25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BEATON presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government provide an increase in pensions, a relaxation of the means test and supplementary assistance to such persons faced with the burden of municipal rates and taxes as well as the maintenance of their homes.
Petition received and read.
Mr. NELSON presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government repeal the Wards’ Employment Ordinance and legislate to provide at least the basic wage for all Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory.
Petition received and read.
Mr. ENGLAND presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social service and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
– I wish to inform the House that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz) left Australia on 3rd September for the United Kingdom and France. He will have extensive discussions with representatives of the Government and aviation industry in the United Kingdom and in France he will view the progress being made in the manufacture of the Concorde SST. The Minister for Supply, Senator Henty, will act as Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) will represent the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation in this chamber.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Will the honorable gentleman confirm that servicemen who are serving or who have served in Vietnam, and their dependants, are not entitled to obtain legal advice from the Legal Service Bureaux of his Department? Will they have to wait for such assistance until other provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act are extended to them, as they were to those who served in Korea and Malaya, or are there administrative arrangements which he can and will make in the meantime?
– Some weeks ago the honorable member for Phillip made representations to me on this matter, as a result of which I asked an inter-departmental committee to look into it. That committee has now reported. The details of th£ decision taken by Cabinet will be announced by me as soon as I have an opportunity to make a statement to the House by leave. In the meantime I will ask the officers of the Legal Service Bureaux to see a particular lady, in respect of whom there has been some publicity concerning her inability to obtain advice, and see to what extent they can help her with advice. As I have indicated, I will be making a statement setting out the details of the administrative direction I will give as a result of the Cabinet decision which has been taken, but I do not want it to be thought that the advice to be given will be advice of the full-ranging kind which a solicitor in practice would normally give to a client. It will be advice of the kind given by the Bureau as a government body in the past.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that recently introduced quarantine regulations have the effect of preventing the importation of cheese from many overseas countries? On what basis were these regulations introduced, and does the Minister intend that they should continue to be enforced?
– The new quarantine regulations in respect of cheese, to which the honorable gentleman has referred, arose out of a recommendation of the National
Health and Medical Research Council to the effect that only cheese made from pastuerised milk should be consumed in Australia - including both imported cheese and locally produced cheese. The purpose of these restrictions was to guard against the introduction of brucella and other pathogenic organisms which could cause a danger to health in Australia and could be present in cheese made of unpasteurised milk. The most serious of these organisms is brucella melitensis, which affects both animals and humans and can cause death in humans. It is not present in Australia and it is spreading fairly rapidly in some countries overseas.
I would like to emphasise that the purpose of these regulations is not to prevent the importation of cheese into Australia but to ensure that only cheese which is free from a risk of disease is imported into Australia, and I hope that this will have the wholehearted support of all members of this House. However, there have been representations on this matter from a number of countries which export cheese to Australia, and although I could not possibly agree to a change in the regulations which might have the slightest possible effect of permitting the entry into Australia of cheese which could carry disease, I have asked the officers of my Department to examine the representations that have been made by the countries concerned in order to avoid any unnecessary certification in respect of those countries which already use satisfactory pasteurisation methods.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman know that the Premier of New South Wales and the Minister for Decentralisation of that State have both recently stated that they consider that a proposed deputation of country mayors to the Treasurer should be deferred pending the outcome of discussions by a joint committee of Federal and State officers on the problems of decentralisation? Is this the same committee that the Minister, in an address at the 25th annual conference of the Victorian Decentralisation League at Echuca this year described as “ like a slow boat to China “? Is the right honorable gentleman able to say whether the committee is to meet before the end of this year? Is it true that the committee has not met since March 1965? Finally, will the Acting Prime Minister see to it that the failure of the committee to function is not used as an excuse to delay the proposed deputation of New South Wales mayors who are vitally concerned about the drift of population and industry to capital cities and consider that something should be done-
– Order! The question is far too long. I ask the honorable gentleman to direct his question.
– I am directing my question. The mayors are concerned about the drift of population and industry to capital cities-
– Order! The honorable member is now making a comment beyond reason. He will direct his question.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister: Will he take immediate action to prevent the drift of people and industry from the country to the cities?
– That is a rather large order, Mr. Speaker. The committee to which the honorable member refers was the outcome of a discussion at the Premiers’ Conference. The Premier of New South Wales is therefore a principal in the sense that he helped to bring this committee into existence. I think that, if he or his Ministers wish the Commonwealth to pay attention to a point of view that they will communicate directly with the Commonwealth, and I can assure the honorable member that such communication would be immediately considered.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. In view of the national importance of the 58 million transcontinental communications link about to be constructed from east to west I ask the Postmaster-General whether centres other than those where the terminals are located will be abb to use this system, or can it serve only the capital cities?
– I think the honorable member is referring to the link between Adelaide and Perth. The link between Melbourne and Adelaide has been completed and is already in service. The link from South Australia to Western Australia is not only for the purpose of linking the two capital cities but can serve intermediate towns. Whether these towns participate will depend substantially upon their size, but ar/eas like Kalgoorlie and Northam will, of course, be brought into the link. It will be possible also to have television relays between Perth and Kalgoorlie and temporary television relay facilities between east and west as a result of this link, but I should not like it to be inferred that immediately the microwave link is completed there will automatically be a television link for Kalgoorlie itself. This depends substantially upon inquiries by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, recommendations which the Board might make to the Government, and the Government’s consideration of those recommendations.
– I ask the Treasurer a question: Did the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Askin, when addressing a Liberal Party convention in Sydney on Saturday last, say that every State Government would have to raise taxes? Did he give as one of the reasons for having to raise taxes the inequitable system of tax reimbursements from the Commonwealth? Is the Treasurer purposefully discriminating against New South Wales in the matter of tax reimbursements or is Mr. Askin using the Commonwealth’s attitude only as an excuse to increase hospital charges by 30 per cent., bus and train fares by from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, and other charges beyond the paying capacity of the public?
– There is some confusion in the mind of the honorable gentleman. The New South Wales Premier was referring to the tax reimbursement formula and, secondly, to the Australian Loan Council procedures for the reimbursements to the States for loans. In the first case, Mr. Askin said that the tax reimbursement formula reacted against all States. In the second case he said that in respect of New South Wales there was a deficiency of SIO a head. The way Mr. Askin conducts his politics is his business. If he likes to conduct them in this way, he will have no criticism from me. We feel that when the States met here last year to consider the reimbursement formula they all agreed to it as the best of the alternatives. In fact, they all claimed that they had had a victory over the Commonwealth. I do not know of one Premier or Acting Premier who went away from the meeting of the Loan Council other than satisfied with what was agreed to by the Commonwealth. I finish on that note. We think that we have been fair. What the Premiers care to say is their business and I certainly would not debate their statements on the floor of this House.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether fat lamb carcasses have been imported from New Zealand since the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement came into operation. If so, have these imports been in a quantity that would in any way affect the market for Australian produced lamb?
– The information that 1 have on this subject is that since the beginning of January this year there has been one importation of lamb from New Zealand to Sydney. It was a total of 201 carcasses. Measured against the Australian production of lamb of, I think, about 220,000 tons, that importation is very insignificant. There is no reason to believe, notwithstanding the high prices of meat, that there is likely to be any embarrassment to the Australian industry from these importations.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question. From what date does the Minister anticipate that the proposed increases in social service and repatriation pensions will operate? In view of the smallness of the increases and having in mind the rise in prices of goods and services, announced almost daily, will the Government seriously consider dating the pension increases from the beginning of the financial year or at least from the date on which the Budget was presented?
– In line with customary practice, the necessary social services legislation will be introduced into this House at the earliest possible opportunity. The increased benefits will be applied as soon as the legislation has been passed by both Houses and has received the assent of His Excellency, the Governor-General.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Can the right honorable gentleman give the House the latest information available concerning the situation on Lombok Island? If starvation and malnutrition on the Island are as great as has been reported, will he take appropriate action to give whatever assistance can be given?
– Upon receiving word of the situation, the Department of External Affairs requested the Australian Ambassador to have inquiries made in Djakarta and to report back. The Australian Ambassador tells us that the Indonesian Government is itself investigating the situation and although I cannot vouch for what I am about to say, there seems to be good authority for believing that the situation at one end of the island is serious while at the other end a quite satisfactory seasonal position obtains. This is what we hear, and it is against that background that we feel it appropriate to wait until the Indonesian Government itself has assessed the situation. As to our willingness to help, I think this has been demonstrated on a previous occasion when a large quantity of rice - I think it was $200,000 worth - was made available to help the Indonesians.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Has he received, or have officers of his Department received any substantive complaints from legal practitioners or others about the conduct of business in any of the Magistrates’ Courts in the Australian Capital Territory, or about the behaviour of any Magistrate towards members of the legal profession, or litigants, in those courts? If he has received any such reports, will he have them investigated and take whatever action is necesary to correct the present situation?
– The Law Society of the Australian Capital’ Territory has access to me at all times. The Society has on many occasions met me and discussed matters concerning its members. It is hoped that, with the assistance of the Society, we shall be able to introduce reforms relating to a wide range of subjects.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that there is a continuing strong demand for the installation of rural automatic telephone exchanges. Is an adequate supply of the equipment for these exchanges now available? If not, is this due to lack of finance in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, lack of production of the equipment, or some other reason?
– There are some 4,000 exchanges throughout Australia which are not as yet automatic. Production of the equipment is not as great as we would wish and finance for the installation of automatic equipment is scarce with the result that it is not possible for us to instal more than approximately from 200 to 250 automatic exchanges a year. It may be’ that as the years pass and more money is available we shall be able to build up production by private industry and increase the number of installations, but I can give no hope that it will be less than many years before we are able to provide full automatic operation in all rural exchanges.
– I address a question to the Minister for Territories. Can the honorable gentleman add anything to reports of a major silver lead zinc discovery by the Mines Branch of the Northern Territory in the Rum Jungle area of the Northern Territory? Is this discovery connected in any way with a similar deposit which was drilled and tested to over 2,000 feet by Territory Enterprises Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of the Zinc Corporation Ltd., in that area some years ago, but which was considered then to be a marginal proposition? If the recent discovery proves as valuable as indicated, does the Government intend to get Territory Enterprises to work it on a managerial basis similar to the successful working of the Rum Jungle uranium mine? Further, in view of the substantial increase in the price of metals since Territory Enterprises tested its deposit, will he approach the company with a suggestion that something should be done about working that deposit as well?
– Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I should answer this question, as it was the Bureau of Mineral Resources which made the discovery. It was drilling on behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission in the hope of locating further uranium supplies there. Although the first assessment has been very encouraging - I might mention that this gave higher values of a number of minerals than are normally encountered in Broken Hill - it is far too early to decide what is the size of the field. There will have to be a considerably increased programme of drilling before this can be assessed. The normal procedure, if this discovery is to be worked for base metals, would be for my colleague, the Minister for Territories, to ask the various mining companies to put in tenders to the Commonwealth Government, and the Government then, as a matter of policy, would decide which company was best fitted and which had put forward the best programme to see that this location was drilled and worked to the greatest advantage of the Commonwealth Government and of the people of Australia generally.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General regarding the licence granted to Bendigo Channel 8 to operate a translator station at Swan Hill. The Minister is no doubt aware that some concern is being expressed in Swan Hill about this matter. I ask: Does this licence cover a period of five years? If so, if Swan Hill and district can submit a satisfactory application for a television commercial station to operate in its own right at the end of this period, will it receive due consideration? In fact, has it a chance of being granted?
– The honorable member will know that some 12 months or so ago invitations were issued for applications for a full licence to operate in this area. I think only one application was received. This was not regarded as satisfactory and after some months of endeavours by the local people to avoid a translator installation, but they being unable to provide the capital for operations under a full licence, it was decided that a translator licence would be given covering a period of five years. It will be for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to determine what should be the situation after the end of that period. 1 can suggest only that the honorable member keep the matter in mind and, near that time, approach the Broadcasting Control Board if it appears that local people are able to contribute the capital for operations under a full licence.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer consequent upon one asked by my colleague the honorable member for Banks. Whilst it may be true that the way Liberal Premiers conduct their own politics is their own business would he not agree that more important than local politics are national economics? Do not the financial measures projected by the various States run counter to the assumptions on which the right honorable gentleman’s own Budget is based, namely, that that Budget is expansionary? Do they not also indicate the present unsatisfactory state of Commonwealth and State financial relations? Will not the regressive tax measures and increased public utility charges involved exert a deflationary effect on the great majority of the community? Will he confer again with all State Premiers to obtain their views on the present state of the economy and also on the present financial plight of the States?
– 1 am sorry, but this question will take much more time to answer fully than I think should be taken at question time. In the Budget Speech I made it clear that we would have a net addition to expenditure of $307 million this year and that if we took from that amount the sum of $114 million for overseas loans there would still be a considerable sum of the order of $155 million increase in indebtedness after certain other deductions were made, which would be the net stimulatory effect of the Budget. None of us can make a clear cut statement as to what is likely to happen in the States, but we do know that two State Governments have announced their intention to raise charges by $30 million and taxes by $12 million. They have also made it clear - and this is the central fact - that there will be a substantial increase in their expenditure. If, however, there were a reduction in the deficits of those two States - say, from $25 million as it was last year to §15 million - then the impact of those charges and increases in taxation would be minimal against a gross national product of $20,000 million. We must look at this in perspective and realise that these charges and taxes will not, to any substantial extent, offset the expansionary effect of the Commonwealth Budget.
The other comments I should like to make are these: Over the years since 1963-64 we in the Commonwealth have increased taxation. Compared with the year I have already mentioned, I think the increase in taxation revenue would be something of the order of $1,223 million. This is an enormous increase, falling mainly on companies and private incomes.
– That is not right, and the Treasurer knows it.
– It is falling on the lowest incomes.
– I will conclude by replying to the honorable member for Stirling. It so happens that indirect taxation is lower today than it was when Labour was in office. So we must look at this-
Mr. Daly. The Treasurer will make a cranky father.
Mr. McMAHON. The honorable member has made a very cranky member and he has been here for more than 20 years. May 1 crystallise the argument in this way: Looking at the actual deficits which are likely to occur, what is likely to happen as a result of action by the State Governments will be minimal and will not substantially reduce the expansionary effect of the Commonwealth Budget.
– My question to the Treasurer relates to decimal currency. I preface it by referring to the suggestion that I made in this place on 25th August 1964 that a $5 note be introduced and the reply of the then Treasurer to the effect that he would consider the suggestion but that it would not be acted upon until towards the end of the transitional period. I now ask the Treasurer the result of such consideration. How soon may we expect the five spot, the need for which is now apparent?
– I understand that a decision has been made to issue a $5 note, the design for which has been practically completed. One problem is that of technical production processes which is holding up the issue of the note. I know that the honorable gentleman has persisted in his interest in this matter and I shall have a look at it to see whether anything can be done to hasten the date of issue. The latest information that I have received is that the date of issue will be towards the end of next year.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of explanation 1 refer to the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission rejecting a claim for a $6 a week wage increase for employees of General Motors- H olden ‘s Pty. Ltd. Has the Minister studied the separate judgment of Commissioner T. Winter who was highly critical of the wage and pricing policy of G.M.-H.? In his judgment Commissioner Winter had this to say -
By ethical standards the company should, of its own volition, be either paying its employees higher wages or reducing its prices.
If the Minister has studied this judgment what action, if any, does he propose to take to bring about this change in the policy of G.M.-H.? If no action is proposed, is this to be taken as an indication that the Government believes in unlimited profits for industry and sub-standard wages for those with only their labour to sell?
– I, of course, do not propose to canvass individual judgments given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, but there are one or two comments that might be made about this case. These concern the remarks made by certain people who are prominent in the industrial and labour sphere generally. Conciliation and arbitration arrangements have been made to umpire important industrial matters. The Commission decides hundreds of cases in the course of a year. When the decisions favour the parties who are now protesting, they remain silent. On the other hand, when the judgments go against them they are apt to kick the umpire. This shows a very poor spirit.
There is also another principle involved and this no doubt would be of interest to the honorable member for Grayndler, who referred to judgments given in relation to individual firms, especially in the motor industry. The honorable member may have noticed that the industry is now combatting a saturated market in conditions of intense competition. Presumably if there are to be prosperity loadings there must also be adversity deductions. So, ifI were the honorable member I would think this over carefully before bringing it into the public arena outside its proper place, which is the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
COMMONWEALTH AND STATE FINANCIAL RELATIONS. Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES. - I desire to ask the Treasurer a question following on the question of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Are not some of the State financial difficulties due to the fact that the Federal Government pays to the States only approximately one-third of the cost of free hospital treatment for pensioners? Has any estimate been made of what this free hospital treatment costs the States? Is one estimate of $8 to $10 million per annum for Victoria alone correct?
– I am not able to inform the House whether some of the difficulties of the State Governments can be attributed to their hospital policy. However, I always find that the honorable gentleman is right when he quotes figures. I accept what he has said and consequently I also accept what is implicit in the question he asks me.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Trade and Industry. Is his Department aware of the concern now held for the future of the Tasmanian fruit industry? Has the. Minister been informed that South Africa now enjoys an unrestricted fruit market in the United Kingdom and that this factor, together with a substantial freight advantage, is giving that country a distinct marketing advantage over Tasmanian growers? I further ask the right honorable gentleman whether his Department will consider holding an investigation of the industry, with particular emphasis on packing and freight problems.
– It is a fact that the Australian apple and pear industry has suffered from adverse conditions in its export trade to Britain and to the European continent this year. This is a matter of concern to the Government as well as to the industry, ft is my understanding that the industry is combining, through the Australian Apple and Pear Board, to send a team to investigate marketing conditions there, no doubt with a view to deciding whether, on the initiative of the industry or through the Board, some better arrangement might be justified. It is my understanding that the South African trade is done rather more on a pool basis than our own trade is. Our trade is conducted more on the initiative of the individual owners, some selling f.o.b. and some selling on consignment overseas. My Department, the Australian Apple and Pear Board and the Department of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, have been devoting themselves to a study of the situation and. as with all primary industries, the result of the study will be used to help the industry.
– I direct to the Acting Prime Minister a question that is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Robertson.It is reported that allegations have been made in New Zealand that the recently announced quarantine requirements imposed on imported cheese are in fact a device for protecting Australian cheese. As this is a serious allegation against the good faith of the Australian Government, can the Minister clarify the matter and will he reiterate the safeguards for both Australian and New Zealand industries that are positively provided in the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
– Unhappily, it is true that in New Zealand there have been published suggestions - indeed, almost allegations - that the new quarantine regulations relative to cheese are in fact a device adopted by the Australian Government to extend to the Australian industry a new and surreptitious protection against imports of cheese from New Zealand and elsewhere. I can say instantly that there is no foundation in these suggestions. As Minister for Trade and Industry I am responsible for policies relating to the protection of Austalian industries. The Tariff Board is the instrument that advises the Government on this. With reports about this quarantine matter coming out over the last few days, and particularly with these allegations coming from New Zealand, I thought that there was no better way for me to establish that there was no protective trick in this than by stating the simple truth: I did not know of the new regulations until I read of them in the newspapers. Therefore, they had no origin in the protective functions of the Department of Trade and Industry.
– Has the Minister had a talk to the Minister who introduced the regulations?
– What did he say?
– 1 shall tell the honorable member. The question of whether the Australian cheese industry, particularly in respect of fancy cheeses, is in need of further protection has been before the Tariff Board for some time. That matter would not have any effect on the Australian and New Zealand free trade area. While I am on my feet, I make the point that quarantine, relating to the protection of the health of the Australian people, the protection of the health of Australian livestock or the protection of vegetation, is not a matter for political decision. The professional advice of those who advise the Minister for Health is all that counts in this respect. The Minister has confirmed this today. He has told me, as he has told the House, that the action taken is the outcome of consideration by and advice received from the National Health and Medical Research Council. 1 hope that no one in the political ranks would set his opinion against that of the members of that body.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. Did he take action that prevented a cargo or cargoes of iron ore from being exported from Western Australia? If such action was taken, was it taken because the proposed export price was too low? Can the Minister give any explanation?
– I am not certain of the particular cargo to which the honorable gentleman refers. It is perfectly true that some time ago the Commonwealth Government decided that it would not allow exports of pellets at a certain price because it considered that that price was too low. This Government has adopted a policy on the export of iron ore fines and pellets under which we shall allow export only if we believe that the proposed price is reasonable. We considered that the market was being forced down by competition between Australian based companies, not by the availability of cheaper ores in other countries. Because we considered that the market was being forced down by local competition between a number of Australian companies, we made the decision that we would agree to the export of iron ore only if we considered that the proposed price was reasonable.
– My question, which I address to the Postmaster-General, is to some extent supplementary to a question asked- by the honorable member for Mallee. The Minister in his reply to the honorable member said that 2,000 telephone exchanges were not of the automatic type but that it was expected that they would be provided at the rate of about 200 per year. He mentioned that it would take 20 years before the lag would be overcome. In consideration of the plight of many subscribers, particularly in country areas, who are still using antiquated equipment, and the need for benefits of the full automatic working which has been with us for some time, will the Minister consider all expedients which might reduce the expected delay?
– I appreciate the concern of honorable members who represent country areas, but I appreciate also the problems within the Post Office associated with the provision of services without reaching a stage where charges would have to be increased substantially to meet the overall requirement of service. I assure the honorable member, as I have assured his Leader from time to time, that we are doing all we possibly can, having regard to the money available and also the production capacity of industry, to overcome this problem in rural areas. However, it will be a considerable time before we can adequately cater for everybody on an automatic basis.
– by leave - I intimated in reply to a question without notice before the recess period that I would have a statement on satellite communications prepared for the information of honorable members. With the imminent launching of two satellites of the Early Bird type - one over the Pacific and one over the Atlantic - I feel it is timely that I inform the House of the progress that has been made in the use of the new medium. But first, perhaps I should outline briefly the background to the present satellite programme, in which Australia is a very active participant.
A conference in 1962 of British Commonwealth Governments interested in satellite communications revealed that Britain, Canada, Australia and India were likely to be the Commonwealth countries with the earliest need to supplement their existing international communication facilities. This conference was followed by negotiating meetings between Commonwealth communications authorities and interested countries in Europe, and consultations with the United Stales and Japan. By this time the United States Congress had established the Communications Satellite Corporation - known as COMSAT - which would have the responsibility for the provision and operation of a global communications satellite system. Subsequently, agreements were signed in Washington by member nations with the objective of co-ordinating and developing a satellite communications programme on an international co-operative basis. I tabled these agreements in the House on 20th October 1964.
Membership of COMSAT now comprises 53 nations, including many Commonwealth countries. Australia, with 2.48 per cent, of the capital contribution to the space segment of the satellite system, ranks sixth after the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Canada. The total cost of the world system was estimated initially to be SUS 200 million but is believed now to cost somewhat less than this. A management board, called the Interim Communications Satellite Committee - known as INTELSAT- was established with countries with a 1.5 per cent, liability or greater. Australia was one of the foundation members of this committee, which has a membership of 1 6.
By April 1965 the partnership had launched what was known officially as INTELSAT I, or Early Bird. Early Bird is an active satellite in that it receives, converts and retransmits signals between ground stations which, in turn, have interconnection with telephone and other communications networks, lt is in synchronous orbit with the earth 22,300 miles above the southern Atlantic at a point between the north east tip of South America and the mid-western section of the African continent, lt is in regular use for commercial communications between North America and western Europe, ft provides 240 twoway speech channels or one one-way television channel. From the speech channels can be derived telegraph and telex circuits.
It is planned now to launch two more satellites of the Early Bird type, one over the Pacific and the other over the Atlantic, both to be known officially as INTELSAT II. These launchings are scheduled for late this year. Both satellites will have the same channel complement as Early Bird. Australia’s first earth station for working with the Pacific satellite is now in the course of erection at Carnarvon. It will be used primarily for the provision of leased satellite channels for use by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States manned moon project, Apollo. At present also, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission is examining a set of world tenders for the establishment of a larger capacity station in northern New South Wales, probably at Moree. It will cost $4.5 million and should be completed by the end of next year. This station will have a capacity for several hundred speech and 0 her channels or an international television link. The third stage of the programme will be the launching in mid-1968 of INTELSAT III, a large capacity satellite providing about 1 , 800 channels, which will enable telephone and other services, plus a television relay, to be provided simultaneously.
I should explain here that, while television certainly is practicable over Early Bird and will be over the two satellites to be launched this year, it is such an extravagant medium in band width that one television relay would require the use of the entire 240 speech channels that these sat ellites provide. For practical purposes, therefore, it is not expected that INTELSAT I or II will be able to provide television facilities. Effective and economic use ofsatellite communications in Australia will depend on a close accord between the Post Office and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. This, of course,exists. Already the Post Office is planning the provision of large capacity microwave links to the earth stations at Carnarvon and Moree to feed into the communications network generally. Let me make it clear that satellites in the foreseeable future will not replace existing communication systems. The keynote in communications is flexibility and thus the satellites will take their place beside the ot her techniques - submarine telephone cables, underground coaxial cables, microwave systems, and so on - each complementing the other and providing thealternatives that make for flexibility.
There appears to be no doubt that the use of satellite communications will not be confined to the international sphere. It is expected that, in a country the size of Australia, they could appear on the domestic scene in five years or so. The Government, in fact, sees many applications for their use in our internal telecommunications system, provided that the present rate of technological progress continues and that the cost factor is not unreasonable.
Dr. FORBES (Barker- Minister for
Health). - by leave - I am taking this opportunity of informing the House of certain important developments that are taking place in connection with the immunisation campaign to safeguard the Australian community against poliomyelitis.
The Epidemiology Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council has made recommendations on dosages of Sabin anti-poliomyelitis vaccine and on its use in conjunction with Salk vaccine. These recommendations are being passed on to State health authorities. The Commonwealth Department of Health, which will begin a Sabin vaccination campaign in the Australian Capital Territory on 22nd September, has adopted the Committee’s recommendations.
The Committee recommended that for primary vaccination for children three doses of Sabin vaccine should be given at eight week intervals. It also recommended that a full course of three doses of Sabin vaccine should be given whether or not a person had had a full or partial course of Salk vaccine. The earliest age recommended for vaccinating infants is from three to four months. The Committee also recommended that Sabin vaccine should be the vaccine of choice for adults, including pregnant women, who had previously had Salk vaccine but that Salk should continue to be the vaccine of choice for adults who had had no previous vaccination.
In May this year the National Health and Medical Research Council had advised Commonwealth and State health authorities that oral Sabin vaccine is as safe and effective as Salk vaccine, which is given by injection. The Commonwealth subsequently offered to supply the States with either vaccine, and all States except Victoria indicated that they would change over to the use of Sabin vaccine in their immunisation campaigns.
The impending changes in the use of antipoliomyelitis vaccines raises the question of assured supplies of both Sabin and Salk vaccines. Following an investigation of the supply position it has been decided that future requirements of both Salk and Sabin vaccines will be imported. The decision to stop making Salk vaccine at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is a consequence of the decision to make Sabin vaccine available to those States that want it. Because most of the State health authorities have decided to change to Sabin vaccine there will be a diminishing requirement for Salk vaccine and it would not be economic to continue to produce at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories batches of Salk vaccine in the smaller quantities required.
Production facilities suitable for manufacturing poliomyelitis vaccine will be available at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in case they are needed. The staff formerly employed on Salk vaccine production will be transferred to work on other Commonwealth Serum Laboratories products for which demand is increasing. It would be neither practicable nor economic for Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to begin manufacturing Sabin vaccine at this stage.
At present 115,000 doses of Salk vaccine are available in Australia and a further 760,000 doses are on order for delivery within the next few weeks. A total of 1,700.000 doses of Sabin vaccine is already in storage at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to be made available when required by health authorities in the States and in the Territories. This includes one million doses of Sabin vaccine that recently arrived from Connaught Medical Research Laboratories, of the University of Toronto, Canada. It is envisaged that future supplies of poliomyelitis vaccine will be obtained primarily from the Connaught Laboratories.
Co-ordinated planning for the supply of poliomyelitis vaccines will be carried out by the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in association with State Health Departments. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will import the vaccines and store and distribute them as required.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories began manufacturing Salk vaccine in 1956 when the Government offered to supply the vaccine to State health authorities for a national vaccination campaign. Since then some 25 million doses manufactured by the Laboratories have been used in Australia in a campaign which has virtually eliminated poliomyelitis as a cause of death and crippling in the community. The very success of the campaign, however, has led to some complacency among the public about the dangers of poliomyelitis, and stress must now be laid on the need to maintain the immunity built up in the Australian population.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1966.
Loan (Housing) Bill (No. 2) 1966.
International Finance Corporation Bill 1966.
Internationa] Monetary Agreements Bill 1966.
Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement Bill 1966.
(UNITED KINGDOM) BILL 1966.
– I move -
That, the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is threefold:
First, to give the High Commissioner, Australia House, London, authority to delegate the powers conferred on him by Section 9 of the Act in relation to the appointment of officers and the engagement of employees; second, to validate appointments of officers and engagements of employees made otherwise than by the High Commissioner; and, third, to validate salary increases paid by way of Ministerial approval to locally engaged staff in excess of the rates set down in the Fourth Schedule to the High Commissioner (Staff) Regulations.
In respect of the first and second points it has been the practice for very many years for the Official Secretary, Australia House, to approve appointments to the permanent staff, and for the Administrative Officer. Australia House, to approve the engagement of temporary employees. Last year, following an Audit review of practices and procedures at Australia House, some doubt arose as to the validity of these arrangements. Under Section 9 of the Act authority to appoint officers and engage employees is vested in the High Commissioner without power of delegation. However, some conflict of purpose appeared to be raised by High Commissioner (Staff) Regulation 6 in which the High Commissioner is given authority to delegate all or any of his powers and functions.
The Attorney-General’s Department examined the matter and informed us that the practice we had been following was not in accordance with the Act, and that to enable the practice to be lawfully continued the Act would require amendment and appointments and engagements made other than by the High Commissioner validated. It has not been possible to determine just how long the present practices have been in operation or whether in fact the High Commissioner ever personally appointed officers or engaged employees. I point out that this power has been vested in the High Commissioner since the Act first came into operation in 1909.
A large locally engaged work force is employed by Australia House and the turnover is quite high, particularly at the lower levels. Clearly it is undesirable that the High Commissioner be asked personally to approve all appointments and engagements. In point of fact he has been personally attending to these matters since receipt of the advising of the Attorney-General’s Department but the Government is anxious that he be relieved of the necessity for doing this as soon as possible. The Bill now before the House is therefore designed in part to overcome a deficiency in the existing Act to allow the previous well established practice to continue and at the same time validate appointments and engagements made other than by the High Commissioner.
In respect of the third point it has been the practice to vary the salary rates set out in the Fourth Schedule to the High Commissioner (Staff) Regulations by means of a ministerial determination using the powers contained in Regulation 8 of those Regulations. Following the review of Australia House practices already referred to doubt was expressed about the validity of the arrangements for salary increases. The Attorney-General’s Department examined the matter and informed us that despite the power given to the Minister by regulation 8 to vary the classification of an office this did not necessarily give authority for the payment of an increase in salary. Unless the new rates on reclassification were to be found in the existing scale in the Fourth Schedule there was no authority for the payment of any increase.
The Attorney-General’s Department indicated that it would be possible, retrospectively, to validate past payments and to obtain the necessary statutory authority for the rates presently being paid.
The practice of relying upon ministerial approval for salary increases for locally engaged staff at Australia House has been in operation since the regulations came into force on 21st October, 1960. All payments were made with the authority of the Government, and the necessary funds were appropriated by Parliament. The lack of authority in the form of regulations for the payments has been a matter of very real concern to the Minister and the department, and in order to remedy the situation regulations were recently made wilh effect from 1st January, 1966, to give the necessary statutory authority to the rates presently being paid.
The Bill before the House, in addition to the two items I have already mentioned, has been drafted to validate these payments made to locally engaged staff at Australia House. The Government has decided to keep the Bill, particularly as it relates to the validation of salary increases, to the simplest of terms. It provides that all payments made between 21 st October, 1960 and 31st December, 1965, under ministerial approval shall be deemed to have been lawfully made. If the Bill were to spell out all the details of the changes in the rates of payment it would bs a long and complicated measure. In the period I have referred to there were 25 variations involving all of the 34 categories of persons employed at Australia House. For the future, directions have been issued by the Government that payments will not be made in advance of the necessary statutory authority. The opportunity has also been taken to amend the existing Act in relation to the preamble and to the designation of the office of High Commissioner, lt is considered that it is more appropriate to describe the High Commissioner as the High Commissioner “ for Australia “ rather than for “ the Commonwealth “. I commend the Bill to the favorable consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd August (vide page 298), on motion by Mr. Howson -
The the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill now under discussion carries on for another three years exactly the same bounty of S6 a ton as did the previous Bill introduced into this Parliament on 24th October 1963. On that notable occasion there were two driving forces behind the Bill’s introduction. First, the Labour Party had made continuous and continuing demands for the reintroduction of the bounty dating back to the time when the Menzies-Fadden Government abolished the payment of the bounty, which had been introduced by the Curtin Labour Government. The second driving force was that the Liberal and Country Parties were facing an election which at that time was giving them grave cause for concern.
From 1950, when the Menzies-Fadden Government discontinued the subsidy, until 1963, when it was reintroduced, Labour members did not cease to stress the necessity for the bounty on the ground of the general deficiency of phosphorus resulting in a lack of fertility in Australian soils. They pointed out that many farmers and graziers - particularly the smaller ones but also some of the larger - were unable to provide the cash outlay to purchase sufficient quantities of fertilizer to bring their acreage to higher production levels. Labour Party members also stressed the boost in expansion and the improvement in output which such a subsidy would give to the industry generally.
After the Government parties had resisted the reintroduction of the bounty for 13 years it is to be noted that the points stressed by the Labour Party were the very reasons given by the Government for the reintroduction of the bounty, although it must have been known to the Government and its advisers that increased use of superphosphates was desperately needed throughout all those years and would have, as has been proved over the last three years, brought about much sooner a greater use of fertilizers, resulting in greatly improved pastures and a higher grain yield per acre. In renewing this subsidy in 1966 the Government is fully conscious of the enormously increased usage of superphosphate and of the expansion taking place in rural industry. The bounty has to a great extent been instrumental in bringing about this increase. We can be very confident, however, that the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) gave lengthy consideration to discontinuing the bounty and not to increasing its scope. The bounty is estimated to cost S28 million in the next 12 months. No-one loses sight of the fact that this is again an election year and that this bounty is to be extended just far enough over a three year period to prevent embarrassment to a Liberal-Country Party Government, should such a government be returned to office.
The Labour Party has given proof that it has never lost sight of the fact that a superphosphate bounty would create improvement and give great impetus to agricultural efficiency. My Party, and particularly the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - who in a completely knowledgeable manner opened this debate for the Opposition - had no fears that on this occasion the Government would dare to discontinue the bounty. We expected, however, that the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), guided by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), as is usual in matters of this sort, would have followed more closely Labour’s policy as enunciated by the honorable member for Lalor and would have included a substantial subsidy on all fertilizers and trace elements in addition to the subsidies on specific nitrogenous fertilisers which will be debated at a later date in this sessional period.
In 1961 the honorable member for Lalor, when making the policy speech of the Labour Party on agricultural matters, predicted the precise results from a subsidy on artificial fertilisers that have resulted since the reintroduction of the bounty. This is what ..ie honorable member for Lalor said just prior to the 1961 election -
You will remember the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments paid a subsidy on superphosphate. The Menzies Government abolished this subsidy payment. A Labour Government will restore subsidy payment at the rate of £3 a ton on superphosphate and at related payments on nitrogenous, potassic, mixed and other types of fertilizers, including trace elements. Subsidy would be payable on all purchases on and after 1st January, 1962. This assistance will help farm development policy, promote increased production on a wide range of export produce and provide the building up of farming strength necessary to cope with adverse marketing conditions . . .
That was in 1961. Closely but belatedly following Labour’s 1961 policy statement the bounty of £3 a ton was introduced by this Government in October 1963. The bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers, which were next in line to be granted recognition, was delayed until this session. Surely the Government in its apparent recognition that any follower of an agricultural pursuit who, because of lack of land fertility, is unfortunately forced to use a now highly priced nitrogenous fertiliser must also give recognition to the fact that other unfortunate agriculturalists are for the same reason forced to use trace elements or other mixed types of fertiliser.I think it right that I should mention that our policy has always contained provision for a comprehensive fertiliser policy, based on the knowledge of the needs of the industry and the important role that it plays in our overseas balance of payments problem. In this regard perhaps I should quote from Labour’s rural policy for 1 966. It includes -
The appointment of a special investigation authority to investigate and report on action necessary to rapidly expand the marketing of Australian primary products.
The granting of relief to necessitous primary producers. Better rural facilities for postal, telegraph and telephonic communications and television.
Increased trade commissioners.
Efficient meteorological facilities.
Majority representation of primary producers upon all boards.
So Labour’s policy not only covers a means of assisting and boosting production but also provides for some very real assistance in sales and in the finding of new markets. My colleague, the honorable member for Lalor referred to the concern felt by honorable members on this side of the House at what could be, or very soon will be, monopoly control by some companies of the fertiliser industry in Australia. Admittedly a number of agriculturalists still hold shares in fertiliser companies. But let them look to the channels where the greater number of shares in one company are held and indeed to who owns who in the main intercompany shareholdings in the Australian fertiliser industry. We are more than aware of the rapid expansion taking place in the industry on the manufacturing side and of the enormous finance being poured into it. We realise that to permit this expansion we must utilise all local and huge amounts of overseas capital but we are more than concerned at the interlocking control of the fertiliser industry that could be exercised by manufacturers to a degree where the
Australian consumer and the Government will have little control over prices paid and where the major benefits derived do not go to that section of the industry for which the bounty was introduced to assist. It is for this reason that I bring to the notice of the House some of the main interlocking company shareholdings that were recorded on 8th February this year. The records show C.S.B.P. to be owned in equal partnership by Cuming Smith, British Petroleum and Westralian Farmers Superphosphates. Each organisation owns 331/3 per cent. It is a three company show. C.S.B.P. holds 75 per cent, of shares in Albany Superphosphates. Cresco W.A. holds the other 25 per cent. That is a two company show. Cuming Smith seems to be the only fertiliser firm holding intercompany shares in the giant Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. I.C.I.A.N.Z. had 100 per cent, control of Commonwealth Fertilisers, a controlling interest of 53.4 per cent, in Australian Fertilisers Ltd., a 51 per cent, interest in A.C.F. and Shirley’s Fertilisers Pry. Ltd. and a 50 per cent, interest in General Fertiliser. I.C.I.A.N.Z. seems to hold only 1 1 per cent, of the shares of Wallaroo Mount Lyell but on 8th February was reported to hold a controlling interest of 51 per cent, of the new ammonia making venture at Silverwater with Boral Paccal, C.R.A. and Mitsui holding the other 49 per cent, between them. Of the last mentioned three companies, Boral Paccal owns the greatest percentage of shares in the Silverwater venture and also has shares in Wallaroo Mount Lyell. Wallaroo Mount Lyell, Adelaide Chemicals and Cresco Fertilisers each own 331/3 per cent, of the shares in Sulphuric Acid Ltd. Wallaroo Mount Lyell, Adelaide Chemicals, Cresco Fertilisers and the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. each holds a 25 per cent, interest in Nairne Pyrites. Grace, Mount Morgan and Cresco Fertilisers together hold 100 per cent, of the shares in Mount Morgan Grace. Boral is reputed in the “ Financial Review “ of 8th February to be the biggest shareholder in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. and in the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd.
With few exceptions the companies I have mentioned have plant to produce their own supply of sulphuric acid. Some companies can and do produce more than their own requirements and sell their surplus production. The established nitrogenous works seem to be confined to I.C.I.A.N.Z., A.C.F., Shirleys, B.H.P., and E.Z. Industries, with B. P. also having a finger in the pie with C. S.B.P. at Kwinana in Western Australia. To give a further indication of the way in which new plants are spreading I refer to the “ Financial Review “ of 22nd August which reads -
In anticipating the expected increase in demand for nitrogenous fertilisers, the Kwinana Nitrogen Co. will double the size of the ammonia plant to be erected at Kwinana, W.A. Capacity will be increased from 50,000 to 100,000 tons per annum. . . Kwinana Nitrogen is owned 80 per cent, by the British Petroleum Co. of Aust. Ltd. and 20 per cent, by C.S.B.P. and Farmers Ltd. The 100,000 tons ammonia plant will be complemented by a 90,000 ton nitric acid plant and a 110,000 ton ammonium nitrate plant.
Other works are proposed at Newcastle, Botany, Gladstone and Silverwater, with Esso giving heavy consideration to establishing a nitrogenous works at Altona. Phosphoric acid plants to provide a very high grade of fertiliser are being established at Port Kembla, Melbourne and Brisbane. All of these sections of an industry so vital to the advancement of agriculture in Australia seem to have a finger in the other fellow’s pie with a couple of the giant companies now in the position of being in virtual control. Nobody in this wildest flights of fancy could ever imagine that there has been or will be any competition in relation to the prices fixed for the end product. On the other hand, one would not have to enter the realm of fantasy to imagine some director of a company in the top, bottom or middle bracket looking at the auditors’ report and saying: “ Tut, tut. Our shares have increased in value from $2 to $12 or$1 4, but in this secure industry, which is expanding so quickly that we are finding it difficult to supply its needs, we are able to pay a dividend of only 8 per cent, or 10 per cent.” In the case of Kwinana it would a 17 per cent, dividend. So the right people are contacted and after about two nods and three more tuts an adjustment is made and in the following year bonus shares are issued.
I have just stated that I could not foresee any price cutting; there is, however, keen competition for the control of any enterprise connected with the manufacture of potash, phosphate or nitrogen. At this stage most of the world needs a great deal more nitrogen, which is the fastest growth producer of the three main or basic plant nutrients, and already overseas companies, including a number of oil companies, seem to dominate the scene. It seems now that the American oil interests feel a desperate urge to get into the Australian fertiliser business. Not the least of the reasons for the great amount of assistance they wish to render us would seem to be the simple fact that oil and natural gas have been found in this country.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is already firmly established that a country which is rich in natural gas, which can be made available to industry at a reasonable price, can produce ammonia and, from the by products of ammonia, other adjuncts necessary to the fertiliser industry, at a greatly reduced cost. Therefore, the Australian Labour Party feels that the development of these new sources of energy should be a public responsibility so that the maximum public benefit can be derived from them. In fact, wefeel so deeply about this that our Party will guarantee the necessary funds and, in association with the States, will develop the resources as a public utility. My leader has already promised this in a public statement, and it has become a plank of the Australian Labour Party’s platform. We trust, Sir, as the moment is already vital, that the present Government will give every consideration to formulating a policy along the same lines, as we are informed that already there is a deadlock between the Victorian State Government, the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation, the Broken Hill Company Pty. Ltd. and Esso Exploration Australia Inc. over the price to be paid for natural gas in Victoria.
We ask also that the Government give the Labour Government of South Australia every consideration when it presents its case for financial assistance to establish a natural gas pipeline from Gidgealpa through to the capital. It seems at this stage that a Commonwealth loan, or a guaranteed loan, will be asked for. In either case, a trust to administer the pipeline with consumer, company and government representation will be set up. Should this happen, both manufacturers and consumers of the commodity can expect to derive the benefits of reasonable prices. Indeed, should further gas deposits be discovered by another company, the line could become a common carrier thus avoiding the duplication with consequent greatly increased costs, that occurred in some other countries.
I mentioned earlier the concern already expressed at the rising price of fertilisers and the possibility of further rises. It would seem to me, if we can take as a guide a detailed report by Ian Potter and Co. on the fertiliser industry, that production and sales are soaring in every phase of the industry. Amongst other things, the report says -
In Queensland, the sugar industry continues to be the major consumer of artificial fertilisers, but there is enormous potential for pasture improvement which is virtually still in the experimental stage.
The report continues -
The brokers say that to achieve an earning rate of around 20 per cent., profits, after tax, will need to rise to £750,000.
The report goes on to say that the growth of the industry in New South Wales has been phenomenal, particularly in the last two years; that huge expansion is taking place, and that this expansion is adequate to meet demands up to 1970. In Victoria, fertiliser usage has continued to forge ahead and the three producers have achieved higher production only by the maximum utilisation of all available capacity.The report also states that the brokers say that the position in Victoria appears to justify a, new round of plant expansion to meet the expected increases in demand over the next few years. It goes on -
In South Australia, superphosphate production has risen by 40 per cent, in two years–
That is the last two years - in line with the £3 a ton bounty.
It states also that there has been a great increase in the use of bulk fertiliser, that aerial spreading has developed and that increased acreages of pasture have been sown.
I come now to Western Australia. In that State, while fertiliser usage has been less than that which has occurred in New South Wales, it has still increased substantially. For example, in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 29th October 1965, Mr. J. G. Shroeder, general manager of Australian Fertilisers Ltd., was reported as follows -
With considerable faith in our knowledge, Mr. Shroeder said we were all familiar with the changes in the superphosphate industry. In five years super spread over pastures from the air had risen to 500,000 tons. The aircraft had become the work horse of the man on the land.
Despite this rapid- and to my mind most belated -growth, the speaker inferred it was chicken feed to what was likely to happen in the next five years.
It may come as a shock to most of you to hear that the world as a whole regards Australia as a backward fertiliser nation.
F.A.O. lists Australia in the 5-10 lb. category of fertiliser per acre of arable land . . with U.S.S.R. and Kenya.
U.S.A. and Venezuela are in the 50 lb. bracket and western Europe and Japan, both highly industrialised, in the 100 lb. group.
There are a number of other reports that could be referred to. The Minister for Air (Mr. Howson). in his second reading speech, said that the expansion of production during the years of the bounty had been 46 per cent. But, surely, the sale of capacity production, plus the seemingly assured sale of capacity production as the result of the industry’s expansion programme which, by any yardstick, is astounding, cannot be used as an excuse for a greater profit margin.
I am a little intrigued, though, by the warning given to the Queensland fertiliser industry that a 20 per cent, earning rate after tax cannot be achieved without another £750,000 profit. That statement would seem to indicate that 20 per cent, should be the minimum profit aimed at by the industry in any one year. If this is to be the objective, and if prices are to be adjusted to achieve that goal, then the matter should be referred tothe AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Sneddon) in order to ascertain whether this is another case which would bear the investigation of his trade practices officers.
I turn now to wages. Taking the figures published in an article in the Port Lincoln Press said to he written by the local Manager of Cresco,I find that 11,173 tons of superphosphate was produced in 1934 at a wage cost of between £10,000 and £12,000, or approximately £1 a ton. I find also that the production for 1964-65 was 140,000 tons and that the wage cost was £130,000, or less than £1 a ton. So, although, both wages and the price of fertiliser have trebled, on the figures given by the manager of the company concerned the wages cost of producing one ton of fertiliser is still only about £i. It would seem from these figures that a case could be made for a decrease rather than an increase in the purchasing price.
The Minister had this to say about price rises -
The bounty is paid to manufacturers but is required to be passed on, in the price charge for fertilisers, to the farming community. The Government is satisfied that this is being done. Price rises have occurred in the three years of operation of the bounty but these reflect trends arising from the increased prices of phosphate rock available to Australian manufacturers and increased world prices of sulphur, as well as increases in labour and some other manufacturing costs over the past few years.
Admittedly there have been some overall increases in the cost of phosphate rock and of sulphur. Average prices paid for both commodities have been compiled for me by officers of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library statistical service. They are too lengthy for me to give at length, but they reveal that in 1959-60 the average price of rock phosphate was S5.51 a ton. The price decreased by 50c in 1960-61 but since then has gradually increased. In 1959-60 the price of sulphur was §21.20 a ton. It decreased in the following years until 1964-65 when it was §17.08. Since then, I believe because the international agreement has expired, the price has varied between $22.67 and $24.11. These figures reveal that there has not been a tremendous increase in the price of either commodity since 1959-60. Modern manufacturing methods have decreased the need to employ great numbers of men. In some centres plans have been completed for the manufacture of sulphur, and thus sulphuric acid, from pyrites. In Victoria gas is reported as being suitable for the manufacture of nitrogenous fertiliser and the Gas and Fuel Corporation is conducting research into the possibility of such manufacture. Let us continue to try to find high grade phosphatic rock in quantity within Australia. Let us make sure we derive the maximum public benefit from these resources. We are in agreement with the proposed extension of the bounty.
.- In speaking to this Bill I wish to emphasise the effects the subsidy has had and will continue to have on development, particularly in northern Queensland. Most of us are inclined to think that superphosphate is used only in connection with the growing of certain crops. In the northern area of Queensland it is employed to a minor degree in the growing of sugar cane, for which nitrogenous fertilisers - urea, sulphate of ammonia and the like - are used. However, today there is a rapidly developing use of superphosphate in improving pastures a,nd grazing land generally. In the coastal area of Queensland over many centuries heavy rain has gradually leached the soil of many vital elements and minerals, of which phosphorus is one. For many years also a disease, variously named coast disease, dying disease, mystery disease and drop dead, and causing at times serious cattle losses, has existed in the Charters Towers and Townsville areas. It is also present in wet years on coastal properties further south, in the St. Lawrence, Broad Sound and Shoalwater Bay areas. This disease is botulism, the result of a toxin produced by a germ found in decaying carcasses.
Cattle require a certain small amount of phosphorus each day, and if the feed is not sufficiently rich in phosphorus to provide this they become deficient. Because of this deficiency cattle exhibit a depraved appetite and chew sticks, bark, bones and so forth. If they are markedly deficient the cattle will chew rotting putrefied carcasses. If the carcass contains the botulism organism the cattle will be poisoned. Paralysis is followed by death if sufficient toxin is produced. Even in the absence of botulism, phosphorus deficiency in cattle can be very serious. It has become a serious problem in many areas in northern Queensland. Retarded growth, narrow chest, leggy appearance, retarded maturity, what is called peg leg lameness, bone breakages, low fertility, depressed milk production and general unthriftiness are some of the effects of a low phosphorus diet.
Prevention of botulism and the effects of phosphorus deficiency depends on an adequate phosphorus intake. This can be achieved to some extent by phosphorus licks or blocks, or by adding phosphate to the drinking water. However, since losses occur during the wet season as well as during the dry season, the supplementation of water is not generally effective. As honorable members can appreciate, cattle drink whatever water is close to them and they do not go to where phosphorus treated water is available as they would do in a normal dry season. Since all cattle will not take licks, only part protection is possible by these methods of supplementation. The surest way is to provide feed with a high phosphorus content. Soil with a low phosphorus status will produce feed low in phosphorus, and as the years go by, in these areas with heavy rainfall, the deficiency will get worse. It has been found that if superphosphate is applied, particularly in conjunction with the seeding of Townsville lucerne, or to pastures already containing it or other sown legumes, not only will the losses from botulism be reduced or prevented, but animal production will be improved in various ways. There will be fewer breeder losses, more calves, earlier turn offs and so forth.
Until 1962-63 little superphosphate was used on cattle pastures. In 1963-64 it amounted to 150 tons; in 1964-65 to 368 tons; in 1965-66 to 2,238 tons. It is estimated that in 1966-67 it will amount to 5,000 tons, and from 1967 onwards it is expected that the quantity used will total about 10,000 tons a year. This will have a tremendous effect on those people who are buying fertiliser in increasing quantities. This is an indication of the rapid rate at which the use of fertiliser is growing and will continue to grow as the benefits of its use, as the results of the pioneer work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s laboratory in Townsville, become better understood. There are 360 million acres of land remaining to be developed in Australia, and of this area 273 million acres are in northern Australia. Land with rainfall above 20 inches a year in tropical Queensland accounts for 147 million acres. After taking out those areas which are unsuitable because of the soil composition, mountains and other geographic factors, there are 68 million acres with above 25 inches of rainfall and 40 million acres with between 20 and 25 inches of rainfall on which superphosphate can be used to improve pastures. Unimproved spear grass pastures in this environment have a carrying capacity of one beast to 15 acres. The introduction of Townsville lucerne into such pasture has, as I have mentioned many times, enabled it to carry young pregnant cattle which have produced vigorous calves that have grown rapidly. Fertiliser has been necessary to maintain satisfactory growth in the young animals. The addition of fertiliser to the extent of 1 cwt. to the acre is the most economic proposition, although 3 cwt to the acre is considered better. Live weight gains have ranged from 52 lb. per acre on the low stocked unfertilised areas to more than three times that amount - 164 lb. per acre. - on high stocked high fertilised treatment areas. This has led to an increased fertility in the cows grazing on them.
I refer now to the results of animal production at Lansdown which, as honorable members should know, was the station purchased by the Government for experimental work by the C.S.I.R.O. It works in conjunction with the Townsville laboratory opened last year by Senator Gorton as Minister in Charge of C.S.I.R.O. Lansdown is 25 miles from Townsville. Field trials are made at Lansdown. The station is maintained by competent staff under Mr. Edey, a master of agricultural science and a particularly dedicated young man. He has a good team and they have conducted experiments at Lansdown which have confirmed similar research conducted over the last 15 years at Rodd’s Bay, near Gladstone, where a tenfold increase in beef production has been obtained by sowing Townsville lucerne into spear grass with superphosphate and molybdenum. Improved pastures not only increase carrying capacity and live weight gains but also double the rate of turn off of fat cattle and increase the fertility of cows. This is extremely important, as most people realise. Soil research at the Townsville laboratory shows that the majority of soils north of the tropic in areas exceeding 20 inches of annual rainfall are deficient in phosphorus - often extremely so, as I said a few minutes ago. Extremely heavy rain over the years has created problems. It has had the effect of leaching the soils until they are grossly deficient in a number of minerals of which phosphorus is the one of greatest importance to cattle. Of the 105 million acres potentially available for improved pastures, 85 million acres are grossly deficient in phosphorus and probably deficient in other nutrients, particularly the trace element molybdenum. It would require an annual application of 1 cwt. to the acre to maintain improved pastures on these soils. If 20 million acres were developed under improved pastures, the annual superphosphate requirement would be 1 million tons compared with the present day total of about 2i million tons per annum ,or the whole of Australia.
It seems that the key to the development of these vast northern lands is the intensification of the beef cattle industry. I think most people realise today that cattle raising is about the only thing we can do with the land in the heavy rainfall belt in the Cape and other areas. The King Ranch, for instance, is carrying out extensive operations in this field in forest country where the scrub has been cleared. The soil is very good and it has a good rainfall. They are bringing their store cattle down and turning them off. This seems to be the solution to the problem that hitherto has prevented year round killing.
There has been research into new methods of planting and new strains of plants becoming available to us. This research will result in the continued improvement of pastures, thus increasing the carrying capacity of the land, stock numbers and the quality of the beef turned off. The tendency has gradually grown up over the years to reduce the age at which beef stock is turned off. Before the war nothing much under five years of age was sold but today it is the practice here to turn bee; off at three years, f think the age is lower still in America.
There is no short term, and certainly no long term, problem of market potential for increased beef production. It is one of the few things in this country for which there is a better market than supply. This is particularly good for the people engaged in beef production because it enables them to develop their areas and to take advantage of today’s decent prices. We are very close to the tremendous market now opening up in East Asia, and the long term demand from Europe and America is certain to increase because the stress of population will increasingly preclude Europe and America from producing their own cattle for beef. The market in Asia has very bright prospects for us because when the people there get more money and can afford to buy our meat they will do so. The demand must increase because of the increasing population.
It has been shown that through the combination of improved pasture plants, adequate fertiliser and breeds and strains of cattle adapted to tropical conditions, it is possible to obtain animal production comparable with that obtained on improved pastures in temperate climates. These techniques will make it economically possible to intensify beef cattle production in northern Queensland. The reason I wanted to participate in this debate is that the beef cattle industry is of particular importance to that area. It is coming into its own and in the future will be the backbone of our economy. When present techniques are improved, when people can make better use of their properties and when some of the existing properties are reduced in size, there will be a much greater turn off than is the case at present. This will be possible when our pastures are improved by the increased use of superphosphate. I am particularly pleased that this Bill is before the House.
– I should like to comment briefly on the Bill and to emphasise, as the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Harding) has done, the tremendous potential of the beef cattle industry in northern Australia. Improved production can be achieved by the judicious application of fertilisers, particularly the phosphates. It is the considered opinion of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries that Townsville lucerne can do more for Queensland than subterranean clover has done for southern Australia. For example, experiments at Rodd’s Bay have shown that carrying capacity and turn off can be lifted as much as seven times. Experiments at Townsville, Lansdown and other research stations conducted by the C.S.l.R.O. and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries have shown even more spectacular increase in carrying capacity and turn off. In some areas native pastures comprising particularly spear grass, kangaroo grass and annual sorghums previously had a carrying capacity of one beast to every 50, 100 or 200 acres. With the introduction of new sub-tropical pastures and the application of superphosphate, carrying capacity has been increased to one beast to every five or six acres.
The tremendous potential of the cattle industry in northern Australia has been dealt with in this House on previous occasions. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) advanced certain suggestions for stimulating the use of superphosphate in northern Australia. Certainly, a lot of what he said warrants serious consideration by the Government because the use of superphosphate is one of the keys to the development of these northern pastures. There are approximately 150 million acres with an average rainfall of over 20 inches. Practically every acre of this area is under-developed. Today it supports about 7 million beef and dairy cattle and about 10 million sheep. Of all the primary industries in Australia, beef is perhaps the one which faces the brightest future. Most other industries have their problems, particularly in relation to marketing, but the one good thing about beef is that there is no substitute for it in terms of synthetics. We either eat it or we do not eat it. If we do not eat beef we must eat one of the other meats. Whereas it would perhaps be difficult to increase to any great extent the present average price for wool because of the threat of synthetics, the future for beef is extremely bright because it is an established fact that with the improving standard of living the consumption of beef is increasing. Even in Australia and the United States of America which, in an economic classification, are regarded as highly developed countries, beef is still a luxury food.
Having regard to the tremendous area of land that is available, I think the attitude of people who support the development of the industry is a good one because, after all, every additional ton of beef that we produce will be exported, irrespective of whether it is produced in the south or in the north. With the present emphasis on balance of payments, this is one of the industries which we should support. Such projects as the clearing of the brigalow land and the construction of beef roads, together with the research work being carried on by the C.S.I.R.O., the Queensland and Western Australia departments concerned with primary industries and the Northern Territory Administration, will do much to emphasise the tremendous potential of this industry in northern Australia. One of the many problems of the cattle industry at present arises from the low level of phosphate in the soil. This results in very severe nutritional stresses in the critical months of the year, from the winter until the monsoons break. The objective of research scientists is to find a legume suitable for these areas. Up to the present, it would seem that Townsville lucerne is the most promising legume. Other legumes with which the scientists are experimenting and which have offered some encouragement are stylo, phaseolus, siratro and glycine. I think these are the legumes that are in wide commercial use now and, with the application of superphosphate, they are showing considerable promise.
The potential value of a legume depends on the degree of nodulation. If nodulation fails, it follows that the potential legume will be very small. But apart from the general overall deficiency of nitrogen throughout northern Australia, there is an overall deficiency of phosphorus. If, in association with the introduction of tropical pastures, we can stimulate the use of superphosphate, we will undoubtedly see a substantial increase in productivity. On the subject of productivity, we should look at some of the areas that will play a most important part in the future of Australia, starting with the vast areas of spear grass country. The C.S.I.R.O. has classified 75 million acres of spear grass country as suitable for the introduction of tropical pastures. Again Townsville lucerne seems to be the best legume for use in the spear grass country. The wallum country between Bundaberg and the New South Wales border offers a very high potential for development, but it must be associated with the use of superphosphate. At this point of time, most of the wallum country is completely underdeveloped. Some of this country may carry a few stray cattle, but it has been shown in the experiment in Beerwah and other areas that it will carry a beast to the acre. This, of course, is a tremendous increase in productivity.
The teatree country of the Gulf is some of our poorer country, but the introduction of tropical pastures has increased the carrying capacity from a beast to 140 acres to a beast to 20 acres. The wet tropical coast areas of Queensland now have carrying capacities of a beast to the acre, although previously these areas carried no cattle at all because of the density of the undergrowth and the eucalyptus forests. All this points to the fact that beef production in these areas will increase substantially. Very encouraging work is being carried on by the Northern Territory Administration in the top end of the Territory. The introduction of Townsville lucerne into those pastures, and particularly chrysopogon and annual sorghum pastures, shows what can be done. The big problem with Townsville lucerne, apart from the need to use fertilisers, is the competition from native pastures. With the judicious clearing of timber and the strip planting of Townsville lucerne, it would seem that some of the major problems of pasture establishment in the north of Australia have been solved.
The difficulties facing the cattle i’ndustry in the use of superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers are increased by high freight rates. High freight rates between the south and the north present a most important deterrent to the use of fertilisers. 1 would have hoped that by this time the Parliament would have had access to the Loder report, which is certain to deal with some of the problems of the north, including freight rates on essential commodities such as superphosphate. It is scandalous that this report, although completed more than 12 months ago, still has not been made available to us. Of course, the information in it will now be out of date and another committee will need to revise it and bring it up to date. No sensible conclusion can flow from it unless the data in it is revised. But at least i’n principle we can argue that, if we wish to see a greater use made of superphosphate in the north, some effort must be made to reduce the present high freight rates. The level of freight rates does not derive from distance. The figures can be checked in the annual reports of the Queensland Railways Department, but it is well known that the central and north Queensland railway systems have made substantial profits over the years while the south Queensland railway system, which includes Brisbane, has made substantial losses. In other words, high freight rates are being levied in central and northern Queensland to subsidise the losses on suburban travel in Brisbane. This is a retrograde step.
Exports are at the very basis of our growth and the beef industry is one industry that can bring very big increases in exports. All governments should try to stimulate those industries that will bring increased export earnings. A reduction in freight rates, for example, would stimulate the use of fertilisers, both nitrogen and superphosphate, in the north. The honorable member for Herbert referred to the sugar industry. The sugar industry uses more than 50 per cent, of all nitrogen used i’n Australia, but again freight rates are a deterrent. Superphosphate is also used extensively in the sugar industry, but its use here does not approach the use made of it in pasture and crop growing. The problem facing the sugar industry now is its inability to pay for fertilisers. In some areas hit by drought, the cash operating costs and accrued debt and interest charges are actually greater than the expected returns from sugar. One result of this has been a reduction in the application of nitrogen and superphosphate, and this again is a retrograde step. Newspapers have widely reported rumours that the Government intends to make a loan to the sugar industry. But it would not matter what sort of a loan this was, whether it was interest free or interest bearing, because the sugar industry could not afford to repay it. Lack of funds has forced cane growers to cut down the application of nitrogenous and other fertilisers, including superphosphate. Taken by and large, any reduction of the price to people in the north will stimulate the use of superphosphate.
In places like the top end of the Northern Territory, the high rainfall areas in Queensland, the east Kimberleys and, to a smaller degree, the north Kimberleys, over a time there will be a very great increase in the utilisation of superphosphate in association with tropical pastures. Let me give some idea of the increase in productivity that can be achieved by better husbandry and by making available to cattle a better plane of nutrition. At present, in the Gulf country, mortality is something like 40 per cent, per annum on many properties. This means that annually, on an average, about 40 out of every 100 cattle die, from calving to turn off. The average turn off in the Cape York Peninsula area, the Gulf country, the top end of the Northern Territory, and the east and west Kimberleys is only about 1 1 per cent, per annum. Of the numbers that this percentage represents, 85 per cent, are male cattle and the rest females.
One of the main reasons put forward by scientists in the north to account for this is poor nutrition. This nutritional problem will be solved by the use of superphosphate in association with tropical and sub-tropical pastures. When it is solved, even with our present cattle population we shall see a very big increase in production. Already, at some places such as Fanning River, outside Charters Towers, there have been demonstrations of what can be done by proper methods of both animal and plant husbandry. The turn off at Fanning River has increased from something like 14 per cent, to 23 per cent, per annum. This represents the turn off of animals in the herd.
Calf survival is one of the most important things on which scientists are working at present. Research workers at the Kimberley Research Station, the Katherine Research Station and Queensland research stations have shown startling results just by feeding high protein supplements on small areas of pastures improved with the use of superphosphate. Do not forget that protein is transmitted as a supplement either as a byproduct or in pastures. The feeding of protein supplements can save both mother and calf, and startling effects on potential turn off have been shown. As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, considered statements made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Queensland departments, which I am certain will be backed up by the Northern Territory Administration, indicate that tropical and sub-tropical pastures can increase production at a rate greater than that achieved by the use of subterranean clover in southern Australia. In view of these statements, I believe that the House will appreciate the tremendous scope that exists in the north.
A lot is being done, much by the use of Australian capital and much by the use of overseas capital. Sir William Gunn and his associates now control most of Cape York Peninsula. They control some of the best country. Regardless of the arguments for and against overseas capital, one thing is certain: We shall see very large increases in beef production in the Cape York Peninsula area. First and foremost, we need fencing and water. These are being provided now. We need control of cattle. Without this, it is impossible to regulate stocking rates. Pastures like Townsville lucerne, stylo and phaseolus cannot achieve successful results unless grazing and competition from native pastures are controlled. All the work on tropical pastures done by scientists, however, is greatly dependent on the utilisation of superphosphate. I support the observations made by the honorable member for Herbert. I believe that we are on the threshold of a pasture revolution and that the use of superphosphate will be one of the major factors contributing to the fulfilment of the tremendous potential of which the north is capable.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is one of the happy occasions on which I wholeheartedly agree with Opposition speakers. The purpose of this Bill is to give legislative authority for the extending of the operation of the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act 1963 from 14th August 1966 to 31st October 1969- a period slightly in excess of three years - and also to provide for the change to decimal currency. I want to discuss this Bill in relation to the whole of Australia. There is not the slightest doubt that the use of superphosphate has changed the scene throughout the countryside of this great Commonwealth. One sees this wherever one goes. I fully agree with what has been said about the north. I point out, too, that the change wrought by superphosphate in the south has been like magic. After all, the application of superphosphate probably gives a better return in high rainfall areas. This has been most noticeable in the southern part of Victoria and in other coastal high rainfall districts.
There is not the slightest doubt that the measure now before us will have far reaching results. The use of superphosphate in large quantities all over Australia lifts our production, especially that part of it that we say represents the very basis of the stability of our national economy. In this corner of the House - and in other places, too - it has been said on many occasions that in spite of the great increase in the number of factories and in secondary industry throughout Australia, our stability and prosperity still depend on the primary industries. The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) mentioned our overseas balances. I think he really meant that the primary industries provide 80 per cent, of our exports and in so doing gain 80 per cent, of our overseas income. This money is used chiefly to buy for Australia raw materials that are not available here. Someone has said that we are pretty well self contained, but one has only to think of rubber and crude oil - just two items out of hundreds - to realise that we are far from being self contained and that the primary industries play a vital role in our economy. Every increase in primary production enables us to export more primary products, and this is good for the whole economy.
I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Dawson say - he may not have said it in these words, but this is what he meant - that with the standard of living rising more beef will be consumed and that any surplus of production over domestic requirements will find good export markets.
– Order! The honorable member ought to keep in mind that we are discussing the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill. He should link his remarks to that measure.
– 1 was dealing with what had been said by the honorable member for Dawson and was supporting his statement, Sir. I believe that what he said is right: More beef will be consumed as the standard of living rises. We must use superphosphate to increase production. This is the link between my remarks and the Bill, Sir. We must use superphosphate to achieve greater production of beef. Other speakers in this debate have expressed themselves fully in accord with this. We must use superphosphate to increase production, whether in the beef industry, the fat lamb industry, dairying, wheat growing or the cropping of any kind of cereal. Quality and quantity are improved by the use of superphosphate. I do not think that I go too far by saying that before the use of superphosphate was adopted a lot of country was practically starving, say, one sheep to three or four acres. With the adequate application of superphosphate, the same country today runs and fattens at least three or four sheep to the acre. This is true national progress. Of course, this Bill which fosters that progress has the support of all those people who know primary industry, know its worth and are mindful of the part it plays in Australia’s stable economy.
Relating my remarks closely to the Bill and to the Minister’s second reading speech, he stated that the legislation will empower a substantial level of expenditure, estimated at $28 million, in the next 12 months. As honorable members will realise, the subsidy is $6 a ton. When it is remembered that the expenditure in payment of the subsidy will be $28 million, honorable members will have a glimpse of the vast amount of superphosphate used in Australia. If we compare the figures for the consumption of superphosphate before the introduction of the bounty and since it will be realised that primary producers have appreciated the value of the bounty and have acted accordingly by buying more superphosphate and producing more primary products. Therefore, I am most happy to be associated with those who support the Bill. I believe that it is in the best interests of all concerned and that it will have a very easy passage through the House because it will increase production and so stabilise our economy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Howson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1st September (vide page 744).
Proposed expenditure, $3,664,000.
and which have been made continually by other honorable members opposite, about the way in which Parliament has become what might be termed a rubber stamp, that is to say the Ministry and the Cabinet have taken over the executive authority which should properly lie in the Parliament and we, in effect, come here to be nothing more than ciphers in the process of government. I believe that honorable members must apply themselves thoroughly to that question.
It is not a question of the present authority of the Ministers for the time being. Each Minister carries his charter as a result of membership of this Parliament. Each Minister has his authority only because he is a member of this Parliament. Ministers have no authority whatever beyond that. For the time being - sometimes for a long period and sometimes the period is short - they exercise great power and authority and have great responsibility in the community. The remarkable thing to me is that it has become almost a characteristic of parliamentary systems - it may well always have been - that these members who have had this authority conferred upon them for some reason depart from the Parliament and become part of the instruments of their department. I do not say that in any unkindness. I think that every Minister would agree that he is hard pressed in the amount of work he has to cover. I always look with admiration at the amount of work that Ministers get through as individuals, not that I approve of the end result of a great deal of it. This is one of the problems that the parliamentary system faces.
In this country we have come to the stage where we often surrender some very fundamental powers of Parliament to statutory bodies in respect of which, because they are set up under statute, the Minister and the Cabinet in general say: “ It is not our business any longer.” I suppose the most outstanding example of this is the arbitration system. The arbitration system has a fundamental control over great areas of Australia’s social progress. The arbitration system decides whether large numbers of Australians will or will not advance in their salary and wage level, lt has no direction from the Parliament and it has no constant examination by the Parliament. It has no real control exercised through the ministry of this place. 1 agree that this is a difficult matter, that the day to day operations of a society are not likely to be effectively controlled by an organisation such as this Parliament; but it is an example of what may be called an autonomous empire which we have created. It is one which makes decisions affecting the nation but which is responsible in very small measure to the Parliament which has created it. We must be careful that we do not create Frankensteinian monsters. We must be careful that we do not create authorities which transcend the authority and sovereignty of Parliament itself.
The Tariff Board is another example. So in two large areas, in the control of the inflow of imports and the way this influences secondary industry, and in the control over the wages and working conditions of people who work in those industries, we have passed over control to another authority and we exercise very little control over it. Another body which we have created and over which we have very little supervision is the Public Service Board. It is an estimable body carrying out a great and important task, but I cannot believe that the Minister responsible for it in this place can properly exercise control over it as he has so many other functions. There is possibly a strong case for a ministry in control of the Public Service. We have a Minister in charge of the Army which has 30,000 or 40.000 people permanently employed; we have a Minister in charge of the Navy which employs about 20,000 people; but we have no Minister directly responsible, in the sense that I am using the word “ responsibility “, for the Public Service of the Commonwealth which employs about 170,000 people.
Then we come closer to home in the actions of the Treasury. Because so much of the work of the Treasury is complex and because so much of it is export, it is removed from our ken. 1 believe it is probably removed also beyond the Treasurer’s ken. There may be a strong case for both a minister of economic affairs and a minister of a treasury of accounts as such. The accounts of this country are very important and are a very large measure of the way in which the country is run. This is a tremendous undertaking, yet the Treasurer is responsible not only for the way in which some public servant spends the money that he has for inkwells and the way that some public authority spends the money allotted for air fields, but also for the general direction and economic structure of the nation. 1 believe that this is beyond the competence of any single individual and that, therefore, there might well be a case - 1 believe there is - for a breaking up of this into two ministries, thereby bringing closer parliamentary control to it. 1 have mentioned these four authorities, and there are many more. We have created a large number of statutory authorities to carry out the Parliament’s work. Most of their reports come to the Parliament at such a late stage that we can have no influence over the way in which the affairs of these authorities are conducted. Many of their reports are verbose and general in the extreme, to such an extent in fact that it is difficult to know what is actually going on. 1 put it to honorable members that perhaps we should create some machinery by which the body of the Parliament itself can give earnest and solid and intimate consideration to these matters as individuals, not as Ministers or exMinisters or future Ministers or Ministers in waiting - whatever people happen to call themselves - but as parliamentarians concerned with the way in which the Parliament shall work.
I know that on the other side of the chamber there is a large body of opinion in agreement with me. Honorable members on the opposite side have stood up and made statements similar to those 1 am making now. But how on earth are we to get any effective action if we allow the 25 people who for the time being comprise the Ministry and the Cabinet to exercise absolute control over the Parliament? How are we going to establish some rapport in these matters between people opposite and people such as myself on this side? How are we going to get a line of communication going as parliamentarians?
This is one of the problems now before us. Honorable members opposite sit in the Cabinet or take places in the Ministry for the time being, but it will not be long before they will have taken their places on this side of the chamber - if the electors return them to this place at all. Therefore they ought to examine this as a personal matter.
– Don’t take it to heart.
– The honorable member for Mallee, of course, laughs at this, but one does not need to be very well versed in parliamentary history to recognise that there is very little security in the tenure of a parliamentary seat or ministerial office. The honorable member for Mallee has been here for a long time and he has spoken a great deal. I have yet to hear him make a reasonable contribution to the question of the way in which Parliament ought to be run, although he personally pays a great deal of attention to the Parliament itself. He sits and watches it. What about his taking a hand in making it work properly?
The present Parliament has created for itself a problem, 1 believe, in management by its failure to increase the meetings of the Parliament. I have before me a list showing the number of sitting days in every year since Federation. In 1901 the number was 113, in 1902 it was 107 and in 1.904 it was 122. So one can run down the list, and what one finds is that the longer the Parliament has gone on the fewer have been the annual numbers of sitting days. In recent years the average has been in the fifties and sixties. In 1948 the number was 90. I shall not bore honorable members by reading out the list. 1 believe we should read it in any case not with a view to particular years as such, but having in mind the statistics as to how many public servants there are now as compared with previous years, or how many public departments we now administer, or how big our Budget is now as compared with earlier years. I think honorable members would be surprised if a graph were made showing growth along those three lines while the number of sitting days of the Parliament has remained almost constant, ranging from 50 to 100 or thereabouts, or remaining mostly in the sixties. We must bear in mind in this connection the increasing complexity of government, the increasing size of the Budget and the increasing size of the Public Service which we administer. I believe it is time for a radical rearrangement for the meetings of the Parliament itself. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall have this list incorporated in “ Hansard “.
– What is it all about?
– It simply shows the number of days on which the Parliament has sat each year from 1901. The information is on the record and I think it would be an interesting document for the members of this Parliament. This is the easiest way in which to get it into “ Hansard “, and I hope the honorable member will read it.
There are two or three other matters I would like to bring before the Parliament. One relates to the facilities for members themselves. We have recently established a Legislative Research Service. This is small at the moment but it will work if honorable members make it work, if they ask for more services and continually create pressures. I have been a member of the Library Committee for the 10 or 11 years in which I have been a member of the Parliament. We have been speaking about this service during all that time and it has taken us until now to have it established, although it is something which many of us have believed for a long time was fundamental to the good working of the Parliament. This is another area calling for proper examination. How are we to have the necessary facilities at our disposal to allow us to participate in debates with the same competence - or at least the same background of knowledge if competence is too strong a word - that the members of the Ministry bring to these debates? I remember a friend of mine in one of the State parliaments describing the process and saying: “ We come into the House to move some motion and the Minister comes in and from behind his rampart of files he picks off our arguments one by one “. We are here competing with a group of people who, although they also are members of the Parliament, have a special service and many experts behind them. We have to create for all the members of the Parliament a similar service, and I believe this is fundamental to the way in which the Parliament should work.
I want also to refer to the attitude of Ministers towards the Parliament, and I will cite one instance that I have mentioned before in this place. Some three years ago we established a committee to examine the grievances of the people of the Yirrkala district in the Northern Territory. This matter has been raised in debate on many occasions and it is not the matter itself that I want to bring before honorable members, but rather the attitude of the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes). The Minister was a member of the committee which recommended that a standing committee of the Parliament be appointed to keep this question under examination for at least the next 10 years. One would have thought that when the honorable member entered the Ministry he would have said: “ This is item No. 1 on the agenda. I will have this attended to. lt is a simple act of faith in my own committee and in my parliamentary colleagues.” But what are the psychological processes of the honorable gentleman when he refuses to have this committee appointed? Is there some greater faith that he places in his Department than that which he places in us? His failure to appoint this committee in accordance with his own committee’s recommendation of three years ago constitutes a vote of no confidence in the membership of the Parliament. He believes strongly, I understand, that the work that such a committee would do can be carried out better by departmental committees. I have no particular grudge against departmental committees but, no matter how well founded they are, they are still in effect secret committees. They are not public. The great advantage that we have in our deliverations is that we are public people. We answer for our actions and our statements publicly. We stand up and explain them publicly - public policies publicly arrived at and publicly explained. I believe this is fundamental to parliamentary democracy.
I place these few points before the Parliament this afternoon and I hope that honorable members will also examine the way in which the Parliament itself works. On almost every occasion on which we have surrendered grievance day or general business day I have raised my voice, whenever it has been proper to do so, in objection. It is not that I personally have wanted to speak; I believe that as private members we have limited opportunities to express our points of view and we ought not to surrender on any occasion the few opportunities that remain to us - grievance day, private members’ day, the motion for the adjournment of the House. We should also try to prevent the misuse of question time by excessive verbosity on the part of Ministers. This Parliament does not belong to Ministers. The right honorable member for Higgins (Mr. Harold Holt), important as he is at the moment, is intrinsically no more important than the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) or the honorable member for Wills. When I stand in this place to speak as the representative of the people of Wills I should have as many rights as the right honorable member for Higgins, Prime Minister though he may be for the time being.
I place these thoughts before the committee because this is about the seven hundredth year since the foundation of parliament, which has slowly evolved towards the kind of public authority and legislative authority it is. It is only by constant examination by members themselves of what they are doing, a constant sense of their rights and privileges and a constant endeavour to exercise correctly their authority as representatives of the people that we can make the parliamentary system work. I believe that in a world of some difficulties and some tumult the hope of future peace and prosperity on this planet relies almost completely on the development of a parliamentary system something like that which we have here. It behoves us in a prosperous, well founded community such as this to set up a parliamentary system that will be a model for everybody else.
.- I too will devote my few remarks to that section of the Estimates headed “ Parliament “ and covering Division Nos. 101 to 1 13 in the Second Schedule to the Appropriation Act (No. I) 1966-67. We see that the gross expenditure for the Parliament is given as $3,664,000. This covers the administration of the Parliament itself and the services provided for the Parliament, but not the salaries of senators and members of this chamber. It covers administrative and service centres such as the Library, which has been expanding, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has told us. It covers the Reporting Staff - “ Hansard “ - of which members of this place are devotees, and it covers the maintenance of the Parliament and various service departments for parliamentarians. My remarks will relate particularly to members of the Parliament, their attitudes to their work and some of the criticisms that have been levelled at them, not only by members of Parliament themselves but by people outside. Some honorable members and some people outside think that members of Parliament need a good shaking up. need to do a good deal more work than they have done hitherto. I have only to quote what the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said on 31st August last. Speaking about the attitude of members in this chamber particularly, he said -
But of course the simple trouble is that members sublimate their own opinions to the wishes of the Party, and this not good for a Parliament. I believe the honorable member for Bradfield was right when he said that Parliament as such has lost its real touch and its ability to be a law making force - and I do not use the word “ force “ in any coercive sense. Again 1 look around-
This is the honorable member for Franklin speaking, not I - and see some members here who, to be quite frank, could not care less about this matter; they are here for the numbers, and that is about all.
The honorable member for Franklin made those remarks and they are recorded in “Hansard” at page 616. I believe that is a fairly strong criticism. The honorable member has been in this Parliament for 20 years and he should know the attitude of members in this chamber at least.
I refer honorable members to a recent incident that occurred in this chamber. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) spoke against things related to party policy, or things that the Labour Party thought were related to its policy. He put his own point of view - and now he is not a member of the Opposition. He is an independent member of this place. His is not the only case in which members of parties have spoken against their party. In the party rooms, members on this side have spoken against the policies of the Cabinet. They have spoken in this chamber against the policies of the Government, and “ Hansard “ is interspersed with many records of divisions in which members on this side of the chamber have voted against the Government, against their own colleagues. I cannot concede, therefore, that any honorable member can justifiably criticise his colleagues by saying, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) said, that Parliament is just a rubber stamp. Parties represented on both sides of the chamber send men to this Parliament. Most of these men - 99 per cent, of them, in fact - do a really good job for their parties and for their constituents.
The honorable member for Franklin, in the speech from which I have already quoted, made some comments which seem to contradict the quotation I have already read to the Committee. He was talking about the situation in Australia and how Australia’s status in world affairs has been enhanced in the last 15 or 16 years. He said -
This enhancement of our status has derived from the fact that since 1949 we have had a stable government.
I interpose here to say that I believe that when he used the words “ stable government “ he meant we had a stable governing body on this side of the Parliament and a reasonably stable Opposition; in other words we had a stable Parliament. He went on to say -
A stable government such as we have had engenders trust in other nations. Because of this trust, based on stability, we have received a large inflow of capital from the United States of America, Britain and other countries. I say bluntly that were our Government characterised by the instability of the present Opposition we would not have received that inflow of capital.
He dealt more fully with the stability of the Government in several more paragraphs which do not need repetition. I believe that members on both sides of the Parliament tend to criticise their colleagues and endeavour to lower their standing in the community whereas in fact, as the honorable member for Wills said, the standing of members of Parliament - Federal and State - and of people in local government should be raised in the community, because these men have a really high task to perform during their tenure of office. As I have said, members on this side of the chamber have vigorously contested decisions of Ministers and decisions of the Government. They have done this in the party room itself. One has only to read - if he is not a member of our parties - some of the accounts based on leaks that the Press receives, to know what happens. We all know how our friend, Senator Wright from Tasmania, vigorously contests decisions by Ministers not only in the party room but also in the Senate.
The ineffectiveness of Parliament is one of the subjects that seems to rear its ugly head every time the estimates for the Parliament are discussed notwithstanding that the economy of Australia has reached a high level during the last 10 or 20 years. Australia has taken more than 500,000 migrants from overseas in the last 16 years. It is unrealistic to criticise a government that has done all this good work on the economic side and in immigration. Somewhere along the way the Government and the Parliament must be given credit for all the good things that have happened in this country over the years. There is no doubt in my mind that Australia has grown at a faster rate than any other English speaking country. This is due not only to the work of the Government and the Parliament but also to the wealth of the country. This Parliament must take some credit for all the good that has happened. After all, if we want more efficiency in the Parliament - I have been told privately that all sections of the Parliament are efficient except the members of Parliament themselves and that the deliberations of the Parliament are really inefficient - the quickest way is to dispose of the Opposition. Then we would have a dictatorial setup such as some of the emerging countries in Africa have today. We know that in dictatorial societies the Communists have become noted for their efficiency and effectiveness, but I am not sure that Australians would accept that sort of dictation from a parliament or from a section of the people.
During debates on this subject honorable members have suggested that there should be more statutory and joint committees. On looking through the records I find that we have at least 10 joint committees of this House and of the Senate. Some of these committees - the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Works Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings Committee, the Australian Capital Territory Committee, for instance - work continuously and produce voluminous reports for the Parliament, the Press and people who want to avail themselves of the findings. There are at least six standing committees. In all, the members of this Parliament are associated with 10 joint committees, some standing committees and some statutory committees. Each committee involves in committee work at least 10 members of this chamber. It would be impossible, with the number of members of Parliament that we now have, to enlarge the committee system to any great extent.
There is one committee, however, which I should like to see brought into being - a legislation committee. But how it would operate I just do not know, because in my view legislation is the prerogative of the Government. The ministerial section of this side of the chamber must determine policy, but it must get sufficient supporters behind it to implement that policy and to process it through the Parliament. I am supported in these remarks by a very excellent paper submitted by our Clerk of the House, who is now in Ottawa. I have no doubt that Opposition members as well as members on this side of the House received this paper, which was submitted to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I would like to quote this small section submitted to us by Mr. A. G. Turner. He states -
The Parliament is not a governing or policymaking body, these rights being vested in the Executive Government which, of course, must have the support and confidence of a majority of the members of the Parliament which, in practice, means the support of a majority of Members of the Lower House.
I believe that when he spoke last week the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) really intended to convey that the Government in the last 16 or 17 years had carried out a very good job by establishing good policy so far as the Government is concerned, ensuring, not by rubber stamp methods or coercive methods, that the followers of the Government’s policy worked and voted for the Government. 1 find, too, that before presenting Bills to the Parliament - each piece of legislation is good legislation - Ministers do a tremendous amount of work in the issuing of ministerial statements. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has said that we should make wider use of the system of white papers followed in Westminster, but I find that ministerial statements are made in good time to ensure that honorable members on both sides have an opportunity to assess the intention of proposed legislation.
Let me cite two instances: The first relates to the legislation concerning restrictive trade practices, presented as a proposal in some form in this chamber three years before it was finally dealt with here. The Attorneys-General involved - the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) and his predecessor - spent a tremendous amount of time and effort and utilised their resources to ensure that they were communicating the form of the legislation not only to members of the chamber and to the business community but to the world at large. 1 know that Sir Garfield Barwick spent hours and weeks travelling from one end of the land to the other, endeavouring to communicate the form that the legislation would take. As honorable members know, 1 did not agree with his proposals, but at least he and other Ministers, including the present Attorney-General, have endeavoured to communicate their thoughts to honorable members. The other proposal which has been brought before us and about which honorable members on both sides no doubt will complain in their respective party rooms concerns legislation with respect to off shore oil deposits. Six weeks ago, the Minister for National
Development (Mr. Fairbairn) gave us some idea of the form he thought the legislation should take. I believe that companies that will be affected by the legislation contact members of Parliament on both sides if they feel that the legislation will upset their proposals for the future. That information should be brought before members in their party room and before th; Minister himself if need be to ensure that the rights of the private member are maintained. I am not normally a traditionalist but 1 believe that the members of this Parliament do an excellent job so far as the party system is concerned. This position has been more or less maintained because Australia has had good Government over the last 16 years. I believe that we should have what I would call a legislation committee - a joint committee if you like, provided it did not inflict its decisions or procedures on the policy of the Government itself.
– What I have to say in the discussions of the estimates for the Parliament may be apposite to what has been said already on the subject of the power of the Parliament and the power of the Parliament’s own creation, the Public Service Board. I wish to refer to some of those who arc employed by this Parliament. The Parliament, of course, employs people in several categories. I. shall refer particularly to those who are employed in sections of the Joint House Department and in the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. In theory those who are employed in these capacities in the Parliament are employed by the Presiding Officers. That is, they are employed by the Parliament. They are not employed subject to any award but they are employed within the terms of the Public Service (Parliamentary Officers) Regulations. In theory, again, the Presiding Officers and, through them, the Parliament, have the power to fix the conditions of employment and the remuneration to be provided for that employment. But in practice the Presiding Officers have found it convenient and perhaps wise to approach the Public Service Board to secure its opinion on these matters.
T want first to refer to the case of some employees of the Joint House Department. These men are employed on the maintenance staff of that Department. To epitomise what I have to say, I refer to a case touching only three employees on the maintenance staff, one classified as a maintenance officer, one as a senior carpenter and one as a carpenter. One of these employees has been employed by the Parliament for 20 years and another for 19 years. In the whole of that time they have given devoted service to the Parliament and have carried out duties far beyond those that would normally be required of men carrying their classifications. Through their Joint House Department they made a submission for an increase in salary. They sought to achieve the increase by a reclassification. In the course of their submission they said -
During our service-
This is service going back over 19 and 20 years - we have not received the benefit of any reclassification or revaluation of the work performed by us. In this period the only increases in remuneration we have received have come per medium of variations to the basic wage or marginal increases granted to industry generally.
These men are required to carry out work far superior to that required of the carpenter or joiner - certainly of the carpenter - in outside employment. The men feel that the term carpenter is completely unreal and totally inadequate to describe an operative engaged in the design and manufacture of high class furniture, the use and maintenance of wood working machinery, the maintenance of soft furnishings and upholstery and the manufacture and maintenance of quality joinery. The Joint House Department has supported them in this view, as have the Presiding Officers. In addition to the work I have just referred to, these men have been called upon to design and manufacture items of furniture that are peculiar to the workings of Parliament. Also they have been called upon to manufacture specimen items for presentation to other countries. It is their contention and mine that this type of work can be considered to be of a much higher standard than the work carried out by the average tradesman. It is perfectly true that those of us who know these men know that they are men who can be trusted to enter any of the offices in this Parliament, no matter what documents or valuables may be there. They are presentable. They are able to comport themselves with dignity. Above all they are superior tradesmen in the craft they follow.
They are called upon by this Parliament to do work far above the quality that would be normally required of a tradesman classified as a journeyman carpenter.
When this matter was referred to the Public Service Board it was investigated by an officer of the Board who has industrial experience. The Board’s decision was that the reclassification should not be granted. The men then appealed within the provisions of section 6 of the Public Service (Parliamentary Officers) Regulations. That appeal was rejected. Several approaches were made by other employees of the Parliament - engineers, technicians and the like - but all met the same fate. In rejecting the approach made on behalf of these maintenance officers by the Joint House Department, supported by the Presiding Officers, the Public Service Board said: “ No, a carpenter is a carpenter. There are no gradations in the employment of a carpenter “. To me that is completely unreal. The Public Service Board is classing the ordinary journeyman carpenter, who at best can frame out a timber framed building or knock together a few struts - I am not degrading the ability of a qualified tradesman - with the man who is able to do the type of work to which I have referred. Here we come against the very blank wall of the Public Service Board. It is competent for the Presiding Officers to seek other advice. They are not bound to take the advice of the Public Service Board. The Public Service Board, in its own words, says: “ These matters are referred to the Board for comment and advice “. If the Presiding Officers sought outside advice, if they went to someone versed in these matters and said: “ Give us your advice on this “, and then made up their minds, they would be faced with the task of putting a submission before the Executive Council. From the Executive Council, the recommendation would have to go for consideration to the Prime Minister’s Department and the Prime Minister’s Department would not act on it without referring it to the Public Service Board. So we come back to this question of the power of the Public Service Board.
The Parliament accepts responsibility in many fields. It accepts responsibility for fixing the salaries of members of Parliament and senators. And it does this after referring the matter to an expert committee, or a commission, for advice. The expert body calls evidence. It gives anybody in the country an opportunity to offer evidence as to whether parliamentary salaries should be increased, or whether other provisions should be varied. But in the case of the Parliament’s own employees, the Parliament refers questions for comment and advice to the Public Service Board and then acts completely on the decision given by that Board. I suggest that this is not the way to secure and maintain in employment the types of men that the Parliament must have. In fact, we are losing tradesmen because, outside, they can get far better remuneration than they can get within the Parliament. Some skilled tradesmen employed by this Parliament have chosen to take other jobs, also within the Parliament, to get the extra few shillings a week. Painters employed here have taken jobs as attendants in this Parliament merely to get the few extra shillings that are available to them. We now have one painter instead of four. We cannot attract staff, and we never will, unless we recognise that the work they do must be properly recompensed.
I want to refer also to those men who give such valuable service to this Parliament - the “ Hansard “ reporters. 1 know that over the years all members have recognised the value of the work done by the “ Hansard “ reporters in this Parliament. And the Parliament recognised this so well that eight years ago Commonwealth “ Hansard “ reporters were receiving salaries very considerably in advance of the salaries being received by “ Hansard “ reporters employed by State Governments, and also in advance of the salaries being received by court reporters in various spheres. But in recent years the relativity between the salaries of Commonwealth and State “ Hansard “ reporters has diminished until today - and this is from figures I have secured from the Public Service Board itself - the Commonwealth “ Hansard “ reporter stands in third position; that is, he stands behind the “Hansard” reporters in Victoria and in Queensland. The Commonwealth “ Hansard “ reporters have sought to have this position rectified - to have restored to them the advantage they previously enjoyed over the levels of salaries payable in the other Parliaments. It is not that there is any particular prestige attaching to employment in this Parliament. The fact is that the work of this Parliament is much greater than the work that is required of the “ Hansard “ reporters in State Parliaments. This Parliament itself has recognised this in the adjustment of parliamentary salaries.
The then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, when speaking to the last Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Bill, made the point very clearly that this Parliament accepted greater responsibility, that the work involved in it was much greater than that involved in State Parliaments, and that therefore members and senators should be recompensed appropriately. We recognise such differentiation in other fields. We do not merely say that a judge is a judge wherever he may be. We say that a judge of the High Court carries more responsibility and has more onerous work to do than a judge of a Supreme Court, so we pay him a higher salary. And we pay a judge of a Supreme Court a higher salary than we pay a judge of a District Court, and so on. But the “ Hansard “ staff, having put its case to the Public Service Board, through the Presiding Officers, and having shown in that case how the responsibilities of a “ Hansard “ reporter in this Parliament exceed those of a “ Hansard “ reporter in the State Parliaments, or of a reporter in any branch of court reporting, has been met with a similar statement from the Public Service Board - that a reporter is a reporter; that there is no gradation in the status of reporters. That is to say, there has been no assessment of work values whatsoever.
I believe that it is important that this Parliament should see to it that a proper asssessment is made of the value of the work of our “ Hansard “ reporters and that they receive proper recompense for the work that they are doing. We should not accept this blank rejection by the Public Service Board. The Parliament itself should accept some responsibility in this field. I suggest to the Parliament, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Parliament might well consider the appointment of a parliamentary committee - a committee drawn from both sides of both Houses, a committee which could well have on it men with experience in management as well as men with experience in industrial undertakings or in industrial advocacy. The Parliament itself should establish a committee which could then call before it those who are competent to speak on these subjects; those who are competent to give evidence as to the merits of the employees of this Parliament compared with those of the employees of other parliaments, to establish whether in fact the “ Hansard “ reporters of this Parliament are called on to do work that is far above what is required of “ Hansard “ reporters employed in other parliaments. 1 suppose most members here know that among the staff of our “ Hansard “ reporters are men who have had years of experience in State Parliaments, or in court reporting, and who are able to say and who should have the opportunity to say that the work they are called upon to do here is vastly above what they were called upon to do in those other spheres. Let us have some assessment of work values. Let us not accept blank declarations from the Public Service Board that a carpenter is a carpenter, or that a reporter is a reporter; that there is no differentiation between any reporter and another reporter. Let us recognise that one carpenter can be capable of doing work vastly above that required of his mate. In fact his mate probably could not undertake the type of work he is doing. Let us recognise that the men we employ here as maintenance officers are called on to do work far above what is required of other men in the classifications that they carry. We should properly recompense these men for the work that they carry out. Similarly we should recognise that the reporters in this Parliament because of the very nature of the work of this Parliament, because of the expert nature of the committees established by this Parliament, because of the wide range of activities of this Parliament, are required to possess knowledge far above that required of “ Hansard “ reporters in the State Parliaments and are required to undertake work of a much higher calibre.
That Commonwealth “ Hansard “ reporters are fitted to do this is evidenced in the production of the “ Hansard “ which comes to us so promptly after debates of this Parliament have finished. I suggest to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) who is at the table, that consideration should be given to the establishment by this Parliament of a committee of the Parliament to look into these very questions; to make the Parliament’s own assessment of the value of the work that is carried out by its own employees and to ensure that proper remuneration is made to them. 1 know that the matter affecting the “ Hansard “ reporters is currently with the Board. A fresh submission has gone forward from the Presiding Officers to the Board; but it seems likely that unless the Parliament exerts itself, the same answer will be given as was given before - that a reporter is a reporter and that there is no ground on which we can justify any claim that the reporters of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Reporting Staff are superior to the “ Hansard “ staffs of the States.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Failes). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 followed with interest the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and I believe I speak for every member of this chamber when I say that 1 am sure we all look forward - at least those of us who will be here after 26th November - to the time when the member for the Australian Capital Territory has full voting rights here in accordance with the growth of the Australian Capital Territory. In an issue dated 15th February 1965, following a debate similar to this one, the “ Canberra Times “ under the caption “ In Search of Parliament “ made some very interesting comments. I shall quote one small passage, because I believe it represents the very crux of the debate on the institution we are now discussing. The “ Canberra Times “ said -
Parliament is the very rock on which our democratic system is founded.
There is much food for thought in those few words. I will not take the time to quote other passages although many interesting thoughts are put forward in the article, some of them intended for the improvement of the working of the Parliament. An interesting paper has been distributed to honorable members. It was referred to by my friend, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn), and is headed “ Does the Institution of Parliament and its Procedures
Respond to Present Day Needs? “ This paper was prepared by the Clerk of the House, Mr. Turner, in his capacity as Secretary of the Australian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Mr. Turner has done not only a great favour to those members of the delegation who have gone abroad to represent this country in Ottawa, but also a great service to all members of this chamber. The honorable member for Balaclava quoted one or two passages from this paper, and with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall do the same. Following the posing of the question whether the institution of Parliament and its procedures respond to present day needs, Mr. Turner writes -
The question opens up a wide field and is difficul! of precise answer. Parliamentary affairs and, to a lesser extent, government, are nol an exact science. Volumes have been written on the subject, many expressive of the author’s approach and seeking perfection as he sees it in a perfect world.
Of course, we do not live in a perfect world, so we have to adapt our ideas and our thoughts accordingly. Parliament, though, is adaptable. It is capable of adaptation as time goes on to meet changing needs. Mr. Turner stated also -
Mr. Turner then asked the question
Where does the answer lie? It is hard to fault the remarks of Dr. Horace King - now the Right Honorable Horace King. Speaker of the British House of Commons - who, on his re-election as Speaker of the House of Commons in April 1966 said that only a fool would say that Parliament is perfect; it must change to match the elements of challenging times. He believed it must find ways of harnessing all the energies and ability of the keen young men who had come into the Commons to give that energy and that ability to the country. But, wilh all its imperfections, Parliament contains some precious elements - fairness, courtesy, dignity and decency - the right of every Member to fight freely for his Party programme and for his constituents and, in the final analysis, the right of the back bencher against the from bencher, the right of the private Member against all the Parties.
In this place from time to time we have seen all of these elements at work. This, I believe, constitutes the very best that
Parliament has to offer. Mr. Turner continued -
Dr. King concluded by stressing the traditions of history of a people fashioned over 700 years of struggle, trial and error but of which Sir Winston Churchill had rightly said - “ It is the worst form of government until one looks at the others “.
Here again is much food for thought. These were the words of the greatest statesman of the century. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to quote a couple more passages from this paper because they are so splendid and so pertinent to the debate before the Committee. Mr. Turner stated -
That is the view-
The view I have just quoted - of an experienced Parliamentarian but. in its general tenor, there is no disagreement expressed by a non-Parliamentarian, Professor W. A. Townsley, Professor of Political Scien e at the University of Tasmania, who, in an address to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Hobart in 1965 posed the question whether Parliament has shown itself capable of adaptation to respond to the needs and demands of the twentieth century. He said he was not one of those who held that Parliament is passing, that it was destined to become no more than an ornament of the Constitution, that the bureaucracy is triumphant, and that Parliament exercises no more than a formal registering power. He believed that Parliament had shown such a capacity for adaptation that it would continue to show this unique quality.
Later in his paper - and this shall be my last quote from it - Mr. Turner stated - lt is the duty of the Parliament to consider the merits of legislation put before it; to propose and make such amendments as it considers necessary; to scrutinise financial proposals and control expenditure; to discuss and criticise Government policy and its implementation and, generally, to safeguard and promote the best interests of the country and its people, including redressing grievances.
As Dr. King said, Parliament is not perfect and it is inevitable that proposals for improvement are always being made by Members and Senators, by academics, by the Press and, in a less positive way, by the. electors. And it is from this that progress comes.
As we look at ourselves once a year in the debates on the parliamentary estimates I think we frequently come up with much the same sort of suggestions about expanding the use of committees. Various ways have been suggested of improving the running of the Parliament. I think we mostly agree that there has been and still is a greater need for opportunity to examine legislation. We need a little more time to consider the more intricate of the bills that come before us for debate. It is difficult of course in the short time available in the Estimates debate to deal at length with any one of these aspects.
– Does not the honorable member think that fundamentally Parliament has become a forum where the Cabinet justifies ils policy to the nation; and that is what it really is now?
– My time is short and I cannot alford the lime to answer questions. The honorable member no doubt will have the opportunity of expressing his own views which may not be parallel to those of the rest of us. I should like to comment on the great improvement in the Parliamentary Library facilities since we last debated the parliamentary estimates. For this I think we should be grateful - 1 am grateful, and I know many of my colleagues have spoken in terms of gratitude - for what has been done by the Library Committee and the Librarian and his staff in making research notes available to members who have required them. These have enabled debates to be more informed.
From time to time there have been discussions about the time limits provided under Standing Order No. 91 which sets out the time limits for debates and speeches. I know there are some members who believe that there is room for more pruning of time. For example, I know that some members feel that 30 minutes for a second reading speech is sometimes too long. Sometimes it is not, but I think in essence it should be left to the good sense of the member himself to avoid repetition and to make his speech a positive and constructive one without tedious repetition.
The approach of the Standing Orders Committee, of which I have had the honour to be a member for a good number of years now, has always been that no amendments should be made to the Standing Orders which would whittle down in any way the existing rights of members. With that view I am in complete agreement. I believe that any changes in the Standing Orders - for example, a reduction in the time limit for debates and speeches - should be decided by members themselves in their party or caucus rooms. Some of the best speeches we have heard in this chamber have been 10 minute speeches on the motion for the adjournment of the House or on Grievance Day. This suggests, perhaps, that the whole question of time limits could be looked at with advantage by the parties. However, speaking as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, I stress again that I do not think it is up to the Committee to make decisions which would in any way whittle down the existing rights of members and then try to foist those decisions upon the Parliament.
Much has been said about sitting days during every debate on the estimates for the Parliament. I know there is a body of opinion which feels that it would be more economical, more constructive and more useful for the Parliament to sit from Tuesday to Friday one week, have members remain in Canberra over the weekend and then sit on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week. I agree that this would be the more economical approach and it might be the more effective approach, but I wonder whether it is not one of those idealistic approaches which would not work out in practice. I have my doubts whether it would work out in practice because although it may be intended that members should remain in Canberra over the weekend and attend committee meetings, get to know the diplomatic corps better and so on, I very much doubt whether many members who could manage to get home for the weekend would choose to remain in Canberra. That is the practical approach to the matter.
There is also the question of the time of Cabinet meetings and the problem of finding sufficient time for meetings of committees. The notice paper lists committees of various kinds. We have standing committees, joint statutory committees, joint committees. Government members’ committees, and Opposition members’ committees. All are good and all are important. They all play a part in the overall machinery of Parliament. Some way must be found of making the committee system more effective, not necessarily by a proliferation of committees although I believe there is room for the appointment of more select committees.
The question of the size of the quorum has been raised a number of times. Speaking again as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, I would not advocate a change although I feel, sometimes, the average attendance in the House warrants some consideration and change. There is a need for a better flow of bills. We need to avoid the end of session rush. I think it is generally agreed that we need to avoid late night sittings. 1 think, on the whole, members would be willing to sit for an extra day a week or even for an extra week at the end of each sessional period to avoid late night sittings. I should like to see some consideration given to the appointment of additional Parliamentary draftsmen because I believe that the hold up in presentation of legislation which occurs from time to time stems partly from the shortage of qualified draftsmen.
There is a very good case for a committee to examine the Estimates. Our old friend Professor Bland, who was a former member for Warringah and who did such a sterling job as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for many years, was constantly critical of the fact that members do not make adequate use of the Auditor-General’s report. Finally, may I pay a tribute to Mr. Speaker who is retiring at the end of this Parliament. I believe he is the embodiment of all that is best in Parliament and parliamentarians. We shall miss him in the new Parliament. I pay tribute to the Clerk of the House and his staff, to the “ Hansard “ staff, to the Library staff, to the staff of the Joint House Department and to those 1 have not time to mention but who serve this Parliament so well.
.- Recently we have been subjected to a great deal of criticism by a couple of members on the Government side in respect of the purpose, duties and responsibilities of Parliament. I want to say a few words in tribute to the members of the Parliament whom I. have known for nearly 20 years. In 15 days I will have been 20 years in this place. I have seen a lot of changes in those years. During those years 56 men have died. Following a recent attempt on the life of my Leader and the more recent assassination of a certain Prime Minister in his own Parliament House, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has suggested that we should apply for the payment of danger money in addition to our parliamentary salary. Be that as it may, there is a tremendous strain on members who do their jobs in this place and I wonder what some of these critics do with their time. I know that in my 20 years in this Parliament I have worked an average of 70 to 75 hours a week, part of which has been spent in Canberra dealing with legislation that is presented to us in this Parliament.
– That is the main part of our job.
– It may be the main part but it does not occupy the greatest time. The honorable member for Mallee will know that because he also works pretty hard in his electorate. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) made his last speech in the Parliament the other night. Much as I. regret that fact, it was unfortunate that he chose the criticism of Parliament and its members for his final speech. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has also been severely criticising aspects of Parliament over several years. I believe there is a great deal of ivory tower thinking in the minds of both honorable members. The subject in question would be a bonanza for theorists. In my opinion this Parliament, which has been operating for 65 years, has been a bastion of democratic thinking, a place where important legislation affecting all the people of this country has been passed. It would be ridiculous to say that we cannot improve, but to be a knocker of this institution, whether one is inside or outside it, is a pretty poor occupation. I am not a knocker of this Parliament although I realise there are ways and means of improving it.
Basically this type of cynicism and criticism of the Parliament, this disgust, discontent and even bitterness, come from frustration which breeds these feelings in full measure. One wonders why men are frustrated, ls it because they are not in Cabinet? ls it because they are not occupying some other important post in the Parliament? I just cannot understand why men should be frustrated when there is so much to do in preparing to participate in debates, in taking up our constituents’ problems with Ministers, in doing the reading and research that we have to do to keep abreast of world events and in studying the legislation presented to the Parliament. This is a full time job. Why should anyone be frustrated? The honorable members who have this feeling of frustration claim that more responsibility should be placed on the ordinary members of Parliament. They believe that we should be put to work. Well, we have been put to work in many new ways since I first came here and as a result there has been an improvement in our work as members of Parliament, in our contributions to debates and in the general standard of debate.
We have been put to work in the recently instituted parliamentary committee system. 1 want to run through a few statistics on this point. The Parliament has 12 major committees. Some of them are joint committees, some are committees of the House of Representatives and some are committees of the Senate. T will deal with the standing committees first. The House Committee has 7 members, the Library Committee has 7 members, the Printing Committee has 6 members, the Privileges Committee has 9 members and the Standing Orders Committee has 1 1 members. We have three statutory committees. The Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings Committee has 9 members, the Public Accounts Committee has 10 members and the Public Works Committee has 9 members. We have four joint committees. The Australian Capital Territory Committee has 9 members, the New and Permanent Parliament House Committee has 18 members and the Parliamentary and Government Publications Committee has 9 members. I have not counted the members on the Foreign Affairs Committee, because this is a purely Government committee. A total of 104 members of the Parliament are members of committees. Membership of committees means a lot of hard, solid work, in addition to all the other duties of a member of the Federal Parliament.
We on the Opposition side of the Parliament have 17 committees covering every aspect of Federal legislation, each with 9 members. This is a total of 153 members, but some members serve on three or four committees.
– Those 17 would be party committees, I presume.
– Yes, they are our own party committees on our side of the House. The Government Parties also have approximately 17 similar committees. These committees analyse Bills, crystallise attitudes and cement policy. Before the honorable member for Bradfield came into this place, we did not have even those committees. He may then have had something to criticise, t wonder how many committees he serves on.
Reference has been made to putting members to work. The Parliament now has more research facilities than it has ever had, especially in the Parliamentary Library. The research activities of the Library have recently been extended. These are serving all members who want to be informed of important events, important dates and other facts that require research. In my opinion, our Library is doing an especially good job for the members who really want to use it and who do not merely want to sit to one side and be critical. We hear talk about the dominance of Cabinet and the influence of Cabinet on the Parliament. Whatever party is in office, there is a Cabinet. This is a part of our democratic system. The Cabinet is the executive body. The speech of the honorable member for Franklin during the Budget debate was in many respects a fury of frustration. I think he should have chosen another subject for his final speech in this place.
Policy is in the hands of the political parties and, in a party system, always will be. Parties essentially form policy. Policy does not grow overnight but comes after months of discussion and conferences throughout Australia. Policy is the final decision of responsible people. I have been associated with policy-making on our side of the Parliament for many years and I know that policy is the result of responsible, collective thought by many people. Policy is implemented by the party that forms the government in the State or Federal sphere. Within the parliamentary system, party policy is given flesh by Cabinet which introduces it to the parly room for full scale debate and for the decision of the majority of members present. 1 am explaining how the party system operates in this country. If honorable members opposite want the system to work in some other way they should go to Russia and try the system there. I know of no acceptable alternative to this system anywhere in the world. Indeed, the only alternative is a full blooded dictatorship. The policy of the governing party, after party room debate, is then incorporated in a legislative bill in the language of the Draftsman. In this form it comes to the House for debate, with the government of the day already committed to the legislation. No matter which party sits on the Government side of the House, this is the system that is followed. When we were there, it was so, and when we come there again, it will still be so. It will still be so for the next 100 years or more. That is the way the system works, and no one on this side or on the other side can alter it without a serious weakening of responsibility.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting 1 was criticising the knockers of this Parliament and its facilities and saying that although the Cabinet system has been criticised by some Government supporters, that system will be here for decades to come. I should like to develop this point further. The question has been asked: Is the debate in this place a waste of time in view of the fact that legislation has been decided by the Government, the Cabinet and the Party meeting prior to its introduction into the Parliament? I emphasise that Government supporters have all agreed to the legislation. In spite of this I do not regard the subsequent debate as a waste of time, because we are not a one party Parliament and the Opposition has a fundamental right to its point of view.
Members on this side of the chamber ere Her Majesty’s Opposition and honorable members opposite are Her Majesty’s Government. Legislation comes into the Parliament expressing the Government party’s view on some national issue, but this is the place where the Government hears the Opposition’s view. This is the only place where we can properly express that view. We oppose, lock, stock and barrel, about 20 per cent, of the legislation which comes before the Parliament. We oppose it clause by clause at the committee stage in addition to voting against it on the second reading. This is as it should be. No-one would suggest that the bulk of knowledge in Australia reposes in the brains of Government supporters or the Cabinet. Opposition members also discuss the Bill in the party room and we come into this chamber united in our view of the legislation and we fight it with all the means at our disposal under the Standing Orders. If we go outside Standing Orders we find ourselves outside the chamber for 24 hours. But in debating legislation we can advance new ideas and new points of view.
Although we of the Opposition propose amendments to legislation, the Government does not accept many of them. We did not accept many amendments from the Opposition in my first three years in this place from 1947 to 1950, nor has this Government accepted many amendments from the Opposition during its term of office. I believe that this is a great weakness; it is traditional stubbornness on the part of the Government to reject amendments moved by the Opposition. It has been said that individual opinion is not catered for. This may be so in the House occasionally, but the individual opinion of all of us is expressed in the party room. Even in this chamber members disagree sometimes with the contents of a bill and they can say so without being criticised by their leaders. Although honorable members on this side of the chamber may be more disciplined in this respect, I believe that discipline in the party system gives stability and continuity to the Parliament. For example, uninhibited individualism could run completely riot and end in chaos if we did not have discipline among ourselves and in our expressions. This discipline is a brake on chaos.
There is no satisfactory alternative to the parly system of government that I know of. We see an alternative only in dictatorships, or, as some might suggest, in a parliament of independents. God forbid. This would be completely impracticable. A government of today could be in opposition tomorrow or the opposition next week could be the government the week after if we were a parliament of independents. A parliament of that concept would have no security, no stability and no sense of direction. The stronger members would band together and over-awe the weaker ones. Members with similar backgrounds would band together and become pressure groups. Farmers, teachers, engineers, doctors, lawyers or union executives would get together in their own groups and become pressure groups within such a parliament. I think we could improve the parliament if there were more opportunity for private members’ bills and longer sittings with a better spread of legislation to avoid the end of session scramble to get bills through. The Government could be more co-operative in accepting worthwhile amendments from the Opposition and, finally, the Ministry should be more willing to take its supporters into its confidence for more consultation and discussion before bills are brought before the Parliament.
.- 1 had a unique experience in the Parliament this afternoon when 1 was happy to agree with the remarks of honorable members opposite on the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill. Tonight I am in almost complete agreement with what has been said by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). I agree also with much of what was said by the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) earlier in the debate. The honorable member for Wilmot is the Opposition Whip and 1 am the Country Party Whip. Perhaps we have something which binds us because of our duties in the working of the Parliament because we must ensure always that enough members are available to make a quorum, lt is a difficult task to keep a quorum in this chamber, but we must both try to do this in conjunction with the Government Whip. I should like now to refer to one or two remarks made by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) with which 1 do not agree.
The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said that there are two kinds of speakers. The first rebuts what has been said before making his own contribution. He said that that is good. The other type has a prepared speech and comes into the chamber and, no matter what has been said before, reads that speech, come hell or high water. Although something may have been said that should be rebutted, it is not rebutted. The member stands and reads his speech. I am and always have been very much opposed to honorable members coming into this chamber with a prepared speech, unless it is a Minister introducing a Bill or making some statement of vital importance to the community and, perhaps, to civilisation.
– Nobody has accused the honorable member of having a prepared speech.
– The honorable member is right when he says that no one has accused me of having a prepared speech, but that is not what he means. He is suggesting that because 1 have not a prepared speech I may roam about a bit in my remarks more than one who has prepared his speech. My answer to the honorable member is that it is my speech and is not representation by proxy. No one else has written my speech for me.
– The honorable member would be better off if someone had done so.
– It may sound better if someone had written it for mc, but it would not be so sincere or genuine. We should all endeavour to be sincere and genuine. I propose first to rebut what was said by the honorable member for Wilh who said that he disagreed with things such as arbitration. Then he continued and became completely out of order. I know that in the Parliament the policy of the Labour Party is that Parliament should fix hours and wages, but when referring to social services Labour policy is that this matter should be taken completely out of the political arena.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Wills did not say that, but he gave the other side of the argument. Consequently, I do not think we can take his remarks as having any quality of logic. The honorable member spoke also about democracy and referred to different governments throughout the world. However, as was stated by the honorable member for Ryan, our system of Government may seem to be other than really first class until we start comparing it with other forms of government. When people come back from overseas and compare systems of government they realise that our democratic system is first class. I am very happy to agree with the honorable member for Wilmot who said that a certain amount of frustration comes into our political world and that people are sometimes inclined to find fault with provisions which really are in their best interests.
Touching on one or two other points as quickly as I can, I say that honorable members who support the Government do not always agree with legislation which the Government proposes to introduce. That happens not only on the Government side but also on the Opposition side. The Opposition may agree to do a certain thing with regard to a bill. Perhaps the Opposition’s Caucus says that something shall be done, but some members of the Opposition do not agree with it, and the plan may be changed. I could mention many occasions on which that kind of thing has happened. Of course I cannot say what has happened in Party meetings, except to say that proposals put to parties are not always accepted. So this accusation about our acting as rubber stamps is just a lot of rot. I would not stand for that kind of thing for five minutes. I am on this side of the Parliament because I believe in the policy of the Government and I believe in the policy of the Country Party. I agree with whatever I think is right, and so far I have never had to stand up in this place and say something without being fully aware of the implications of it. I have never yet had to say anything about which I was not quite sincere.
When one looks at the general point of view of the honorable member for Wills one feels that he would like to see a Parliament of independents. What would happen with a Parliament of independents? Someone obviously must hold the purse strings, and it is the Government that does this, through its Treasurer. If one formed a big company and appointed a manager and a Board chairman and then let all the shareholders do what they liked, how long would such an enterprise last? Suppose we had a Parliament of independents and a bill was introduced for the purpose of reducing taxes. Of course every member wants to please his constituents and so that measure would receive a great deal of support. Then we might see a bill introduced for the purpose of increasing pensions, and this would also receive support. We would have taxes reduced and pensions increased and the next thing we knew the country would be bankrupt. Obviously this could not be allowed to happen, and I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Wilmot say that when the present Opposition was in office it did exactly the same as this Government is doing. I can support that statement of his, having been here even a little longer than he has.
Before people start finding fault with the democratic methods adopted in this Parliament I think they should reflect that there is no other Parliament in the world - at least from all I have read - that acts in a more democratic way than the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. If anybody knows a better Parliament or of a system he would prefer to live under, let him tell us about it. Do not just imagine these things; let us hear about them.
The honorable member for Ryan said that he, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, would be loath to suggest reducing the time limit on speeches. He did not want to reduce the time for a speech on a bill from 30 minutes to 20. He said he thought this might restrict the rights of members. In my view it would not restrict the rights of members but would increase them, because more members would be able to lake part in debates. There is only a limited time available for debates but I think we have had up to 94 speakers in a Budget debate, and if one considers the ensuing debates on the Estimates and on complementary legislation the number of speakers would obviously be many more than that.
We cannot sit the year round. Members are continually saying that they want to get around their electorates and meet their constituents. This is important, and I would be in favour of reducing the time for a speech on a bill to 20 minutes. One can make a good speech on any subject in that time, and, as I have said, members’ rights would be improved because there would bc time for more members to contribute to debate. After all, if one cannot say what one wants to say in 20 minutes there is something wrong somewhere.
The honorable member for Ryan has said that we cannot cut the time down; that we must, leave it to individual members to eliminate tedious repetitions and make their speeches shorter. I asked by way of interjection: “ How far would you get with that? “ And the answer, of course, should have been: “ Nowhere “. Members will continue to speak while time is available to them. It seems that as the time limit for a speech on a bill in this House is 30 minutes, members feel that they must speak for 30 minutes. They evidently think that if they do not take up the full time someone will say they have not sufficient information to enable them to speak for the full time. This is not logical thinking. Once a speaker has made his point that should be enough for the time being. But to overcome the difficulty let us reduce the time limit to 20 minutes. I hope that the members of the Standing Orders Committee will take notice of this suggestion. At least one member has favoured it.
Then we have had suggestions about the numbers of sitting days. We have heard suggestions that we should sit on Mondays or on Tuesday mornings and right through the week; but it seems to me that the only members seeking these changes are those who come from Sydney or Melbourne. When the Labour Government was in office we tried for quite a while to sit on Fridays, but we found that by three or four o’clock in the afternoon we had nothing like a quorum left. It was found necessary to close the House down because if a member had directed the attention of the Chair to the state of the House, the proceedings would automatically have ceased. We know that even although we were to sit on Fridays and Mondays, members from Sydney and Melbourne could still get home for the weekend because their journey takes only 45 minutes or an hour by air. But what about members from Western Australia? What about people like myself who come from the north of Victoria and who take a long time to get home? I believe that only one or two members would stay here over weekends and that most would try to go home. For this reason most of the suggestions that have been made are not practical. They just will not work. We have tried in the past to have sittings for a full week, but we have found that members drift away and go home as quickly as they can.
I am opposed to the idea of cutting down the number required for a quorum. Surely wilh a membership of 124 wc should be able to keep 41 members here. I was challenged by the honorable member for Wills to do something to get the. Parliament working. What I say is that we must get the members working. I do not suggest that they do not work, but I want them working in this House. If all members came here and kept a close watch on legislation and spoke when they got the opportunity this Parliament would get into top grade working form. But the position is that wc have a few members in the House while others are making phone calls or attending Committee meetings. I am told that although it is not officially allowed, certain committees meet while the House is sitting. In all these circumstances the Parliament lacks the vitality and enthusiasm that it should have.
Then there is the problem of late night sittings. I have always been against these. I have frequently mentioned that when the Labour Government was in office and we sometimes got back to the Hotel Kurrajong in the morning in time to hear the bells ringing for breakfast. This kind of thing has happened even since the present Government has been in office. 1 have always opposed sittings until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Midnight is late enough for anyone. As someone else suggested, let the Parliament sit a few days longer rather than prolong sittings late at night when members are not fit to comprehend the legislation that is being submitted to them for approval.
The honorable member for Ryan has quoted the Clerk of the House, Mr. Turner, and 1 appreciate this because Mr. Turner is a man with great parliamentary experience and we must take notice of what he says. But it is noticeable in this Parliament that when members arc making speeches on various subjects, such as on international affairs, they are constantly quoting someone overseas. I suppose there are members of overseas Parliaments, such as those of New Zealand or Canada, who quote statements made by members of this Parliament. When members make speeches in this House they are not paid very much attention, but of course distance lends enchantment, and some person in America or Europe may get hold of the reports of speeches made here and quote them. But such quotations are used only when they fit in wilh the ideas of the persons using them. If, when doing his research in the Library, he comes across a quotation which is undoubtedly true but does not fit his case, does he quote it? Of course not. He picks out only the quotations that suit his case, and therefore his argument may be tremendously misleading. I want a member to speak as he sees things and not to rely on quoting someone who has, perhaps, no more knowledge of the subject than he himself has. I want him to express his own opinions, and when he does quote, to make sure that he quotes authorities on whom we can depend for logic and who will give a true indication of the way in which we should operate the legislation to which the quotation refers.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Failes). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think it is a good thing that occasionally we do look al bow Parliament works. I must confess that I have not the same complacent attitude about its efficiency as has the previous speaker, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). Apparently neither have the honorable member for Bradford (Mr. Turner), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), to say nothing of members from my own side of the chamber. I have not been as long in this Parliament as some of those who are making judgments, but 1 have been here eight years and I. suppose that gives me the right to make some sort of judgment, lt occurs to me that the atmosphere of the Australian Parliament is intellectually stifling. In comparison with what one can observe in the United States of America or in Great Britain, I think it is true to say that there is an immaturity about Australian politics and about the Australian parliamentary scene. Part of this immaturity derives from the rigidity of the Australian party system. It is in this sense that I want to look for a moment at the situation as it affects the two main party groupings. I think honorable members will see, as we study the position, the double standards that operate in respect of public criticism of the party groupings that make up the Australian Parliament. We have to remember that, somewhat like Great Britain - as distinct from continental countries such as France - we rely pretty much on a two broad party division.
Having a look at the Labour Party first I have had to come to the conclusion that as far as public critics are concerned - newspapers, our political opponents and the like - the Labour Party just cannot win. I mean that in a rather specific sense. As far as its critics are concerned at any one time the Labour Party is either one of two extremes: It is either a rigidly controlled monolithic monster with no individual freedom of expression - a party whose every member must toe the narrowly prescribed party line - or it is not that kind of tightly organised regimented monolithic monster but an undisciplined rabble. It cannot be anything in between, as far as these critics are concerned. If it is an undisciplined rabble it is pictured as being made up of fighting factions, and we see or hear used, terms like left wingism, right wingism, and terms moderates and various gradations in between. This kind of typification. of course, is not applied to our political opponents, despite the fact that they represent a wide range of occupational groups, social groups, social attitudes and economic loyalties. To judge by the attitude of our critics there are apparently no deviations within the ranks of our political opponents.
If a member of the Labour Party is concerned and can be identified as saying something just a little different from the supposedly rigid Party line, or if he is given to having second thoughts, on reflection, about something that concerns the Party’s policy or the application of that policy, newspapers and other critics label this as some kind of rebellion, as the start of a split within the Party. Newspapers will go to any length to collect rumours, however uncorroborated they might be at times, which can be presented by them as evidence of insurrectionism. d’vi.-:-nism and factionalism and all the o:her things that can be attributed to a party. As far as the critics of the Labour Party are concerned. I am convinced we just cannot win. The Liberal Party prides itself on what it calls the individual’s right of free expression, but as soon as a Labour Party member exercises the same kind of right he is a deviationist, someone who is insubordinate. He is part and parcel of deviationism, and there is a break up within the Labour Party.
I am coming to the point where I think members of the Liberal Party ought to have some guilt feelings themselves, because they have created the atmosphere that breeds this kind of situation in Australian politics as distinct from the politics of the countries I have mentioned. The Press, of course, pays a pathetic and almost pathological devotion to exposing the alleged and sometimes imagined differences in the Labour Party. Naturally, under such pressures a party reacts. Its members, under this kind of pressure, with all the media of public opinion - the Press, radio and television - lined up against the Party, become ever so much more circumspect and circumscribed in their behaviour and in their utterances than would be expected of them in normal circumstances. Parliament and the nation are the losers from the point of view of freedom and genuine democracy, because of this kind of atmosphere which operates in our Australian situation. Genuine free discussion, I find, is much more inhibited in this country as compared with the situation in Britain and America, two countries to which I have had the opportunuty of paying a short visit.
The Labour Party is a mass party. Being a mass party, and having its policies determined by all who belong to it and subscribe to its policies voluntarily, its actions are subject to a good deal of public discussion. This can be painful, of course, when members are exposed to the kind of criticism and censure I have just described. The Labour Party is particularly vulnerable to the kind of damaging criticism 1 have mentioned.
What of the Liberal Party? I tag the Country Party along with the Liberal Party, because it probably would be even more guilty of the failings I am about to mention than the Liberal Party is. The Liberal Party claims that its philosophy is one of individual freedom and the uninhibited right of individuals to speak their minds. But is this really true? I ask this question sincerely and dispassionately. When it comes to vital questions, particularly ones which have emotional overtones to them, I suspect that members of the Liberal Party conform to party policies almost as much as do members of the Labour Party. I concede that Liberal Party members might have some more freedom than members of the Labour Party might have, but there are other criticisms. The policies of the Liberal Party are not evolved by the same broad, mass methods as those of the Labour Party. When it comes to vital issues, what do we find? I put this to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) who is interjecting: Is the general public expected to believe that every single member, barring one who is in the Senate, of the Liberal and Country Parties subscribes at the present time to the conscription of Australian boys to serve in Vietnam? 1 am not prepared to believe that they do. I am prepared to believe there are at least some members of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party who, along with Senator Hannaford, have some misgivings about this policy. But they are never debated in this Parliament. They are never debated outside by Liberal members. Take the vital issue of state aid for education: Goodness knows, in its deliberations under the circumstances I have described the Labour Party had to go through a very painful operation in dealing with an issue 80 years old in this country. There is no reason to be apologetic for having to go through such painful labours. But what happened in the Liberal Party? Was there the same free flow of public discussion of the issues? There was not. There was no free public discussion. If there was, it certainly went unreported. What happened was that the former Prime Minister, under the pressure of having to win the 1963 elections and improve the majority of one that his Government held between 1961 and 1963, decided that a policy of state aid might be a good thing to help return him to power. The Government’s intentions were announced in the policy speech and, for most honorable members opposite, as parliamentarians that was the first they heard of the matter. They were commited lock, stock and barrel without having a say. So before honorable members opposite talk about the operations of Liberal democracy in this country let them have a second thought. Does every honorable member opposite admit that he subscribes to the complete abandonment of the costly Vernon Committee report and all its valuable findings - a committee set up by the Government and consisting of some of the most eminent brains in the country-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Failes). - Order! I do not wish to restrict the honorable member, but I suggest that he is now getting very wide of the matter under discussion.
– If the matter to which I have been referring is not relevant to the estimates for the Parliament, I do not know what is.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! I have said that the honorable member is getting wide of the matter under discussion, namely the vote for the Parliament. I suggest that political parties and their policies are rather wide of the mark.
– Because my time is running out I will accept your ruling, but if parties and the way they evolve their policies are not the essence of Parliament, I do not know what is, with all due respect. Whatever people may say about the American system, there you get free criticism. We may not agree with everything done in American politics, but supporters of the Government and significant members of the Government parly engage in public criticism of the Government. Take the matter of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the criticism that has been levelled at even the policy of Vietnam by significant members of the Administration party. Does anyone in the United States or anywhere else suggest that the United States Government has become a rabble because Government supporters have publicly criticised the Government’s policies on such vital issues as Vietnam and defence? Nobody suggests anything of the kind.
The same thing happens in Great Britain. We heard of the resignation of a Minister - Mr. Cousins. We heard also of the resignation earlier of a Minister for Defence. But these happenings did not lead to talk of the Government collapsing nor of being rent by factions. There is an immaturity about Australian politics that I hope will disappear from the scene. I hope that the Press of this country will accept a proper responsibility in the matter by adopting a much more responsible attitude than it has adopted so far. This attitude is characterised by our own attitude to our public service, whether they be in a State or in the Commonwealth. I refer to the rigid denial to members of the public services of their right to engage in public political controversy. The very people who are best informed in many cases about the machinery of government and the economics of the country are specifically and rigidly prohibited from making their views public. I understand that this situation is unique to Australia. It is unknown in other countries which would call themselves mature democracies. This situation is part and parcel of the immaturity of the Australian political scene. It is part and parcel of the same immaturity characterised by the Press. I hope that in the future we will get to a healthier state of mind and a healthier atmosphere where members of Parliament still belonging to parties, still subscribing to a basic core of philosophy and policy, will still have the feeling that they can speak in some kind of revaluation of even their own parties’ policies without being accused of factionalism or of bringing about a crisis or chaos. L hope that there will be less partisan comment on these kinds of things, not only by our political opposition - I suppose you can place less reliance on them - but by those public media of communication and education - the Press, radio and television. They owe it to Parliament and I hope that they will see it in that way.
.- While I do not agree with everything said by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). I think he is quite right in saying that the excessive rigidity of the party system in Australia has militated against the proper functioning of Parliament. Further, he has in him something of the divine discontent which is the mainspring of progress in any community. I detected something of this also in the speech of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). I am not one of those who believes that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Perhaps I am too young for this Parliament. 1 still think that progress is possible. I still think we should strive to improve. I do not think that everything is perfect as it now stands. Perhaps 1 am too young.
I have followed the debate in some detail. Something was said today about the remarks passed in a recent debate by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). 1 want to remind honorable members who the honorable member for Franklin is. Let me quote from the “ Parliamentary Handbook “. It states -
Military Service. - Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, 27lh May, 1940. Served with United Kingdom bomber squadrons over Europe. Pilot Officer, 1942. Flying Officer, 1942. Flight Lieutenant, 1943. Awarded Distinguished Service Order, Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar. Appointment terminated 14th November, 1945. Appointed Stale Commandant Air Training Corps, August, 1950, wilh rank of Wing-Commander. Cadet Forces Medal, 1963.
Most honorable members will agree that that is a very gallant record. I would suggest to honorable members, particularly those who attacked what the honorable member for Franklin had to say, that a man with those qualifications not only is courageous but also possibly has a rather better brain than many of us here. Indeed, the Air Force has skimmed off the cream of this nation. I was in the Army. Instead of attacking the honorable member because he spoke the truth as he saw it - it was a courageous thing to do in the circumstances - this Parliament should be regretting that a man of such qualities is lost to it; that there was no service this man could perform in this chamber and that he has gone out of it. This is how we should feel about the honorable and gallant member for Franklin.
I know about the honorable member because I have served with him on committees. I have served with him on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He has served on sub-committees of the Foreign Affairs Committee with great benefit to all other members of the Committee. He was always interested in the committee dealing with exservicemen. If there had been committees, such as I have suggested in an earlier debate, on which he might have served, this Parliament might not have lost his services.
I pass on to another matter. We have been told in the debate that there are already 12 committees of the Parliament.
– At least.
– At least. We have the standing committees. They are the domestic ones. There is the House Committee, which deals with the kitchen. Very important. There is the Library Committee. It meets now and then. I am a member of it. There is the Printing Committee. It meets sometimes. There is the Privileges Committee. Yes, 1 remember the case some years ago of Frank Browne. There is the Standing Orders Committee, lt does not meet often enough. There is the Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. It meets sometimes. Those all are domestic committees and take up little of the time of those who serve on them, except now and then when they have a burst of energy. We can forget about them as being of any great consequence in taking up the time of members of this House or in serving any great purpose. There are three major committees. They are the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Works Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. All three work hard and constantly. There axe also two select committees now sitting, and they are doing a job of work. I refer to the New and Permanent Parliament House Committee and the Parliamentary and Government Publications Committee. Most of the committees to which I have referred are joint committees. Therefore we have available to serve on them, 124 members of this House and 60 senators. I am not saying that they do not do useful work. Of course, they do, but to suggest that, because we have these 12 committees, members and senators are fully occupied and we should not have any more committees, is utter nonsense.
We have been told that there are 17 party committees on the other side of this House and I suppose that there may be 37 on this side. These committees do an extremely useful job, but they cannot do what parliamentary committees can do, as 1 shall point out later. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that I was a theoretical person, that I lived in an ivory tower, and that I was a knocker. 1 have spent 30 years in Parliaments, so probably I know a little bit about them. I observe that the honorable member is a Whip and therefore may have his own special attitudes, but I do not propose to waste time on replying to him. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) also spoke of theoretical people. He might have been referring to me. As I say, I have been nearly 30 years in Parliaments.
– Too long.
– But I still feel that I am too young for this Parliament because I still think progress and improvement are possible. Various positive proposals have been submitted during the course of the debate. Let us have a look at them. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) suggested a legislation committee, but he gave us no idea what it would be or what it would do. I do not know, and I am sure he does not. The honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) suggested that perhaps we could have an estimates committee, but he did not enlarge on why, or what. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) suggested a committee on the payment of parliamentary employees. This is a quite important matter but I doubt whether it ranks sufficiently high as to occupy the time of a number of members of this House permanently. Then, of course, there have been a number of the hoary complaints.
What is required? First of all, we need initiative on the part of members. If members are not prepared to do a job or do not want to do a job, then of course nothing will be done. Let us be quite clear about that. I was instrumental in having some clocks installed in the chamber so that members might know how their time was going. That was excellent. Through my initiative, this was done. The honorable member for Mackellar has made some really useful proposals. He has driven through not only the daily “ Hansard “ but also uniform railway gauges. He has done this by the exercise of his own individual initiative, working against every handicap. He overcame those handicaps because he is a genius.
My friend the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) was responsible for the introduction of the merged means test, it is true that individual members can do these things, and do them against enormous odds. Unless individual members use their initiative nothing will happen; of course it will not. There is now a Legislative Research Service in the Parliamentary Library. A few of us worked on this for some years - I think the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) said eight years. Now, at last, we have a research service and perhaps I can claim to have had some little part in its establishment. But besides the drive of individuals, we must have the machinery through which that drive can be expressed. This is the point I have been trying to make in this House without much success. To say that the drive of members is enough and that we do not need the appropriate machinery through which that drive can be expressed is like saying that a shilling is a coin that has the Queen’s head on it. Of course it has; but it also has a ram’s head on it, because there are two sides to the coin.
Of course we must have the drive of members; but we must also have the parliamentary machinery through which it can be given effect. The one is of no use without the other. It may be likened to having a car that has no fuel in it. In that case we have the machinery with nothing to drive it. Similarly, it is of no use having fuel without the car in which to use it. We need the two sides of the coin - the machine and the fuel to drive it. It is true that many things can be done despite handicaps. For example, a one armed man can dry up dishes; but it is much easier for the man who has two arms. I hope I have made my point that it is not enough just to say that while members have the drive they can do great things. Some individuals can overcome great handicaps’, but to say that we do not need the machinery that will canalise this drive is just sheer nonsense.
Let us now look at the parliamentary committees. First of all, they must have time to meet. A committee cannot do any work unless it has time to meet. Is there any member in this House who does not know that no time is set apart in the parliamentary programme each week for committees to meet? They meet, yes, over a chop, or something of the kind, for a few hurried minutes. So, the first need is time to meet, and until we reform our sitting hours this cannot be given. The honorable member for Mackellar has repeatedly urged that until we meet for two full weeks in succession we shall not be able to set aside time for committee meetings. It may be that some members will not stay here over weekends, but we should set aside time in the middle of the week for committee meetings. Again, these committees need places in which to meet. Parliament House has been taken over largely by the executive, therefore committees would not have places in which to meet if we had them functioning as they should do in the numbers that we ought to have.
Party committees have no power to summon witnesses, whether they be members of the Public Service or people from outside. If the witnesses are people from outside, these committees have no money at their disposal to pay the expenses of such witnesses to travel from Sydney, Melbourne or elsewhere. Party committees have no means of recording evidence; they do not remember what was said by a particular witness last week. Finally, they do not have a skilled secretariat to assist them in analysing evidence, suggesting questions to elicit the things that ought to be elicited, or to help in the preparation of draft reports, and so forth. Parliament cannot ascertain the facts unless it has an apparatus of inquiry. To say that party committees have that apparatus is, to my mind, absurd.
There has been a great deal of debate about whether Parliament could function if we had a lot of independents. Of course it could not, and it never has done. There has to be the party system. There has to be discipline in the parties, but not the rigid discipline against which the honorable member for Barton .Hr. Reynolds) was protesting and against which 1 protest also. Of course governments must govern. There must be some locus of responsibility. The people must know whom to turn out of office if governments do not govern properly. Therefore, the American system would not suit us. Recently a Mr. Mills, who is chairman of the House of Representatives finance committee, has been seeking to frustrate the President of the United States of America. This would not suit us. There must be a locus of responsibility and governments have to govern. But the great function of Parliament is to be able to criticise the Executive. When I speak of criticism 1 speak of informed criticism based on facts and the ascertainment of facts; based on the kind of facts that an apparatus of inquiry such as I have outlined could elicit. 1 see no hope for this Parliament unless it sets up that apparatus which will make for informed debate based on a corpus of facts ascertained by committees. There is plenty of scope for more committees than this miserable dozen, which include mainly the domestic committees, that have been bandied about during this debate.
Let us take an example. Take the Ord scheme. Who knows how much water could be impounded there? Who knows whether the dam will silt up? Who knows what can be grown there? Who knows what the markets for the products grown there are likely to be? Who knows whether the things produced there could be produced more cheaply somewhere else? We do not know these things.
– There was a report on this and it was suppressed.
– All right, there is a report that has been suppressed. I am not interested in these little points. The fact is that Parliament should have a committee that ascertains the facts. Decide what you like about the Ord scheme, but let us have the facts, if the Government came into this House with a proposal and the Minister, in his second reading speech, said: “ This thing ought to be proceeded with “, I would not vote for it because 1 do not know anything about it and I have no adequate means of finding out. Nor will other members have adequate means of gaining this information unless this Parliament sets up a select committee to ascertain the facts. We should not vote millions of money without knowing what we are voting about. I think I have made one or two points that I hope may be useful to this Committee.
.- My criticism tonight is directed to that section in the Estimates dealing with the Joint House Department - Division 105. As the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has said, the Joint House Committee is a very important committee in that it provides not only for the organisation of matters associated with the Parliament but has charge of the dining room, which might be called the combustion chamber of all members of the Parliament. I am concerned about the restriction on some products that ought to be on the tables in the Parliamentary dining room, and I want to refer tonight to one product that is of importance to the health of members of the Parliament. I have in my hand a product that I believe should be on the dining tables at Parliament House. This is a product that has received some publicity in recent times. On the packet it is described as “ Super Poly-unsaturated Miracle All-vegetable Table Margarine “. This is an 8 oz. net packet. On the back it states that it is made with safflower oil and that each 2 ozs. of this food contains 1,700 international units of vitamin A, 68 per cent, of the average daily allowance, and 240 international units of vitamin D, 60 per cent, of the average daily allowance. It contains anti oxidant. It is essential that it be kept refrigerated. The packet indicates that this product is manufactured by Marrickville
Margarine Pty. Ltd. of Edinburgh Road, Marrickville, lt has been recommended to Australians in advertisements by a prominent personality known as Mrs. Jones. This product has been supported on health grounds by many prominent authorities. in 1961 the Commonwealth Department of Health issued a booklet entitled “ Eat Belter for Less “. In it table margarine was listed as having food value equal to that of butter. However, in another booklet, “ Keep Fit with Food “, all reference to margarine is omitted. We have quite rightly a plentiful supply of butter on the dining tables at Parliament House. In 1961 there was some upsurge of interest in this topic in the Government Parties, and the Country Party demanded the withdrawal of the booklet. The then Minister for Health, Dr. Cameron, a Liberal member, and a very tolerant man, defended the booklet and its publication. He said -
Wc are heading for a very dangerous state of affairs if statements are to be suppressed because they are commercially and politically undesirable.
The Department continued publication of the booklet and printed extra copies to meet public demand. I am talking about a quality product which is denied to members of the Parliament. The Government is not only trying to restrict its availability to the public but here, where we have complete freedom of speech in this citadel of democracy, we have no freedom of choice in our dining room, where wc must take butter and like it or die on the vine, as it were, if our health suffers accordingly.
– ls safflower grown in Australia?
– This product is a 100 per cent. Australian product of an Australian industry, yet, for some reason or other, we cannot have it on the dining tables of Parliament House.
– Has the dairy industry the support of the Labour Party?
– We are not opposed in any way to the dairy industry. We probably all like butter, but I point out to the Minister that many members of this Parliament, particularly members of the Country Party, should not eat unlimited quantities of butter without bearing in mind this other great health product which we are denied. A prominent medical authority, quoted recently as supporting all the medical qualities of this product-
– Who was he? What is his name?
– He is a prominent University of Sydney professor. I will mention his name in a few minutes. He said -
There is no question that high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, lack of exercise and excessive cigarette smoking also increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
Quite a few members opposite are suffering from obesity, lack of exercise and excessive pressure. What member of this Parliament does not suffer from excessive pressure? The endless demands made by their position in life is such that members should watch their health. That is why this professor is recommending this product. He continued -
Programmes to correct or control these factors without let or hindrance are accepted as a matter of course. As doctors and as citizens we should be equally free to correct elevated cholesterol levels.
By pioneering in this country the manufacture of an acceptable and palatable poly-unsaturated margarine Marrickville Margarine Pty. Ltd. has given the Australian people a product which helps to achieve this end. Restriction of its manufacture with consequent denial of individual freedom of choice must be condemned in a democratic country.
Preoccupation with the economics of the dairying industry must not take precedence over the nation’s health and welfare.
There appears to be no reason why this product should not be freely available in the dining room to members of the Parliament. Can anyone tell me why the Liberal Government, which tells everyone outside the Parliament what they shall do, should tell members inside the Parliament what they shall eat? If members want this Australian product on the table of the Parliamentary dining room the Joint House Committee has no right to deny it to them.
– Does it spread as easily as butter?
– As a matter of fact it spreads much more easily than butter. My point is that there are members here whose medical advisers have undoubtedly told them that they must not eat butter for medical and health reasons. What is to be the position? Must they eat dry bread, or can they have a choice of what they shall put on their bread? Is it any wonder that a housewife like Mrs. Jones wonders what the country is coming to when 76 per cent, of the people have indicated in a gallup poll that there should be freedom of choice in this matter? Government supporters will say: “Well, you may have butter “. That is quite right. Most of the members opposite are entitled to have butter. Nobody denies them it or attacks the dairy industry, but should we not have the right to this product - this 100 per cent. Australian manufactured product - on our tables.
– Prove it.
– On what ground can this product be denied to members of the Parliament? This product has health giving qualities. The honorable member has asked me to prove that it is 100 per cent. Australian manufactured. The Government he supports has control of the agencies that control dairy produce and the primary industries in this country, so he has every avenue open to him and all the facilities available to disprove any claim that it is a 100 per cent. Australian manufactured product. If the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) cannot tell us whether a health food is 100 per cent, or not then he is not fit to be in charge of his Department. I think he is competent, and I know that he can prove or disprove these claims. 1 believe I have instanced a clear infringement of the right of members of this Parliament. Members talk about the restrictions on speeches and the fact that a member cannot make the speeches he wants to make or say the things he wants to say; but when all is said and done, even though the Government has gone a long way from democratic processes surely we can have a choice of food in the Parliamentary dining room. If we cannot have such a choice who is to say that we may not be told that we cannot use saccharin because its use affects our sugar industry. What about Sweetex and other products which compete with sugar? Does the Government say that we cannot use them? Where will all this end? The public of this country should note this situation. The average person accepts the fact that restrictions will be imposed by this tired, worn out, old Government that has been here for so long that it thinks it was born to be here for ever, but the fact that members of Parliament are denied this product in the dining room is a shocking indication of the lengths to which the Government will go to put out of business a 100 per cent. Australian industry.
I can see the blood pressure of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) rising already. He is even at the stage at which he could eat a pound of margarine in order to get his blood pressure down. He is waiting to rise shortly and say to me: “ You are attacking the dairy farmers. You do not want butter on the table “. That kind of label will not stick. I only say that neither the dairy industry nor any other industry has the right to gain on the parliamentary dining tables at the expense of another 100 per cent. Australian industry. But 1 point out that the dairy industry said that it had no objection to this product being made available to the public if it were of 100 per cent. Australian content. Therefore, I suggest to the honorable member for Gippsland and his colleagues on the Government side that they should join me in this protest against the restriction of our rights and the efforts of his colleagues to make us eat what they think we should eat and not what we believe we should eat.
This must be a good product. All the best newspapers advertise it. Why, I .have here in my hand “ Muster “ the official organ of the Graziers Association of New South Wales. This is something like our wool and wheat sales to China. Mrs. Jones has a good advertisement for margarine in that newspaper. The graziers will take money for advertisements but will deny to parliamentarians the right to eat margarine in the parliamentary dining room. If honorable members opposite are fair dinkum and say this is not a product the people should use, why do the newspapers take money from Miracle margarine?
Look at the other Country Party newspapers which advertise it. I have here a list of newspapers which have accepted advertisements for this health giving product. It includes “ Country Life “, “ The Land “, “ Muster “, the “ Producers Review “, the “ Queensland Country Life “, the “ Queensland Graingrower “ and, of course, the “ Australian Financial Review “ and the “ Bulletin “, hardly what one would call the official organs of the Australian Labour Party. The “ Coonamble Times “ has seen fit to accept the advertisement also. 1 think that newspaper is published in the electorate of the honormember for Calare (Mr. England). The Deniliquin Pastoral Times “ has accepted the advertisement and, for the information of that eminent Queen’s Counsel opposite who is now interjecting, so has the Dubbo “Daily Liberal”. The Tamworth “ Northern Daily Leader “, which has Country Party members on its directorate, will also take the money for advertising this product throughout country districts yet those honorable members will come to this Parliament and say that we on this side of the chamber and others cannot eat it. 1 thank you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, for your tolerance and understanding in allowing me to put a case, not so much for the product concerned but for the right of honorable members to eat the product they wish to eat and to see it on the tables in our dining room without restriction from the House Committee or anyone else. Honorable members opposite can talk as much as they like but the fact of the matter is that a poll was taken recently on the question of whether this product - a product of 100 per cent. Australian content, mark you - should be freely available, and 76.6 per cent, of the people interviewed voted “ Yes “ and only 14 per cent, voted “ No “. People outside the Parliament are entitled to the product of their choice if it fulfils all the requirements necessary in relation to health and other matters. Are not we in this Parliament setting a poor example to the people of Australia when we allow the Government to tell us, through the House Committee, that we cannot have this product because its production has become a political issue and the Government has to try to save the seat of one of its white hopes who happens to represent a dairying community? I do not blame him for fighting for the industry he represents. He is entitled to do that, but he should not discriminate-
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Deputy Chairman. I want to know whether the minister for margarine is allowed to misrepresent the position?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - There is no substance in the point of order.
– I paid the honorable member a compliment. I said he is entitled to represent the people who sent him here but he is not entitled to tell me what food 1 shall eat. After having a good look at members of the Country Party I repeat that they would be better and healthier people if they ate margarine instead of butter.
– I take a little surprising in this chamber, but I never thought 1 would hear in this chamber Christopher Robin saying: “ What about some butter for the members slice of bread? “ And adding: “ Margarine is tasty if it’s very thickly spread “. 1 can only hope that he will draw more royalties from this than A. A. Milne drew from his poems. This is an occasion on which we discuss our own domestic affairs. I will not discuss them in the same intimate manner as did the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) because our domestic affairs are important only insofar as they make for the better working of the Parliament.
First, may I refer with pleasure to the proposed increased vote for the Library? As honorable members will know, a few weeks ago a research service was set up in the Library to make us, as someone has said, if not brighter, al least better informed. Five specialists are engaged and I am glad to say that on inquiry, as a member of the Library Committee, I find that these specialists already are getting from members as much work as they can conveniently deal with in the time available to them. The new research services, therefore, are being used. 1 hope that they will contribute towards an improvement in debate in this chamber.
A member of the Parliament works outside the House as well as inside it but I think we should be talking tonight in terms of what happens inside this chamber and in relation to committees which the House constitutes. I believe a case can be made out for some significant change in our routine. We are not, I think, using our opportunities to the full. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) referred earlier this evening to the Standing Orders
Committee and I think he used the phrase: lt does not meet often enough, lt does not. When it does meet it seems to consider only minor amendments to the Standing Orders. 1 believe the time has now come when the House should take this matter seriously and, perhaps in the next Parliament, constitute a committee to consider not only minor changes to the Standing Orders but also possible major structural changes for the better working of the Parliament. Some of these would be mechanical changes. The honorable member for Bradfield referred to the necessity of having the proper mechanics. 1 want to get right down to earth and say that the first thing members must try to do is to eliminate the loss and waste of time which occurs in travelling to and from Canberra. We come here on Tuesday morning, sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then go home. We do this week after week with a break every now and again. That is not good enough. Some members come from far distant places and we are wasting our time and energy travelling backwards and forwards. 1 know that honorable members have work to do in their electorates, and they should be in their electorates. But if we could come here and work through for two weeks and then return to our electorates for a week wc would be able to keep up to date with what is happening electorally, we would be able to perform for our constituents the necessary services and we would have the time here in Canberra to do the committee work, the work on bills, and the work of informing ourselves. As the honorable member for Bradfield mentioned, we would also be able to get together in discussion inside and outside the House. 1 would say that the first step, a small mechanical step, is to rationalise our routine of sitting and our hours of sitting.
I favour a reduction of the quorum, at least in certain hours, lt is very bad when the gag must be applied to members. I know that it is sometimes necessary to get legislation through the House. Sometimes an Opposition may be unnecessarily obstructive. Sometimes it may be necessary to move that the question be now put. But this should be the exception rather than the rule and it should be possible for members to speak when they want to do so. They should not be denied the opportunity to speak on a Bill, a motion or a point that interests them. This means longer hours in the House and therefore, 1 think, reduced quorums. Perhaps the House without the quorum requirements, except for divisions or votes, should sit through the meal hours. This would give to those members who believed they had something to say an opportunity to put their views on the record and perhaps to speak while the proceedings are being broadcast. But it would also enable the House to sit for longer hours in the day without an unnecessary or perhaps an intolerable strain on members. I do not put this as final. I put it as a suggestion worth considering by a Standing Orders Committee with some enlarged function.
Then there is the question of the shortening of speeches, 1 think most honorable members would agree that speeches are too long. I know there are times when a member wishes to speak at length on a matter that he has studied especially or a matter of special interest to him, but this again is the exception rather than the rule. When we rise to speak, we are told that we have 30 minutes. Sometimes the Whip asks us to speak for our full 30 minutes. But I think it would serve the cause of debate better if speeches were shortened. There is a device that can make this compatible with the right of members to speak at length every now and again, for, if one were to say that every member will be entitled once or twice a year to make a longer speech and to make it at a time of his own choice when there arises the occasional instance when a member wants to speak at length, members would be agreeable to a shortening of speeches. The House in those circumstances may be rather more generous and flexible in the allotment of extra time, because the average speeches would be shorter.
But these matters on which I have spoken are the smaller and more mechanical matters. The honorable member for Bradfield has spoken of an enlarged committee system. I agree with him. I agree that there are occasions on which a select committee is justified and we should be appealing to a select committee rather more than we do. But what about the proceedings of the
House in its own committee? The Committee of the Whole is, shall I say, very ornate and too large. Would it not be better if bills, having passed their second reading, went to a small standing committee? The House of Commons divides itself into panels for this purpose and we might take a leaf out of the book of the House of Commons. The most important function of the House, after all, is to scrutinise legislation. In these small standing committees the Bill could be gone through clause by clause, witnesses could be called, the Minister could be questioned and made to answer so that members would know what the Bill was all about. Then the Bill would come back for its third reading in the House and the House, if it felt that an important principle was at stake, could then refer it to the Committee of the Whole. This would make it possible for legislation to be given some effective review on a non-party basis. Comments have been made on both sides of the House, by Opposition members and by members on the Government side, about the undue rigidity of the party system. This is particularly important in regard to proceedings in committee.
It is, after all. up to the Government to decide whether a vote, be it in the House or in the Committee of the Whole, is a vital vote. If the Government says that a vote is vital, then, even if it. be a vote on the most trivial matter, the life of the Government is put at stake and the supporters of the Government can scarcely vote against it. But it is for the Government to choose whether a vote should be considered vital. During the regime of the Australian Labour Party 15 and 20 years ago, a bad practice evolved, and I regret to say that it has been continued under our present Government. Under this practice, amendments are generally not accepted in the House even when they have some merit and even when they are matters of form rather than matters of major substance. Here the Government by unilateral action could set a better example. It could restore, either through the Committee of the Whole or better still through the sectional committees that I have suggested, the function of reviewing legislation, questioning the Minister responsible for a bill as to why this, that or the other clause is included, getting an answer and working by reasonable persuasion rather than by party bludgeon. This is an area in which a reform could be effected by the Government unilaterally. It requires only a change of heart. It requires only a relaxing of the present insistence that every vote in the House is a vote that is vital to the Government. Let the Government be a little more flexible. Let it find time, as the House of Commons finds time, for more private business from members. Members very often have matters to bring forward that are of some consequence to the country and which should be considered and taken on their merits. Our present Standing Orders allow insufficient time for this. As honorable members well know, the chances of having a private members bill passed under our present Standing Orders are virtually nil. 1 have made a few off the cuff desultory suggestions. I believe that the time has come for the House to be looking not just at minor amendments possible in its machinery but to the nature of the machinery itself in order to restore to the House some greater function and to restore the position as it was before the requirements of the party system became as rigid as they are.
.- I have been moved to speak in this debate because of statements that have been made by certain honorable members to the effect that back bench members do not and cannot play an effective part in the legislation of the country. Such statements and inferences I entirely refute. After 20i years of parliamentary experience I say without fear of contradiction, and I will prove it by facts tonight, that back bench members, if they have the will and energy so to do, can play a most effective part in the legislation of the country, In fact a back bench member is able to play a far more effective part in legislation than any Cabinet Minister. By the nature of his office, a Cabinet Minister has a department for which he is responsible. He has little time after administering that department for any thinking or exchange of views in relation to reforms of a legislative nature. As well as that, a Cabinet Minister is bound by Cabinet responsibility, and Cabinet can speak with only one voice. He is bound to follow the line of legislative decision which has been made by Cabinet, whereas a back bench member is enabled to express his thoughts, to exchange his views with interested parties and to make representations to Ministers and to Cabinet, whether it is in accord with Cabinet policy or not. In addition, if a back bench member is a good team man he is able to associate with other back benchers through the medium of parliamentary committees and bring to his support committee recommendations which, in the short time that I have available, I will endeavour to prove have played a most effective part in the legislation of this country.
Over the last 10 years 1 have had the honour to have been the Chairman of the Government Members Social Services Committee. In view of the statements which have been made in this place I should like to pui on record the recommendations of that Committee which have now become the law of the land. I refer to the first report of the Government Members Social Services Committee presented to the Minister for Social Services in 1956. The Committee then recommended, for the first time, that a special hardship pension be payable to those in need, in addition to the base rate pension. That recommendation did not come from any Cabinet Minister; it did not come from any Government department; it was a recommendation of very interested and dedicated back benchers who studied the problem and saw the need for a special hardship pension. That recommendation was not implemented by the Government in 1956. but the pressure was kept on through 1957, and in 1958 the recommendation was adopted and became the supplementary assistance which has been of such tremendous assistance to persons of pensionable age who have little or no income other than the pension.
In . 1961 the Committee recommended that the residential clause as a qualification for an age pension be reduced from 20 to 10 years. That recommendation came from back bench members, lt did not come from any Government department and it did not come from any Cabinet Minister, but it was recommended in a Committee report to the Government in 1957. For four years the Committee battled with the Minister in reference to that recommendation which was adopted by the Government in 1961.
– Who was the Minister?
– I said it was adopted by the Government in 1961. The Honorable Hugh Roberton was the Minister for Social Services at that time. In 1959 the Committee made exhaustive inquiries into the double means test on property and income and recommended that the ceiling beyond which no pension was payable - it was then £2,250 - be removed, lt put forward the scheme which culminated in the merged means test which was adopted by the Government, not in 1959 but in 1960. That probably has been the greatest reform since the Social Services Act was first passed in 1910.
In 1961 the Committee investigated the question of the funeral grant and made a recommendation that, when a pensioner was responsible for the funeral costs of a spouse, an additional payment be made. That recommendation was subsequently adopted. In 1962 the Committee recommended an increase in the supplementary assistance. That was implemented three years later in 1965. In its report in 1963 the Committee recommended that relief should be given to A class widows and single pensioners, and it recommended also that the definition of a “ child “ include a full time student over the age of 16 years. Until that time there had been no recommendation from any Government department and no recommendation from any Minister that student children should be included in the same category as dependent children under 16 years. That recommendation was immediately implemented in the same year as the Committee recommended it to the Governments - in 1963. In 1964 the Committee, in conjunction with the Government Members Health Committee, recommended that free medical attention and free medicines should be available to all persons in receipt of a social services pension. Honorable members will recall that until that time a person with more than £2 a week in addition to his pension was not entitled to those benefits. That tremendous reform was implemented by the Government in 1965. It removed one of the greatest causes of friction in this country because before then a large section of pensioners were not entitled to those very valuable benefits.
In 1965 the Committee recommended alterations to the permissible income for an A class widow, trebling the allowance in respect of each dependent child. That reform is implemented in this Budget and will be introduced into the House in a few weeks. The Committee recommended also that the definition of a “ child “ include a student child until he attains the age of 21 years, in lieu of 18 years as it had been before. That also is to be implemented this year. The Committee in 1965 recommended that the ceiling of cost per person boused under the Aged Persons Homes Act be increased, lt was increased last year from £2,500 to £2,700. The Committee in 1966 recommended a capital subsidy for approved organisations for building homes for the aged sick. That great reform, Sir, is to be implemented this year. For the first time in the history of Australia Commonwealth assistance is to be made available to churches and charitable organisations building homes for the aged and chronic sick.
I think those few examples - and I am afraid they are all I will be able to give in the time available - show conclusively how a group of back benchers studying these problems year in and year out, making themselves specialists on such problems, using their influence on Cabinet members, on Government departments and on their colleagues are able, if they are sufficiently persistent and consistent and if they stick to the views they believe are right, to achieve these great legislative reforms. These aTe things that make a back bencher really worthwhile. Therefore I deplore statements in the House that create the impression that unless a member is a Cabinet Minister he cannot do anything effective in Parliament. I say that if a private member is prepared to work, is prepared to collaborate and co-operate with his colleagues, is prepared to express his views in a forceful manner inside and outside the Parliament, there is a tremendous amount that he can do to be an effective part of the legislative machinery of this country.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed expenditure, $425,582,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed expenditure, $20,000,000.
– In addressing myself to the items for the Department of the Treasury there are one or two small amounts to which I would like to call attention at the outset, and perhaps later the Minister may throw some light on them. I refer first to Division No. 584 - Bureau of Census and Statistics, Item 08, “ Reimbursement to Government Departments and payments to agents for statistical services “. There is an appropriation for this year of $2,062,900 as against an actual expenditure of $240,467 last year. Perhaps at a later stage the Minister may indicate in more detail what that amount means, whether it is to do with the census recently taken or whether it has something to do with State departments doing work for Commonwealth departments. I do not know about those things and I would like a little illumination.
I shall also refer briefly to Division No. 570. - Administrative, and to sub-division 3. - Other Services. There is an entry under item 07, “ Devaluation of the Indian rupee - Loss on revaluing bank balance “. There was an expenditure last year of $11,143 which was not even projected at the time of preparation of the last Budget. All I suggest is that it is a very small cloud on the horizon indicating what can sometimes happen in the accounts when there is a devaluation or a revaluation of another currency. I sometimes wonder, in view of the critical circumstances that face the United Kingdom at the moment, whether this Parliament has really given serious consideration to what the effects might be internally and externally if there were a devaluation of sterling. Personally I hope that the devaluation may be avoided, but what I suggest is that at least the Parliament should occasionally contemplate what the effects externally and internally of such a devaluation or revaluation might be.
The matter to which I would particularly direct attention is concerned with Division No. 589 - Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. Of the total amount of $425,582,000 that is to be provided in the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, $369,476,000 is to be appropriated under the division to which I have referred.
Basically, of course, the Estimates are supposed to cover the administration of the various Departments, but this item, which represents by far the preponderant part of the Treasury estimates, being more than three-quarters of them, is an item that really has no relevance to the administration of the Treasury as such. It is part of the overall financial manipulation of the Australian economy. But because it is the significant item I want to ask one or two questions about it.
I have listened with some interest to what has been said in this Committee earlier on about the efficacy of Parliament, and sometimes 1 think that perhaps the inefficancy of it is due to the fact that wc do not do our homework as well as we should, or perhaps we do not probe as much as we should about some of these items.
– You have never been guilty of that kind of neglect.
– No, but on this item I find myself at least somewhat mystified by what is called the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. I want to begin by suggesting that the integrity of the Budget we are considering rests on the assumption - and this is laid out at pages 8 and 9 of the statistical appendices to the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) - that some S533 million will oe forthcoming from a number of fairly hypothetical sources, and those sources are the net difference between public loans and redemptions on the one hand, what may be raised overseas in various forms and finally what is forthcoming by resort to what is called Reserve Bank credit or central bank credit. Those three items, or the residuals of those three items, account for $533 million.
I want to begin by asking that members have a look at what happened in respect of like tables that we were contemplating 12 months ago - what they purported to suggest would happen as against what actually happened. It seems to me that more and more in trying to evaluate the path of the economy there are very few certainties and a great number of uncertainties, and when it is suggested that somebody should have some honest doubts between the certainties and the uncertainties - and in the long run that is all that one can have, honest doubts about the outcome rather than absolute certainties - sometimes the members of the Government in particular, and possibly their skilful advisers behind them, try to make certainties out of what are in fact uncertainties. A comparison of the table in the 1966-67 Budget comparing prospects with actual results with a similar table in the 1965-66 Budget shows that last year public loan proceeds should have been S405 million whereas in fact public loan proceeds were $568. 5 million - quite a substantial margin of error. It was also suggested- - this was an item that at least could have been reasonably calculated at the time - that the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development would advance $14.5 million to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority but the actual figure was $15.3 million. That is reasonably close, but the two items together in the last Budget were estimated to be $420 million whereas in fact they proved in the event to be nearly $584 million, a margin of error of $164 million.
The other item to which I wish to direct attention is redemptions. It was estimated that the redemptions on debts falling due and not converted would be $270 mi lion whereas in fact they were $332 million. What are called net loans proceeds, instead of being $150 million were $252 million, an error of $102 million, or if honorable members like to relate it to the original sum, a marginal error of about 66 per cent. It was also suggested by the Budget last year that there would be a withdrawal of Treasury bills to the extent of $40 million whereas in fact the actual figure was minus $1 million. The ultimate outcome was that instead of $111 million, as was projected on page 9 of the 1965-66 Budget Papers, the figure was $251 million.
The same table shows that this year there will be a recourse to internal borrowings plus Treasury bill finance. The Treasurer has even hazarded a guess that there will be $150 million net borrowings, and recourse to Treasury bills to the extent of $270 million, and he has in hand a firm commitment for a $113.8 million credit arrangement for defence purchases in the United States, which makes the estimate, at this stage, $533 million. It is in relation to that sum that this rather vague item appears. I sometimes at least applaud the fact that the Treasury is now supplying more information than it did, but I still think it is doing a certain amount of concealing. The item in relation to Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Account seems to me to be still one of the mysterious items in the Budget. Whether that item is right or wrong and whether the current estimates in the Budget are right or wrong I do not know. Honorable members will see that last year it was suggested that a sum of $253.4 million was to be appropriated to that account, whereas in fact $43 million less was appropriated, the actual amount paid into it being $210.4 million. It is rather difficult to find in the nation’s Budget statements the true position of this account.
The report of the Auditor-General which has been tabled is available to help honorable members in the consideration of these matters. On page 1 1 of the current report of the Auditor-General under the heading “ Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve” it is shown that at 1st July 1965 this peculiar account was in credit to the extent of $691 million. I am using round figures. During the year it had paid into it $210 million out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The reserve earned on interest on investments nearly $27 million and it made a profit of $426,000 on the realisation of investment. This meant that the balance at 1st July 1965 had increased from $691 million to $929 million. There was paid out during the year - at least, paid out according to the accounts of the Auditor-General - a sum for repurchase of securities for cancellation amounting to about $117 million, and there is shown a loss on realisation of investments. Why they did not mark one off against the other I do not know. They made a profit on some in vestments of $426,000 and a loss on some investments of $4,329,000, which I should think would give a net loss of near enough to $4 million. The expenditure from the fund during the year was $121 million which left a credit balance in this peculiar account at 30th June 1966 of nearly $808 million. Of that S808 million, $655 million was invested in Commonwealth Government inscribed stock and $153 million in internal treasury bills.
The first question that might be asked, if we look at this abstract as a Treasury document is: Why do we need to appropriate $370 million to an account which is already in credit to the extent of $808 million? I think it is about time that some of the hocus pocus was taken out of the presentation of Governemnt accounts.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order I The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As no other honorable member has risen to speak I shall take my second period. I should like to take this matter a little bit further. After all this item of $370 million appears as an item of estimated expenditure. Why appropriate an amount of $370 million to an account that is already in credit to the extent of $800 million? I know there is an answer to this, but at least the answer is not apparent in the documents presented.
Fortunately over recent years we have had a lot of documentation added to the Budget. At least the Budget ought to be recognised for what it is. It is the most central document as far as the directing or semi-planning of the national economy is concerned. The Budget this year has risen to the magnitude of $6,000 million, based on a gross national product of about $21,000 million. So the spending and transferring of these sums by the Commonwealth Government is at least significant as far as the level of activity of the economy is concerned. Nevertheless, despite the suggestions that have been made about the need to resort to more committees, 1 sometimes think we could do a little closer study in the committees that we have already in existence. Surely the Committee of Supply, as it used to be called, is one of the most fundamental committees of the Parliament. Technically no sum can be expended by the Government unless the Government has the sanction of Parliament to expend it. Yet you have this rather o-.!d item added almost offhandedly. It would not have appeared 10 years ago because lnc Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act was passed only in 1955. So at least this is a new device. It is part of what they call in more sophisticated economies “ debt management “ or the “ regulating of the total supply “ and, to some extent, the “ withdrawal of money “ from the community. While this mysterious item appears in the Estimates, it is part of the more fundamental strategy-
– Would the honorable member like us to call it by that name?
– I suggest that at least it is time it was taken out of this context.
– And put where?
– Put more frontally in the Government’s Budget. At least the Government should recognise that these things which it calls estimates in the Budget - the items on page 9 - are items that might more frankly be called “ guestimates “. They are not estimates at all. Last year we were out by more than $140 million, which shows that what was taken to be certainty 12 months ago was far from being certainty by the end of the year. 1 suggest that the same situation applies now. The Government has been a little more cagey this year. It has not been quite as definite in the Budget speech this year about where this $420 million will come. I think it has learned a little, even though it may be what the educationalists call a “ slow learner “. But at least it is learning. It is time the hocus pocus were stripped away from this thing. I prefer the simple days when the Budget was regarded as being in surplus or in deficit when the ordinary revenues and ordinary expenditures were taken into account. But now with the more sophisticated devices called “ above the line “ and “ under the line “, I think this figure should be recognised for what it is - as enlightened a guess as you can get in all the circumstances, but no more than that.
I was taken to task the other evening by a learned gentleman opposite because I suggested that it well might be that the mysterious figure that we call the “ gross national product “ could be of the order of $23 billion by the end of this financial year. If we look at the White Paper, “ National Income and Expenditure 1964-65 “, issued 12 months ago, and take the figure adjusted up to the present stage, the difference is of the order of $500 million to $600 million. I still say that when the final figures are assessed the gross national product for the year ended June 1966 will be nearer to $21 billion than to the $20.5 billion that it shows at the moment. If, as I believe, prices rise this year by at least 5 per cent. - I am afraid they will rise by a lot more - the gross national product must increase to more than $22 billion even to avoid stagnation. If there is to be what the honorable gentleman opposite called “ growth “, the gross national product will have to be in the region of $23 billion. All I suggest is that they are the best guesses you can make in the circumstances.
I think that sometimes we have allowed the back room in the Treasury to run a little ahead of public opinion. I think some of the assumptions and forecasts that are based on what are only estimates are, to say the least, a little pretentious. For these things to be meaningful you must take the public a lot more into your confidence than the Government is doing. After all, there are not many people outside this Parliament, except the professional economists, who know what this is all about. If you get 10 professional economists together you are doing well to get them to divide better than five and five on even a simple proposition and on a complicated proposition they will certainly divide. Who apart from members of the Parliament and epigones, as it were, who read these documents, know where the man in the street fits in? Yet an honorable member opposite the other evening, in what was supposed to be an attack on certain things that have been said in this place, was prepared to accept as fact some of the things that we on this side were only sounding out. That kind of approach should be laughed out of court. Whether our economy expands or contracts depends on decisions or calculations made here about the tempo outside. I think the Government must begin to communicate its views more than it has. T for one feel, like one or two other honorable members this evening, that the apparent removal of authority from Parliament is simply due to the fact that the matters we contemplate are complicated and cannot be simplified. It is difficult to simplify them but somehow you must be able to communicate them to the public at large. We have more and more documentation of the Budget than we ever had before but whether our deliberations of affairs are better than they ever were, I cannot say.
– Where is the hocus pocus?
– These matters are supposed to be considered as departmental estimates. Would the Minister seriously assert that the item of $370 million shown as payment to the credit of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Trust Account, out of a total estimate for the Treasury of $426 million, is really a matter of internal administration for the Treasury? That is the question I am seeking to ask. In my view this is an item that should not be in the normal Treasury estimates at all.
– I do not see why it is hocus pocus. The honorable member must admit that it is good to have some figure.
– 1 think it is necessary to have some figure because when you look at some of the other figures you find that this is the item that is used to balance the Consolidated Revenue Account. But the Estimates are not the place where you balance the Consolidated Revenue Account. The Estimates, as I understand them traditionally from parliamentary practice, provide opportunities to say that a particular process in the Taxation Branch, for example, is irksome or unjust: but one should not argue, in considering the Estimates, whether the economy will in the final analysis be right or wrong in terms of this fund.
– But Parliament must be asked at some stage.
– I am suggesting that you must separate that kind of question out of departmental estimates. The Government has intruded it into departmental estimates only since 1955. There was no such fund prior to 1955. Yet in 1965 or 1966 it has become 80 per cent, of the Treasury estimates. But this is not, in my view, a legitimate item to appear in the Treasury esimates. It is a book keeping device. I cannot find in the Auditor-General’s report, which purports to be the report of his examination of these funds, any reference to a mysterious loan of $169 million that was raised last year. It was simply a transfer from one hand of the Government to the other, as it were, in order to finance the works programmes of the States. But again, as I see it that is not a matter for the internal administration of the Treasury: it is part of the Government’s fiscal and monetary control. It ought to be central to the Budget rather than to the Estimates. I hope I have made the point clear. I confess that I was not quite clear about the matter when I looked at it this evening. Indeed, I was rather astonished to find the item poked in there quite as prominently as it is. When I looked through, as one ought to do, to see exactly what this Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve was, I found that this certainly is not very clear from the Budget documents. We shall look at it in a little more detail when we come to the amendment of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act because it is part of the problem of deb management.
Anyone who is familiar with the workings of the Radcliffe Committee in Great Britain will know that that Committee regards debt management as a central part of the overall economic management. 1 doubt whether we look upon it in that way here. It may be treated in this way in Treasury, but to my mind this practice is a little bit of mumbo jumbo, which is certainly difficult to understand. We ought to be sure of what we are doing in these matters. If honorable members will turn to the Second Schedule they will find that the Treasury has the greatest expenditure of any department. Here again, this is not a fair assessment of the departmental aspects of the Treasury as against its overall role as Treasury.
The reason why the vote for the Treasury is as high as $425 million is the inclusion of this item of almost $370 million. It would not have been included at this point 10 years ago and if it had not been included in 1966 the Estimates for the Treasury would certainly not have been the largest of the departmental estimates. On the contrary, the figure would have been comparatively small. Although the administration of the Treasury may be more complex now than it was in 1955, it is not that much more complex. The reason for the high figure is that this rather exotic item is taken into consideration in the Estimates whereas it ought more properly to be considered in the. overall financial and fiscal policy.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Failes). - Order! The honorable member’s second period has expired.
.- My purpose in speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Treasury is to draw attention to two sections of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment
Act which 1 believe can operate unfairly against some taxpayers. I propose to draw attention to two particular cases. Under section 82d of the Act, a taxpayer may claim a deduction for a housekeeper unless he has already claimed a deduction for his wife. One exception to this is where the spouse is in receipt of an invalid pension. The section also provides that a taxpayer may also claim a deduction for a housekeeper when the housekeeper is wholly employed looking after an invalid relative, whether or not that relative is in receipt of an invalid pension.
I am aware of a case in which a taxpayer endeavoured to claim a deduction for a 17- year old daughter who is wholly engaged in caring for her invalid mother who has been bedridden for three years. No deduction was allowed because the 17-year old daughter was not a student. The Act excludes her father from claiming a deduction for her as a housekeeper because sub-section (3.) of section 82d of the Act deems her not to have been wholly engaged in caring for her mother because her father was contributing to her maintenance. The harsh aspect of the application of this section is that if his wife dies the man will be able to claim a deduction for this same daughter as a widowers daughter/housekeeper.
Let us now take the case of a housekeeper who is not the daughter of the taxpayer. The Act provides that where the wife of a taxpayer is in receipt of an invalid pension he may claim a deduction for a housekeeper as well as for his wife. But i’f his income is such that it allows him to employ a housekeeper as well as support a wife, it is sufficient to prevent her from receiving an invalid person because the means test provisions of the Soci’al Services Act operate against her, and he is therefore unable to obtain a deduction for his housekeeper. If his income is such that it permits his wife to receive an invalid pension, obviously he cannot afford .to pay a housekeeper as well as support his wife, and the deduction is no good to him. In both ways he misses out. I believe that the Act ought to be altered to permit a taxpayer ito claim a deduction for a housekeeper where his spouse is medically qualified to receive an invalid pension - that is, where she is deemed to be 85 per cent, incapacitated.
The second grievance to which I wish to refer relates to section 51 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. This section provides for a deduction for all outgoings to the extent that they are incurred in gaining or producing assessable income:, except to the extent that they are outgoings of a capital, personal or domestic nature. I wish to cite the case of a man employed by a Commonwealth Government department. Last year he undertook a two-year course in order to gain a wider knowledge of the department by which he was employed. The course covered the administration of that department and it cost him $60. Because he had undertaken this course, he gained priority as a lecturer over other employees of the same department when the department decided to conduct a series of lectures on the procedures of the department. For preparing and delivering these lectures, he was paid S60.
There is no doubt that the fact that he had undertaken this course of study had a material bearing on his appointment as a lecturer. When lodging his return of income for that year, he included as income the $60 fee which he had received and claimed as a deduction the S60 which he had paid for the course. Honorable members can imagine his feelings when he learned that he had been assessed on the $60 income but that his claim for $60 for the cost of the course had been disallowed on the ground that it was of a capital, personal or domestic nature. The Taxation Department ruled that any degree or qualifications he may have obtained as a result of passing this course opened up an entirely new field of income for him and the expense was therefore of a capital nature.
The amount of tax involved here is not very great as the income concerned was only S60. There is no doubt that the ruling was a correct one, but it appears to me to be very harsh in application and I believe the Act ought to be modified in such a way as to ensure that expenses of this nature - that is, money spent in order that a person may become a better employee and more useful to his employer - shall be an allowable deduction.
– The estimates for the Treasury direct our attention to what, according to the documents, is regarded as the essential economic problem from the budgetary standpoint, and I should like to examine this for a few minutes this evening. The “ Supplement to the Treasury Information Bulletin “ provided this year tells us - . . the economic problem from the budgetary standpoint is essentially one … of achieving, by financial means, a balance between total demand for, and supply of, resources in conditions of full employment in a growing economy.
This proposition, which is at the basis of budgetary management in Australia, is one that is derived from the economics of John Maynard Keynes, and I suggest it has for Australia two very serious defects. I think it is time that the Committee, the Treasury and the Treasurer had regard to these two defects. The first one is that this proposition derived from Keynesian economics assumes a unitary state, lt does not assume a federal system. It assumes that there is one government and that what is done in the Budget of that government will not be offset or cancelled by what is done in some other Budget in the same country. This assumption is not valid for Australia, and not only is it not valid, but what is done in the Federal Budget is very often offset by something that is done in the Budgets of the Slate Governments. In order to illustrate this, with the concurrence of honorable members I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a short table that has been prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistical Service; then I can refer to this table without having to read it in detail.
In the “ Supplement to the Treasury Information Bulletin “ it is further stated -
Changes in spending by taxpayers may be brought about, among other reasons, by changes in the amount of taxation collected out of current levels of incomes. By increasing or decreasing their rates of taxation governments can alter the disposable incomes (after tax) left with taxpayers and can thus influence their spending (as well as, almost certainly, their saving). Taken in conjunction with other factors operating in the economy (including those stemming from the outlay side of the Budget), such changes will determine whether, and if so how fast, total expenditure and incomes will grow in the economy as a whole.
This tells us the significance of taxation as one of the weapons of budgetary policy in this field, but reference to the table that I have just incorporated in “ Hansard “ shows that a very different state of affairs exists in respect of Commonwealth taxation from that which exists in respect of State and local government taxation. The table shows that from 1959-60 to 1965-66 Commonwealth taxation as a percentage of the gross national product has fluctuated as follows- in 1959-60, 18.1 per cent.; in 1960-61, 19.5 per cent.; in 1961-62, 19.0 pgr cent.; in 1962-63, 17.8 per cent.; in 1963-64, 17.9 per cent.; in 1964-65, 19.3 per cent, and in 1965-66, 20.4 per cent. Presumably these fluctuations reflect to some extent what the Commonwealth Government and the Treasurer thought should be the variation in Commonwealth taxation to give effect to solving the economic problem as seen from a budgetary standpoint. These fluctuations in the percentage of Commonwealth taxation presumably were related to whether the Government had decided that during the year it should extract from the economy a greater amount than it put back in the way of expenditure, or vice versa. However, whilst this was going on in respect of Commonwealth taxation what was happening in the field of State and local government taxation was that every year from 1959-60 to 1965-66 the percentage that State and local government taxation represented of the gross national product was rising. In other words, whatever the Commonwealth thought it was doing to change the level of taxation as a percentage of the gross national product to have a given effect on the economy was being offset by what the States and the local governments were being compelled to do. I do not think this has properly been taken into account in deciding what is going to happen in respect of taxation.
– Can the honorable member supply figures relating to State and local government taxation during the period he mentioned?
– In 1959-60 State and local government taxation as a percentage of the gross national product was 3.81 per cent.; in 1960-61, it was 3.83 per cent.; in 1961-62 it was 4.04 per cent.; in 1962-63 it was 4.06 per cent.; in 1963-64 it was 4.07 per cent.; in 1964-65 it was 4.10 per cent, and in 1965-66 it was 4.12 per cent, lt is rising every year, and it is rising consistently. To some extent these increases in the percentage that State and local government taxation represents offset what the Commonwealth is trying to do by varying its levels of expenditure and outlay. I do not think this is being taken into account at all, particularly if we have regard to other ways in which the State Governments are forced to try to raise revenue because the Commonwealth will not do it for them.
– It is still fairly minor, is it not?
– Yes, but over the years it amounts to a significant figure when considering the net effect taxation will have in this field. Added to this, as I was about to say, is the fact also that public utility charges have had to be raised by the States. These amounts have risen as a percentage of the gross national product, too. In other words, putting it simply, the Commonwealth, believing that it can alter the total level of effective demand by changing its levels of extraction and outlay, is ignoring the fact that it is leaving the States and local governments in a position where each year they have to raise a higher proportion of taxes. This also suggests for us that the way the whole proposition is formulated and applied by the Commonwealth and by the Treasurer is very limited and is not adequate. The document says -
This balancing factor, it is said, is the economic problem as seen from the budgetary standpoint I suggest this is not enough. Certainly the Budget can have and should have the effect of changing what otherwise would be an unsatisfactory condition in the economy, but the Budget also has to be concerned, as one of its basic problems, with the raising of funds for necessary purposes. It is not enough simply to keep taxation down or raise it for the overall effect it might have on the economy, when one of the essential problems is to provide funds for necessary expenditure.
I do not think that in recent years the Commonwealth has been prepared to look at this sufficiently. In other words, it has been passing the buck too easily to the States. The States have had to face significantly the problem of providing more revenue for education, of making their hospitals pay and of providing revenue for the construction of roads and other essential services. Not only have the States and local authorities had to raise their taxation, rates and hospital charges, but their railways, their public utilities and their public enterprises have had to raise their charges too. The Commonwealth has had a very easy time in being able to look at its economic problem as - eventially one … of achieving, by financial means, a balance between total demand for, and supply of, resources.
The Commonwealth also has a responsibility to provide, or to help to provide, that amount of income which is necessary to provide adequately for those essential services that the Governments of Australia have to provide. In recent times, the Commonwealth Government has never been fully prepared to accept this responsibility. lt has been able to avoid this responsibility partly because it has been able to pose as an authority mainly concerned with the economic problem from a budgetary standpoint of achieving by financial means a balance between total demand and supply of resources. I think this avoids for the Commonwealth a very difficult problem that is imposed upon the States.
Another point to which I want to refer at this stage is the Commonwealth’s responsibility in respect of the balance between total demand and supply of resources or, as put in another way, responsibility in respect of inflation because inflation is still the major problem in the Australian economy. In order to make the position look a little better than it is, the Treasurer told us that there had been a 9 per cent, increase in prices in four years. In fact, there has been a 9 per cent, increase in prices in two years. The belief is now fairly widely held in Australia that the increase in fares and hospital charges, and in prices, has already taken away any advantage that the recent increase in the basic wage might have given the workers. In this sense, significantly, inflation is still the main economic problem in this country.
However, I suggest that the Commonwealth Government, as a result of its present attitude to economic questions, can do very little about inflation because it uses only or mainly monetary and fiscal policy to have its effect on the Australian economy. This should lead us to ask the questions: “ What is inflation? Can monetary and fiscal policy have a satisfactory effect on inflation? “ I suggest that, as inflation operates in Australia today, monetary and fiscal policy is of very little use in relation to it. To illustrate this I shall quote a definition in relation to inflation which I think is appropriate. The definition, which was given recently by Gardner Ackerly, an American economist who advises the President of the United States, is as follows -
In the above analysis I have, in effect, argued that the inflationary process is essentially an administrative one. . . . Whether aggregate demand is excessive or deficient, the problem of inflation needs to be analysed in administrative, that is, essentially political terms, and on the price as well as the wage side.
This indicates a recognition, which I think is valid, that inflation is not to be seen simply as a matter of the relation between demand and supply or the outcome of excessive demand, but as an administrative process which is going on all the time.
– Does that mean we should take over responsibility for wages?
– The Commonwealth needs to be able to do something about prices.
– And wages?
– The Commonwealth has that power already. It has the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which fixes wages. No-one can fail to see that the Government has a very one sided system of control. It has control over wages but it is not willing to do anything about prices despite the fact that it has significant powers in relation to prices if it wishes to use them. But the point I want to make here - this is the point on which I will conclude - is that the monetary and fiscal powers which the Commonwealth exercises are recognised by economists as being very limited. The American economist Galbraith had this to say -
The one to which I have just referred - means that both monetary and fiscal policy must have a markedly different impact on different parts of the economy.
Gardner Ackerly, whom I have already quoted, put it this way -
This approach to the analysis of inflation has significant implications for policy. . . . One such implication is the limited usefulness of the instruments of monetary and fiscal policy in combating inflation.
This leaves the Commonwealth Government, using as it does the limited means of monetary and fiscal policy, with a very limited capacity to deal with the essential problem of inflation. This, of course, is why attention is being increasingly directed by the Opposition to the matter of prices.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to refer, as certain other speakers have done, to only one section of the Estimates - Division No. 589. This provides for payment to the credit of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Trust Account of $369,476,000. The appropriation for this year is to be added to a balance which stands at present at $808 million. The Commonwealth is raising revenue by taxation. It is applying some of that revenue to capital works and services - the Commonwealth Budget is a glorious or inglorious mixture of capital and revenue items - and it is lending some $369 million this year to the States, it having loaned to the States from taxation revenue in previous years $808 million. This is done, of course, by the investment of this money in Commonwealth stock.
If honorable members would care to turn to the Auditor-General’s report for last year they will see some details set out on page 58. In effect, the States borrow, this money from the Commonwealth and pay interest on it. This, I think, is certainly not in accordance with the three suppositions of the Constitution. I refer first to section 87 of the Constitution which provides that from the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of customs and excise - not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure. The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest on debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.
This provision has been rendered abortive by early High Court decisions. The Commonwealth has been able to get round the provisions of that section and also of section 94 of the Constitution by transfers, such as this, to trust funds. It may be worthwhile reading section 94 of the Constitution to honorable members. It provides -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
It must be admitted that this is a permissive and not a mandatory section. I have referred, not to the strict legalities of the Constitution but to the spirit behind it. Now it would seem that under the Constitution, as it was originally conceived at any rate, the Commonwealth should be paying its surplus revenue to the States instead of using this device to lend the revenue to the States. The effect of this - I will not go into the reasons behind it - has been progressively to cut down the ability of the States to withstand Commonwealth powers. In place of the States getting the money as a grant, as a distribution of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth, as it was originally conceived they should, they have been loaned it and must pay interest on it. Interest is now paid on $808 million and at the end of this year interest will be paid on some $1,200 million. This is a big sum and the annual payment of interest must be a considerable burden to the States. This is money which perhaps on one reading they should have as grants.
I would agree that it is undesirable that the States, which have no responsibility for raising the revenue, should have an unrestricted use of it. But I think the time may be coming when the Commonwealth, in place of using this device of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve to lend the money to the States, should perhaps be granting the amount to them free of interest, but perhaps on some conditions. I would see the essential condition as the reduction of freight charges on the State transport systems. From the point of view of the economy as a whole, the reduction of freight rates is one of the big steps forward. Let us consider the kind of thing that this could do. First, it would reduce the cost of industry, both primary and secondary. Transport charges in Australia are lamentably high. Our transport systems are notably inefficient. Here again I hold no brief for the States who are themselves very largely responsible for the inefficiencies of their transport systems. But the difficulties of the Stales, partly of their own making, have been added to and compounded by the action of the Commonwealth Government. Here we have a means, perhaps, of making the transport systems a little more efficient. After all, the fixed charges of the transport systems have been incurred. They will not be reduced by the non-use of the systems. They stand there whether the transport systems belonging to the States are used or not. It is not best, in the circumstances, that we should be making the most of our existing assets when we can use them without incurring additional costs?
We have, as I have said, very high transport charges. In terms of real outlay, we can get a great deal more transportation done at less cost if we do not try to charge the user all the time with the interest that has to be paid whether the system is used or not. Surely, from a national point of view there is something to be said for using this potential transfer to bargain with the States, if you like, but to bargain with them in a way that will be to the advantage of the people who use the transport systems: namely, every inhabitant of the States.
The Commonwealth, by its use of the subterfuge - perhaps that is the wrong word, because it has a legal sanction - the device of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, which is part of the Trust Fund, has been able to avoid paying surplus revenue to the States. In place of that, it has been lending the surplus revenue to the States and getting interest on it. This is a plus and a minus. The Stales pay the interest; the Commonwealth gels it. There is no loss or gain in that. But coming from the payment of this interest is an added strain on State Budgets. It has been said here before that the States may not be all as efficient as they should be in the administration of their affairs. The fact that they are not any more responsible for raising their own main revenues has undoubtedly bred a kind of indifference in State Treasuries, a lack of cost consciousness and perhaps some kind of inefficiency in some State Public Services. I do not think we need look beyond our Sydney Opera House to know how far this kind of inefficiency can go.
But even when this is said and even when these points are admitted, there is surely a case for the Commonwealth to come to the aid of the States, on condition that the States not only will put their own transport house in order but in addition will make use of the Commonwealth revenue in order to reduce their transport charges to a level lower than could otherwise be countenanced. It has been said this week that transport charges will be increased in New
South Wales and Victoria. This is a matter of some economic regret. This reduces the efficiency of Australian industry, lt turns people away from the use of capital resources that are there and have been paid for and where the debt and interest charges run whether the systems are used or not. It turns people away from types of transport which, from the viewpoint of the total national economy, are a cheap form of transport and turns them instead to dear forms of transport. This is a bad result and I think perhaps not this year but in the future the Commonwealth Government should reconsider the use of this item, Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
As I have said, this Commonwealth Budget, like its predecessors over many years under the Labour Government and the present Government, is a glorious or inglorious mixture of capital and revenue items. It is admitted that, in this Budget apart from the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve of which I have spoken, the sum of $467 million will come out of revenue for capital expenditure. The real figure is, I think, a little greater than the sum of those two items. Even if this is set against the estimated cash deficit of $270 million, a fair surplus is still left. I know the difficulties of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon). I know the way in which the Budget must be used as one of the overall regulators of economic policy. But I think there is greater scope perhaps for a little more intelligent use of it.
.- I address my remarks to the appropriation of $319,000 to the General Financial and Economic Policy Branch of the Treasury. It has been correctly said that the States are literally tied to the financial chariot wheels of the Commonwealth Government. It was the late Ben Chifley who said that the hip pocket nerve was the most sensitive one in the human body. This Government, of all governments which have held office since Federation, is most vulnerable on the question of its economic record. It has no policy, no ideas, and certainly no achievement. Within two or three weeks the Budget strategy of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) has been destroyed. There were two matters on which he laid great stress as being of benefit to Australia. The first was an alleged injection of $270 million into the economy by deficit financing. Let us hear what the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ financial editor said about that in that newspaper on 26th August last. The report states -
It would be dangerously naive to measure the impact of the present Budget solely by the estimated cash deficit of $270 million . . . The big overseas element in our defence spending and the overseas element in the slump in the Commonwealth’s projected net borrowings, coupled with the aftermath of drought on farm incomes and of depressed company earnings last year, would together account for nearly all of that cash deficit of S270 million.
In other words, it reflects the carry over effects of a couple of recessive symptoms at home, plus an external deficit that will play no expansionary part whatever in the domestic economy.
So much for the injection of credit. Let us take the other item, the injection of increased consumer spending power as a result of the §2 increase in the Federal adult male basic wage. On that score let us look at the situation. After all, the Federal Treasurer has a vested interest in wage increases because his profit amounts to about 5s. 6d. in the fi. As a matter of fact, in one fell swoop he takes $70 million from the recent wage increase. Strangely, it is the obligation of the States to raise almost precisely the same amount by regressive taxation. That $2 will be absorbed in the following way. First, 55c will go in income tax after it has passed through various hands when it is spent. The proposed fare increases by the State Governments will be another 25c per week. Then 30c will be going in increased hospital fund contributions. Add to that the anticipatory prices increases in New South Wales on petrol, milk and cigarettes and the further price increases with which everyone is familiar and the average wage earner will be lucky to have 50c left from the $2 increase. At the same time, the $2 will be passed on in due course by manufacturers with the cost mark up of at least 25 per cent, on top of that and that will be the only certain item in the Australian economy resulting from the basic wage increase.
This Budget is a sock the States Budget; the last Budget was a sock the sinners Budget. In turn, the States will be forced into the position where they are socking the sick. We will have the situation, where in terms of contributions to hospital and medical benefit funds, about $1.40 per week will be payable by the average family man to get hospital and medical coverage. We face in this Budget record inflation. Inflation is a more stealthy thief than were ever the 40 thieves. Inflation attacks at the roots. It attacks personal savings, it attacks superannuation and, at the same time, we have an unedifying bout, a no decision bout, between the Treasurer and the respective State Premiers Askin and Bolte. It is a bout at catch weights and no holds barred. It is of interest for the Committee to hear from a report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 10th September a comment made by the Federal Treasurer at the Liberal Party Conference last Saturday. The report states -
Talk of a possible conflict between the States and the Federal Government over State finances should be forgotten, the Federal Treasurer. Mr. McMahon, said last night. “ It won’t happen, I can assure you of that “. . . . “ Within the’ limit of my capacity-
This is the choicest part -
I’ll do my best to show that Mr. Askin is the best Premier N.S.W. has had for 25 years,” he said.
That is a very strange commentary indeed in the light of today’s answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) in which literally the State Premiers were told that they could go and jump respectively in Sydney Harbour and Port Phillip before they would get any further grant of money from the Federal Government. The Treasurer correctly castigated the State Premiers for their boasting as to their triumphs at the Premiers’ Conference. As a matter of fact, they fell for the three card trick. In the near future we will sec the two blackest State Budgets in history being introduced by these gentlemen. It will be a case of you name it and they will be taxing it.
We have heard much from the Government about physical aggression, about the alleged threat to Australia and to Australia’s safety. We do not hear anything about economic aggression - nothing whatever. I believe the words of Mr. Norman, General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales, are worth listening to. I refer to a report in the “Australian” of 11th May where the following appeared -
Dependence on foreign capital could put powerful overseas economic interests in a position where they could virtually overrule Government decisions . . .
Because of this, he said, overseas investors should be advised to allow some Australian share in their subsidiaries established here.
Mr. Norman suggested that if the companies hesitated to do this - . . it might be worth introducing a sliding tax scale based on a company’s Australian content.
The Treasurer at the Liberal Party Convention correctly defined the issues for the forthcoming election and we will join issue with him on them. They are these. He said for the Liberal Party to win the election employment must be high, development must be rapid and the economic prospects must be bright. But what is the exact position? Employment is high but wages are low because they are controlled. Wages are the only commodity in respect of which there is real price fixation in Australia today. The position is even worse than that because wages are continuing to lose in the race with prices and we have a situation where we are virtually entering what might be termed a working depression.
The Treasurer has always set great store on a low percentage of unemployment, but in point of fact it is not the percentage of unemployment which counts so much as the amount that the average man is getting in his take home pay. We are approaching a situation where the average worker is taking home 75 to 80 per cent, of what are the fair needs of a decent standard of living for the average family.
I refer now to rapid development. Private fixed investment has had a pronounced downturn within the last quarter within the Australian economy. As for bright economic prospects, let us see what the prospects are. Today we are faced with a general world economic crisis. Let there be no mistake about it; the last thing that the Government wants to do is to face up to the economic facts or protect Australia against this position. The last thing it would ever attempt to do would be to introduce price control. In that regard the Government wants the best of both worlds. It is prepared to conscript men to participate in war, but it is not prepared to impose the economic controls which might reasonably be imposed because we are virtually at war today. In my opinion there is every justification, legal and economic, for their introduction.
In interest rates we now face a record. I cite figures taken from the RegistrarGeneral’s office in New South Wales. In
New South Wales in 1956-57 in respect of 23 per cent, of registered real estate first mortgages the interest rate payable was over 7 per cent. In 1966 the rate had increased to a point where exactly 66 per cent, of first mortgages were at over 7 per cent, interest. In respect of fringe banking and hire purchase rackets this Government’s record is notorious. What has it done to protect the interests of investors? What has it done to see that some protection is provided for people who are prepared to put their life savings into some of these companies? What has it done to recover for the people the £100 million which has been lost in Reid Murray, Latec, H. G. Palmer, the Sydney Guarantee Corporation and other companies. The Treasurer made a comment today about the contribution being made by companies in taxation. The figures I have, and they are official, show that excise - indirect taxation - is not decreasing as the Treasurer suggested. Excise on petrol, cigarettes, tobacco and beer in the aggregate is greater than the contribution being made by all the financial company giants of Australia.
The motor industry, too, will be profoundly grateful for the comment made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), that it was not the responsibility of the Government to pick up the pieces in that industry. The position in the motor industry is a tragic one. The industry, and the firm of General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. in particular, was attacked by Mr. Commissioner Winter in his reported judgment - a dissenting judgment, it is true - in the General Motors-Holden’s case. He said that the employees of General Motors-Holden’s had a moral entitlement to share in the extreme profit being made. He went further and said that the general attitude of the company, both to its employees and its customers, makes a mockery of any pretence to industrial partnership between employer and employees. Scathing comment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and unanswerable comment. There is no industry of more importance to Australia today both for employment and from the point of view of defence than the motor industry. There is no country in the world which needs motor transport more than this country and which is paying a higher price for it. Price control in that industry would have these effects: First, it would stimulate sales; secondly it would restore employment, and thirdly it would have control to some extent of the exorbitant profits being remitted overseas.
For 12 of the last 13 years this Government has financed itself by opening the doors to unrestricted overseas investment. Some forms of investments from overseas are good, but in the main, 1 think it can be truly said that Australia is being sold piece by piece, mine by mine, oil well by oil well and cattle station by cattle station, to powerful overseas companies. Today we have inflation. Australia is the only so-called capitalist democracy that does not impose at least a 51 per cent. lo:al holding in foreign companies operating in the country. In point of fact because of the absence of any form of control of overseas investment we have reached the stage where the development of Australia can be dictated by foreign board-rooms, in London, in Washington, in Tokio and in other places.
The Treasurer is about to go abroad on a peregrination to the International Monetary Fund. What is the world position? Interest rates are at a record level in all countries. There is a crisis in world liquidity, a crisis in world trading confidence. The postwar boom has ended and we have reached the point where even gold is being hoarded - one of the worst signs of an impending storm. Gold which normally would be going into the currency reserves of the trading countries is being hoarded.
What is the position with primary production? This is where we are particularly vulnerable. Since 1948 the volume of primary produce in the world has gone up by 33 per cent., while the world price of that produce has increased by less than 4 per cent. We are in a period of crisis, of over-production in primary industry.
Then there is another matter: Why has the Government not insisted on Australia being a member of the group of 10 countries which together decide world financial policy? Why has the Government not insisted on a greater participation in British economic and trading policy, in view of our holdings of sterling?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
On which of the decisions taken by the International Maritime Consultative Organization at its meeting in London in March and April will the Government consult with (a) the British Government and (b) State governments?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The “ decisions “ of the Conference consist of the adoption, by the Final Act of the Conference, of a new Convention - “ the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966” - and of five Recommendations.
It will not be necessary, and it is not proposed, to consult with the British Government in respect of the Convention generally, or in respect of the Recommendations. It is possible, however, that some consultation in respect of specific matters will prove desirable at a later stage, in the interests Of uniformity of procedure.
The text of the new Convention and of Recommendations 1, 2 and 5, is being referred to the State Governments for examination and any action that may be necessary on their part. It is possible that some consultation may be found desirable.
n asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What are the reasons for commencing the Dingo to Mount Flora beef road from the Dingo end rather than from the Mount Flora end?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
This is fundamentally a matter for the State. In discussions between the Commonwealth and the State Governments on the road works to be included in the 1966-67 beef roads programme, the State indicated that it was in a position to proceed with construction of a length of the Dingo to Mount Flora road north from Dingo, as investigation and planning work had already been done on that section. The Commonwealth was agreeable to inclusion of this work in the 1966-67 programme.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
How many New Guineans have received Australian flying scholarships?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Plying scholarships were provisionally granted to two New Guineans but were subsequently withdrawn because of the candidates’ failure to pass the minimum educational requirements in the Leaving Certificate examination. Four scholarships are currently available.
Australian Armed Forces. (Question No. 1928.)
n asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Percentages of volunteers rejected for the reasons indicated were -
1961 1962 1963 1964 1965
R.A.N. .. 9% 9% 11% 10% 9%
A.M.F. .. 9% 10% 11% 13% 11%
R.A.A.F. . 9% 7% 12% 12% 11%
1961 1962 1963 1964 1965
R.A.N. .. 30% 30% 26% 29% 27%
A.M.F. .. 12% 9% 13% 12% 11%
R.A.A.F. . * * 17% 7% 2%
Australian Forces in Vietnam. (Question No. 1951.)
y asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
National Service Training. (Question No. 1974.)
y asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice -
What amount has been spent to date on the national service training scheme?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The amount spent by the Army to the end of August 1966 will be approximately $38 million.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The assistance to the gold-mining industry provided in the subsidy scheme was determined in the light of the present official price of gold. Under the provisions of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act, the subsidy otherwise payable to a producer is reduced to the extent that the producer receives more than the official buying price of $31.25 per fine ounce. 3, 4, 5 and 6. The 1966 Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund will be held in Washington in September and 1 will be attending as Australian Governor of the Fund. 1 believe there will be an opportunity during the course of that meeting to bring before the meeting the problems of the gold-mining industry. I must advise the honorable member, however, that the question of increasing the world price of gold is one on which a number of countries, including the United States, have very firm views. No increase in the price of gold is possible without the agreement of the major Western countries.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Percentage of incapacity. Class
Sixty or over . . A
Thirty or over but less than sixty . . B
Less than thirty . . . . C
In the case under query, the former member was invited on 10th August, last, to provide the Board with the necessary authority to obtain access to certain information at the Repatriation Department; a reply is awaited.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
These matters received consideration during the preparation of the recent Budget but it was not found possible to authorise the deductions.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many children are there in Australia in each yearly age group from four years to twelve years, inclusive?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The latest figures available for age groups, four years to twelve years inclusive, which are derived from the estimated age distribution of Australia at 30th June 1965, are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Which of the decisions taken by the International Maritime Consultative Organisation at ils meeting in London in March and April call for (a) administrative and (b) legislative action by (i) the Commonwealth, (ii) the States and (iii) the Territories?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The ‘ decisions ‘ of the International Conference on Load Lines, 1966, were in effect the adoption of a new Convention - li the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 “ - and also of five Recommendations.
So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, both legislative and administrative action will be necessary in respect of the new Convention. Abo, Recommendations Nos. 1 and 2 may require legislative action and Nos. 1, 2 and 5 may require administrative action. These Recommendations are in respect of the following subjects -
No. 1 - Denunciation of the International Convention respecting Load Lines, 1930.
No. 2 - Application to ships not subject to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966.
No. 5 - Particulars of boundaries between inland waters and the sea.
Recommendations Nos. 3 (Further studies by IMCO on freeboards for fishing vessels and 4 (Consideration by IMCO of consolidation of 1960 Safety and 1966 Load Line Conventions), do not require any Commonwealth Legislative or administrative action at this time.
The text of the Convention and of the Recommendations is in process of being brought to the notice of the Slate Governments and it will, of course, be for the States to decide what legislative and administrative action, if any, they should take.
Article 32 of the new Convention requires that Contracting Governments responsible for the International relations of a territory shall consult with such territory in an endeavour to extend the Convention to that territory. The text of the new Convention, and of the Recommendations, has therefore been sent to the Department of Territories for examination and consideration of the desirability of applying the Convention to the various Territories, and of the legislative and administrative action that would be necessary in respect of any Territory to which such extension is considered desirable.
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
b asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice - . Has he seen a statement by the United States Ambassador that the United States of America is prepared to lend Australia $250,000,000 to develop its roads and to build a four-lane highway from Darwin to mainland capitals?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s question’s are as follows -
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Separate statistics are not available of the numbers receiving supplementary assistance for payment of (i) rent and (ii) board and lodging.
National Service Training. (Question No. 1975.)
y asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Since the introduction of the merged means test in 1961 the amount of income an age, invalid or widow pensioner may receive without affecting the rate of pension payable has depended upon the value of his properly apart from his home, furniture and personal effects.
As announced inthe Budget Speech it is now proposed to increase from$1 to$3 a week, the amount which is deducted for each child, from a pensioner’s income, before the means test is applied.
n asked the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The following is a list of vessels under construction or on order through the Australian Shipbuilding Board in Australian yards for Australian owners -
In addition to the above nineteen vessels an order for a large sea going self-propelled hopper dredger for the Victorian Public Works Department is being executed by Walkers Limited of Maryborough although this order was not placed through the Australian Shipbuilding Board. A number of smaller vessels are under construction at various yards in Australia.
As far as my Department is aware there are no trading vessels on order overseas for Australian shipowners.
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Which of the decisions taken by the Commonwealth Law Ministers at their meeting in London in April and May call for (a) administrative and (b) legislative action by (i) the Commonwealth (ii) the States and (iii) the Territories?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The only decision taken by the Commonwealth Law Ministers that calls for administrative or legislative action is the decision to recommend that the various members of the Commonwealth should adopt a uniform legislative code to provide for the extradition of fugitive offenders between those Commonwealth countries. I propose in the very near future to provide honorable members with copies of the scheme adopted and recommended by the Law Ministers and 1 hope that time will permit of the introduction in this session of a Bill to give effect to this scheme so far as Australia is concerned.
The meeting of Law Ministers also discussed the need for more effective provisions in some member countries of the Commonwealth for the enforcement of maintenance orders made in other member countries. As honorable members are aware, the whole subject of the making and enforcement of maintenance orders had been the subject of extensive consideration by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral and I was able to give the meeting of Law Ministers copies of the uniform legislation agreed to by the Standing Committee and to inform the meeting of the progress of the adoption of this legislation in Australia.
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice. -
What progress has he made in designing the new Federal Superior Court for which Cabinet gave authority in December 1962?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
I hope to make a statement to the House on this matter in the present session.
m asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
Australian Capital Territory: Omnibus Accident. (Question No. 1887.)
ser asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
rns asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What steps have been taken to implement the recommendations by the National Health and Medical Research Council for the indexing of hospital medical records and the classification of mental diseases in accordance with the International Classification of Diseases prepared by the World Health Organisation?
– The answer to the honorable members question is as follows -
Action was taken in the first instance to approach the Health Ministers of all States requesting their assistance in the adoption of the International
Classification of Diseases for the indexing of hospital records. This proposal was agreed to at the June 196S conference of State Health Ministers.
Agreement was also reached, at a Conference held in Hobart in November 1965, to adopt the classification of mental disorders in the eighth revision of the International Classification of Diseases. The Conference was attended by psychiatrists and statisticians from the menial health services of all Australian States and ‘from New Zealand. Also present were representatives of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.
Implementation of the systems of indexing and classification agreed upon is, of course, the responsibility of the various State Health authorities.
The honorable member will no doubt be interested 10 learn that the N.H. & M.R.C. has established a Hospital Morbidity Statistics Subcommittee, comprising hospital and public health administrators and statisticians from various States. The object of the body is to examine the possibilities for further use and development of hospital morbidity statistics, through extension and modification of basic records keeping and data transmission.
National Health and Medical Research Council: Representation on Government Committees. (Question No. 1817.)
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
When and how has the Government acted on the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council on the 291.h October, 1965, that the Council be adequately represented in discussions wilh and on committees established by the Government to advise upon development and support of medical research?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Government has not had the occasion to act on the Council’s recommendation, because no advisory committees of the nature referred to by the honorable member have been established by the Government since 29th October 1965. In the event of the formation of such a committee by the Government, the Council’s recommendation will, of course, be borne in mind.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
When and how has the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee acted on the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council on 29th October 1965, that tetracyclines should be given separately from nystatin or amphotericin B?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The recommendation by the National Health and Medical Research Council at its 60th Session on 29lh October 1965 was to convey to the * Medical Journal of Australia “ for publication the terms of a previous recommendation “ that where tetracyclines are used in conjunction with nystatin or amphotericin B, it is better that these drugs be given separately “.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has taken the Council’s recommendation into consideration in framing its recommendations to me in respect of drugs and medicines to be listed as pharmaceutical benefits
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice - ls he able to say whether Dr. A. H. Pollard was a director of both the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. and H. G. Palmer (Consolidated) Lid. when the former invested very large sums in debentures issued by the latter (“ Hansard “, 30lh November 1965, page 3324) and whether he resigned as a director of the former after he resigned as a director of the latter?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
I am not in a position to provide this information, in this regard, medical and hospital benefits organizations registered under the National Health Act are not required to notify me of the names of their directors.
Dr. A. H. Pollard was shown as a member of the New South Wales Executive Committee of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited in Annual Reports for the years ended 30lh June 1954 to 30lh June 1965 inclusive. Whether Dr. Pollard has since resigned is not known to me.
I have no information concerning Dr. Pollard’s association with other companies.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Medical Benefits Funds: Payments. (Question No. 1870.)
m asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) Payments made to registered medical benefits organisations by their members during the financial year 1964-65 amounted to $46,560,636. Figures for 1965-66 are not yet available.
Claims were rejected by the Funds in respect of 228,577 services.
These figures do not include payments in respect of contract medical organisations.
The principal reasons for refusing payment of Fund benefits were -
Details of the total number of persons employed by the registered organisations are not available.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) Payments made to registered hospital benefits organisations by their members during the financial year 1964-65 amounted to $58,451,670. Figures for 1965-66 are not yet available,
The average amount of Commonwealth benefits paid per claim during 1965-66 was $17.93.
The total operating expenses incurred by registered hospital benefits organisations for the financial year 1964-65 amounted to $7,234,560. The 1965-66 figure is not yet available.
Hospital and Medical Benefits Funds. (Question No. 1881.)
son asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
In respect of each hospital and medical benefit fund -
What reserves are held?
What percentage of contributions is represented by overhead?
What are the accumulated assets?
What is the number of contributors?
What control is exercised by contributors?
What was the difference between contributions and benefits during the last financial year?
What staff are employed?
What is the principal reason for rejecting claims?
What proportion of actual costs is represented on average by fund benefit?
What contribution rates are charged?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Although the National Health Act requires each organisation registered under that Act to furnish annual financial and membership statements to my Department, this information is regarded as confidential. It is not the practice to disclose either the financial position or the membership figures for individual funds.
The following figures are aggregates of all registered medical and hospital benefits organisations and represent the latest information available.
The aggregate reserves at 30th June 1965 were -
The percentages of contributions repre sented by management expenses for 1964-65 were-
Medical - 15.6 per cent.
Hospital - 12.4 per cent.
Details of the accumulated assets held by registered organisations are not available.
The numbers of contributors as at 30th June 1966 were -
The question of the election of contributors’ representatives to the executive bodies of registered organisations is a matter of policy for the individual funds. (0 The differences between contributions and benefits during the financial year 1964- 65 were -
Details of the staff employed by the registered organisations are not available.
The principal reason for rejecting claims is where the patient is hospitalised or receiving medical treatment during the waiting periods that apply after joining a fund and before benefits are usually payable.
The proportion of the cost of professional medical services met by fund benefit averaged 35.7 per cent, during 1965-66. Details of the costs of hospitalisation are not available, therefore the proportion represented by fund hospital benefit is not known.
Contribution rates vary from table to table within the individual funds, andfrom one fund to another, depending on whether it is an open fund or a closed fund.
son asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What is the estimated cost of providing free dental treatment to all persons up to the age of (a) 10 years, (b) 15 years and (c) 21 years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The cost of providing free dental treatment for children and adolescents would vary according to a number of factors such as the method of paying for services (salaried service for primary school children or a proportion thereof, feeforservice, or capitation fee), the extent to which use was made of dental nurses, and the extent to which a free dental service would be utilised.
In the absence of relevant information regarding these factors it is not practicable to provide a reliable estimate.
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
How far advanced is the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council for a model act to provide for uniform legislation throughout the Commonwealth to regularise the use of ionising radiation?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Each Slate has enacted legislation to regularise the use of ionising radiation which follows substantially the lines recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council in its model Act, formulated in 1954, and in the model Regulations of 1957 to that Act, as subsequently amended. Ordinances and regulations for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, based on the models recommended by the Council, are in course of preparation.
Conference of Commonwealth and State Health Ministers. (Question No. 1969.)
m asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
Which of the decisions taken by the Commonwealth and State Health Ministers at their meeting in Canberra in July call for (a) administrative and (b) legislative action by (i) the Commonwealth, (ii) the States and (iii) the Territories?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The meeting 1 had with the State Health Ministers in July 1966, was not intended to be a decision-making conference, but was called to enable interested parties, including the Minister for Social Services, to discuss various problems and ways for resolving them. There were, therefore, few formal decisions taken. In relation to some of the main matters discussed, however, action will be taken, or has been taken, as follows -
Hospital treatment of pensioners.
Following discussions at their conference last April, the State Ministers put forward at the July meeting a case for increased Commonwealth payments to public hospitals for the treatment of pensioners in public wards. As subsequently outlined in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, it is proposed to increase the daily rate of payment from $3.60 to $5. This will entail an amendment to the National Health Act.
Tuberculosis sufferers voluntarily entering mental institutions.
A request was made that tuberculosis allowances should not be suspended by reason of sufferers undertaking voluntary treatment in mental institutions. The Commonwealth has agreed to this request.
Nursing home standards.
Agreement was reached to the formation of a committee of Commonwealth and State officers to investigate the practicability of arriving at a uniform set of standards in relation to the approval of nursing homes. In addition, in each State a small committee of Commonwealth and State officers will be established to make joint examination of applications for the approval of hospitals and nursing homes.
The States requested that the Commonwealth allocation be increased. As announced in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, the Government intends to increase the allocation from $200,000 to $300,000 a year. In addition, the States will be offered assistance with capital projects related to National Fitness. The total Commonwealth allocation for this purpose will be $200,000 and will be available to the States on a St for $2 basis over the next three years.
Survey of smoking habits.
At the State Ministers’ conference in April, it was suggested that there should be a survey of smoking habits and of attitudes to smoking. This was mentioned at the meeting in July and the matter will be taken up with the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Therapeutic goods legislation.
A working party of Commonwealth and States officers is being formed to examine the implications of State legislation being introduced to complement the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Therapeutic Goods Act.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What cotton bounties were paid by the Commonwealth to (a) Namoi and (b) Ord River farmers each year since the first year of operation of each of these projects.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Figures for the 1966 crops are not available at this stage as cotton sales have not been completed.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Details by volume and value of beef purchases from Australia by overseas countries are recorded in the “ Overseas Trade Bulletin “ published annually by the Commonwealth Statistician. Copies of this publication are available from the Parliamentary Library. Since 1944/45 the quantity of beef exports has risen from 28,000 tons (value $3.3 million) to 273.000 tons in 1965/66 (value $195.5 million). During the same period tha approximate number of countries purchasing beef has risen from 14 to 56. Until 1959/60 the United Kingdom was the principal market; however, since then the United States has been the major outlet with the United Kingdom becoming second in order of importance.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660913_reps_25_hor52/>.