of South Australia?
– I am certainly aware of this exploration success and I am certain that the Minister for Trade and Resources is also well aware of and very pleased about it. Although I have not discussed the matter with the Minister, I will certainly raise with him the matters mentioned by Senator Messner in his question. Development of any mineral deposit needs the cooperation of the State government concerned. One would have thought that the State governments would be anxious to encourage major developments in their areas. The Government is aware of the attitude of the South Australian Government, and in particular the Premier, in regard to the mining of uranium. However, I will ask the Minister for Trade and Resources whether he will give consideration to Senator Messner ‘s proposals.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I ask why no Minister went to Washington earlier this month to try to head off congressional rejection of the ratification of the International Sugar Agreement which has at least equally serious implications for Australian exports as the beef legislation passed in the United States of America last week. Was it because there was no political need for any Minister to skip the country that week or is the Government disinterested in sugar?
– I ask that the question be placed on the Notice Paper.
-Has the Minister for Social Security heard of a place near the Ranger uranium area known as ‘Camp Concern’ where a number of people have been camped for a considerable time as a protest against uranium mining? Can the Minister say whether these people are receiving unemployment benefits and whether they have applied for or been offered employment? Further, what is the position regarding the payment of unemployment benefits to people who appear to be laying and lazing about in the sun and showing no desire to obtain employment?
– I have heard of Camp Concern’ where I understand that up to five or six people at any one time are camped on a property adjoining the Ranger uranium mine. My information is that one of these people is currently in receipt of unemployment benefit. This person has a good work history and has been correctly work tested by the Professional Employment Office of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I understand that there has never been a refusal by this person of any offer of employment and that he complies with the work testing arrangements in that he is available for work anywhere in Australia. He makes uranium mining the exception.
The position in regard to people who are not taking reasonable steps to obtain employment is, I think, well known. People who are not taking reasonable steps or who do not satisfy the requirements of the Act do not qualify for unemployment benefit. That is the information I have with regard to the matter raised by Senator Young, but I will have it checked to see whether there is any further information that can be made available.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is he aware of a statement that was made by his colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Roy Milne Memorial Lecture on 1 5 September this year, in which Mr Peacock said:
The Government’s position in the Multilateral Trade Negotiations reflects our recognition of the central importance of trade liberalisation in stimulating world economic recovery and growth.
Firstly to what extent has this recognition been incorporated in our domestic policy and, secondly, to what extent will this view be reflected by the Australian position at the forthcoming Australia- Association of South East Asian Nations forum?
– Whilst I am not aware of the specific statement attributed by Senator Wriedt to my colleague in another place, Mr Peacock, I am aware of the attitude of the Government with regard to trade liberalisation and, particularly, the Multilateral Trade Negotiations. The Government shares the view that undue trade restrictions in this world, particularly amongst the developed nations, can be a danger not only to the developed nations but also to the developing and emerging nations. The Government has represented its position at the MTN currently taking place in Europe by indicating that it would participate in significant tariff reductions provided there were full reciprocity. This view has been expressed.
Lest I, in venturing into a field in which I am not expert, should have said something that is over-simplistic, I refer Senator Wriedt to the statements that have emerged in those discussions because he will understand, having himself had some experience in this field, that it is a complex matter. I can simply say that the Government’s views would be permeating all of its discussions. I know of no particular thrust of government policy in the discussions with the Association of South East Asian Nations. Should there be, I will let the honourable senator know.
– My question is also directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is he aware that the continent of Africa is suffering from what could be described only as a massive invasion by Cuban armed forces? Is it a fact that the Cuban forces are supplied with and maintained by Russian weapons and funds? Is it also a fact that the placement of Cuban troops includes some 23,000 troops in Angola, some 12,000 troops in Ethiopia, some 6,000 troops together with some Russian troops in Aden, and altogether, many thousand troops in the following countries: Guinea, Libya, Mozambique, Uganda, the Malagasy Republic, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia? Those figures are taken from a document which was prepared for and totally accepted by the Council of Europe. Is it a fact that these troops are, at least in some cases, propping up dictatorships and corrupt minority regimes? Can the Minister explain whether Australia has taken steps in the United Nations or elsewhere to try to force the withdrawal of these troops to enable African nations to develop free from outside domination and through appropriate self-determination?
-As to the last part of Senator Rae’s question, I think it would be the unqualified desire of the Commonwealth Government that the emerging nations of Africa should continue their progress free of undue outside influence or aggression. Senator Rae asked a number of questions regarding the presence, the nature of the presence, the armament and the nature of the armament of Cuban defence forces or military forces on the African continent. Continuous reports of their presence have been made. But Senator Rae’s question asked for specifics. He also quoted from a document of the Council of Europe. I think it is important to this Senate and to the people of Australia that the details should be given. Therefore, as to the specifics, I will ask my colleagues in another place to check and to endeavour to establish the facts and to make them known.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has Australia as yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was decided upon some three years ago? If not, why not? Will the Government act upon this Declaration, which was proposed by Australia’s delegation?
– Past experience tells me that a top-of-the-head answer to matters that relate to international treaties and documents can be wrong. I will get the specific information and let Senator Cavanagh know.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and relates to yesterday’s story in the Melbourne Age newspaper claiming that a religious test has been applied to Australians seeking to travel by Qantas Airways Ltd and that instructions exist that the religious test should be so applied to passengers. Is the Minister in a position to advise the Senate whether the information contained in the Age article is correct? If that is not yet known, will the Minister undertake as soon as possible to inform the Senate as to the correctness of each of the major matters contained in that newspaper report?
– I am not in a position to give an unqualified assurance on every item of detail in the report in the Melbourne Age newspaper of yesterday. But my advice is that in general the comments contained in that report are correct. Having had another look at that article, I would say that one would want to qualify, perhaps, the first sentence, which suggests an immediacy which is not a fact. The article starts by stating:
Qantas has acceded to a Syrian Government order that Jews be banned from the airline’s weekly flights . . .
I merely make the point that apparently that has been going on for some years, not fewer than five years. I certainly will undertake to seek from the Minister for Transport the detailed reply which is sought by the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of the concern and disquiet among members of the Adelaide public concerning the conduct of the present hearings by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal for the renewal of a commercial television licence held by Television Broadcasters Pty Ltd? Is he aware of certain incidents which have occurred during the first three days of the hearings? Is the Minister aware that Mr Bruce Gyngell, the Chairman of the Tribunal, has consistently alarmed witnesses and observers of the proceedings with the bias he has shown towards the licence applicants and with his apparent badgering of certain witnesses? Does the Minister realise the legal consequences that may arise from Mr Gyngell ‘s present behaviour at the hearings which, according to the Broadcasting and Television Act, are to be conducted according to the rules of fair and natural justice?
-The Leader of the Opposition has made a series of quite serious allegations in his question. I have to say to him that I am not aware of any of the matters which he has raised. Indeed, I have seen no report or heard no suggestion that the situation is as he has outlined. Obviously the matter is very serious when the Leader of the Opposition raises it in that manner. I will refer it urgently to my colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, for his attention.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the immediate need for the training of young Aboriginal persons as teacher aides for employment among Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, in South Australia and in the other States. Will the Minister, together with the Minister for Education, give urgent consideration to taking new and positive initiatives to attract a substantial increase in teacher aide trainees from the beginning of the 1979 year? Also, will the Minister not limit the definition of ‘teacher aide’ in this context to that applying in the majority of Australian schools, but relate this career directly to the practical needs of the Aboriginal community where these trainees will serve, so that there may be training not only in educational skills but also in health, social work and community development skills?
– The matter that has been raised by Senator Teague is important. It came under some discussion at the Senate Estimates Committee meeting earlier this week when we were discussing employment opportunities and the general need for Aboriginal aides in a variety of fields. At that time certain information was given by officers of the Department which showed that there was such a need. We also had information with regard to students at Kormilda and other similar colleges, who would be emerging from those colleges and who would be very suitable trainees and very beneficial to the communities concerned. At that
Senate Estimates Committee meeting, I undertook to draw the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the comments and the discussion which followed in the Committee. I do so once again because I think the form of the question indicates the need that does exist and the opportunities that could be provided for employment and for beneficial services to be given to Aboriginal communities. I will see that this question is drawn to the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I certainly support the sentiments that have been expressed in the question.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. The Minister will be aware that advance purchase excursion fares are finally available to the people of Darwin. However, the concession rates are not available to other centres in the Northern Territory, such as Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, which are also disadvantaged by being isolated from the rest of Australia. Will the Minister undertake to make inquiries into the possibility of APEX fares being made available to these centres?
– The honourable senator is correct in saying that APEX fares have just recently been extended to Darwin and that they are not available to other centres in the Northern Territory. They are not, of course, available to many other centres around Australia. I think that at the moment they are restricted to the six State capitals and Darwin. I will refer the matter that the honourable senator has raised to the Minister for Transport to see whether further extensions are possible. My understanding is that the present system is an experiment for the time being and that further extensions are likely to be on a staged basis.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that the policy of the Australian National Railways Commission of tendering Australia-wide for Tasmanian railway rolling stock is having a prejudicial effect on employment in the Tasmanian railway workshops in Launceston? Is it the policy of the Australian National Railways Commission to reduce the construction departments in Launceston to mere maintenance departments?
– The honourable senator has drawn my attention to the fact that the Australian National Railways Commission is tendering Australia-wide for railway rolling stock. I can only say to him that, in light of the deficit that is suffered by the Australian National Railways Commission, it is extremely likely that it would be seeking the lowest tenders available for any work it was doing or for any items it wished to purchase. I can understand the honourable senator’s concern for the Launceston railway workshops. I am not able to tell him whether there is any intention on the part of the Commission to reduce them to mere maintenance worshops. I will seek a reply for the honourable senator on that point.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether he will review his answer given earlier today in respect of funding for the Stuart Highway in view of the fact that a deputation comprising Government and Opposition members, supported by the Mayor of Alice Springs, made a representation to the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, to provide a continuing fund to upgrade that Highway. Will the Minister also take into consideration the fact that Mr Sinclair made an election promise at Alice Springs that if the Federal Government were returned to office last December special funds would be made available by the Federal Government for this purpose? Finally, if this promise is not to be honoured and the South Australian Government has to find funds for the work out of its ordinary allocation, will the Minister designate which current South Australian road works will have to be curtailed or shelved to allow work to be carried out on the Stuart Highway?
– I have no knowledge of the statement by Mr Sinclair which is referred to by the honourable senator who might direct my attention more specifically to it after Question Time. Can I just say that I suspect that the delegations might have waited on the wrong government because it is, after all, the role of State governments to control most of these programs. The endless buck-passing which goes on with State governments complaining bitterly that the Federal Government ought to assume their responsibilities whenever it is convenient to do so is one of the most unfortunate aspects of the Australian Federation. I suggest that the very poor record of the State Government in making any allocation for the Stuart Highway is something of which the honourable senator ought to be well aware and, indeed, ought to be ashamed. I suggest that he make urgent representations to his State Labor colleagues in South Australia and suggest that they get on with the job.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to an article in the New Statesman of 14 July which mentions the economic model of the British economy used by the British Treasury. I ask: If such a model exists in this country, are the details of its construction available to those interested in offering alternative policy advice from outside government?
-Senator Thomas referred to an article in the New Statesman of 14 July. I have to confess that I have not seen that article and I would be very happy to have it brought to my attention. He then asked -
– You read the New Statesman too. That is very interesting.
– I read a wide range of documents. Often I read documents just to prove to myself that the kind of writing in them is, as I suspect, wrong. We try to learn but, of course, others read and do not absorb. The substantial question was whether I was aware of a model and was such a model available in Australia. There is in fact a Treasury-Australian Bureau of Statistics model of the Australian economy similar, as I am advised, in method of construction, coverage and use to that of the one used in the United Kingdom Treasury. I presume that is the one referred to in the article of 14 July. I can get the details of its construction which are available, I am advised, on request from the Treasury and have been available on this basis since the development of the model began. Technical papers describing various aspects of the model and its uses are periodically presented at professional conferences and published in professional journals. Lest I have not covered the full thrust of Senator Thomas’s question I will be happy to get further information for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report that the Queensland based Security Permanent Building Society is to offer cheque-drawing facilities to its members? Does this innovation by Security Permanent in effect mean that members of the society are offered a cheque account bearing interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum?
Can the Minister advise whether the scheme has been investigated to see whether it conforms with the Bills of Exchange Act? Finally, does the Government view favourably a move by building societies to offer cheque account facilities to their members?
– I think it is a good practice that any series of questions that relate to banking, merchant banking, fringe banking or building societies should have a technically precise and expert answer since they can create otherwise a public misjudgment. I will have that question looked at and answered.
- Mr President, may I have your indulgence to deal briefly with a question asked by Senator McLaren on 10 October relating to the brandy industry. I think this is a matter of interest to all honourable senators. I am now aware of representations and statements from brandy producing interests about the effects which they consider will be produced on that industry by the rise of the excise rate on brandy provided in the Budget. In the overall Budget context however it should also be noted that in spite of varied changes in sales tax and excise there are no such taxes on domestically produced wine and the short term tariff assistance for brandy of about $2.10 per litre of alcohol on import clearances within quota also remains. As announced in the Budget, Australian brandy production is now also provided with additional protection from imported brandy by the 12Vi per cent tariff surcharge within quota clearances. It is a matter that concerns all honourable senators, particularly those from South Australia. They should note that the Industries Assistance Commission is presently engaged on an inquiry into the spirits and spirituous beverages industry, including the brandy producing industry. The areas of concern to the industry will be fully considered by the Government when the Commission’s report is put before it.
– May I have the indulgence of the Senate to make a short personal explanation arising out of a newspaper report? My attention was drawn to an article in the Melbourne Sun newspaper of 1 8 October 1978. The heading is: ‘Unite call on double rebuff’. The article concerns education. It contains matters which one might challenge otherwise, but the particular comments with which I wish to deal are the last two paragraphs. They state:
Mrs Totti Cohen, of the NSW Federation of Parent and Citizens Associations, said the Government school system was not getting full federal support.
When you get the Education Minister, Senator Carrick, saying government schools were for poor people it certainly shows a lack of commitment, ‘ she said.
I do not assert whether Mrs Cohen said that. All I can say is that the report is completely untrue. On no occasion have I ever made a suggestion at all that government schools were for poor people. On the contrary, I have taken great pride in arguing that they were available to all people of Australia irrespective of income. I have taken great pride in the fact that now the standards of many government schools in Australia are at level 1 and and level 2 and that we propose to increase those levels. I simply place on record that the report is unqualifiedly incorrect.
-Yesterday, Senator Douglas McClelland asked a question of me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs about National Book Week. The Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Ellicott, has answered that he is certainly aware that this week has been designated as National Book Week. He assures the honourable senator that the Horton report has not been pigeon-holed. The Government has not yet made any decisions on the wide range of recommendations in the report. The matter, however, remains under consideration and an appropriate statement will be made as soon as this is possible.
-Yesterday I was asked a question by Senator Tate relating to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation taking action in relation to a report concerning meat tastes in the Middle East. I have an answer from the Minister and his comment is: Upon receipt of the report of the Australian survey mission to the Middle East the Government decided that a special advisory group should be established under the auspices of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation.
The purpose of the group is to take account of the recommendations of the Meat Survey Mission and such other information as is available with a view to having necessary studies and market development programs implemented.
The Government has sought the views of industry organisations on membership of the advisory group and has invited the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union to nominate representatives to participate in the advisory study.
I expect that the advisory group, once formed, will be considering the views of the Survey Mission regarding taste differences in the Middle East and possibly will be seeking to have the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or another appropriate body undertake studies into the problem.
– Earlier at Question Time today Senator Bonner raised with me a question about a videostrobe for use by sportsmen to pinpoint their flaws in performance. I am pleased to say that since he asked the question he has been able to reduce the price from $34,000 to $3,400. That 90 per cent reduction in price has greatly increased my interest in the matter he raised.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the recommendations of the Tertiary Education Commission for recurrent grants for universities and colleges of advanced education for 1980 and 1981. 1 seek leave to make a statement.
-In September I tabled volume 2 of the Tertiary Education Commission’s report for 1979-81 which contained recommended financial allocations in respect of 1979 in response to the Government’s guidelines for 1 979 to 1981. The Commission has since submitted recommended financial allocations for recurrent expenditure for the remaining two years of the triennium. The Government has considered the recommendations and I now wish to announce its decisions. I turn firstly to the Government’s decisions on grants for 1 979.
The Government has accepted the Commission’s financial recommendations for 1979 for universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education institutions, as outlined in volume 2 of its report for 1979-8 1 . A re-assessment of the 1 978 capital program by the Tertiary Education Commission revealed that a number of major new projects had fallen well behind their scheduled starting dates. For this reason, the Government has decided to defer $5m expenditure from the 1978 capital program until the 1979 program. This amount will be added to the 1979 capital program to be available in the second half of the year. The additional projects to take up these funds have been recommended by the Commission. Details of the projects and the funds they will attract are set out in an attachment to this statement. The forward costs of these projects will be absorbed within the total capital program for universities and colleges in subsequent years. In the following table I have set out the base level of funds to be provided in 1979. The figures reflect adjustments arising out of the Government’s decision on the additional $5m for capital projects.
The Government has accepted the Commission’s recommended allocations for 1980 and 1981 for universities and colleges, which have been based on the guidelines undertaking that the base programs of recurrent grants excluding equipment should be maintained at the same level in real terms as that approved for 1 979. The
Commission has drawn up allocations for each university for 1980 and 1981 but there has not yet been sufficient time for it to draw up allocations for each college. Consequently the allocations for colleges in respect of 1 980 and 1 98 1 are shown on a State by State basis only at this stage. As the guidelines indicated, the base programs for TAFE for 1980 and 1981 will be determined by the Government after consideration of the Report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, which is expected soon.
Legislation to appropriate grants to the States for the three tertiary sectors for 1979 will be introduced into the Parliament shortly, for passage during the Budget sittings. The legislation will also incorporate the approved grants for universities for 1980 and 1981. Recurrent grants, other than equipment grants, for colleges of advanced education will be covered by amendments to the legislation which will be introduced during the 1979 Autumn sittings, following consideration of recommendations from the Commission. Finally, Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard tables summarising the financial details of the tertiary education programs now approved by the Government.
The tables read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. I present the following paper:
Tertiary Education Commission- Ministerial statement, 19 October 1978.
– by leave- I move:
The statement just made by the Minister represents Government decisions which are in response to the detailed recommendations for expenditure made by the Tertiary Education Commission after- I stress ‘after’- the Government had already set overall limits on expenditure. To that extent there is a certain sleightofhand in the statement which shows an admirable quality about it if one is an admirer of poker players, but a less admirable quality about it if one is concerned about the level of expenditure on education in this country. The point I would make is that the essential limitations have already been imposed prior to the Tertiary Education report upon which the Government has now pronounced in the statement just read by the Minister. If I may illustrate the point I would seek to make about that, in its report to the 1979-81 triennium, volume 2 at page 20, the Commission had this to say about the guidelines for the 1979-81 triennium, in summary form, in paragraph 2.2 (a):
A reduction of S39m (1) for the university and advanced education sectors for 1979 (a reduction of $12 million in operating expenditure and $27 million in capital grants)-
That is the Commission’s summary of the guidelines in relation to this particular matter. Later on it says:
In addition, the Government indicated: that, although the allocation for capital works in the university and advanced education sectors is significantly below the level recommended, the Commission might explore the possibility of commencing, some new capital projects in those sectors in 1979.
Before dealing with that second point, on the figures approved for 1978 and recommended for 1 979, at page 23 the Commission says:
The Commission is concerned at the consequences of this reduction, particularly as it affects recurrent expenditure.
The gradual squeezing in recurrent expenditure funds is set out on page 23 of the Commission’s report. That squeezing has taken place since 1975. Further in paragraph 2.5 on page 23, the Commission says:
Over the period 1975 to 1979, recurrent grants have not quite kept pace with the increases in student numbers.
Later on there is a reference to the increased cost not being covered by supplementation. In paragraph 2.6 of the report the Commission had this to say:
In volume 1 the Commission recognised the financial pressures that institutions would face, but do not recommend additional funds to alleviate this situation. It did, however, recommend funds which would have imparted some flexibility to the university and advanced education sectors and enabled some developments to take place after the virtual freeze on new developments that had existed since 1 975.
In a subsequent portion of that paragraph on page 24, the Commission says:
In the Commission’s view the cumulative effects of this continuing tightening of recurrent funds will not only erode the quality of the work in both the universities and colleges but will inhibit innovation and the capacity of institutions to adjust to changing community needs.
That is a very important statement by the Tertiary Education Commission in view of the Minister’s oft repeated concern in this chamber about the Government’s addiction to the notion of quality in education which the Minister frequently tries to contrast with levels of expenditure. I repeat it: The Commission’s view is that the cumulative effects will erode the quality of the work in both the universities and the colleges. As I said earlier, the statement now brought down by the Minister reflects earlier decisions made by the Government in preparing the guidelines for the Tertiary Education Commission. The comment made by the Tertiary Education Commission on the guidelines applies very strongly to the statement which the Minister made today and which only reflects the earlier indication of the Government’s position. What the Commission is really asking for is more flexibility to make adjustments to cope with changing community needs. The Tertiary Education Commission is not asking for more and still more money, but it is asking for reasonableness to enable it to cope with that sort of changing situation.
I will refer to that situation in a moment, but before doing so I just comment again on the very significant consequences of the reduction of $39m which is referred to as the main concern of the Tertiary Education Commission. What are some of the problems of flexibility with which bodies such as the TEC, and particularly the universities and the colleges of advanced education, have to be concerned at this time? They are concerned in general terms at being described as having been in a period of high growth which has now come to an end. There is no dispute about that, I would think. One of the factors which are important in terms of staff and quality of teaching and research is the increasingly high proportion of contract staff now teaching or working in universities and colleges of advanced education with little effort being made in terms of Government initiative or Tertiary Education Commission initiative in relation to the problem of the security which those staff on fixed term appointments now have. For example, one of the things which we feel should be examined very closely is the need for some form of external superannuation scheme for academic staff such as the federated superannuation scheme for British universities. That is the sort of thing which should be being examined in the light of the move to fixed term appointments.
Secondly, it is of great concern that the situation of no growth in universities and colleges of advanced education which is talked about a great deal does not mean that there should not be growth in particular areas of academic endeavour. The same applies in that regard to both universities and CAEs both in terms of the needs of the country and of the society and in terms of the demands which are placed on universities and CAEs. The question of the areas in which growth should be allowed to occur again requires some degree of flexibility, which is what the Tertiary Education Commission by implication is asking for in the passage which I read from page 24 of its report. Not only the Tertiary Education Commission in the passage which I read but also the University Vice-Chancellors Committee have recommended already that there should be flexibility in this regard and have even gone so far as to suggest that it may not be necessary to wait for Professor Williams’ report, like waiting for Godot, before decisions are made about many of these important matters. I might say that the mystique surrounding the Williams report is already assuming the enormous proportions which the Fox report assumed at the time of the Labor Government. It seems to me to be a notion bordering on the bizarre, having regard to the fact that in this country we claim to have a pluralist society, that all these decisions of importance, taking into account all the relevant factors, can be left to one report and that there can be a total postponement of decision-making until that report is brought down.
– Williams has broad and important terms of reference.
-I agree that he has broad terms of reference. What I am querying is whether, in spite of the terms of reference, any human being is sufficiently broad of mind to deal with all the issues which are involved and which have to be considered. I suppose that I am making a general point about the notion of political responsibility for decision-making and the way in which politicians of both parties have tended to put those political responsibilities in the hands of judges or other ‘experts’ who will provide blueprints until the year 2000. That is the basis of the comment I make. It is unfortunate that in the Minister’s statement on this matter and in the statement which he intends to bring down relating to study leave, there is a reference in each case to waiting for the findings of the Williams report to see what the ultimate consequences will be in the terms of the Government ‘s decisions.
There is another point I would like to make about the statement which the Minister has just made. Even worse than not allowing the flexibility which the Tertiary Education Commission has asked for, the Government is introducing a great deal of confusion into the tertiary education area. I illustrate this by quoting a statement which was made by the Tertiary Education Commission in paragraph (e) on page 20 of its last report. The report states:
One might ask rhetorically what this tantalising statement means. It means, of course, that the Government is introducing quite significant and savage cuts in relation to capital expenditure. However, the Government will soften the blow by saying, ‘Look, it may not be too bad because in 1979 there is a possibility that we will look at the whole thing again- the halcyon days are just around the corner’. This Government has continually told us that in relation to matters such as unemployment and we are again being told this in relation to capital expenditure in the tertiary education sector. The Government says, ‘Do not worry about it; it looks bad now but in 1 979 we might be able to do something for you’. I ask: What on earth does that mean in terms of the notion of planning in the tertiary sector? The difficulties in which those sectors find themselves by not knowing what such statements mean again emerges from the Minister’s statement.
I make those brief comments to illustrate what the Minister’s statement appears to be saying. In a sense, it is a redundant statement because real decisions were made at the time the guidelines were given to the Tertiary Education Commission. The Commission’s response to the guidelines is reflected in the passages which I quoted from its report. The only thing which we are really left up in the air on is what that rather waffily statement of good intent means in relation to possible increases in capital expenditure in 1979. 1 seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the final report of the Tertiary Education Commission on study leave in universities and colleges of advanced education, and seek leave to make a statement.
– Honourable senators will recall that in May, I tabled a draft report by the Tertiary Education Commission on study leave. I agreed to the release of the report in draft form so that institutions, organisations and other interested parties would have the opportunity to comment before firm recommendations were made. In the preparation of its final report the Commission has considered the comments, which have been offered from many sources, about the draft report. The result has been that, whilst the broad principles established in the draft report have been endorsed, the Commission has varied the details of its draft recommendations.
The Commission has recommended that the existing study leave schemes in universities and colleges should be revised. The Commission’s recommendations have been framed against a background of the growth and development that has taken place in Australian higher education institutions since the war. The Commission also has been concerned that, given the general economies which universities and colleges have been making, more staff should remain on campus and concentrate on their teaching responsibilities so that an undue share of the economies does not fall on the students.
To maintain the quality of Australian higher education institutions and research, the Government has accepted the Commission’s view that continuing opportunity should be available for study leave for those staff who require regular contact with overseas scholarship, research and professional experience. The Government has accepted the recommendations in the Commission’s final report and expects universities and colleges of advanced education to modify their study leave arrangements from 1 January 1979 so as to conform with the Commission’s recommendations. The specific effects of the Commission’s recommendations are as follows:
Firstly, in future, study leave should be more selective- it will not be automatic but should be based on the needs of the institution, the nature of the project proposed and the capacity of the staff member to make effective use of it; secondly, the maximum limit on study leave should be 7 per cent of available man-years for universities and 5 per cent for colleges of advanced education; thirdly, study leave should in future be restricted to members of the academic staff; fourthly, in general, individual absences on study leave should be restricted to periods of not greater than 6 months; fifthly, the present emphasis on overseas study leave should be reduced; sixthly, the use of study leave as the means of upgrading academic qualifications should be eliminated; and finally, there should be greater accountability on the part of individual staff members and institutions.
The Government has asked the Commission to report annually on the application of its recommendations.
The Government expects savings from these reforms to emerge in the following estimated amounts: An amount of Sim in 1979 and $1.5m in each of the years 1 980 and 1981. There will be no reduction in the funding of tertiary institutions as an offset to these savings. However, the Government desires institutions not to absorb the savings in their general expenditure but to reserve these against possible emerging demands arising out of the Williams Committee report or other government initiatives. I commend the statement and the report to the Senate.
-by leave- I move:
I desire to make a brief statement about the contents of the statement just made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). I have not had the advantage of reading the final report of the working party which the Minister brandished nervously as he got up to speak, but I take it that I will have the advantage of reading it at some stage in the future. To the extent that one is able to divine from the statements of Ministers what are the contents of reports, I am able to get some clues from what the Minister has said. I think that the Government has succeeded in making a great deal of fuss about this whole issue of academic study leave. When one considers the savings which are set out in the Minister’s statement and which the Government envisages will be made as a result of the vast initiative which the Department of Education and the committee of inquiry seem to have taken in relation to study leave, one really wonders where all the economies are going to be effected. If a saving of $lm is to be made in the first year and $ 1.5m in each of the next two years it would be instructive to know what has been the cost of the inquiry into study leave for academics, both in terms of manhours spent by members of the Dunbar committee and. man-hours spent by the people responding to the inquiries of that committee. It would be very interesting indeed to see what we are finally left with, apart from the collection of rather waffling statements which apparently appear in the final report of the working party.
There has been a lot of talk about academicstudy leave, but I suspect that what has been dealt with is not the issue of academic study leave but rather the Government’s concern at every stage to instil in all institutions which have Commonwealth Government funding some token degree of good housekeeping, a concept which springs of course from the fertile mind of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in relation to all these matters. If one looks at the annual budget of Australian universities of between $600m and $700m and at the energy which has gone into research on this one little aspect of academic life and government expenditure on tertiary education, et cetera, the result really is quite extraordinary. This report is just a symbolic gesture which is designed to display muscle and a desire for fat cutting but which really means nothing. The contrast between the rhetoric and the facts has been revealed in a number of statements by Ministers and, indeed, in answers by people such as the Prime Minister himself. For example, on 1 1 October this year in the House of Representatives the Prime Minister was asked a question about academic study leave and in the course of his answer he had this to say:
I think it ought to be pointed out that there has been a real degree of generosity in some of the study leave arrangements made by some institutions around Australia. Study leave has not been restricted merely to those who need some relief from academic duties -
That is an extraordinary concept of the function of academic study leave- and studies during an academic year. It has been extended to administrators, and if study leave is necessary one year in seven for administrators in universities, why would it not be necessary for administrators in other walks of life? I think it has been quite right to examine these provisions which overall, having in mind the additional staff numbers required, cost about $40m a year. I know that the direct costs are very much less than that- the cost of fares and other things- but the fact that institutions have to carry a much larger number of staff to cater for the study leave provisions costs a total of about $40m a year.
The Prime Minister then went on in this rather long answer to indicate a number of philosophically dubious attitudes about academic study leave. For example, he asked in a rhetorical way why academics in Australia could not take study leave at other universities in Australia. This is, I suppose, a good but at the same time a silly question if we consider the purposes of study leave in its traditional role in Australian universities. The sorts of comments made by the Prime Minister in his answer to the question are sharply in contrast with those made by the Government’s own committee of inquiry into study leave. I refer the Senate to page 102 of the draft report on Study Leave where the committee of inquiry made a summation of its conclusions.
It states, firstly, that the system of study leave has been an important factor in helping to overcome overall isolation from the major centres of research and learning and has enabled Australian scholars to establish a presence in the international community of scholarship out of proportion to Australia’s small population. Another conclusion it reached is that, whilst isolated individuals have taken unfair advantage of the system, there was no evidence of widespread misuse. It stated, thirdly, that study leave schemes have brought many benefits to the institutions, to students and to the community. Those are the sorts of conclusions which the working party reached in discussing the whole matter of study leave. They are in very sharp contrast to the sorts of notions which have been bandied about by Government Ministers, particularly by the Prime Minister, in relation to this matter.
The first general comment I would make about that is that the conclusions of the working party are quite different from many of the preconceptions and misconceptions of Government Ministers. Most particularly, those preconceptions and misconceptions are illustrated by the Prime Minister’s hazardous guess at the cost of study leave in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. The Dunbar committee is quite clear about that. Its conclusions are at page 33 of its report, where it expresses the cost of study leave as being $ 15.8m, which represents 3.5 per cent of the general recurrent grants to Australian universities in that year. The assumptions underlying the misconceptions and preconceptions about study leave are that everybody takes study leave; that everybody is paid for it by the Government when he takes it, which is not true; and so on. All these misconceptions are about and they result ultimately, I think, in a great deal of huff and puff going on about the issue all of which, in summation, seems to signify nothing.
If one looks at the statement by the Minister for Education today, one sees that it also contains all sorts of rather strange assumptions. For example, on page 1 concern is expressed that members of academic staffs should remain on campus and concentrate on their teaching responsibilities so that the burden does not fall on the students. We are all in favour of that. Nobody is in favour of burdens falling on students, particularly students in the schools sector.
– Speak for yourself.
- Senator Grimes said: Speak for yourself. I understand that the view he expressed is widespread in the community, but it is not widespread amongst graduates on the mainland of Australia. The fact of the matter is that there is no question of the burden falling on students, for the very simple reason that the way study leave operates in most institutions is that the slack is taken up by other staff at the institution. In the last paragraph of the first page of the Minister’s statement he went on to state that the Government thinks that there should be a continuing opportunity for study leave for certain staff.
Page 2 contains a summary of the effect of the Tertiary Education Commission’s final report. I shall make some brief comments about points which are made on that. First of all, it is stated that study leave should be more selective. I do not think that anybody can disagree with that. I have yet to find a classic scholar to explain to me the vast advantages which accrue to a Latin teacher in an Australian university from going on sabbatical leave to undertake continuing studies in Latin in a European university, for example, although it might be possible -
– In a Chinese university.
– As Senator Grimes said, the same situation would apply to a Chinese university. The great advantages which flow from tertiary education can be seen in the quality of Senator Grimes’ interjections. That is the case which can be made out for expenditure on universities. Senator Grimes has also had the advantages of various forms of study leave and, I understand, intends to take up this advantage again in a fortnight’s time as a member of the Australian Parliament. So we would say that that proposition, which is the first one suggested as a conclusion in the Commission ‘s final recommendations, is quite a sensible one.
The second conclusion suggests that the maximum amount of study leave should be seven percent of the available man-years for universities and five percent for colleges of advanced education. The same conclusion was reached in the draft report. It stated that study leave should be restricted to members of the academic staff. I think that we would generally agree with that, although it is possible that as a result of that less attention might be given to the art of education administration in this country than ought to be given to it. I make that point in passing. I do not think that we are highly successful in training education administrators, particularly university administrators. That might be a situation in which such a limitation would not be desirable.
The important point in the Minister’s statement is that, in general- whatever that meansindividual absences on study leave should be restricted to periods of not greater than six months. That, of course, is the nub of the whole issue. It represents an effective halving of the existing study provisions. The next point in the statement is that the present emphasis on overseas study leave should be reduced. I have the greatest criticism of that suggestion, which has come from the Dunbar committee and from members of the Government. I would have thought that, at this point of Australia’s history, when everybody who is in his right mind- if I might put it that way- is properly concerned about the very rapid social and technological changes which are taking place in this country, the one great issue about which we ought to be concerned is to ensure that we are not isolating ourselves in any way from the international community in relation to those technological and social changes which are taking place in all countries of equivalent economic sophistication to this country.
I think that it is a bizarre and retrogressive notion that there should be a removal of the emphasis on overseas study leave, as is the sort of suggestion that has fallen from the Prime Minister to the effect that Australian academics should take their study leave in other Australian universities. I really cannot understand the mindboggling refreshment which would flow to an Australian academic on his moving from Melbourne to Wollongong for a year in order to continue research or academic studies of one kind or another.
– It could be very good for an historian or philosopher of science.
– Yes. I do not want to generalise about this issue. I am just trying to make a general point about the issue and to state that I really think it is very important that Australian scholars are very much in touch with the international community of scholars in relation to the sorts of matters which I have raised.
– The Government is arguing that we ought to be extending our research and development programs.
-Yes, that is so. In the conclusion contained in the Commission’s next recommendation a special serve is retained for the colleges of advanced education, that is, that study leave should not be used as a means of upgrading academic qualifications. Where the nub for the universities is in the penultimate conclusions, the nub for the CAEs is in that conclusion. The Commission concluded that there should be greater accountability on the part of individual staff members and institutions in relation to academic staff leave. Everybody is in favour of accountability at the moment; it is a very ‘in’ word. But the Dunbar committee really expressed a view that in most Australian universities a satisfactory method of accountability was available already.
The point I would make about these sorts of conclusions which are drawn is simply this: One really feels that we did not have to go to all this trouble. There is only one crunch issue in it, that is, the halving of the period of academic staff leave. All the rest could have been accomplished by a nice letter being written to the vicechancellors asking them to look at these matters. We really did not have to go through this farcical inquiry and everything that has flowed from it, in view of the savings which ultimately will be made.
In conclusion, I want to make two general comments. The universities and colleges of advanced education in Australia are continually being described as moving into a ‘no growth’ situation. That is the message that the Tertiary Education Commission and the Government have been giving. Indirectly, it also flows from things such as the Borrie report. I believe that that message finally is getting through. But there is a very important point about academic staff study leave in respect of which I think the Government is going in totally the wrong direction. Professor Karmel says, for example, that, with 12,000 university academics in Australia, there will be only some 60 vacancies for new academics each year in the next two decades or so. That is a quite horrifying situation for Australian universities because what they are going to suffer from is a sort of hardening of the cerebral arteries in relation to the quality, flexibility, and so on, of academic work.
If we are not very careful, a whole generation of very bright young Australian academics will be denied academic jobs. At the Flinders University in South Australia, for example, more than 80 per cent of the staff are under 45 years of age. That means that no job opportunities for young academics are going to arise at Flinders University unless something very dramatic happens, such as the introduction of early retirement schemes for academics.
– Should we look at tenure?
– Of course we should look at tenure. People are looking at tenure. The Commission has been looking at tenure for some time. That, of course, is one of the things that have to be looked at. It is a very real problem for the academics concerned- the young academics who will be unable to get jobs or the young academics who have fixed term appointments for three years which will never be renewed, because there is no proper method of teaching assessment, for example, in Australian universities or colleges of advanced education. It is not only of concern to those people; it is of ultimate concern to this country as a whole. As I say, we are losing a generation of bright young people because of the rigidity which is coming into the system.
At this stage of history, to go on with this glib exercise in good housekeeping, as reflected in this Dunbar Committee report and the Government’s response to it, is, I think, totally the wrong approach. There is one way in which we can encourage young academics into the university staff area, and that is by maintaining a system of flexibility, a system of interchange with overseas institutions, and by freeing up the whole system in terms of the possibilities of employment for younger people. I think that it is a very important point. The Government’s attitude indicates the quite spastic approach which it adopts to all sorts of political questions in this country because it wants to smack somebody on the wrist. It says, in respect of academics, that there are too many fat cats and that their study leave should be cut. This is all done without any consideration of any of these other problems. I think that is vitally important and it is a very bad aspect of the Government’s decision in this matter.
Hopefully, some people are talking about the consequences of a post-industrial society and the sort of situation that will apply in a society like that in relation to the amount of leisure available to people and so on. The Prime Minister raised the question himself. He asked: Why should university administrators have study leave every seven years and other administrators not have it? That is a very good question. But the Government has made the wrong response. At this stage of Australia’s history it should be asking why other administrators have not got it- and, by the way, I suspect that a lot of them have it. That is the important question which we will have to confront. Not why study leave should be taken away from university administrators. We should not be asking how we can reduce sabbatical or study leave for university people. We should be considering how we can introduce it for a much wider section of the Australian work force. That is the sort of context in which this report, the recommendations of the Dunbar Committee and the Government’s response to those recommendations should be considered. I think this matter is a huff and puff exercise in which the Government has taken precisely the wrong approach to many of the issues because it is not forwardlooking. This is a retrogressive piece of flamboyant, good housekeeping symbolism. It does not really grasp at the very real issues which lie at the heart of this problem. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
– I essentially agree and the Australian Democrats essentially agree with the remarks of Senator Button that most of the contents of this report could well have been made by way of a letter to vice-chancellors or chancellors of universities. I will not detain the Senate for very long, for that very reason.
– My apologies, Senator Chipp; but, when Senator Button sought and was granted leave to continue his remarks later, at that point the debate was concluded for nowunless you seek leave to speak.
– I am sorry, Mr President. I was under the impression that I heard Senator Button move that the Senate take note of the paper. Could I seek leave to make a very short statement, Mr President?
– No; the situation is as I have said.
– Yes; but I am seeking leave to make a short statement.
– No; when Senator Button sought and was granted leave to continue his remarks later, the debate was concluded at that point.
– I am sorry, Mr President; I am still an amateur in the mysterious affairs of the Senate.
– We will try to give you an opportunity to speak at some other stage.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. I am a little concerned in that you have ruled that, once Senator Button sought and was granted leave to continue his remarks later, the debate was concluded at that point. In fact, Senator Chipp did seek leave to make a statement. I believe that that situation is provided for in the Standing Orders and that it should be in the Standing Orders.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order; in case we make an error here. Senator Button sought leave to continue his remarks later so that the matter would remain on the Notice Paper, and leave was granted. Provided that Senator Chipp seeks leave to speak and then seeks leave to continue his remarks later, I do not think that anyone has any objection to his doing so. But I wish to make certain that at the conclusion of his remarks he will seek leave to continue his remarks later.
- Senator Chipp, I did not hear you seek leave to make a statement initially.
– It is difficult to continue one’s remarks if one cannot begin to make them.
– Please make them very briefly, Senator Chipp.
– by leave- I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Senate. The Australian Democrats would agree essentially with
Senator Button’s criticisms; I think they are relatively mild criticisms- of the report. We would agree essentially with most of the points on page 2 of the statement of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). However, we would be even more critical than Senator Button of the statement that in future study leave should be restricted to members of the academic staff.
I would agree even more strongly with Senator Button that it seems an incongruity that administrators are specifically excluded from that provision. One would wonder in what category a vice-chancellor would come. Is he an academic or an administrator? I would have thought that, as soon as an academic attains the high rank of vice-chancellor, he becomes an administrator. I also would have thought that there was an unanswerable case for the administrators of Australian universities, in which billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is spent, being granted overseas study leave, as are the administrators of other public institutions in which millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is spent. It would be unthinkable if the administrators of our general and public hospitals, our police forces and our boards of works did not have the opportunity for overseas study leave. The investment of taxpayers’ funds in universities is even greater.
I do not want to be critical of the administration of all universities. Some are run magnificently. A few years ago, as a member of the House of Representatives I did a personal survey of some of Australia’s universities and my mind boggled at the inefficiencies of some of them and the waste of taxpayers’ money in some of them. That is not a criticism that applies to all universities. However, I think it presents a case for overseas study leave being extended to the administration area and not restricted.
We wonder about the wisdom of the statement In general, individual absences on study leave should be restricted to periods of not greater than six months’. As the academic year is essentially only nine months, I think we would be reducing the study leave period from 12 months to six months rather needlessly. I hope I do not misquote the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) but I think the reason he foreshadowed this change was the additional amount of money that would be required to replace academics who were on study leave. My information from the vice-chancellors of many universities with whom I have spoken is that in general terms there is no additional cost per se to the university in respect of academics who take study leave. I just wonder whether there is any saving in the cost at all? As I understand the position, most academics on study leave get a certain grant for their air fares. A friend of mine who is a professor at a leading Australian university is presently on overseas study leave. I think that the total cost to the Government for the grant he received is something like $1,200 or less. He is overseas for 12 months and the trip will cost him something like $7,000. He has to find something like $6,000 out of his own pocket. The sort of hectic schedule he has arranged which will benefit him and his university will certainly necessitate a 12 months stay. It seems to me to be needless to reduce that period to six months.
Finally, I agree with Senator Button in that I find the statement that the present emphasis on overseas study leave should be reduced to be rather extraordinary. If the Government is saying that there is now a manic obsession among academics to rush overseas every seven years or whatever I agree that this type of leave should be restricted per se. But if there is to be an active campaign to restrict overseas study leave I think that would be a retrograde step.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976, I present the recommendations of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and Western Australian State Grants Commissions on financial assistance to local government in those States for 1978-79. These recommendations have already been made available to honourable senators from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia respectively.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), for the information of honourable senators I present a statement made in the House of Representatives on 18 October 1978 by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) on the Prices Justification Tribunal.
– by leave- I move:
I would like to make some comments in respect of this very important decision that has been taken by the Government and which is contained in the document before the Senate. The Government has taken steps which largely nullify the effective work of the Prices Justification Tribunal which is one of the few mechanisms by which the Government’s and community’s interest is protected. Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday certain statements appeared in Australian newspapers which projected that the Government would take steps to water down the effectiveness of the Prices Justification Tribunal which was the subject of one of the important legislative acts of the previous Labor Government. Of course all this document does is confirm that that information did come from the Government, that it was leaked from the Government. One is therefore entitled to say that this Government is becoming more and more a leaky sort of government; a government that is not able to maintain any degree of propriety in respect of its decisionmaking processes.
The contents of documents appear first in the newspapers before the Parliament has any chance to consider or debate them. This raises the unedifying spectacle that the Parliament is so often denied an effective chance to discuss decisions that the Government has made. Statements are made in the Parliament and then a very brief opportunity is afforded to members to speak to those statements. In a previous debate today in which Senator Button led for the Opposition we saw the degree to which Senator Chipp was given the opportunity to make a very short commentary. Similarly we are being given a limited opportunity to speak on this very important proposal.
The statement is another example of dishonest government. We have been given only a few brief moments to study the document and comprehend what the Government is seeking to do. In one sentence the document seeks to say: ‘We desire to continue the functions of the Prices Justification Tribunal’. However, on closer examination, of course, we find that the Government has taken steps to break down completely the effectiveness of the Tribunal. Therefore, I do not think it is exaggeration to say that it is a dishonest document to that degree. The effectiveness of the Tribunal has been very much undermined.
An underhand attempt has been made to pay some recognition to the submissions that were made to the Government by the trade union movement through the Australian Council of Trade Unions and by the consumer organisations which represent a very large proportion of the Australian community. These major groups lobbied the Government heavily to ensure that the Tribunal should not in any way be weakened in its attempt to monitor prices and to play a surveillance role in respect of the activities of companies that come within its orbit from time to time.
I remind honourable senators that when this matter was debated in the Houses of Parliament several years ago Government senators who were then in Opposition although supporting the legislation succeeded in convincing the Labor Government of the time that the provisions of the Tribunal should be applied only to those companies that could be described as being in the big corporation or big business area. Therefore, the great majority of companies did not come within the ambit of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. Even that compromise which was reached in 1973-74 has now been completely taken out of the legislation. The Government’s decision means that the basic principles upon which the legislation was agreed to by the Parliament will be largely ineffective and inoperative. Of course, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) said that we will retain the Tribunal. But what do we retain? We retain a shell. We retain a structure which now rests purely in the hands of the Minister, and the ministerial control, of course, will be subjected to the activities of the lobbyists who have grown much more effective in size and influence since this Government came to power. I concede that lobbyists have always had a role to play. We are all aware that we have many more lobbyists in Canberra these days. This means that resources and influences are at hand to press the Government of the day to do this or that. Such lobbyists take steps to impress upon the Government not to take certain actions which have been hitherto provided in the legislation and it avoids its responsibilities.
Of course, in the three years that this Government has been in power we have seen a consistent attempt to meddle with the effectiveness of the Prices Justification Tribunal. We have seen successful efforts by the Government to dismantle in a piecemeal way the legislative provisions of the PJT, to defuse its effectiveness, and subsequently to weaken it. One of the most effective ways, apart from the legislative endeavours which have been considered by the Parliament and unfortunately passed, arises out of the Minister’s statement. Obviously, this matter will come before the Parliament. The staff that hitherto had the responsibility to police the legislation and to put it into day to day effectiveness and functioning has been reduced from some 160 to 90. The 70 members who were necessary in the first establishment processes of the Tribunal have subsequently seen a reduction to such an extent that the tribunal has been rendered largely unable to carry out its functions properly and has been made ineffective.
I suggest that we have a most unusual situation in that we have a Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. If ever there were a time for a divorcing of that responsibility, surely that is now. The mere statement of the Minister on this occasion shows that he can no” longer effectively represent either the affairs of business or of consumers. There is a conflict of interest here. Whilst I have no reason to doubt the integrity of the Minister in respect of his endeavours to look at problems facing consumers in Australia, and for that matter in the whole of the industrialised world, I point out that governments have seen fit at national and State levels to establish consumer organisations and agencies under their control. The fact is that the Minister is seeking to serve two masters. If there is any reason at all for the need for a consumer agency or consumer organisation- the Government is on record to suggest that there is a need for this in the modern world- how can the Government justify a Minister representing both consumer interests and business interests at the same time? The very purpose of consumer organisations, agencies and legislation surely is because business has failed properly to recognise the rights of such consumers.
The statement by the Minister reflects a decision of the Government and it continues the philosophical attack that the Government has launched upon wage and salary earners and consumers generally in the three years that it has been in office. In view of the statement put down to the Senate one is entitled to ask the very logical question: With the weakening of the Prices Justification Tribunal who is to protect the interests of consumers who are largely disorganised and scattered throughout the country? They lack the effectiveness and financial resources properly to place their complaints, concerns and attitudes in any effective way to governments and to seek some rectification of the problems as they see them, whether they be at the price front or in relation to quality or standard of goods. But who is to represent them if the PJT has been largely put in a position where now it remains just a very small, ineffective organisation acting at the whim of the Minister of the day who allegedly represents the interests of consumers as well as of business.
Of course, the justification that the Minister takes is that the Government has acted because it wants to restore business confidence and because it has become a costly operation. Who are the Minister and the Government trying to hoodwink in that respect? We are talking about costs involved in the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal. I am speaking about costs of a very small extent when compared with the total outlay of business. This is part of the big business and corporate sector of our economy. Only the big companies come within the ambit of the PJT. The Minister has the gall to suggest that costs involved in appearances before the Prices Justification Tribunal in preparation of cases to justify actions businesses seek to take, particularly on the price structure, play some mythicalaccording to the way we in the Opposition see it- response which seeks to destroy business confidence.
How can we argue, for example, on the question of petrol prices? This Budget gives a windfall donation to the petrol companies, most of which are foreign owned and therefore their profits flow out of this country. There can be no justification for them not to go before the Prices Justification Tribunal and adequately present their point of view to the Tribunal. Is there to be no surveillance? I think that is inherent in the statement of the Minister. There will be no surveillance of petrol prices whatsoever. Are these companies to be given a free hand in the very Budget which gave them a golden handshake in excess of $300m? One can only say that the Government is taking a very dishonest approach because it is those companies which owe very little allegiance to this country and which are not concerned about economic problems or of the attitudes of the Australian consuming public, which should be required to justify their attempts to increase prices vastly in excess of the increases brought about by the disastrous inflationary effect of the Government’s budgetary policies.
It is no wonder that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran and Mr Einfeld have said: ‘It is not on as far as we are concerned in New South Wales. Just because the Prices Justification Tribunal has said so we will not automatically raise petrol prices in our State’. In fact, the New South
Wales Government has appointed a special research team to look into the problem of petrol prices which are rising astronomically and way beyond the justification brought about by the increase in excise duty. Of course, the Government says that the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal penalise companies. That is hard to appreciate when one looks at the profit levels of most of the companies that have been brought before the Prices Justification Tribunal in the last four years.
I make some reference to the rather absurd statements that were made yesterday in the same area covered by this report. I refer to the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) made at the Local Government Conference yesterday. These remarks are related to the statement made by the Minister because certain punitive proposals have to be taken against companies in respect of increases in wages and salaries. The absurd statement made by Mr Anthony yesterday at that Conference was that wage indexation was responsible for inflation. Wage indexation is a relatively recent event. It came into operation only some four years ago. When this Government fought the 1975 election it pledged to retain wage indexation. On the one hand it claims that since it came to office it has reduced inflation but on the other hand it states that wage indexation is being only partially followed by the Conciliation and Arbitration authorities. According to Mr Anthony, this is responsible for inflation.
Again we have this contradictory and illogical position being expressed by government spokesmen. This statement which the Senate is now examining suggests that companies which are prepared to give consideration to claims that are legitimately and properly placed before them by the trade unions as representing the views of wage and salary earners can be penalised as a result of actions by the Minister of the day. Wage and salary earners, not only in their capacity as earners but also in their capacity as consumers, will be unprotected and left high and dry as a result of the inept attitude taken by the Government in this statement which will have the effect of strengthening the big business sector in our economy. This statement will obviously result in further legislation. It is small wonder that a degree of cynicism is developing within the Australian community about the role of government and the role of parliamentary democracy. That cynicism is surely borne out by the statement that the Minister seeks to put down as justification for the virtual abolition of the Prices Justification Tribunal.
Let us look at the effective work of the Tribunal, with all of its weaknesses, and accept the fact, as we in the Opposition have done, that when the amendments of last year were put into effect they seriously undermined the effectiveness of the Tribunal. Recently, in respect of the wool growers of this country, we saw an inquiry conducted by the Tribunal which, on the basis of all the evidence that was placed before it, came to certain conclusions designed to protect the wool growers from the avariciousness of the wool brokers. Two of the wool brokers began a process of defying the conclusions that had been reached. I can say only that they did so on the basis of an examination of all the evidence put before the Tribunal. These two wool brokers said that they would not accept the determination that had been made by the Tribunal. All honourable members know that finally one of them saw the error of that approach and agreed that there was a case to answer and that it would fall into line with the determinations of the PJT. The other, of course, thumbed his nose at the PJT, the Government and the wool growers. Today the Government wants to give that group of big business interests which refused to co-operate with a legitimate determination by the Tribunal more power so to do.
The Prices Justification Tribunal was set up to examine and monitor the activities of groups of companies which, because of their concentrated power within the community, were able to set prices without any checks or balances, except through the intervention of the PJT, the Industries Assistance Commission or the Trade Practices Commission. That obligation is now to be by-passed and to be replaced by a piecemeal approach, an ad hoc organisation under the control of the Minister who, on the basis of this statement, as we interpret it, has the power to decide what the Tribunal shall do. He will make that decision and the powers of the Tribunal, which is employed by the Government under the legislative processes of this Parliament and which previously had the responsibility and obligation to carry out its duties to the best of its ability, with the resources available to it under legislation set by the decisions of this Parliament, will be taken away completely. One can come to the conclusion only that the PJT has a very limited role and for the Minister to say in one brief sentence that the Government has decided to retain the PJT is a misnomer and an act of dishonesty. Obviously the decision of the Government is a pay-off to the multinational companies. It is a pay-off to big business and the big corporations which have the resources and the capacity and which are obviously in a more superior position than anybody in the community to present a case from time to time to justify their activities and pricing arrangements. They have now been removed from any surveillance whatsoever, except at the direction of the Minister. Having regard to the lobbying influences in Canberra since this Government came to power we can say only that the surveillance will not be very effective at all.
Finally, from time to time the Government calls for co-operation from the Australian community. It calls for co-operation from all groups- the trade unions, the consumers and the community at large- to try to assist in some better economic upturn and responses. Actions such as those now announced by the Government will destroy any possibility of community groups, whether they be trade unions or other bodies responding to such blandishments from the Government. We do not have to be economists to know that in many areas of our society competition is a farce, that it no longer exists and that the Government’s tactic of trying to build business confidence as well as consumer confidence will obviously fail. In those circumstances the Government’s calls to the community, such as the one in this statement, to assist it in its endeavours to get business confidence going will be at the expense of consumer confidence and community confidence in this Government. To all intents and purposes this statement has killed the Prices Justification Tribunal stone dead, but unfortunately the Government is not prepared to bury the corpse. It tries to maintain the farce that the PJT still has a role to play in some aspects of the Australian economy. That is not factual; it is a farce and the Opposition, the Australian Labor Party, will use every endeavour it can to try to bring about a mobilisation of public opinion in an attempt to get the Government to change its emphasis and to accept its responsibilities to provide guarantees of assistance to all sections of the Australian community, particularly the disadvantaged sections, which had some chance of accepting the deliberations of the PJT in the past but which will now see that even that very minor chance has been taken away by the decision of the Government to dismantle the most effective parts of the PJT.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the interim annual report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave- I move:
This might be an appropriate time to suspend the Senate. I could then make my remarks on this matter when we resume.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
-We have had very little time, of course, to examine this report; but I would like to make a few comments. Some of them I make somewhat tentatively because I cannot be certain, in respect of some of the inadequacies or the dearth of information in the report, as I see it on a quick examination, that the information in fact is not available, although I have not yet been able to find it. I think it is unlikely that it is available, because the sort of comment I am going to make could be applied validly to previous reports of the Corporation and there does not appear to have been any significant change in this report, although I think there might be a little more detail. In particular it is difficult, as it has been in the past, to follow from the figures pertaining to finances and so on in the report precisely what has been going on with the operation of the Market Support Fund. What all the accounts mean might be quite clear to the people in the Corporation, but it is far from clear to the typical wool grower, although the typical wool grower may not look at the report, or to those ordinary wool growers who want to look at the report and inform themselves more adequately about the Corporation’s activities.
Something in which I am particularly interested is the dearth of detailed information about the stockpiling, the buying in and the subsequent sales from the stockpile by the Corporation. The aggregate figures are given, but we are not given very much detail broken down by wool type. In fact we are given no detail of purchases broken down by type and sales broken down by type and, consequently, of the trading profit or loss from within the stockpile according to different types of wool. We are given the aggregate figures, but that is all. The reason I am particularly interested in this aspect is that in the past the Corporation has set disproportionately high reserves for higher priced or fine wools, that is, those with a low micron count. That seems to have followed, or is perhaps an attempt to fulfil, a prophecy which, like so much of the industry’s conventional wisdom, originated in the International Wool Secretariat in the mid to late 1960s. That prophecy which originated from the IWS was that fine wool prices would rise relative to other wool prices. That has not happened. One consequence of that long-standing misassessment of the relative price movements of wool was that at the end of 1977 about 25 per cent of the stock held by the Corporation was of the finest, lowest micron count wool produced, which represents 10 per cent of production; so that the Commission was holding the finer types of wool in stock disproportionately. I think that had been going on for some time.
The present report, I note, does tell us that 25 per cent of the fleece wools currently held are 20.5 micron and finer. I am not sure- I have not had time to check this yet- what proportion of the clip is 20.5 micron and finer, but I expect and presume that that comprises about the 10 per cent of the clip which the Corporation has quoted previously. If so, the situation existing at the end of the 1977 calendar year- that the finer wools comprised 25 per cent of the stockpile but only 10 per cent of production- still holds. We are not told either the length of time for which the various qualities of wool are held by the Corporation pending subsequent resale. Therefore, we are not in a position to calculate the degree of intra-industry subsidy or cross-subsidisation from the producers of broader quality wools to the producers of finer quality wools, although a prima facie case seems to exist that such subsidisation has taken place.
I note that the operating loss of the Market Support Fund for 1977-78, which in round figures is slightly below $10m this year, is a significant reduction on the operating loss for 1976-77. The value or otherwise of the Corporation cannot, of course, be assessed only on the size of the profit or loss recorded in the market support operation because that does not tell the whole story. It does not, for example, tell us the quantity of wool- it makes and can make no allowance for this, I believe- from which higher market prices were extracted as a result of the operations of the Corporation. We get some indirect indication of this from the section of the report which informs us that the Corporation in fact bid on 46 per cent of the wool offered at auction during the year but purchased only 14 per cent. The way that the Corporation keeps its accounts, there appears to have been some trading loss on that 14 per cent after allowance is made for storage, handling costs and so on, although we cannot be certain of that because the stockpile is a continuing exercise from one season to another. On the balance- the 32 per cent of the wool upon which the Corporation has bid- presumably a higher price has been extracted from the market than would have been extracted had the Corporation not been operating. I seek leave to continue my remarks on this matter later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act 1976, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That, in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974, the Senate approves the following proposals:
1 ) Erection of a cooling tower at the rear of Parliament House, Canberra.
Erection of police guard boxes within the parliamentary zone.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 24 October 1978, at 3 p.m., or such later time as the President may take the chair.
Motion (by Senator Georges)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Melzer be granted leave of absence for one month on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
Consideration resumed from 18 October 1978.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Student children over the age of sixteen years).
-I seek some clarification from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). Clause 3 amends section 1 8A of the principal Act to put an upper limit of 25 years of age on student children for whom a handicapped child’s allowance can be paid under this section of the legislation to age and invalid pensioners. It seems to me that the only reason given for this is to make uniform the provisions in the Act regarding children. I do not have any particular objection to a 25 years of age upper limit being placed on a definition of a child. But we should ensure that the Government and the Department of Social Security have made sure that, in fact, some people will not be considerably disadvantaged. I believe that the Minister misunderstood my remarks at the second reading stage. One can imagine the handicapped child of a pensioner, because of his or her difficulties, needing to be considered as a student child until after the age of 25 years. Has some investigation been undertaken to find out how many people over the age of 25 years in this situation are considered to be children and receiving benefits so that we can get some idea of how many people are affected by this clause and similar clauses throughout the legislation?
– I am advised that almost no one would be in this category and there are almost no such cases recorded. The clause contains a saving provision which states that anyone in this category who is receiving a payment would continue to receive it. The clause has been inserted in the Bill to apply the upper age limit for dependent full-time students. The Government believes that it is a reasonable clause and one which, to our knowledge, causes no hardship or change in circumstances to existing recipients. It is simply a clause which tidies the Bill and prevents the difficulties that could have occurred if we had not introduced a clause of this kind. As far as the Government is concerned, it is not a clause which will cause any difficulty, nor was it included to remove an existing benefit that anyone is receiving.
-I accept what the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has said. But one wonders why the change is necessary if, as she said, it is to remove a difficulty which may exist if the change is not made. I find it hard to find what difficulty exists now.
– There was no upper age limit at all. When making amendments to the Bill it was felt that the upper age limit of 25 years should apply in this area as it does everywhere else. The Act contained no upper age limit. The Government is simply taking the opportunity to introduce an age limit which we believe causes no hardship or difficulty.
Clause agreed to.
-The provisions contained in clause 4 are also repeated throughout the Bill. The clause prevents the payment of an additional pension for children who are living ‘permanently abroad and separated from the parent’. Superficially, one finds no violent objection to this. I can understand the Australian electorate objecting to the use of taxpayers’ money to pay benefits to children under such circumstances. But the provision has caused some disquiet in the migrant community, probably because of the lack of clarification by the Government. Although the clause is superficially innocuous, it should make us think a little. Australia, unlike some Western European countries, does not have a large guest worker population. Those countries have the benefit of guest workers. Perhaps they are paid social security benefits while they are working there. But once they are not needed they are sent back to their own countries. This has occurred a great deal in Europe.
Australia has an active immigration program which has encouraged people to come here. This applies particularly to members of the Turkish community who have been actively and vigorously encouraged to come and work in this country for the benefit of this country. It is quite wrong for us to take the attitude, as some Australians do, that we are doing these people a favour. We encourage these people to come to Australia to work. But members of the Turkish community and other ethnic communities find that when they come here, in order to acquire reasonable accommodation and a reasonable standard of living, both parents need to work. So that they can establish themselves, the parents then send their children home for several years to their grandparents because family ties are very close. I am concerned that these people may be in some difficulty. Both parents may be tax payers and contributing to the welfare of this country.
Whether we agree with it or not, the parents feel that their children are better off back in their own countries with their grandparents. Yet, in the case of age and invalid pensions- I admit it is not likely that many cases will come under these circumstances- we deprive the pensioners of these benefits. However later in the Bill in the case of other benefits and family allowances, people are deprived of those benefits. I wonder why the Government felt it necessary to introduce this restriction. What amount of money will be saved? How many people and what groups in the community will be affected? When changes like this are made which disturb and create suspicion among members of our ethnic community the Government should give its reasons. It should give the numbers involved.
If the Government believes that people are abusing the system, it should say how many people are doing so. I do not believe that the explanation in the second reading speech is sufficient to satisfy the Opposition of the necessity for this change.
– The clause has been introduced because the family allowance scheme is a family allowance for children living within Australia. The clause gives effect to the Government’s decision to withdraw additional payments for children outside Australia unless the child is temporarily absent. There is an opportunity here for discretion to be exercised with regard to temporary absence and the allowance will continue to be paid where the child is living abroad pending migration to Australia. This covers the situation mentioned by Senator Grimes, provided that child will arrive in Australia within four years. It is a family allowance scheme of the Government for Australian children and it will continue to be paid in cases of temporary absence or where the child will arrive within four years.
The allowance will cease to be payable for children who have never been in Australia and whose parents do not intend to bring them to Australia within four years. That seems to us to be a way in which the family allowance scheme can reasonably be applied. There are no changes in arrangements for payment of the family allowance for children already in Australia. We are taking this opportunity to say that it is a family allowance scheme for the benefit of children who are in Australia. There are two provisoschildren who are temporarily absent or will be coming here within four years. The allowance will also be paid in respect of such children. Otherwise there will not be a payment on their behalf. From our point of view that is quite consistent with the family allowance scheme and it is an amendment which we seek at this stage.
– I accept the Government’s philosophical objections and I am sorry if I sounded too aggressive and provoked an aggressive response from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle).
My understanding is that this provision does not refer only to family allowances; it refers also to allowances for children of pensioners. Such payments come out of what is normally described as family allowances in this scheme. For example a migrant couple from country Z- it does not matter what country it is- comes to Australia, having been attracted here, as families were until recently, by our immigration policies. After they arrive here they find it necessary, as do so many Australians- about 43 per cent of Australians- to work to maintain their standard of living. Then something happens. One becomes an invalid pensioner and the other needs support. They have a child whom they send home to country Z because they feel it is the best place for that child. What sort of criteria is the Director-General of Social Services going to use when under these circumstances he stops the payment for the child of a pensioner? All we really need is some guarantee of compassionate treatment in such a case. I have some philosophical difficulties about a country such as Australia that actively encourages migrants, has them working and paying taxes and then, because one of their children happens to be living out of the country, deprives them of benefits. I accept that my view might not be shared by all my colleagues. I seek that reassurance from the Minister.
– I regret that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) did not reply to Senator Grimes on the question of the amount of money involved and the number of people involved. It may be worth considering if it is a big amount but not if it is insignificant. The case that occurred to me, and I do not think it has been mentioned, relates to the breaking up of a home. A married couple separate and the wife takes the children back to Greece -
– The allowance could be paid if a parent is with them.
-That is what I am trying to find out. If there is an order for the husband to pay maintenance and he remains in Australia, he becomes a victim of these amendments to the Social Services Act. He still has an obligation to support his children who are living overseas. If the Minister says that the payment still will be made to him so that he can transmit it overseas for the support of his children, that is all right, but from a reading of the clause I would not have thought that that was so.
– I will clarify the situation for Senator Cavanagh. If the child goes overseas with a pensioner that child is entitled to the payment until he or she reaches 25 years of age. It is a payment that was never made to children in this category until 1976 when the family allowance scheme was introduced. I believe that when this provision was introduced it was not fully understood. We were talking about paying an allowance for children who had never been in Australia and who would not be brought to Australia in the foreseeable future. We have put in this clause the proviso that where a child is temporarily absent and where there is migration pending within four years the allowance will be paid. When this provision was introduced in 1 976 it had this open approach that a child who may never come to Australia would have an allowance paid on his behalf. It was felt that that provision should be amended in this way. I give an assurance that the new provision is not intended to cause hardship and that a child who is temporarily absent from Australia can be covered with compassion. The exclusion of children who are living overseas and who may never come to Australia is thought to be a reasonable amendment to this clause.
– I do not think that I made myself perfectly clear. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is not referring to the case that occurred to me. Let us assume that two parents with their children are resident in Australia, the family breaks up- there is a divorce or they just separate- and the mother goes home with the children to their country of origin. She has custody of the children and possibly there is a maintenance order. The working father in Australia has to pay a contribution towards the upkeep of the children. When he is unemployed and goes onto some type of social services benefit- maybe it is a pension- he does not go home to his country of origin; he stays here. He cannot go home because of his estrangement from his wife. However, he has a financial obligation. What is his position? Does he get paid an allowance to transmit it home for the benefit of his children who will be living in another country for in excess of four years?
– A woman who has children and who is divorced in Australia becomes eligible under our social security system for a pension. That pension is portable with her. The allowances that are paid for her children are portable with that pension. If she has the custody, care and control of the children and the children are with her she would be paid a family allowance. As far as I am concerned there is not the problem that Senator Cavanagh has raised, particularly if he is talking about a divorced woman or a family breakup. The pension is portable and the child allowance is also portable in that case.
– I understand that if the wife has a pension entitlement she loses that pension entitlement after the break-up of the family. She may have an order against her husband who remains in Australia and, therefore, there is no pension payable to her or allowance payable in respect of her children. I would say that whether she receives a pension in respect of the children or whether she gets support for the children would depend largely upon what action she has taken under the new and unknown clause 16 of the Bill. That is a clause we have not yet discussed. She may not have a claim under clause 16 to any entitlement in respect of the children. However, I am talking about the woman who does not rely on social security because she has against her husband a court order from the Family Court of Australia. He has the liability. He becomes the victim of social security requirements. He has an obligation to support his wife and children. It is said now that because his wife decides to take the children back home he will get no assistance from the Department of Social Security to support the children which the Australian court gave him an obligation to support.
– In a situation where the wife stayed in Australia with the children she would receive a family allowance. In the case cited by Senator Cavanagh we seem to be talking about children who are in the custody of the wife. If she is divorced or is separated in this country she will be entitled to a pension which is portable. 1 think that the problem which Senator Cavanagh cited does not exist.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) what would happen in the case of a migrant family settled in Australia which has left one child in its home country because of an affliction of some kind. For example, the child may be blind and the family did not wish the child to leave its environment. Would the family be penalised in any way or is there an allowance paid in circumstances such as this?
Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria-Minister for Social Security)- (2.45)-If the child had not been to Australia the family would not be able to receive an allowance for him. If he were to come here within four years an allowance would be payable. If he were regarded as temporarily absent he could be considered for payment of a benefit, but if there were a long term arrangement under which he would never enter the country then under this provision there would be no payment for him.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Rate of age or invalid pension (including guardian’s allowance payable to an unmarried person)).
-Clause 5 of this Social Services Amendment Bill seeks to amend section 28 of the principal Act. The part in which we are interested and which makes us oppose this clause is where the clause seeks to amend sub-section (2aa) of section 28 of the principal Act and to remove people who are permanently blind and people who are aged 70 years or over from the provisions of that section. That will have the effect of imposing an income test on future increases to pensions of people aged 70 years or over. I am perfectly aware that the clause sets a minimum income at which such a pensioner would be entitled to receive a pension increase without being subjected to the income test. We find this proposal to reimpose any sort of income test sufficient reason to oppose this clause. We do this because the people concerned had a firm assurance from the Government, particularly from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in November 1977, that they could rest assured that no such test would be introduced.
We believe that, although the Government might firmly believe that its economic policy is such that it must restrict public spending in the manner in which it is going about it, the burden of this action should not fall on people within that age group- people who previously were assured that they would not be interfered with. It is basically for this reason that we oppose this clause. If this clause were not agreed to it would have the effect of leaving section 28 (2AA) as it is and of leaving the blind and the pensioners of 70 years of age and over free of an income test.
-I fail to understand Senator Grimes’ attitude on this. He clearly stated during the second reading debate that he was instrumental in having the means test included in this Party’s platform. Now he is arguing that a means test should not be introduced and is saying that the Government is wrong in introducing this piece of legislation. It is quite beyond my comprehension where Senator Grimes actually stands on this issue. He cannot have it both ways. He says that in these economic times these people should not be asked to bear the burden of the provisions contained in this legislation. Yet he clearly stated yesterday in the debate on this Social Services Amendment Bill that, even in the best of times, he believed that a means test should be imposed on pensioners aged 70 years and over. That makes it very confusing, I am sure, for all Government honourable senators to understand what Senator Grimes means.
– If only I were as successful at fishing for fish as I am at fishing for Senator Walters! When we were in government, I stated quite clearly in this placemany Government honourable senators will remember this-that I questioned the top priority given by both the coalition parties and the Australian Labor Party to the abolition of the means test on pensions. As I said yesterday, our party platform no longer contains as a top priority the abolition of the means test on pensions. Previously, our platform gave priority to the abolition of the means test on pensions paid to people aged 65 years and over within three years of a Labor government coming to office. I believe that our present approach is sensible and practical. I have never suggested that we should reintroduce a means test for pensions received by people aged 70 years and over. In fact, I think that we have a pretty reasonable system now whereby people have to be concerned about a means test on their pensions only between the ages of 65 and 70 years. I have never suggested, neither has any member of the Labor Party suggested, that we would reintroduce a means test on pensions received by people aged 70 years and over.
The point is- we are talking about this Government’s legislation, not my legislationthat in 1977 Senator Walters and her colleagues and her Prime Minister promised those people aged 70 years and over that a means test or an income test on their pensions would not be introduced. When I suggested- honourable senators opposite will well remember this-that if the Government kept going the way it was going it would have to introduce a means test on pensions received by people aged 70 years and over and that the Government would have to cut out twice-yearly indexation of the pension, Senator Walters’ colleagues called me a liar and one of her ministerial colleagues said that I was trying to frighten the pensioners. As I said during the second reading debate on this Bill: Who is frightening the pensioners and who is the liar?
The matter at issue is not the Labor Party policy, although I am perfectly happy, as I always have been, to debate it. I believe that, in view of the economic circumstances, it would be wrong for the Government to give priority now to abolishing the means test on pensions received by people aged 65 years and over. I believed that in 1974 and 1975 when I sat on the Government side of this chamber. But I believe that it is wrong to reintroduce an income test of any kind on pensions received by people aged 70 years and over when a few months ago the Government promised that it would not do so and when the Leader of honourable senators opposite promised that such people could rest easy in their beds because such a measure would not be introduced. It is very easy in this chamber to turn the debate to discussing the policy of honourable senators on the other side of the chamber, but we are debating the Government’s Bill and its promises, not mine.
– The second reading speech by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on the Social Services Amendment Bill included a table showing the amount of weekly pension that would be payable to persons aged 70 years and over according to their weekly income from another source. Perhaps my confusion arises because no explanatory notes on this Bill were provided. I ask the Minister: Where is provision for these calculations made in the Bill or in the principal Act? Does this basis actually correspond with the income tests currently applicable to pensioners aged between 65 and 70 years?
– We are discussing the introduction of a means test on increases in pensions for persons aged 70 years and over, that is, increases beyond the present pension level of $5 1.45 a week for single pensioners and $85.80 a week for married pensioners. The introduction of this measure was felt by the Government to be necessary. We believe that this would still leave all pensioners aged 70 years and over with a very substantial income-test-free pension, which they can receive without being required to advise their income levels or any other circumstances. That level of $5 1 .45 a week for a single person is a substantial means-test-free pension. We believe that it is necessary that that amount should be frozen at the present rate.
We have introduced legislation to that effect so that those people who have no income other than their pensions or who are in circumstances that would warrant the payment of the increase in their pensions will be able to receive that increase. The annual increases will apply, probably, to about 90 per cent of the people aged 70 years and over. From our point of view such a measure was required at this stage, in order to stop the inexorable growth that is occurring in pensions and to give us an opportunity to apply the available resources to people who are in more need. It is in that context that we bring forward this amendment to apply that test to the increases in the pension that will occur in the future.
The information sought by Senator Colston is contained in section 28 (2) of the principal Act. In that section he will find the application of the means test as set out in my second reading speech. What has been clarified in this discussion is the Opposition’s policy with regard to the means testing of pensions. What may have been felt was that there was a complete introduction of means testing; so I was interested to hear Senator Grimes say that his Party’s platform is for a means test on the pensions of people between the ages of 65 years and 70 years. I simply say that, from the Government’s point of view, at this time we are introducing a provision that will freeze the income test free rate at $51.45 and there will be an application of income testing for those people whose incomes are beyond the income test level. We hope that this will allow the very great majority of Australian people to feel that there is a substantial income test free pension for those who are 70 years of age and over, and those who are in need will be able to be tested for the increases.
– I just ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) whether she is able to say how much it will cost to apply this means test to an increase in pensions received by those over 70 years of age and how, in fact, the process will be carried out. How is the Department going to carry out the means testing? Will yet another form have to be filled in by people who are approaching the eventide of their lives? If so, will the Minister assure me that the print on those forms is of a sensible size for people over 70 years of age to be able to read it?
-The point I wish to raise is an extension of Senator Townley ‘s question. I really think that the Minister for Social Security knew what our policy was. I do not think she really believed that our policy was just a means test free period for those between 65 and 70 years of age forever. One would hope that the introduction of some sort of national superannuation program in this country would eliminate the need for that. As Senator Townley has said, the Government is introducing a new means test on pension increases for those over 70 years of age. This will involve the filling in of forms by those people and an income testing of them. People are easily confused and sometimes intimidated by such filling in of forms. There has been experience in the past of considerable repayments being necessary by people who, through no fault of their own, have been overpaid. I will be more specific than Senator Townley. Can the Government tell us how much revenue is expected to be gained from this measure? What will be the administrative cost of gaining this increased revenue? Have the Government and the Department taken into account the considerable administrative difficulties which obviously will arise in dealing with people of this age group under these circumstances?
– I am able to inform Senator Townley and Senator Grimes that it is expected that there will be savings in the payment of pensions of some $ 14.3m this year and almost $22m in a full year. With regard to administrative costs, no additional staff are to be engaged to do this means testing. I should point out that at present, although there is no income test for those over 70 years of age, many of them do seek fringe benefits and they do advise us of their circumstances. As I said before, that would apply to almost 90 per cent of the people involved. The difficulty with regard to the other 10 per cent is that in some cases, I suppose for the first time, they will be filling in an annual form in order to be means tested for eligibility for increases. But I should have thought that those people who, in the first place, need to become eligible for an age pension would be required to fill in a form on an annual basis. If they wish to receive the increases they will need to provide the information that is required by the Department.
I understand what has been said with regard to the difficulties that many aging and frail people have as regards administrative complexities. I will check with the Department on Senator Townley ‘s question as to the size of the printing on the forms and I certainly will check as to the clarity of the printing so that those who are seeking to obtain their annual increases will not have any undue difficulties in becoming eligible to receive them. With regard to costs, I think it is known that our Department administers the payment of pensions and benefits at a cost of something over one per cent of the amount that it pays out. As I have told honourable senators, with regard to the thousands of millions of dollars that we will be expending this year we are not seeking any additional staff for the means testing of the increases for those over 70 years of age because, as I say, the very great majority of people do advise us of their circumstances so that they can be tested for fringe benefits.
– I am not doubting the integrity of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) or that of her departmental advisers, but I thought that was a most extraordinary statement for a Minister of the Crown to make in a parliament. The proposition that a government department is going to collect $22m more each year and it will not cost taxpayers one extra cent to collect that amount stretches our credibility as to the sort of advice that the Minister is giving. It is unbelievable that a department can collect $22m more each year but it will not cost any extra money to collect that amount. It just is not possible for me, as a former Minister and as a person who has had some experience in the administration of departments, to believe that a measure that would produce $22m in additional revenue and which involved people filling in additional forms or providing more information on existing forms could be performed without any additional administative cost. But I do not want to make a big point of that. That was not the question.
– I would say that you have done it.
– I say to Senator Walters that one of the things we need from Ministers in these sorts of debates is credible answers furnished by the departments. If Senator Walters wants to sit there and be silly enough to believe that a government can collect $22m more in revenue without it costing one extra cent, she is entitled to her opinion; but she should not put her standards of credibility on me, if she does not mind.
Having said that, I wish to say that the Australian Democrats will not oppose this clause. We think it is reasonable in philosophy that the amount of available funds should go to those people who are in need. That is our policy. With great respect to Senator Grimes, I wonder whether he was arguing with tongue in cheek when he said that the amounts set out on page 4 of the second reading speech were ungenerous to people over 70 years of age. The threshold of allowable extra income is not ungenerous to those over 70. 1 would have thought that it was Labor philosophy to allow the available funds to go to those people who are in need. If the Labor Party had been criticising and condemning the Government and the Minister for another broken promise, that would have been a different proposition. The Australian Democrats would agree entirely with the Labor Party on that point. But if we are not today voting on whether the Government failed to keep an election promise -
– It has.
– Of course it has, but we are not voting on that. We are voting on a clause in a Bill that will amend an Act of this Parliament. Much as we have sympathy with the Opposition’s point of view that this is another one in a long series of broken promises of the 1977 general election campaign, we believe that logically that is no reason to vote against this clause. We support the Government on this issue.
-I repeat that the Labor Party has a couple of objections to this change. The main one, of course, is that in 1977 all members of the Government parties, in particular the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), told the people of this country over 70 years of age that they could rest easy in their beds; that they would not have an income test introduced on their pension. That may be relatively unimportant to Senator Chipp, but I have been a member of this Parliament long enough, though not as long as the honourable senator, to hear people from the other side of the chamber parroting about credibility, parroting about honesty and parroting about decency. Here, at the first available opportunity, we have them telling the people in this country over 70 years of age that what the Government said last December was nonsense and what it was doing was lying to them.
I have never made any bones about my attitude in this place to means tests. I made my views known as a supporter of the Labor Government and now as a supporter of the Opposition. I happen to believe that the introduction of a means test pension for those people over 70 years of age- and this was not the intention- is not a bad or costly proposition. But the Government is going back on its promise to the pensioners so that it can save $22 m, as Senator Chipp says, at no cost. The Government has not really given us any reason for these people being picked on.
I do not agree with the Government’s economic point of view. I do not agree that the Government has to go beserk and cut government expenditure as it is doing. But if I did agree with the Government’s economic strategy I would not agree that the people we have to take it off are the people over 70 years of age any more than I would agree that the people we have to take if off are the crippled, the blind or any other unfortunate people in the community. For that reason we oppose this clause. We will continue to do so despite Senator Chipp ‘s attitude.
– I break new ground this afternoon. For the first time in debate in this place I disagree with my colleague from the Australian Democrats. I suppose having broken new ground it will not be the last time that I so disagree. Last night I outlined very clearly that there was a broken promise associated with this clause. I outlined how the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in 1975 when he was the caretaker Prime Minister said that there would not be a means test for people aged 70 years and over. He went even further. He said that the means test would be abolished. Last year he said that there would not be a means test for these people. During the election campaign last year the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) was quoted as having said that a means test would not be imposed. But this being the case, the clauses that we are discussing are the vehicles that will be used to break this promise. Therefore if we are to keep the Government honest I do not see why we should not oppose this clause and other clauses of the Bill. It is in this area that I must say I disagree.
May I raise another matter that perhaps the Minister might be able to clarify. Some pensioners have approached me because they have received from the Department of Social Security notices asking them to put in a statement of income. They were told that they might or might not receive an increase in their pension. They found the notice sufficiently unclear to be not sure whether they will be disadvantaged in comparison with people aged between 65 and 70 years. The Minister’s second reading speech contained a table which set out pension rates. I note in that table that a couple who receive $34.50 or less as a combined weekly income receive the maximum rate of pension. But then the rate declines to the stage when if the weekly income is $40.30 the recipients become entitled to a weekly pension of $42.90. This means that the pensioner couple will not receive any increase in pension. What I would like to know is this: Are the figures in that table exactly the same as for people between the ages of 65 and 70 years? Of course, a table for 65 to 70 year age group would go further and show declining rates of pension because of increased weekly income.
– I do not want to prolong discussion of this clause any longer. However, I would refer to a couple of matters that have arisen. I say to the Committee again that my advice is that there will be no increases in staff in the Department. There has been no allowance in staff ceilings to provide staff to administer the additional means test. Senator Chipp said that he could not believe that we would be collecting the amount of money that I mentioned. We are not collecting it. The people will receive pensions at the rate of $51.45 until they are eligible for increases in the future.
I said earlier that people are tested with regard to fringe benefits. An annual form is sent to all pensioners with the exception of those who have not chosen to tell us of their income levels. A small percentage of pensioners will receive forms who have not received them in the past. Forms will not be sent to the bulk of pensioners who are over age 70. The forms will be sent to those people who have not received fringe benefits. As I said, a great majority of the over seventies have already been tested and provided information and so they are eligible for fringe benefits. A letter has been sent to pensioners who are 70 years of age and over and who have declared their income and who would not otherwise have received the November increase. The purpose of the letter is to give these pensioners an opportunity to advise the Department of any decrease in income which may entitle them to the November 1978 increase.
I hope there is no confusion in the minds of pensioners who are receiving mail from the Department. I can understand the difficulties of some people in understanding government forms. I do not think there would be a senator sitting here who does not have difficulty in answering questions asked in government forms. The main aim of the Department is to give clear information and other advice to people so that these people can receive the amount to which they are eligible.
Senator Colston mentioned the application of the means test in respect of people over age 70. 1 assure him that this is the same means testing as is applied to people of earlier ages. This means testing does not involve any disability to pensioners over age 70. 1 think that answers the matters that were raised on this clause.
– The Australian Labor Party is opposing this clause because as Senator Grimes who is leading for the Opposition on this Bill, said of broken promises. I think it ought to be put on record now that the Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Chipp) said just a few moments ago that the Australian Democrats are not going to oppose the clause. I remind the Committee that when Mr Fraser delivered his 1 975 policy speech headed ‘Turn on the Lights’ Senator Chipp was the caretaker Minister for Social Security. I want to quote from the policy for which Senator Chipp was probably responsible. At page 10 of that policy speech the Prime Minister said:
We stand by our commitment to abolish the means test on pensions.
Now we have Senator Chipp standing in this chamber today and doing the very opposite. Not only has the Government broken its promise but also the Leader of the Australian Democrats is going to break a promise here today on the first opportunity he has to oppose a provision of this Bill which he stood most solidly for in the policy speech of 1975.
– That is the statement of a moron.
– It is a statement of fact.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6- Variation of maximum rates of age and invalid pensions.
-The Opposition opposes clause 6 which has the effect of changing the relevant period between which pension increases are automatically made from six months to 12 months. I do not need to go on at length about this provision. The Government parties initially made a promise in 1975 that the Government would automatically adjust pensions. That promise was originally made by the then Mr Chipp, now Senator Chipp, who was the shadow Minister for Social Security. After the 1975 election the Government seemed reluctant to introduce automatic indexation until prompted by the Opposition and, I must admit, by the then Government backbencher, Mr Chipp. Eventually, automatic indexation was introduced. As I said during the second reading debate, that is not quite what was promised. What was promised was automatic and immediate indexation of pensions with the consumer price index.
As has been pointed out by many people, particularly the pensioners’ organisations, there was nothing immediate about indexation. There was a delay of up to four months in pensioners catching up with price increases. Not only was that indexation promised but also it was eventually introduced, albeit imperfectly, and we had a form of indexation of pensions. Lengthy speeches were made from the government benches with self-praise pouring out and statements were made that politics had been taken out of pensions. Senator Guilfoyle, during the last election campaign, said that pensioners had been daily knocking on her door and thanking her for taking politics out of pensions. Firm promises which one can cite over and over again were made that this was firm government policy and that it would remain. In another place, in debate on this Bill, we have heard back benchers saying that they went around their electorates and told the pensioners that this automatic indexation would be retained. I see a stranger in the chamber now who, as I said before, called me a liar when I suggested that automatic indexation might not be continued. At the first available opportunity, that is the Budget, out came that promise.
First of all, I believe in the automatic and regular increase of pensions with the consumer price index. The index need not necessarily be the consumer price index. It may be appropriate to do what many countries have done and that is introduce a social security index. Secondly, I believe that when a government makes a promise as firm as this one to the pensioners of the country it should follow it through. Thirdly, I believe that it is quite immoral for the Government to have done what it has in this case. I do not believe that the Australian Democrats will have trouble voting with us on this issue.
– I am very disappointed that the Government has seen fit to introduce this measure. As we know, prior to this time pensions were adjusted half yearly but now we are told that they- and we will have to go out and tell this to the pensioners, the senior citizens of this country- will have their pensions adjusted only 12 -monthly. I believe that that will cause a great deal of hardship amongst the senior citizens of this country. They are the people who have contributed throughout their whole lifetimes to this country through working, many of them through raising families, through taxes and through their labours in the various areas. They have built this nation to what it is today. I believe that the Government is wrong in doing this. I am not able to support the Government in this issue. If the matter comes to a vote I will certainly not support the Government and I will show my disapproval by abstaining from voting.
– My friend and colleague, Senator Mason, is a much more gentle and gallant person than I am and he informed me that I was a little too savage and ungallant in my response to the interjection from my friend Senator Walters. If I was, I apologise. The only excuse I make is that I am a little emotionally angry today. The sole reason for that is this particular clause. Since I came to the senate I have been remarkably impressed with the higher tone of debate, with one or two classic exemptions.
– You do not like facts, do you? You make promises and break them, like your ex-leader. You will get a few more of them too while you are here.
– Nothing that came from Senator McLaren would astonish me, I assure him of that. I have been remarkably impressed with the tone of debate in the Senate and the way in which honourable senators listen to debates and develop a view on the debate based on the logic of the argument. I would think that if this is an independent House, as almost every honourable senator from both sides of the chamber has said in speeches to schools and in other places, if this is a House of review, and if it is a House of the States-
– I have not said that.
– It does not surprise me in the slightest that Senator McLaren has not said that because it is a far too intelligent thing for him to have thought of, let alone say. I am delighted to find myself in different company to Senator McLaren in that he has not said that. If this place is supposed to be an independent House then today is the classic time for members of the chamber to show their independence and to vote according to the known wishes of their constituents, not according to a party direction. I was both pleased and sorry to hear Senator Bonner’s speech. I have been in this business for 1 7 years and if Senator McLaren says that that is too long then it will probably be the first and only time in my life that I will ever agree with him.
I know how difficult it is for members of political parties to say something against the dictates of the party machine. I know what happens in the Caucus room. It takes a great deal of guts, of courage, and there are fewer people who do that in both Houses of the Parliament than I believe ought to. Senator Bonner did it today. Senator Townley did it yesterday and hopefully he may do it again in a minute. It disappoints me when a man of courage like Senator Bonner says: ‘I disagree with this; this is a betrayal of what the Government promised’ but then he does not vote. In fact he denies the people who elected him the opportunity of his voice and his vote in the matter about to be voted on. I am sure that Senator Grimes will call a division. If he does not, we will. This is an opportunity for every member of the Committee to stand up and be counted because it is a serious issue. I go to the history of this matter and of why it is a broken promise of the worst order. I had the great honour to be chairman of the Liberal-Country parties social services backbench committee, a member of the Executive when we were in the Opposition and the shadow Minister for Social Security.
– You were Minister for Social Security. You succeeded me.
– I know, I am coming to that in a minute.
– You made promises.
-Indeed, and I will show today that I will stick to that promise. In formulating Liberal-Country Party policy the committee of which I was a member laboriously sought the views of outside organisations which were actually in the welfare field. It sought not only academic views from people in ivory towers but also the view of the Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Catholic Family Welfare Bureaux, the Australian Council of Social Service, the Victorian Council of Social Service, other councils of social service and many workers in the field. Every one came to us and said that the most urgent social reform needed in this country was indexation of pensions on an instant and automatic basis. Why did they say that? They were not only speaking for economic reasons. I used to be a member of the other place- probably it happens here also- where twice a year when Parliament was being broadcast politicians kicked pensions around like a football. They did not give a damn about old people listening in whose whole future economic security was at stake. Politicians tried to score points off each other, with the appropriate language.
It was for that reason and not just for the economic reason that all the social workers said: ‘Let us take politics out of pensions and index them instantly and automatically’. The LiberalNational Country Party committee agreed unanimously to index pensions on a quarterly basis automatically following the publication of the consumer price index- not four months after and not six months after. I took that proposal to the joint parties and unanimous approval was given to it. It was approved by the shadow Cabinet and then, after 1 1 November 1975, when the caretaker government was appointed by Sir John Kerr and I was the caretaker Minister for Social Security, Health, Repatriation and Compensation, the full caretaker Cabinet endorsed the proposal unanimously and endorsed a statement I issued on its behalf promising that this would be introduced immediately if we won office.
I would like to go back over a little bit of history. Every member of the Liberal Party will agree that traditionally the pensioner vote has essentially been for the Labor Party, for reasons that we need not go into today. In 1975 there was a switch by hundreds of thousands of pensioners because we blazed the trail in this social reform, by taking politics out of pensions. We won the pensioners ‘ vote for the first time in many years. Then what happened? Immediately after we won that election instructions were given by the Prime Minister of this country, Malcolm Fraser, to my successor, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, and her Department to scrap the promise. This was before the Parliament had even met. It was two months or two weeks or whatever after the election results were announced. The first party meeting in 1976 witnessed one of the most disgraceful scenes ever seen in the Liberal-Country Party party room in the history of this Parliament. It was announced that the promise would not be honoured, that there were too many difficulties.
There was uproar in the party room. I led it and I was pleased to lead it. I got some support and finally I threatened the Government in the party room that unless indexation was introduced in the Budget I would move a private member’s Bill to introduce indexation. So many Liberal back-benchers supported me that the Government succumbed to that threat. That is the history of this development. Then the situation worsened. We agreed reluctantly to sixmonthly indexation, four months after the consumer price index was released. I tried to have that changed, but I could not get enough backbenchers to come with me. Now this clause goes even further. It goes past the stage of having 12- monthly indexation. It will be 12 months plus four months before pensioners have their pensions indexed. That is the sorry history of this piece of legislation.
In the 1977 election campaign, which is not a long time ago, there was not one mention of changing that indexation of pensions. Instead there were constant references in the Liberal election campaign that the Liberal Party was an innovator in this field of social reform. There was not one mention that anything would be done to change indexation. Has anything happened between the election in 1977 and the Budget in 1978 to warrant a breaking of this promise on such a massive subject? Do not honourable senators know that when the debates on pensions are going on pensioners listen to them on radios in their homes? Has anything happened to cause the Government to renege on its promise? We are told that the reason for it is that inflation has come down. All honourable senators would concede that inflation has come down from X to Y or whatever it is. I do not know and I do not care what X was; Y now is about 7 per cent or 8 per cent. Is the Government saying that pensioners should be one of the few sections in the community which can go for 16 months having their pensions, their weekly incomes, eroded to the extent of 7 per cent or 8 per cent a year? Is the Government saying that it is going to allow age pensioners to have a 12 per cent, or whatever it is, erosion in their weekly incomes before it corrects their pensions? That is precisely what it is saying.
This chamber is supposed to give a freer vote to members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party than the lower House. Liberal senators will know that those promises, that philosophy of indexation of pensions won borderline seats for a lot of their mates in the House of Representatives. I need not name them, but they won their seats on that promise. Now this legislation intends to break that promise. I began my comments by saying that I was emotionally angry. My anger has not abated during the time I have spoken. I appeal to those Liberal senators who find a semblance of morality in the argument I have put forward today to vote against this overt breach of an election promise on which many Liberal members won their seats, on which, perchance, some Liberal senators in the third position on the ticket won their seat. I sympathise with those honourable senators, including Senator Bonner, who feel in their consciences or in their deliberations that it is not possible for them to vote against the Government on this measure because they know that there is a tied vote on this side of the chamber. It is an unfortunate thing and an unhappy thing, but that is the situation. There are people in this chamber who have signed a pledge saying that if they ever change their way of voting they will suffer immediate expulsion from the party to which they belong. Government senators have not signed such a pledge. To those Liberal senators who feel that they cannot vote against the Government I say, in the name of morality, that if they cannot support this Bill, they should cross the floor. If they cannot do that I plead with them to abstain, at least to give this infamous amendment a fighting chance of being destroyed.
– First of all I would like very briefly to apologise to my fellow Tasmanian senator with whom I thought I was a little abrupt last night.
– I seem to be getting a lot of apologies today.
– I assure you, Senator Walters, that I was going to apologise even before. It just shows that at times you stir us up perhaps more than you should. That is all I want to say. I apologise for my sharpness. It is not my usual character, I assure you. Today, as is my usual habit, I got out of this building at lunch time. It was a nice day and when I was outside in the sunshine I thought what a warm and balmy day it was. For some reason my mind stopped at the word ‘balmy’ because it reminded me of a speech in this place last night after I had spoken.
– Feathers, was it?
– It was made by one of the senators on the other side of the chamber. He spent a considerable amount of time erroneously detailing my background. I thought today- I shall relate my remarks to the clause- we would look at the background of this shearer and poultry farmer. Let us see what happened in 1970 when this guy first stood for election. If honourable senators would like to look at my figures, they are here. I went to the trouble to get them for you, Senator McLaren; you can come and compare them to see where you stand. Let us look at yours for once. In 1970, out of a number of over 609,000 who voted, how many do honourable senators reckon he got?
– If he got one it is a surprise?
– That would be his own.
-No, that was informal. He polled 1,265 votes. Then he came here and his cackling started. In 1974, out of more than 722,000 votes, how many do honourable senators reckon he got?
– Tell us.
– I was going to-280, just about one quarter. Where do honourable senators reckon he was in the Labor Party numbers? Down the bottom! It just shows that all the public out there are not stupid- 280 of them are, but not all of them. What about 1975? Out of nearly 760,000 votes he received- come on, who has got it?- 2 13.
– It is going down still.
-That is right. The voting numbers are going up and his votes are going down, the more he cackles. Once again he won the unpopularity competition in the Labor Party in South Australia.
– We are on social security legislation, you know.
– I am going to relate it to that. I am going to show the Committee how stupid this bloke is.
– Use your logic.
– I am going to.
Opposition senators interjecting-
-Get up and defend him.
– I will defend myself.
– Order! Senator, you must relate your remarks to the Bill now.
-With due respect, Mr Chairman, I shall relate my remarks to the clause we are talking about. I think the last figure I quoted that showed he had won the unpopularity contest of his Party reveals that people of South Australia are continuing to recognise his inability. However, he is even more stupid than I would have thought possible. He speaks usually ad nauseum and pretends to want members of the Government to join with the Labor Party to defend something that I say is -
– Point of order!
-Come on, defend him; you need to.
– I rise to take a point of order. I normally do not take a point of order on this sort of issue but we are debating a serious subject. I believe that to refer to any other senator as stupid is offensive and should be withdrawn. Perhaps we can then get the debate back to a proper level.
- Senator, I do not believe you have a point of order. I would ask you to return to the clause.
– I am getting around to it.
– In fact, you have as yet to reach it.
– I assure you that I am going to relate this to clause 6.
– What clause are you on?
-Clause 6. Haven’t you caught up with it yet?
– Does that talk about Senator McLaren?
-No. I am showing how stupid he was if he wants people from the Government benches to join with him. He came in here to speak after I had spoken- the proceedings were being broadcast- and I did not have a chance subsequently to defend myself. He spoke in a way that caused some of my colleagues subsequently to say to me- and I quote them- that they would not vote with that dill if they were paid to. They are not my words.
– Order! Senator, I have to ask you once again, and finally, to return to clause 6.
– I am, Mr Chairman. If you follow me through, I think you will see -
– No. Seriously, the honourable senator must return to the clause. Say what you want that refers to the clause.
– I would not want to go against your ruling in any way whatsoever, Mr Chairman, but I am going to point out that Senator McLaren’s action of getting stuck into me last night gave me the impression that he did not even want the Labor Party to win on this clause. In fact, I think it wants to lose the vote. If this clause is lost, the pensioners of Australia will be able to point to Senator McLaren and say that he is the cause of this clause being lost. If the pensioners are left with only yearly indexation, I believe a lot of the blame for that can be laid at the door of Senator McLaren and his actions last night. As I said, it makes me wonder whether the Labor Party really wants this clause to be defeated. I believe if you did, Senator Wriedt, you would not allow Senator McLaren to continue on the way he does. That is all I wish to say on that subject. One day, Senator McLaren, when you get stuck into somebody, he will invite you outside and knock your block off.
– You would not be able to do it, anyway; I can tell you that. You would not be able to fight your way out of a paper bag.
– When he does, he will find that you do not have any mind of your own; he will find your head is full of feathers. I believe the people of South Australia woke up to Senator McLaren. Now I reckon he ought to wake up to himself. I return to the Bill. Once more, I ask the Government to consider putting pensioners in the same boat as Australian workers and allow for a six-monthly indexing of them. Workers now receive a twice-yearly adjustment. I feel presently that, if this Bill is agreed to and we end up with yearly indexation of pensions, the pensioners will not let it stop at that. I believe that, during the next six months, there will be continuing pressure. It could well be that in six months time a private members Bill will have to be introduced here and in the Representatives. I believe that such action has already been examined by some Representatives members. I hasten to say they are not Tasmanians although they would no doubt join in such a move.
I ask the Government to adjourn consideration of this Bill now and re-examine it. I think it is very important that we are fair to those 25 per cent of the voters who are pensioners.
There has been some criticism during consideration of this clause of using the consumer price index to June 1979 and saying that people have to wait 16 months for their adjustment. If inflation is falling and the inflation figures to the end of June rather than to the end of September are taken actually pensioners are better off by using those figures than they would be if we used the most recent ones. I think the figures out today show yet another lowering of the inflation rate. So pensioners are actually better off by taking the figures to June. I think that that argument that some people have been putting is not a fictitious one. I ask the Government to re-examine this matter because I think it is going to be a continual sore in its side otherwise.
– In speaking to clause 6, 1 feel that I first have to refute what Senator ‘whatever his name is ‘ over there has said in misrepresenting me. All that he quoted were the primary votes on a Senate ticket. He did not quote the figures after preferences were allocated; otherwise he would have been pleased to tell the Senate that I was No. 2 elected in South Australia at the last election.
– You were last in 1 970.
– I do not care where I was on the ticket. With our preferential system of electing senators, that result just goes to show how closely knit the Labor Party vote is when it votes for the Australian Labor Party Senate ticket. I do not think that our friend over there has proved anything by his diatribe except that my remarks last night certainly got under his skin. I exposed him for what he truly is. I want to talk about a few matters that were raised by the Leader of the Australian Democratics (Senator Chipp). He said that every senator on this side, when addressing schools, would emphasise the fact we were truly of the belief that this was an independent House. At no time have I said that. I am on record as saying on many occasions in this Parliament that this is not an independent House; it is a rubber stamp when the Liberal Party is in government and it is a House of frustration when the Labor Party is in government. I tell that to pupils at every school at which I speak, and, of course, I can back that up with the record. That is all I need to say about that. Then Senator Chipp said that this is a much freer House. He ought to have been listening to my speech last night when I quoted from a letter written to the Australian by the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, when Senator Chipp was still a member of the Liberal Party and a Minister. I said:
I wish to quote from a letter that was sent to the Australian on 17 July 1974 by Senator Withers . . .
This is part of the letter which he wrote to the newspaper, talking about bis colleagues who said that they were independents:
They are also pan of the total Liberal Parliamentary Party. They are bound by decisions and policies made by that total party, and have the right and indeed the duty to try to see those decisions and policies are carried out.
It is all very well for honourable senators opposite to say that we are bound by the pledge. We are proud to sign it. It is a policy with which we go to the people. We do not go to the people with fictitious policies, as honourable senators opposite do; in fact, as they did with regard to this clause by saying that they were going to maintain benefits for pensioners by having a twice-yearly increase when in the clause we are discussing now, clause 6, the Government is taking away those benefits.
Senator Chipp also said that it was his Party which introduced twice-yearly increases for pensioners. Of course, he is trying to take some credit away from the Labor Party. I have here some statistics which I obtained from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. If we look at the three years for which we were in government we see that on 14 December 1972 when we came into office, we gave an increase of $1.50 to single age and invalid pensioners; on 4 October 1973- that is, about eight months later- we gave an increase of $1.50; six months later, on 4 April 1974 we gave an increase of $3; approximately six months later, on 8 August -
– No; 10 months later.
– I am talking about 8 August 1974, when we gave the pensioners an increase of $5. On 1 May 1975 we gave the pensioners another increase of $5. These are statistics for the period when we were in office. The pensioners got increases twice each year from the Whitlam Labor Government. So it is of no use for Senator Walters to say that it was her party that introduced twice-yearly increases. The pensioners know full well that in the period of the Labor Government they got twice-yearly increases in pensions.
Honourable senators opposite went to the people in 1975 with a policy speech on social security which no doubt was devised by the present Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Chipp), and last year when Mr Fraser said that the Government would maintain twice-yearly increases. Has the Government done so? Of course, clause 6 proves that it has not done so. So it is all very well for honourable senators opposite to make promises. We know full well, as Senator Grimes has pointed out to the electors, that what the Government was doing was drawing a red herring across the trail to fool the pensioners, in particular, into voting for it. Of course, we now have Senator Chipp on record as saying that that is exactly what happened; that the Government fooled the pensioners and they voted for it. He is now sounding a warning to the Government that the pensioners will not vote for it at the next election. I think that if we could only dissect the figures of the New South Wales election we would find that part of the disastrous result for the Liberal Party came from the pensioners because they are disgusted with honourable senators who sit opposite and who are led by Mr Fraser making false promises to the electors and trying to win their support. I say to honourable senators opposite here and now, as Senator Chipp has said, that they will not get the pensioners’ vote at the next election, because of this very measure, this very clause 6 in this Bill. The Government has defrauded and hoodwinked them, and now has to live with that. If honourable senators opposite have any intestinal fortitude, as Senator Chipp has said they ought to have, and if they have the freedom which they always claim they have, they will cross the floor and vote with the Labor Party to defeat this clause.
– Somewhat reluctantly, I join in this discussion because I feel that there are some aspects of it on which it might be appropriate to make a comment- not about the merits or otherwise of the particular provision so much as about the matters that seem to have come into the discussion of the provision. Before I refer to that and because of the attack that was made, I think unfairly, on my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Townley, when it was suggested that there was certainly no prospect of his being on the ticket next time round, I suggest that anybody who thinks that may have cause to reconsider because, after all, he has demonstrated in a way that not many people have been able to demonstrate that he can get here whether or not he is endorsed by a party. He has done it twice.
– Endorsement is easy to get in Tasmania.
– Obviously my friend Senator Wriedt makes that comment because he has some reason to feel quite strongly about the matter in view of publicity which has been put out about him recently and, I would have thought, rather falsely.
– I meant in the Liberal Party.
– I am expanding it to include both parties. I do not expect Senator Townley to be left off the Liberal Party ticket any more than 1 expect Senator Wriedt to be in any position other than No. 1 for the Labor Party.
Senator Chipp referred to what he said ought to happen in relation to this legislation. He referred to the Senate’s role, the role of individual senators and the freedom which is enjoyed and has been demonstrated by members of the Liberal Party in this chamber but which is not available to members of the Opposition. I think that there is another freedom, right or responsibility which has been left out of the discussion. That is the right of the Senate as a House of review to participate in the consideration and review of a Budget. I think that there are real problems which have existed since 1 975 in the public mind as to the Senate’s proper role in relation to Supply. I think that there were very real problems which existed in the minds of many of the members of this chamber in the period leading up to November 1975. 1 do not think that we can just blandly throw around the idea that everybody should just rewrite the Budget in this chamber, because a Budget is not only an expenditure document but also a revenue document. It is not simply a single provision which can be considered in isolation. When one starts advocating in this chamber that we just cut out what we want to cut out or increase what we want to increase in this way or that, I think that has to be viewed in the context of the responsibility of the elected government- a responsibility which it must carry- to prepare a Budget which can be rejected and on which the people have a chance to vote or which is otherwise relatively unalterable by this chamber, whatever this chamber may think about it.
This is something which has been referred to the Consitutional Convention and in particular to Standing Committee D of that Convention. It has been the subject matter of discussion at two conventions now in considerable detail, including a full day’s discussion at the last convention in Perth. It has been referred back to Standing Committee D for further consideration. I hope that some rational, reasonable and responsible consideration will take place- not the party line attitude of ‘you did, you did not’, the childish stuff which comes from one or two people and which I do not think enhances the debate at all. I am concerned that we should try to work out what we can do because it worries me that we cannot have some real input into the Budget. I think that there are times in the life of every government when perhaps not all wisdom is demonstrated in the decisions taken by the group which comprises the senior executive of the party that is in government; and that the democratic process involves some opportunity for input by all the elected people who constitute the total Parliament. I am concerned that the present situation does not give this House an adequate opportunity for input in the budgetary process. But what I do not see as the answer is the ad hoc rewriting of the Budget on the basis which has been suggested in the chamber today. It is my view that this is a serious matter for further consideration and for further development in the interests of the smooth, effective and efficient workings of a parliamentary democracy. I have indicated previously in relation to a taxation matter that, irrespective of what my view may be, I do not propose to try to engage in the rewriting of the Budget at this stage.
– Last night in the second reading debate on the Social Services Amendment Bill I pointed out my opposition to clause 6. 1 do not intend to canvass again the arguments that I canvassed last night. However, I am a little disappointed that in discussing clause 6 this afternoon, some of the debate has degenerated to a personal level. We will not enhance the debate and the thinking about the provisions of this clause by having a debate like that. I refer to clause 6(b) and raise a question in regard to it which perhaps the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) may be able to answer. Clause 6(b) amends section 28a (5) (a) of the principal Act. The new subsection concerns the factor to be ascertained for the purposes of sub-section 4 in relation to the relevant period and will read: . . the number, calculated to 3 decimal places, ascertained by dividing the index number Tor the last preceding June quarter by the highest index number in respect of any other preceding June quarter, being such a quarter in the year 1 978 or any subsequent year;
From my reading of the proposed new subsection, it seems that it will probably work satisfactorily forever as long as we want to have the Act worked in this way. However, I think that it contains a possible defect. I will explain my understanding of the clause and the Minister may be able to show me where I am wrong if there is no such defect. I will not use the correct indices but by way of example let us suppose we have a consumer price index of 120 in 1978 and then for some reason in 1979 we had an index of 1 10. This would be a most unusual scenario but it could happen. In other words, there would be a decrease in the consumer price index. In that situation, I think that clause 6 would still work in that there would be a decrease in the rate of pension.
– The pension will not fall.
-I accept that but let me continue. Suppose that in 1980 the consumer price index became 115 and then in 198 1 it rose to 125. 1 would assume that if in 1980 we had an index of 115 and in 1981 an index of 125, the factor would be obtained by dividing 125 by 115. However, it seems to me that the clause states that the factor shall be obtained by dividing the index number for the last preceding quarter by the highest index number in respect of any other preceding June quarter. In these circumstances, it seems to me that one would divide the 125 not by the 115 of the immediately preceding year, but by the 120 which was the highest index number of any other preceding June quarter.
If I am correct in my assumption it would seem to me that the matter could be tidied up quite simply by altering part of the amendment to read for the last preceding June quarter by the index number in respect of the preceding June quarter’. I admit that this is rather complicated but it seems to me there is no other way to outline what I believe could be a deficiency in this part of the amendment.
-I want to speak briefly to this clause and repeat the Opposition ‘s objection to it. I am sorry that the debate has degenerated into the sort of personal clashes that it has because the issue is far too important for this. I was quite surprised by Senator Rae’s contribution to this debate. I was in this chamber when Senator Rae actually crossed the floor to oppose a Budget measure- the abolition of the funeral benefit. This action resulted in an increase in expenditure at the time. To find Senator Rae now saying he does not believe that senators should indulge in this sort of ad hockery surprises me. It also surprises me that in the many discussion I have had with Senator Rae on the future of this place and the many times that I have heard him speak on this subject, he has frequently proclaimed the Senate’s right to take action in situations like this.
However, this clause is not just about the small amount of increase to the revenue which the Government will gain. This clause is about an absolute breach of faith by the Government. It involves the complete reversal of a promise the Government made to the pensioners of this country at two elections and many times in between. This clause involves the pensioners’ faith in the legislative processes of this country. I believe such a loss of faith is severe if clause 6 stands and pensions are indexed only once a year. A few days ago at a meeting of a Senate Estimates committee, a senior officer of the Department of Social Security told us that no administrative problems were involved and that the administrative costs of six monthly indexation, as against yearly indexation, were very low indeed with modern computer methods. The only saving to revenue is the decrease in the amount of payment to pensioners. If 12-monthly indexation had been in operation in 1975-76, the pensioners would have received slightly over $2 a week less. If it had been in existence last year, they would have received over $3 a week less. We have inflation at a level barely more than it was in 1972 when the then Liberal Government introduced two pension changes. The inflation level is not that much more than it was in 1971 when the then Liberal Government introduced two pension changes. I am reminded of the Canadian situation where, under its pension plan, the rate is adjusted in many States every month and at the least every three months. There are no administrative difficulties there. The only saving to speak of is in the payment made to the pensioners.
I come back to the fact that this action is a complete breach of faith and a complete going back on a promise. The small amount of money that is saved will not make one scrap of difference to the inflation rate in this country or to the budgetary strategy of the Government. It is a stupid action. It is the result of a government relying on unfeeling technocrats to draw up its budgetary strategy rather than showing concern for the social and financial effects on the people involved. I repeat our opposition to the clause.
– I speak to clause 6 (a). Although I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by covering ground which has already been covered, I think it is worth stating the position of the Australian Democrats. We believe that persons who devote their working lives to this country should not be disadvantaged in this kind of way when they retire. This seems to the Australian Democrats to be a quite fundamental attitude for any modern society that makes any small claim to being civilised. I ought to add, too, that this policy of the Australian Democrats was adopted by our national membership in a secret ballot and that we are the only political movement in this country which does that. I do not willingly want to add to the long list of people who are taking Senator McLaren to task, but he was perfectly well aware when he made his remarks that Senator Chipp ‘s comments were inspired by a policy which was also voted on by many more people than would ever vote for an Australian Labor Party policy.
– At some stage Senator McLaren can convince me with figures that that is not so. I shall return to clause 6 (a). I suggest that there is little relevance in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that, because inflation might be slowing down, the effect of this proposal to adjust pensions annually would be limited. It could be equally argued that because the Government seems confident of arresting inflation this type of miserly economy is of no great value anyway. In other words, if we arrest inflation the value of this proposal will be negative, and I put that to the Minister. Of course, that is a side issue. The important thing is not so much the application of the proposal as the principle behind it. I do not think that the Government has thought enough about it. Government members who do not want to come over to this side to vote have not thought about it either. They are not being honest with themselves.
In the short time that I have been in this Parliament as a senator I have had occasion to talk to a large number of pensioners, old people who came all the way to Kings Hall, who have tried to discuss this matter with Government senators. On a number of occasions they were refused that opportunity. I know that they were refused because I spoke to those people afterwards and tried to give them some sort of undertaking. That is a fact. I have talked with those pensioners and with many others. As all honourable senators know, many thousands of pensioners have become quite upset about this proposal. They have mounted a major lobbying campaign during which surely all of us have been approached in one way or another. It is right and proper that they should be upset.
The second major point of objection I have to this clause is that persons of pensionable age surely have earned the right to some feeling of stability and an assurance that their personal economic circumstances are not going to be disturbed year after year at the whim of governments. No matter how small or large that disturbance is, it creates proper and understandable feelings of uneasiness and resentment. I repeat that I am aware of this because I have talked with these people. I think it is time that more Government senators talked with them too. Unless the Government withdraws this amendment it will be held against it at the ballot box and properly so. However, I hope that Government senators will oppose it not so much on the ground of expediency as on the ground of its unfairness and its miserable carping attitude. If the Government wants to cheesepare I suggest that there are better places in which to do it than this.
– I was not going to enter this debate but I think that I ought to if only to remind the chamber, Senator McLaren in particular, that this is an important clause and that votes are needed; and when one has a vote one keeps it in the bag and does not blow the bag as he has done. One also does not barrel with a barrage of abuse a senator who has made a difficult decision to vote against his party and his Government. I fully expect that Senator Townley will maintain his position and vote according to what he has said. I know that the Government and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) are very concerned to see that social justice is done. They obviously are attached to the principle of indexation as they are attached to the principle that if the Government establishes a rate of pension or benefit which it thinks, in terms of social justice, is adequate, then that rate should not be eroded by price increases. However, there is another equally justified principle and that is that justice delayed is justice denied. I believe that this measure is quite contrary to the latter principle and, therefore, contrary to the first principle which is a principle that the Government upholds.
– I did not intend to rise again in this debate and would not have risen except for the remarks made by Senator Harradine in speaking to clause 6 when he said to me that if we have a vote in the bag we should keep it in the bag. I am not one who is subservient to people such as Senator Harradine. If Senator Harradine and, likewise, Senator Townley really believe that this clause should be deleted from the Bill they will vote against it irrespective of what I or anybody else on this side of politics says. Both of them know that if they do not get the support of the senators on this side of the chamber all their words are worth nought. We have said from the outset that we are opposed to this clause. I have given illustrations from statistics I obtained from the Parliamentary Library that when we were in government we made twice yearly increases in pensions and we stand by that principle.
-My position is quite clear. I will stick to what I have said irrespective of the drivel in Senator McLaren’s speeches. He will be the one whom the pensioners will be able to blame for this Bill not going through. Some people on this side of the chamber have said that they would not vote with that dill even if they were paid to do it. He is the one whom the pensioners should blame.
– There has been a lengthy discussion on this clause and many opinions have been stated. Allegations and comments have been made which may have been better left unsaid and certainly better left unrelated to this clause. There were comments made with regard to the role of the Senate. I would say that if we are to have a discussion on the role of the Senate it certainly would be appropriate because the Senate is whatever its members make it and its role in the future will be an important one in the political system of this country. There have been many comments made about party attitudes and responsibilities. As a member of a party, I have not the luxury of disclosing party room discussions nor have I the luxury of exercising all of my responsibilities. I have responsibilities to the people whom I represent as a Minister and for whom I work as a Minister in the Government. I have responsibilities to the Senate, responsibilities to constituents and responsibilities to a party organisation. Most of us share those responsibilities in our own way, depending on the party to which we belong.
So far as the general discussion on this clause is concerned, I wonder whether some honourable senators realise that this afternoon they have been talking about a collection of people when they have referred to pensioners. They seem to have been saying that they are taking politics out of pensions and yet they all are talking about buying the pensioners’ vote. I have listened for the past hour to this debate and believe that pensioners exercise their vote according to a range of responsibilities that they feel. To assert that pensioners exercise their vote in accordance with what has been said this afternoon is insulting to those people who are individual members of the Australian society who have as broad a range of political views as the rest of Australian society. To talk collectively about them in the way that some honourable senators have is certainly anathema to me.
Questions have been raised on this clause but I believe that enough has been said about it to make it clear that it is the clause which introduces annual indexation of pension increases and it is not for me to say, as I said last night, that it is not possible in our economic climate to separate inflation and pension indexation. It is possible to combine those two points when we are talking about this amendment because there would not be annual or any other indexation of pensions unless there were a level of inflation which needs some adjustment to pensions in order that they maintain their purchasing power. So it is important when talking about indexation that honourable senators understand that indexation was introduced because there was inflationintolerable inflation. At the time that Senator Chipp mentioned, when the policy of my party was written and the introduction of legislation was effected, inflation was at a level which needed compensation if the relative purchasing power of pensions were to be maintained. As predicted in this year’s Budget, inflation will be about S per cent. A short time ago inflation was running at the rate of 10 per cent and higher. The inflation rate that is predicted in this year’s Budget is around five per cent per annum. If we look at the situation that existed just a short time ago we find that the inflation rate was 10 per cent per annum and higher. At that time two increases annually would have had much the same effect as one increase annually will have at an inflation rate of five per cent per annum.
Honourable senators who talk about the economic circumstances and constraints, in many cases constraints on pensioners, need to understand that, as was written by Senator Chipp in the policy statement about which he spoke, inflation is one of the most damaging things to people on low incomes, particularly people on fixed incomes or pension incomes. If we are to accept that there is a need to recompense people for the inflation that is abroad, we certainly should wish to see that the rate of inflation is as low as possible to give purchasing power to every dollar that people have and not simply to an income security dollar. That is important and has been important in the formulation of the Government’s economic strategy.
Honourable senators who argue that only some people in the community seem to be suffering from this year’s Budget and who instanced people who come within my area of responsibility, overlook the other side of the equation, that is, that funds need to be found to fulfil all of the programs of government. It could never be argued that the social security funds that needed to be found have not been given a priority in this Budget. They have been given the highest priority and they have absorbed the greatest proportion of the Budget. They are part of an income security system which, as I said last night, is becoming an increasing burden on the people of Australia. In this Budget, to ensure that we maintain the programs in the way that we have, we found it necessary to introduce annual indexation of pensions and to impose an income test on increases to pensions above the present rate of pension for people aged 70 years and over. They are adjustments which, in some small measure, will be able to contain the increased growth of expenditure that comes through the social security programs.
What was said in this Committee debate this afternoon by many honourable senators in their minds might have had some relevance to the programs, but we know that we will not be able to maintain the income security system as a whole unless there is some sort of control over inflation. However frequently we made indexation adjustments, whether it be annually or twice yearly, if it was to have the effect of covering raging inflation, I assure honourable senators that the people of Australia would not be able to continue with the income security system in its present form. Those were matters that were taken into account.
Senator Colston raised a question, to which I will reply. He mentioned in some detail a concern of his in regard to clause 6 (b) of this Bill. I want to assure him in simple terms that there would be no fall in the rate of pension if there were a drop in the rate of inflation. The effect of the clause, which needs to be read with subsection 4 of section 28a of the principal Act, will be that the rate of pension will be increased if there are increases in the consumer price index and the rate of pension will not fall if there is a lowering in the consumer price index. In short, in November 1979 we will look at the consumer price index for June 1978 and June 1979. If there has been a rise the pension will be increased. If there has been a fall the pension will remain at the November 1978 rate. The operation of this clause in no way will result in reductions to pensions. It is designed to cover an annual movement which will take account of the rate of movement in the CPI to the previous June and will provide an annual increase or will result in the pension remaining at the same rate until such time as a further increase in the CPI requires the pension to be adjusted.
That the clause stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 7 to 1 5- by leave- taken together.
– I raise an objection to a provision which occurs right through this Bill. The first time it appears is in clause 13. It relates to the power given to the Director-General. The discretion of the Director-General has been given too much emphasis, especially in this Social Services Amendment Bill. Yesterday we heard how the High Court upheld a decision made by the Director-General of Civil Aviation in the IPEC case. It ruled that that Director-General had supreme power; that the Minister concerned had no say in the question.
Surely, as elected parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to conduct the business of this country. For the purpose of administering that business, we have a system involving an Executive of Ministers. For a Minister to relinquish that responsibility and to give the power to someone else, to give sole power to someone else so that that Minister cannot then control the situation, is a breach of and a departure from parliamentary democracy. I will read the relevant section of clause 13. Clause 13 (2) (b) states in part:
I bring up this matter at this point because the fact that the Director-General must be satisfied as to the merits of a case appears right through this Bill. We should be cautious in giving power to a director-general. We should be cautious in giving power to the Director-General of Social Services because he has a record of doing things that Parliament would never tolerate. I am sure that all honourable senators remember the Karen Green case. After that girl had won an appeal against the Director-General’s decisionthe High Court found that under the Act the Director-General had acted improperly- the Director-General reconsidered her case but again refused to grant the unemployment benefit. There was a lot of debate on that question and the public of Australia were alarmed at the action taken against Karen Green by the Director-General of Social Services.
I think I brought to the Minister’s attention once before the case of a woman in Adelaide who was refused a pension and who appealed to a social security appeals tribunal which had been set up under the Social Services Act. She won the appeal but the Director-General again refused to pay her the pension. We were told by the Minister for Social Security that the Director-General had the sole right to do so and that the Act would not be changed to take that right away from the Director-General. So we have a Minister who is prepared to let this sole power rest with the Director-General, to move the odium for any unpopular actions from herself, to leave matters in the hands of the Director-General, and to blame him when acts under undesirable legislation. I think we should protest about this discretion given to the Director-General. Anyone who has been a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee would know that the discretion of an official of a department is not permitted by way of regulations. Notices of motion to disallow regulations have been introduced in this chamber and such motions have been upheld by this chamber because they involved the discretion of a Minister.
Under clause 13 (2) (b), anyone who makes an appeal to an appeals tribunal has to satisfy not that appeals tribunal, but the DirectorGeneral. That is the criterion on which it is based. The Director-General has to be satisfied. But no one can ever establish that the DirectorGeneral was satisfied; he simply says on oath that he was not satisfied. Therefore, we could take away the right of the individual who has a legitimate claim, just as we took away the right of Karen Green who had a legitimate claim and just as we took away the right of that lady in Adelaide whom I mentioned. They won their appeals and their applications were upheld by the appeals tribunals; yet they were not paid because we put in an Act of Parliament a provision that the Director-General had to be satisfied as to the matter. I oppose this provision and will oppose it every time it appears.
– I rise to speak briefly on this matter. In the past, Senator Cavanagh and others, including me, have spoken in this place on this aspect of the social services legislation. Along with Senator Cavanagh, I believe that it is one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the parent Act and of this amending legislation. But we do not oppose it this day, because what the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Government have done is in keeping with the principal Act as it has always been written. I can remember reading- I believe that the Minister brought this up once before in this chamber- that when the original Act was introduced it was the people on the Minister’s side of politics who objected to the powers given to the Director-General. They referred to him as the ‘Dictator-General’. For years the method of handling applications by giving the Director-General a certain amount of discretion did not seem to cause much difficulty. It has been only in recent years, in particular because of the Karen Green case- those who do a lot of constituent work will know of many other cases- that the discretion used by the DirectorGeneral seems to have been changed. It seems to have been affecting people more harshly.
I understand from the Minister that the Act is being looked at and that the Government is talking about rewriting the Act. I hope that the Government will look seriously at the provisions in this Act which give such discretions to the Director-General so that in future people will have their statutory rights under the legislation clearly written out; so that they will have their right to appeal clearly written out in statute. I hope that the discretion of the Director-General to overturn appeals by independent groups such as social security appeals tribunals will be written out of the Act. Then people may feel that justice is seen to be done as well as being done, and we will not have the hassles which have arisen in the past. Otherwise, we do not object to these clauses.
– I acknowledge what Senator Cavanagh has said with regard to his objections to the Director-General’s powers under the Act. Those powers have been in existence in this form since, I think, 1 947. The important thing that has emerged in more recent years is that there is an understanding of the need for an appeals system. Senator Cavanagh referred to the present appeals system. It is true that it is a system whereby there is a recommendation from an appeals tribunal, which is not a statutory appeals body; that recommendation goes to the Director-General; and it is competent for him to accept the recommendation or to reject it. I have said many times that I do not consider that a satisfactory right of appeal. I am having prepared a process whereby the Administrative Appeals Tribunal should be an ultimate right of appeal body whereby the Director-General does not accept the recommendation of the Social Security Appeal Tribunal.
I have also said, maybe not in this House but certainly elsewhere, that at present there is in circulation a proposal from the Attorney-General’s Department of a new appeals system for social security appeals. That system is under consideration at present. A draft paper is being circulated among voluntary bodies and others. Consideration will need to be given to community reaction to that draft paper and some of the suggestions that are made. Perhaps there may be improvements, amendments and variations to what might be proposed. But I would certainly want to think that under the Social Services Act there was no lesser right of appeal than there is under many other Acts. But the Act itself is imprecise and brings its own difficulties in this form. As Senator Grimes has said, there are proposals for a rewriting of the Act which I think has been attempted certainly on at least one other occasion a few years ago. If we are to have a system which provides for an ombudsman and an administrative appeals tribunal there needs to be greater precision in the Act than there is at present.
The other thing I need to say is this: Whilst we may argue about the Director-General having the power of determination, this power could perhaps be compared with the power that exists under the Income Tax Act for the Commissioner of Taxation to make a determination. I do not know how people would feel about the government of the day making determinations under an Act such as the Income Tax Act or the Social Services Act. It may be said by Senator Cavanagh that the Minister simply wishes to avoid unpopular decisions. Equally, in contrast, the aspersion could be cast that patronage was being given by the government of the day under particular circumstances. I therefore think that the determination power of the Director-General is not one with which I find complete difficulty provided there is a proper appeals process against the determinations which are made. However, I can see the point of view expressed by Senator Cavanagh. I simply draw a parallel between the power of determination held by the Commissioner of Taxation which does not lie with the Treasurer and the power of the Director-General under the Social Services Act which does not lie with the Minister of the day.
– I just rise briefly because I do not want to prolong the Committee stages. However, I would again like to voice my objection to the objectionable proposed new section 83AABA (c) set out in clause 1 5. 1 am opposed to discretion being given to anyone, be that person the Director-General or the Minister. I think we should put objective criteria in the legislation. Sub-paragraph (iii) of proposed new section 83AABA (c) would read just as well if the words ‘the Director-General is satisfied that’ were left out. The sub-paragraph would then read: . the supporting parent intends to bring the person to live in Australia as soon as it is reasonably practicable to do so.
Obviously if we leave out the words ‘the Director-General is satisfied that’ a person would have the right of appeal against a decision. For example, the Director-General may decide not to accept that a person intended to bring a child back to Australia. Appeals should be made on the score of justice and a wrong having been done. For instance, a person making an appeal could say: ‘I intended to bring the child back and the Director-General was wrong in saying that I did not intend to bring the child back’. A person could prove to the appeals tribunal that he intended to bring the child back.
Under the clause a person has to satisfy the appeals tribunal that the Director-General was not satisfied and therefore he acted wrongly because he was not satisfied. How can a person prove that? I think that in a few cases discretion perhaps must be left with someone. But the Minister is the person answerable to the electors and the Parliament. The Minister has to face the Parliament. In the Karen Green case the Minister said: ‘I have nothing to do with it; it is the Director-General’. Whilst the Minister will be accused of patronage at times because she has the discretion it is better for her to have the opportunity to exonerate herself from accusations, condemnation and charges of patronage than the Director-General who cannot and does not say a thing. He just says: ‘That is the law, you have given me the power and therefore you do not get it’. I again impress upon the Minister that while we have the present wording in the legislation the Director-General is not under compulsion to take any notice of the tribunal. As in the Karen Green case, he is not under an obligation to take notice of the court.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 16- Condition of grant of benefit.
-In my second reading speech I said that I had some personal difficulty with the wording of the amendment to clause 16. I continued my trek around the lawyers in all sorts of places in the Parliament to get some explanation. The consensus of my searches seems to be that it is indeed as the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) says- that the result of the change in wording is to liberalise the section. I have personally accepted that explanation but I cannot speak for my legal colleague Senator Cavanagh who may not agree. I have no personal objection at the moment.
– I cannot agree because I do not know the degree to which the amendment will liberalise the clause. Clause 16 is most peculiarly worded. It states:
Section 83AAD of the principal Act is amended-
by omitting ‘unless’ and substituting ‘if’; and
by omitting ‘that person has taken’ and substituting ‘person has not taken ‘.
The 1977 legislation was altered to provide that a partner of the marriage could be left with the children. This change was made for the benefit of the male because the previous legislation related only to a wife left with children. Section 83AAD states:
A benefit shall not be granted to a person who is a supporting parent unless the Director-General considers-
Here again is another example of the discretion given to the Director-General- that it is reasonable that the supporting parent should have taken action to obtain maintenance from . . .
If we delete the word ‘unless’ and insert the word if the section would then read: a benefit shall not be granted to a person who is a supporting parent if the Director-General considers that it is reasonable . . .
There was an obligation on the Director-General to study a case but it is now proposed that he may or may not. The Director-General must consider that reasonable action was taken by the supporting parent to obtain such maintenance from the other marriage partner. The section continues: . . as the case may be, of the child or children in relation to whom the first-mentioned person is the supporting parent and that that person has taken such action to obtain such maintenance as the Director-General considers reasonable . . .
The position now is that the Director-General has to be satisfied that the person has not taken such action. I can only read that as suggesting that if the Director-General believes that the person could have taken reasonable action to obtain maintenance and that person did not take that action- honourable senators will note the conjunction ‘and’- a pension shall not be granted. That suggests to me that if the Director-General is satisfied that there was an action and that the person has taken that action, then the person is left out. Before it was essential that a person took action. Now, if a person takes that action she is left out. It seems to me to be like some of the provisions in the Workers Compensation Act. One makes a choice whether one puts one’s case to the Department of Social Security or takes civil action to get justice. One can take civil action and fail. I would like the assurance of the Minister that in this case the person gets the pension or the maintenance.
– I recall Senator Cavanagh and others raising the provisions of this clause last night. I noted the concern and I subjected it to examination again by the parliamentary draftsman. I say again that this clause amends section 83AAD which was inserted in the Act last year. It was found that a drafting error had had unintended effects. I advise the Committee that this matter was drawn to our attention by Professor Hambly of the Faculty of Law of the Australian National University. He wrote to my Department in January of this year and invited my attention to that section. He expressed his concern at what we have described as the unintended effect of it. I wrote back to him in February.
At that time I had confirmation that what he had expressed to me as his concern was a fact.
The Director-Genreal and the parliamentary draftsman confirmed that the provision is expressed in the original Bill in such a way that it might be construed as operating contrary to the intention of the legislation. I gave Professor Hambly my assurance that in the meantime we would administer the Act in the way that it was intended and this amendment will now put that intention into effect and leave the situation beyond doubt. The way in which the clause was expressed gave the opportunity for a person to be denied a benefit. We are now saying that the supporting parents’ benefit can be granted if the Director-General is satisfied that it is not reasonable for the applicants to take action for maintenance. There could be a number of reasons for such action, such as the very fact of not being able to find someone on whom to serve an order for maintenance. This amendment covers that position. I assure Senator Cavanagh that this clause is not creating a difficulty. Its purpose is to remedy an unintended drafting error in the Bill which was inserted in the Act last year. With that assurance I feel that we should move to a vote on this clause.
– I do not want to compete against Professor Hambly. I accept that he would know what he is talking about. I think he is referring to the deletion of the word ‘unless’ and the insertion of the word ‘if. Of course, whilst it seemed mandatory for action to be taken previously it does not now. The Director-General can insist on action being taken or he need not. I am concerned that he also has to be satisfied that the person has not taken action when he believes that there is an action to be taken. He now has to be satisfied that the person has not taken the action. Therefore, what is the position of the person who has a case for maintenance or for the provision of the children and who has taken action when the words ‘person has not taken the action’, are inserted.
– I really have nothing else that I can add which will clarify the matter in any way. The section in the Act withholds the benefit from supporting parents who cannot reasonably be expected to seek maintenance from private sources. For instance, one would expect that a high proportion of supporting fathers would be in this category. There is no way in which they could seek maintenance from another source. If the Director-General is satisfied that it is not reasonable to seek maintenance then, on those grounds, this amendment will facilitate the payment of a pension.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 20- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 2 1 and 22- by leave- taken together.
– I merely rise to express the Opposition’s objections to clauses 21 and 22. I understand that Senator Harradine has an amendment to clause 22. These clauses abolish the maternity benefit. As I said in the second reading debate, the maternity benefit has decreased in value over the years. I believe it has not been increased since 1943. It is still a benefit which remains useful particularly to the very low income earners. The abolition of this benefit, combined with the failure to increase the allowances for pensioners’ children and other beneficiaries’ children and the failure to index the family allowances will contribute to the difficulties of low income families. As I said last night the Opposition opposes the abolition of the maternity benefit although we will not divide on it.
– I have an amendment to clause 22 which, if successful, will require an amendment to clause 2 1 . Clause 22 reads:
It seeks to repeal Part V of the Principal Act which deals with maternity allowances. Subclause 2 states:
Notwithstanding the repeal effected by sub-section ( 1 ), Part V of the Principal Act continues to apply in relation to the birth of a child that occurred before the commencement of this section.
Under the provisions of clause (2 ) of this Bill the commencement of that section appears to be 1 November 1 978. 1 move:
At end of sub-clause (2), add ‘or occurs within nine months after the commencement of this section ‘.
I propose that amendment, not because I am supporting the abolition of maternity allowances at all but for another reason altogether. I make my position very clear. I oppose the abolition of maternity allowances. I gave my reasons for doing so in the second reading debate last night. Briefly, I believe that it is contrary to the Government’s philosophy that it should take away from the mothers of Australia something that has been their right for over 30 years and to take out a whole part of the Social Services Act. Admittedly, as Senator Grimes has said, the figure is not substantial, but the point is that a lot of mothers look forward to receiving this benefit. The Minister for Social Security in her second reading speech gave as the reason that the purpose for which the amount was granted is now catered for under the various health services. As I said last night, I would like to see a mother claim for a new bassinet and nappies from the medical benefits organisations.
Nevertheless, whilst opposing the proposition, as I did last night in the second reading debate, I believe that the Government should consider the amendment I have moved. It results from the situation which arose when I was on a talk-back program in Hobart just after the Budget was brought down. One lady rang up and said: ‘You would think the Government would do the decent thing, if it wanted to abolish it, and make it operative nine months hence’. Clause 22 continues what the Government seems to be doing lately and that is adopting retrospective legislation. This is a gesture, but I believe that the Government ought to have a look at it to see whether it could not agree with my amendment. I think that it is reasonable and that it would be appreciated by the women concerned. It would show that the Government is not intent on adopting the principle of retrospectivity in legislation, as would be the case if it carried on with its intention to push through clauses 2 1 and 22.
– The Government is not able to accept the amendment moved by Senator Harradine. This is a Budget Bill and the amendment would increase the expenditure under this item. It is a decision in this Budget that the maternity allowance will no longer be paid and that that part of the Act which deals with the payment of that allowance will be repealed. It is a decision that was made taking into account other changes which have occurred in medical and other benefits which are payable. The amendment would not be acceptable to the Government.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 23 and 25- by leave- taken together.
– I express the Opposition’s objection to clauses 23 and 25. They introduce a new concept into those sections of the Social Services Act which deal with child endowment. The source of our objection is the definition of prescribed educational schemes. These include the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, the Adult Secondary Education Assistance Scheme, the Pre-School
Teacher Education Assistance Scheme, the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme, the Commonwealth Teaching Service Scholarship Scheme and the Post-Graduate Awards Scheme. These clauses prohibit the payment of child endowment on behalf of children who are recipents of any of these scholarships. We think that these are unfortunate and fairly mean provisions. I accept that the Government has increased the TEAS allowance by some $5.50, not $3.30 or $3 or whatever figure I plucked out of the air in my comments during the second reading debate which upset Senator Walters so much. The TEAS allowance still remains a fairly low benefit. It is still a very severely means tested benefit. I think all honourable senators have had letters from groups and individuals who will be quite severely affected by this provision, particularly those in country areas who have children living in cities and trying to study at tertiary institutions. Times have changed since I was at a tertiary institution when it was relatively easy to get part time jobs to assist in surviving at such institutions. I believe that those reasons and the reasons we gave last night during the second reading debate sufficiently express our opposition to these two clauses. Clauses agreed to.
Clause 24 (Child endowment).
-Clause 24 changes the payment of child endowment from every four weeks to every month. There was some discussion in the second reading debate about how this will affect the amount paid to various recipients under this scheme. Although we do not oppose the change we merely point out that in the first year, which includes the payment date of 1 5 May, there will be a loss to parents with three or four children, which would I think include most parents. It is a small loss amounting to some $30, but we believe that added to other changes it may affect the income of low income earners. It may be a relatively large amount compared to their income. I realise the administrative difficulties of making up that loss in the first year. I realise also that in future in a full year they will in fact lose nothing and sometimes gain nothing. I certainly would not try to introduce an amendment to make up that $30 if I could because of the administrative difficulties. However, we point out, as Parents Without Partners and other groups have pointed out, that the difficulty does exist.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 44- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Clauses 45 and 46- by leave- taken together.
-The Opposition strenuously opposes clauses 45 and 46. These clauses have two effects. Clause 46 changes the indexation of unemployment and sickness benefits in the same way as previous clauses changed the indexation of age and invalid pensions from twice yearly to yearly. Our objection to that has been expressed in long debate this afternoon. Clause 45 changes the concept as far as unemployment and sickness benefits are concerned so that in future the unemployment beneficiary under the age of 1 8 will receive only $36 a week. We point out that that payment has remained the same since 1975. We accept we did not put it up in 1 975 but we believe the time has come now, in view of inflation and the effluxion of time, for that to be increased, even though I am not suggesting that it be increased to the full adult level. The provision we particularly object to is that those who are unemployed but who have no dependants will not have their benefits indexed as those who have dependants will. As I said last night in my second reading speech, I can find no justification for the introduction of this discriminatory measure.
I realise that for many years the Government, even before it came into government, has been conducting a campaign against the unemployed in this country, particularly the young unemployed. I realise that, despite the figures, many Government members have refused, and still refuse, to accept the fact that there is an unemployment problem in this country. However, I am pleased to note the Treasurer (Mr Howard), the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), albeit reluctantly, now agree that there is a problem which is increasing. I point out two main groups which are affected by this unemployment situation. First, we have the young unemployed who can find no jobs. The second group comprises the middle aged unemployed who are being put out of work by automation, technological change and structural change in the community; they have particular difficulty, because they have no other skills and because of their age, in finding new jobs. This will become more serious particularly in the clerical and communication industries with the introduction of word processors, computers and the various technological changes in electronic communications.
These people are unemployed through no fault of their own. Because they have no dependants, frequently they live alone. What the
Government is doing is introducing a discriminatory measure whereby the middle aged unemployed whether they be widowers, bachelors or spinsters who have no dependants, will wait at the whim of the Government before they have their benefit increased. There is an implication in this proposal that these people are in fact unemployed through their own fault. I believe it is an implication that is not justified and there is no justification for separating these people from others in the community. I realise that the Government has succeeded fairly well over the last couple of years in its campaign to denigrate the unemployed. We do not accept that action. I can see no justice in this proposal. The only explanation the Minister has given is that it was necessary for budgetary measures, and very few figures are provided on the amount that will be saved. I pointed out last night that this is a significant percentage of the unemployed and that approximately 98 per cent of the people affected live on some $3 a week or less apart from their unemployment benefit and are dependent on their unemployment benefit. Therefore, we oppose this measure.
– In speaking to clauses 45 and 46, 1 refer to some comments that I made last night when I quoted the overall increase for pensioners in the term of office of the Labor Government which amounted to $ 1 8.75 a week. That was the overall increase from the base figure when we took over office to when we went out of office. Pensioners were $18.75 a week better off. In the three-year period that this Government has been in office, including the increases embodied in this Bill, pensioners will be better off by $14.45 a week. There is a difference of $4.30 a week in the pension rate in comparison with what the pensioners were receiving in the way of increases when we were in government.
– Because we have controlled inflation.
– I am going to make some remarks about that. I am pleased you interjected. When Senator Guilfoyle was replying to the second reading debate, she said:
I think anyone listening to the discussion this evening may not understand the extent of welfare expenditure in this Budget or the burden of increased expenditure on income security and social welfare payments through my Department.
We admit that they have increased. She said that they have increased by $3m. She went on to say:
How many more people do you have on unemployment benefits than in that year.
The Minister replied:
More people are receiving the unemployment benefit, but there are numbers more in every category of pension and benefit. There has been a growth in every area of the income security system.
Of course I agree with the Minister. But why has that massive increase been necessary?
I have a table here which is put out by the Minister’s own Department. It is the four- weekly summary of statistics from the Department of Social Security for the period ended 30 June. If we look at table 14, we find that the total number of people receiving the unemployment benefit in 1975 was 160,748. In the first year of the Minister’s Government we find that that had increased by nearly 28,000. It had gone up to a total of 188,423. At 30 June this year there are 286,091 people receiving unemployment benefits. Therefore, that extra 98,000 people at the present rate of pension or unemployment benefit- whatever you like- must make great inroads into the increased benefits and the overall total payment made by the Government. I do not accept as a legitimate excuse the claim that the Government is in fact making greater payments. The individuals are not receiving greater payments in comparison with the increased cost of living, as I shall prove by a document which I was able to obtain today.
If we look at the sickness benefit- I go back to the figures used by the Minister when she used the comparison between 1975 and 1976 to this year- we find that in 1975, the last year of the Whitlam Government, there were 25,478 people in receipt of the sickness benefit. In the first year of the Liberal Government, that had increased by 5,000 to 30,468. That has increased again to 30 June this year to 35, 1 68. Honourable senators can see that from 1975 to 30 June 1978 an increase of almost 10,000 has occurred in the number of people receiving the sickness benefit. I would say that some of the remarks made by Senator Grimes hit the nail on the head as to why this situation had occurred. We find with the increase in unemployment, people particularly people about the age of 50 or 55, who have lost their jobs cannot cope with the situation. They are unable to cope with the hard jobs and, as they are not suitable for that work, their health breaks down and they have to go on sickness benefits. There we have illustrated this massive increase in people receiving the unemployment benefit and people receiving the sickness benefit. When we add to those figures the number of increased age pensions and invalid pensions, we can see why the Government has had to find additional funds for this massive increase in social security payments. Therefore, the reason for the increased funding is not that the Government has increased the amount of money for individual pensioners.
The Minister went on to say:
I think that we must recognise that an annual indexation with a low rate of inflation will protect the value of pensions as much as two rises per year with a very high rate of inflation is able to do. If we were living in the ideal world and there were no restraints on expenditure it could be argued that an immediate increase on changes of the consumer price index would maintain effectively the purchasing power of pensions. The Government was not able to find the funds to achieve that in previous Budgets, nor in this Budget.
When Senator Walters and the Minister again, spoke about the inflation rate, they would have led everyone to believe that the level of inflation had been greatly reduced. I have some figures here today which were compiled by an authority in which I place great trust because it has to deal with Parliament House. Because there had to be increases in the prices of certain items in Parliament House, we asked for an exercise to be done to see why the increases were necessary. The results of this exercise are that all items of food purchased for consumption, with the exception of milk, have increased in price over the past 15 months. The major items which are purchased under period contracts are bread and meat, the prices for which have increased by 9.6 per cent and 10.46 per cent respectively. Consideration of a basket of 22 miscellaneous grocery items shows that the prices of the majority of those items have increased by between 8 per cent and 23 per cent. The lowest increase has been 5.6 per cent in the case of butter. There we have a government authority doing an exercise on the cost of foodstuffs which it has to buy and which no doubt it buys by tender and so would get much cheaper than the prices at which the housewife could buy them. That exercise proves that the cost of these 22 miscellaneous grocery items, which would be similar to what the average pensioner has to buy, has increased by between 8 per cent and 23 per cent.
So much for the argument put forward by the Minister that the once-yearly increase in pensions, as envisaged in this Bill, will compensate for the increase in inflation. Of course, it will not do that by any means. Some of the notable increases are in the price of Nescafe, which has gone up by 39.5 per cent; the price of peaches purchased for making pies, which has gone up by 23.8 per cent; and the price of tea, which has gone up by 17.33 per cent. Senator Walters said in her speech that the price of tea had gone up by 12 per cent or 13 per cent. Of course, those figures really disturb the pensioners now that they are going to get only a once-yearly increase. Earlier this afternoon I showed the Minister the table which I have and she granted me permission to have it incorporated in Hansard. It is table 14 and sets out the unemployment, sickness and special benefits being paid. I seek leave to have that incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– I endorse every word that has been said by Senator Grimes, who is leading for us in this debate. I know that it is of no use our standing here and protesting against this measure, because we are not going to get the support of honourable senators opposite. All I will do is repeat that the Government has to answer to the electors for this social security measure. The next time the Government faces the electors it will be of no use people such as Senator Townley saying that because of an altercation between him and me the pensioners of this country have lost certain benefits. This measure was brought in by the Liberal-National Country Party coalition Government and, no matter what its supporters endeavour to do to get it off the hook over what it has done, in no way can they lay the blame on the people who sit opposite them. The people are not going to be fooled so easily.
In conclusion I once again ask the Minister a question that I have asked her on previous occasions: Will she take some action to see that the ceiling under which pensioners are entitled to a medical health benefit card is lifted so that they are not deprived of their fringe benefits because of the very small automatic increase in their superannuation payments each October. The nature of that automatic increase, particularly in South Australia, puts many of them over the means test level and they lose all their fringe benefits. On many occasions people have said to me: ‘Certainly we have gained another $100 a year because of increased superannuation payments, but we have lost anything up to $300 or $400 in fringe benefits’. These benefits include concessions on telephone accounts, the concession of 60 per cent of their local government rates and the concession of a similar amount of the water and sewerage rates which they pay to the State Government. I ask the Minister again whether she would look at that. The last time I asked her to do so she said that she would consider it. Unfortunately I could not find the reference in Hansard, but I do not think that she has forgotten that I have asked her this question on previous occasions.
That the clauses be agree to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1978 is opposed by the Opposition. We cannot support the Bill, the chief intentions of which are to freeze pensions paid to the sufferers of pulmonary tuberculosis, to grant no more new pensions under the present basis for that illness, to do away with the sustenance allowance and replace it with a loss of earnings provision and to bring Service pensions into conformity with the other social security pensions by indexing them only once a year and granting cost of living increases to those pensioners over 70 years of age only if they qualify under the means test. We concur with the Government’s intention in the Bill to widen the definition of organisations representing returned soldiers for the purposes of nominating them to positions on determining boards. However, that is not a major purpose of the Bill and can be passed separately.
I accept that times have changed as far as tuberculosis is concerned. The present tuberculosis allowance was introduced in times when the treatment of tuberculosis was not adequate, when it was important that those people who suffered from tuberculosis and had been treated did not return to conditions of economic difficulty. People suffering from tuberculosis and receiving treatment at the time needed more peace of mind than could be guaranteed by the economic conditions of the day. Therefore, it was reasonable to have this very generous benefit. The Opposition agrees that this benefit could now be modified but it does not agree that the benefit should be abolished in the way proposed. We particularly object to the method by which the Government has gone about this change. It introduced legislation to perform this task before the last election. When it became obvious that the Government was calling an election earlier than expected, the legislation was withdrawn. The representatives of the tubercular exservicemen were under the impression that the legislation had been withdrawn for good. At the first opportunity after its re-election, the Government introduced this Bill to remove the benefits that were previously available. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), the Opposition’s spokesman on veterans’ affairs in the other place, has adequately put the case for our objections to this legislation. He did so in a particularly telling manner by reading a document from Padre A. Singleton on behalf of those exservicemen who suffer from tuberculosis. It would do members of the Government a lot of good to read this document which puts the case succinctly and clearly. It should make Government members think, particularly in view of the fact that they had previously given tubercular exservicemen the impression that this Government had withdrawn the legislation.
The Opposition’s objection to the other clauses of the Bill are clear and have been given in the debate on the previous Bill, the Social Services Amendment Bill. As there is no undue necessity to debate this subject at length, I express our opposition to it and am happy to let the debate move to the Committee stages.
– I call Senator McLaren.
– I hear cries of ‘oh’ from the other side but once again we have a Bill before the Senate, which is supposed to be a House of Review, and very little time given to us to review the Bill. The Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill passed through the other place in a matter of minutes with very little debate. I was concerned to read that even the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who spoke for the Government, recognised the fact that the Government had received many representations from exservicemen’s organisations expressing their disapproval of the legislation. I have been called upon by a constituent in South Australia who has made strenuous efforts to put a case for the exservicemen in that State. I have found from my discussions with him that he had very little help from the Government. It has turned a deaf ear to his pleas. I shall take five minutes of the Senate’s time to place on record the representations that have been made by this person on behalf of the ex-servicemen’s organisations in South Australia. His letter to me in part reads:
In a recent letter to the Minister, Hon. £. Adermann, I have made it known to him that contrary to any belief that may be held by him or any member of the Parliament that this persistent and continued appeal might be one for persona) advantage only would be incorrect. Any such belief for such purpose is strongly denied.
Veterans are more concerned with medical care and attention with some concessions than for a monetary pay-off which appears to be so devised as if to deprive them of their eligible rights. It is for those veterans this appeal is all about.
This appeal has continued and will still continue because an anomaly caused by the recent and still coming changes in the Government’s so-called economic policy in discriminating unjustly the war veteran with 90 per cent war disability.
He is the only veteran in war disability without a health benefit card and pensioners concession card. I make emphasis on the 70 years and over category and pension being his only source of income. A simple exercise of indexation adjustment is one simple answer to that part.
Secondly there are instances of war disability ailment contracted while on active service, treatment and accepted on demobilisation as eligible for future treatment and continued so till May 4th last when treatment discontinued. I can produce evidence of actual fact.
Support in this appeal comes from all sub-branches of exservicemans organisations throughout the nation to Federal Executive level of the three Services, a sample of local is attached. Facilities do not permit at time of writing to forward copies including Federal Executive level of all three Service organisations.
The letter is signed by Mr Hipkins, of 139 Woolnough Road, Largs. This is the case that this man has put forward. He has approached many members of Parliament personally. He has written to every member of this Parliament making a plea on behalf of ex-servicemen. Of course, the Government has turned a deaf ear to his pleas. He has asked me to remind the Government of some motions that were carried at branches of ex-servicemen’s organisations in South Australia. He sent me a copy of a motion resolved at the meeting of the Port Adelaide SubBranch of the Ex-Navalmen’s Association and forwarded to the State council for action at federal executive level. The motion states:
This sub-branch views with grave concern the attitude of this Federal Government by their action in withdrawing medical and fringe benefits from those ex-servicemen receiving war pension.
Emphasis is directed to those ex-servicemen of 70 years of age and over category, for, it is viewed that those exservicemen could be in need of more medical attention and care now than might have been at the time of demobilisation.
The Government ‘s action in determining War Pension to an income or means test is contrary to all assurances and promises made and upheld by previous governments.
Note: War-pension is an expression of appreciation and gratitude from the nation to those who did suffer injury, pain and disability for life.
He also forwarded to me a resolution carried by the State Executive of the RSL in South Australia relating to the service pension means test for those over 70 years of age. The resolution read:
In view of the possibility of the Means-Test being reapplied to Pensioners of over 70 years of age, the National Executive of the League take immediate action to protect the interests of all Service Pensioners likely to be affected.
That resolution was carried by the State Board following referral of it from the Semaphore and Port Adelaide RSL Sub-Branch Inc. I also received a copy of a resolution carried by the State Executive of the RSL in South Australia in the following terms:
The Australian Government be requested to increase the level of permissible income for a Means-Test to Service Pensioners, and, once the levels are increased that they be indexed.
That was referred by the South Australian Police Sub-Branch of the Semaphore and Port Adelaide RSL Sub-Branch Inc. Those resolutions were dated 12 July 1978 and copies of them were sent to Government senators and members as well as to Opposition senators and members. This man has asked me to ask four questions and I hope that the Government will give an answer to them. The first question is: Will the Minister state whether the withdrawal of the health benefit card to war pensioners on 90 per cent disability is to remain of a permanent nature especially for veterans in the 70 years of age and over category whose only source of income is the pension? The second question is: Will the Government give some consideration to looking again at giving some relief to pensioner veterans so affected? The effect of no health benefit card could be to make it impossible for them to meet medical health costs. Reference is made to those whom the Department has refused to assist although it has accepted them as being eligible previously and while on active service.
The third question is: Will the Minister state why the Department of Veterans’ Affairs refuses to allow pensioner concession cards to be issued to veterans who are on a 90 per cent war disability pension which is their only means of income, especially to those of 70 years of age and over? This prevents them from travelling on public transport at concession fares which is a cost at State Government level. The South Australian State Government will agree to make this concession available providing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs authorises and issues the concession cards. The fourth question is: Will the Minister state whether the withdrawal of pensioner concession cards issued to veterans of 70 years of age and over who are on a 90 per cent war disability pension which is their only means of income, is to be a permanent withdrawal? If it is not permanent, when can relief be expected? Those are the four questions and I will provide the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney), who is in the chamber, with a copy of them.
– I thank the Opposition for its speedy consideration of this Bill at the second reading stage. I wish to make a very brief comment on a couple of points that Senator Grimes raised. I accept that a case has been put in the House of Representatives and that there has been a response to it in that place. I was pleased to note that Senator Grimes accepts that times have changed and that the situation of people suffering from tuberculosis is different from what it was when the pension originated. However, I point out to him that I have noted his agreement that the benefit could be modified and his disagreement with its abolition. I simply say that this is not a Bill which abolishes the benefit. It is a Bill which simply modifies it in my view; the detail is well known and does not need to be gone into. The position is that the legislation was not introduced in 1977. There was a request made for time in which to make submissions; submissions were made to the Government and there were discussions going on until as late as May this year. It was only subsequent to those discussions that the Government determined to proceed with this matter.
I acknowledge receipt of the questions from Senator McLaren and suggest to him, by way of a general reply, that it is not open to any Minister to promise that any situation will be permanent. A couple of the questions related to whether the position would exist for all time. I can say only that nothing is for all time. I will take the four specific questions he has asked to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) and undertake to give the honourable senator a written reply which he can then pass back to his constituent. There is nothing further I wish to add. I thank the Senate for its speedy consideration of the Bill.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday, 24 October 1978, at 3 p.m. or such later time as the President may take the chair. This evening Senate Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber, Senate Estimates Committee B will meet in Committee Room No. 1 and Senate Estimates Committee F will meet in Committee Room No. 5. The bells will be rung for two minutes prior to the meetings of Senate Estimates committees A and B at 8 p.m. Senate Estimates Committee F will meet at 7.30 p.m. I remind honourable senators that Estimates committees also will be meeting tomorrow and on Monday, 23 October 1978.
Senate adjourned at 5.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Various companies and groups of companies have made oral and written representations to the Minister and to the Department regarding the Trade Practices Amendment Act 1977. The Minister’s view in regard to submissions made to him is that unless he has the agreement of the organisations or individuals who wrote to him he is not prepared to indicate either their names or the contents of their submissions. I have adopted a similar view in relation to material presented to the Department. It is suggested that you write to those companies or industry groups which press reports indicate have expressed an interest in the recent amendments to the Trade Practices Act. They may be prepared to provide you with copies of any representations they may have made’.
The Secretary also wrote regarding the establishment of a private sector securities industry council as follows:
Insofar as the suggestion of the Company DirectorAssociation for the establishment of a private securities industry council is concerned, I suggest you write to the Association itself concerning this submission. The address of the Association is: 27 Macquarie Place, Sydney, NSW 2000’.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 16 August 1978:
What has been the expenditure in the last three years in Australia on research in the following areas: (a) solar energy; (b) conservation; (c) human diseases in general; (d) industrial diseases in general; (e) industrial disease relating to asbestos mining; and (f) industrial disease relating to uranium mining and processing.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Data on national research expenditures have not been collected on an annual basis. The data base covering national research expenditures in the Commonwealth Government, State Government, and Private Non-profit sectors consists of research program, expenditure and manpower information collected by my Department in Project SCORE surveys for three financial years, 1968-69, 1973-74, and 1976-77. Data for the Higher Education sector were collected by Project SCORE for the calendar years 1969, 1974, and 1976. In the Private Enterprise sector research expenditure and manpower data (but not program descriptions) were collected for financial year 1968-69 by the then Department of Trade and Industry (mining and manufacturing enterprises only); for 1971-72 by the then Department of Manufacturing Industry (manufacturing enterprises only); and for 1973-74 and 1976-77 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In addition, with relevance to the question on solar energy research, the Department of National Development has conducted a survey in parallel with Project SCORE to collect for 1976-77 in all sectors research program, expenditure and manpower information related to national energy objectives. Data obtained in the 1 976-77 Project SCORE survey are still being processed and should be released later this year. Currently available data for research and development performed in the relevant areas are as follows:
I am advised by my colleague the Minister for National Development that respondents to the recent energy research and development survey conducted by his Department indicate total expenditure on solar energy research and development in 1976-77 as being some $3.082m. In 1973-74, Project SCORE figures indicate that Commonwealth Government agencies spent $0.4m in this area, while State Government and Private Non-Profit agencies reported nil. Individual objectives such as solar energy were not identified in the 1973-74 Private Enterprise and Higher Education surveys.
A total of $13. lm was reported in 1973-74 as directed primarily towards objectives in the ‘Environment group’. Within this amount a total of $4.3m was directed towards flora and fauna conservation, $0.5m towards water conservation, and $l.6m towards soil conservation, the remainder being for research into various types of pollution. Again, these figures do not contain the contributions of the Private Enterprise and Higher Education sectors.
Human diseases in general
A total of$1 1.6m was reported in 1973-74 in the Health group’ of objectives. Within this amount, $2.4m was for ‘Public health’, leaving$9.2m predominantly for research relevant to understanding and defeating human diseases. In addition a total of $1 4.9m was expended on R & D in the medical sciencies in the Higher Education sector, while $8. 1 m was expended on pharmaceuticals R&D (both human and veterinary) in the Private Enterprise sector.
Industrial diseases in general
Industrial diseases were not identified as a separate objective in the 1973-74 survey. The relevant objective in the 1976-77 survey results will be ‘Occupational health’.
Industrial disease relating to asbestos mining
There are no Project SCORE objective categories at this level of detail.
Industrial disease relating to uranium mining and processing
As for (e).
Extensive inquiries by my Department in collaboration with the Department of Health indicate that there are no adequate statistics covering items (d), (e) and (0 of the honourable senator’s question.
Department of Social Security: Australia House, Sydney (Question No. 626)
asked the Minister for Social
Security, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations, upon notice, on 12 September, 1978:
– The Acting Minister for Special Trade Representations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
Will the Minister make a detailed statement to the Parliament concerning the Government’s view of the various issues related to the West Irian-New Guinea border conflict, and the attitude of the Government to this conflict.
– The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I should like to make it clear that there is no border conflict between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea as stated in the honourable senator’s question. What has happened in the border area in recent months has arisen from activities of the Irianese dissident movement- the OPM- a group of which abducted a number of Indonesian officials in May. Subsequently, the Indonesian authorities mounted an operation against the OPM in Irian Jaya to secure the release of the hostages. It would appear that by mid-September all the hostages taken in May had been released. In June, units of the PNG Defence Force were sent briefly to the border area in PNG to ensure that OPM elements were not making use of PNG territory.
During the course of the Indonesian operations there were several accidental incursions by the Indonesians into PNG territory. The PNG Government protested to the Indonesians about these incursions; and both Governments have indicated their resolve to continue to maintain their dialogue over matters relating to the border.
The activities of the OPM in the PNG/Indonesian border area are, of course, matters for the Indonesian and PNG Governments. The Australian Government’s attitude to issues surrounding the PNG/Indonesian border, of which both the Indonesian and PNG Governments are aware, was given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in an answer to a question without notice in the House of Representatives on 16 August 1978 (Hansard page 347).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by my Department that:
1 ) No. The other licensed premises which do not have toilet facilities within their licensed areas are:
Kung Fu- Hawker Shopping Centre
The Continental- Lombard House, Canberra City
Le Rendezvous- Thetis Court, Manuka
Zia Maria- Wales Centre, Canberra City
Sky Divers- Woden Plaza
Raffles- Belconnen Mall
Lido Bistro- Belconnen Mall
Chinese Inn- Kippax Fair
Green Pavilion- Belconnen Mall
Pancake Man- Woden Plaza
No. However the Liquor Licensing Board of the Australian Capital Territory does require toilet facilities either within the licensed area or in close proximity to the licensed premises.
No. The sign directs to the toilets within 40 metres of the restaurant in the Canberra House complex.
The Depanment of the Capital Territory does not keep a record of the personnel employed in any licensed premises as there is no requirement to do so.
The allocation of sub-leases is a matter for the developer.
Wine Exports to Europe
-On 27 September 1978 Senator Messner asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations, the following question, without notice:
The Acting Minister for Special Trade Representations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Analytical Laboratory in South Australia whose testing and certification as to conformity with the oenological standards imposed by the EEC is acceptable to their authorities.
Australia by discouraging the entry of new exporters to the EEC market and by progressively reducing the market prospects for those exporters who formerly had established and significant export markets in the UK.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 October 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19781019_senate_31_s79/>.