26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hour. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr DOBIE presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth requesting the Government to prohibit the advertising of cigarettes on broadcasting and television stations and to require that a suitable warning of the health hazard of cigarette smoking be displayed on cigarette packets and wherever cigarettes are advertised.
Mr J. R. FRASER presented a petition from certain residents of the Australian Capital Territory praying that the Commonwealth Parliament be called upon to legislate without delay for the abolition of the means test.
– The Minister for National Development will recall telling the House on 26th September 1967, m relation to additional water conservation from the States:
It is quite impossible to proceed until we have all the requests from the States.
He will also recall that he told the House on 1st November that further details were still awaited in relation to some State proposals but that nevertheless the Government would proceed with the Ord and Emerald schemes. I ask him: Is the one factor which made that which was quite impossible on 26th September possible on 1st November the certainty of a Government defeat in the coming Senate elections or, in other words, are the Ord and Emerald schemes examples of the Government’s blatant political opportunism?
– I realise that there is always a tendency to judge other people’s actions by one’s own principles or lack of principles, but the plain fact of the matter is, as I have stated, that the one project which was looked at by the Commonwealth
Government in relation to water conservation and on which we had adequate information was the Emerald-Nogoa Dam. We had been looking at this project for some considerable time and alterations had been made to the proposal. As a result we were in a position to know the full details of the scheme and to make a decision that the project should proceed. I have already told the House that later requests which have been received from the States are only in the early stages of processing by the Department and therefore obviously no further decisions could be made.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer him to recent legislation providing increases in pensions being paid under the Superannuation Act and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. When may pensioners expect to receive the increases provided under the recent legislation?
– It is hoped that royal assent to the legislation will be given within the next few days. At the moment it is thought that the first defence forces retirement benefits payment will be made to some people on 16th November and that payments will then continue. I hope to have most of the payments made by Christmas at the latest.
– What is the Prime Minister’s attitude to the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam?
– The honourable member knows that it is not the practice to answer questions on policy at question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. He is aware, of course, that the year 1968 has been designated by the General Assembly of the United Nations as International Human Rights Year, and he has been informed, I believe, of the formation of an Australian National Committee for Human Rights Year under the sponsorship of the United Nations Association of Australia to organise suitable means of celebration of Human Rights Year in various ways throughout Australia. Is the Minister aware that the Governments of the United Kingdom and of Canada, amongst others, have already decided to participate in the celebration of Human Rights Year and to extend financial support amounting in the case of Canada to some $Can250,000? Has the Minister received a request from the Australian Committee for Human Rights Year to provide financial and other assistance for the same purpose in Australia? Will the Government favourably consider that request in order to enable Australia, as a member nation of the United Nations, to play its part appropriately in the celebration of International Human Rights Year?
– As Australia is a member of the United Nations the Government, is, of course, aware that 1968 has been designated International Human Rights Year by the United Nations and the Government will be doing its part to ensure the fitting observance of Human Rights Year in Australia. A National Committee has been formed, as the honourable member has indicated, and it has been in consultation with my Department. The Department has also conferred with other government departments in order to ensure not only that a fitting response is made to the National Committee but also that the Government itself will observe the Year in a suitable way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. It concerns the episode on the Barrier Reef involving a Chinese vessel whose crew has been digging for clams. If the Queensland Government were to prepare a case for the inclusion of the outer Barrier Reef within the areas covered by Queensland’s fishing rights, would the Minister confer with the Attorney-General to ascertain whether this can legally be done?
– Our rights to fishing waters are determined by international convention. What we have done in the Bill which is before the House is to extend Australia’s fishing rights so that they cover the area bounded by a line not 3 miles but 12 miles from low water mark. Whether one could find an appropriate starting point other than low water mark I do not know. This would be a legal matter for me to discuss with the Attorney-General. But if a request is made by the Queensland Government I will certainly discuss it with the Attorney-General.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can he say whether the Department of Civil Aviation has any firm plans for (a) the opening of an air route between Australia and South America, via Tahiti and Easter Island, and (b) the development of an area in the Pilliga State Forest in Northern New South Wales as an international airport?
– The matter of an air route to South America has been under careful investigation by my Department and by Qantas for the last 2 or 3 years. There are problems associated with this matter. Firstly there are technical problems related to the long . sectors involved. Secondly there is the problem of the type of airport facilities available in South America. I understand that in a number of . centres in South America airport facilities have been improved considerably and perhaps the technical problems in this connection could be overcome. Another problem relates to the commercial viability of such a proposal. This is not quite so easy of solution because the indications at the moment are that an air service to South America would not be a viable proposition. The matter is being kept under review. We hope that . at ,some time in the future the operation of an air service to South America will be commercially feasible. In that event we will enter into negotiations with the countries concerned for routes under air service agreements. I should mention that the area is already being serviced fairly substantially by the Qantas route to Mexico, connecting with flights direct to most South American countries. If the honourable member has in mind a visit to South America, we can provide that service via Mexico, linking up very quickly with the countries of South America.
As to the provision of an international airport in the Pilliga scrub, as I stated in a reply some time ago to the honourable member, this matter has been considered. We have considered quite a number of areas in various States with a view to overcoming the problems of future expansion. This matter is currently in our minds, but obviously no decision can be made at this time. The facilities for servicing New South Wales will be centred on Sydney for many years to come but, with an eye to long term planning, perhaps by the end of the century consideration will have to be given to the Pilliga scrub.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs noticed reports that United States representatives at the United Nations in September submitted some very significant conditions to the United Nations for the settlement of the war in Vietnam? Those conditions included a vote for the recognition of the National Liberation Front, a ceasefire, withdrawal of all foreign forces, full respect of frontiers, reunification of North and South Vietnam, and international supervision. Was the Minister informed of this action by United States authorities when he was in Washington? If so, why did he not inform the House of this fact when he made his report to the House? If he now has knowledge of these conditions, does he support Mr Goldberg’s actions and does he support the conditions as put to the United Nations by Mr Goldberg?
– The United States Government and the Australian Government are in close and constant consultation with each other on all aspects of the war in Vietnam. As for Australia’s attitude towards a settlement in Vietnam, this has been stated by me in the House on several occasions and was stated more recently, most emphatically and clearly, by the Prime Minister whan announcing to the House the decision to make an additional contribution of troops. On that occasion, after the Prime Minister had concluded his statement, the honourable member for Yarra might have had an opportunity to tell us what he thought of the matter, but for some reason his leader decided to buck the debate and say nothing.
We stand by the statements we have made to this House on several occasions of our earnest and constant desire to bring about peace in Vietnam.
– I rise to order. The Minister was asked whether he knew certain things. He is not answering the question.
-Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable member.
– I have made it clear that on repeated occasions the Australian Government in the Australian Parliament has expressed its view about a settlement in Vietnam, and the House has had many opportunities to debate that view.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Under what authority has the Voluntary Health Insurance Council of Australia been set up? Is the name acceptable to the Registrar of Companies as descriptive of its function? How many funds are now members of the Council? Is membership open to any and all benefit funds which are prepared to collaborate in matters concerned with education and research in the field of hospital and medical benefits?
– So far as my knowledge goes on this matter the Voluntary Health Insurance Council was set up in 1962, largely at the instigation of the Blue Cross Association of Australia. As I understand the situation, the Council has three funds as members, but those funds cover a very large proportion of insured people in Australia. I might add that this body does not come within the ambit of the National Health Act and, consequently, I am not in a position to answer the other questions asked by the honourable member.
– I ask the Minister for Works a question. What will be the additional cost flowing from the Government’s policy in failing to provide a runway at Mascot capable of handling Jumbo jets at the time the initial extension of the runway into Botany Bay was made? Is he able to say what costs will be incurred by having to re-engage the dredge previously employed in this work? Finally, will he give a prompt decision to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works so that necessary plans can be approved to have this project completed at the time the airlines are ready to introduce Jumbo jets?
– The decision to lengthen the runway at Mascot has not yet been made by the Government. Consequently, no assessment of its cost has been made.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister for Health is in. two parts. Firstly, will the Minister reconsider a regulation under which doctors are not permitted to issue repeat prescriptions of essential drugs and medicines to social service patients? Secondly, will the Minister revise the list of approved hospitals which may attract benefits from hospital contribution funds to include the many reputable hospitals and homes which are at present outside the scope of the scheme?
– As to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, the decision to restrict the quantity of drugs which can be prescribed was made, as he would be aware, by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which has power under the Act in relation to this. This Committee is concerned with therapeutic considerations. In respect of these particular drugs the . Committee’s decision obviously reflected the growing concern throughout the world in relation to the increased quantity of dependence producing so-called soft drugs being consumed. I have heard many arguments and have received many letters in strong terms for and against the decision taken by the Committee. However, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is the responsible body. It recommended the limitations. I have confidence in the Committee and have accepted its recommendation as an authoritative indication of expert opinion in this field. I am sure that the Committee will review its decision at its next meeting on the basis of any information that has come to it in the meantime in respect of the way in which the limitations have worked. I shall arrange for that to be done.
In respect of the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question I point out that the National Health Act distinguishes between approved hospitals and approved nursing homes. Hospitals largely are for the acute stage of illnesses and periods in hospital are normally of short duration. Nursing homes in general are for chronic illnesses and periods in the homes are generally of long duration. Generally, hospitals provide a much higher level of facilities and so on and more staff than nursing homes do and therefore are more expensive. The hospital benefits scheme covers only hospital treatment and not nursing home treatment. The scheme could not be extended to cover nursing home treatment without substantial increases in contributions, and this, I believe, would be unacceptable to contributor’s. However, the Government has provided separately for those people who are unfortunate enough to enter nursing homes by the payment of nursing home benefits without the need to insure. This will cost the Government an enstimated $24m for this year.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. Was he informed of the conditions upon which the United States would accept peace moves in Vietnam and which were enunciated by Mr Goldberg in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week? If he was informed, why did he fail to tell the House? If he did not know then and as he does now, will he support the terms announced by Mr Goldberg? I remind the Minister that I was gagged and so could not participate in the debate last week.
– As 1 understand it, the terms to which the honourable member’s question refers were contained in a statement made by Mr Goldberg, the United States Ambassador at the United Nations, at a recent meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. My understanding is that the terms were contained in a draft resolution intended to be referred to the Security Council and that the draft resolution was being circulated amongst friendly delegations at the United Nations headquarters in August and September. At that time it was so reported to us and we had the opportunity to comment on it. In the event, this move did not come to fruition because members of the Security Council, without meeting, indicated that they were not willing to take up the resolution.
– Did our delegation indicate our support?
– I do not intend to disclose to the House and I do not think it would be proper to disclose to the House the course of conversations that take place in normal diplomatic interchange. Perhaps in the remote future some honourable members opposite may realise the reason for this, if they achieve office. If one begins to disclose private conversations, private conversations cease. But I will say this: There is nothing in the terms of this draft resolution which*-
– What does the-
– Do you support it?
-Order! The honourable member for Yarra will cease interjecting. The honourable member for Wills has asked his question and he, too, will cease interjecting.
– There is nothing in the text of the draft resolution which causes concern or difficulty, to the Australian Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works and relates to the certainty that large quantities of sand filling will be required for the new terminal site and runway extension at Mascot and to the strong probability that large quantities of sand will need to be excavated from Botany Bay to the north of the extended runway in order to provide for a major port near the present Banksmeadow. I ask the Minister whether he will initiate urgent conversations with the New South Wales authorities to ascertain whether these two requirements - that is, sand fill and sand excavation - can be economically coordinated without any deleterious effects on the foreshores. Will he arrange to keep those New South Wales members of this
Parliament who are specially interested in the matter adequately informed of the course of these negotiations?
– As I said in answer to the honourable member for Watson, no definite decision has been made at this stage as to the lengthening of the runway at Mascot. However, in what I think is intelligent anticipation of something of this kind, there has been close consultation between my Department, the Maritime Services Board in New South Wales and the Wallingford Hydraulic Research Laboratory in Britain with two particular problems in mind, firstly, the possible use of the area as a source of sand and also as a port and, secondly, its effect on the erosion problem in the Bay itself.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation advised the Rockhampton Golf Club of certain areas to be resumed from its golf course for extensions to Connor Park airport? Will the Minister consider the alternative use of vacant land north of the airport which might be made available by diversion of Limestone Creek?
– This matter was finalised before the honourable member came into the House, so perhaps he does not know the background to it. At the time, discussions were held between the Rockhampton City Council, the Rockhampton Golf Club Committee and officers of my Department. Subsequent to that the Public Works Committee met in Rockhampton and discussed the matter. I understand that it met representatives from the Golf Club and discussed the matter at length. As a result of this, a decision was made to proceed with the original proposal which on balance is the only one which is satisfactory for the extensions which are proposed. I think that the Golf Club is in possession of all the information. As I have said, most of this happened before the honourable member came here.
– Will the Treasurer undertake to examine urgently the possibility of the cost of the construction of dams on farms being made a double taxation deduction?
– I shall have a look at the problem raised by the honourable gentleman as soon as I can.
– I address my question to the Minister for National Development. The Minister will recall that on Tuesday, 31st October 1967, he supplied an answer on the Ord scheme to Senator Tangney, through Senator Henty in the Senate, iri which he said:
The Government is keeping the position under review as further information becomes available.
He will also recall that on Wednesday, 1st November - the following day - he told this House that in the light of further information the Government had decided to make available financial assistance in order to proceed with the second stage of the scheme. I now ask: When did Cabinet decide to go ahead with the scheme? Was the information provided to the Senate misleading and untrue, or was the decision made in desperate haste as a last ditch political gimmick to save the Government at the coming Senate election?
– The decision , to proceed with the Ord was made by the Government on Tuesday night. The answer which I gave to Senator Tangney was cleared by me some 10 days or so previously. I can give the honourable member the actual date if he requires it. This answer was cleared by me on 21st October. We finally received the submission from the Western Australian Government on the previous Friday and, as a result of this, the Government, on the following Tuesday, night, decided that we should proceed. And I am happy that we were able to do so. The Prime Minister has just reminded me that he and I, when we were in Western Australia in September, announced that when further figures were available we would look at them. As a result of the quite considerable improvement in a number of aspects of the Ord River scheme, the Government made its decision.
If the honourable member wishes to know what these aspects were, I shall be happy to give him the full facts and figures showing why the Ord River project has become more economic and why proceeding with it is now more suitable. The plain fact of the matter is that sorghum now appears as a suitable alternative to cotton. Furthermore, cotton yields were slightly improved this year. A new variety that had been tested gave an increase of 27% over the yield from the variety previously used. Stub cotton has been grown to a very great extent and has proved that it gives slightly improved results and also is very much cheaper. This year, costs on the Ord Scheme showed a reduction of well over $20 an acre. A number of other matters have been examined also, and when the Government looked at the project on the Tuesday night it became immediately apparent that the economic prospects were considerably, improved. I am only disappointed that the Opposition, instead of lauding a decision made by the Government that will have a remarkable effect in a very remote area of Australia, seems to be concerned only about having lost some of its ammunition for the forthcoming Senate election campaign.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Will he have an investigation made -into the full scope of information required by the Bureau of Census and Statistics in connection with the activities of the building industry? Is he aware that it has become a costly embarrassment to architects and builders to be obliged to fill in so many forms giving information much of which can be obtained from local councils, which also demand a constant process of form filling?
– Though the Commonwealth Statistician is under the supervision of the Treasurer, I would not interfere with his work. 1 believe that he should ‘ be - left as independent as it is practicable for him to be. So, up to the present, I have not made any recommendations to him. I think that the wise course to follow in this instance would be for the honourable gentleman to write to me and for me then to send a copy of his letter to the Statistician. Alternatively, I shall send a copy of the honourable gentleman’s question and my answer to the Commonwealth Statistician, and as soon as I receive a reply from him I shall inform the honourable gentleman of its contents.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. I refer him to a recent report that claimed that the Government might drop six reconnaissance planes from Its order for Fill fighter bombers. The (report claimed that this would save $1 Om. I ask the honourable gentleman: Is the report correct? If so, why was not the Parliament advised that the Government was not committed to buying the reconnaissance version? Does this mean that without reconnaissance planes Australia would require only eighteen Fill fighter bombers, not the twenty-four ordered by the Government? If this is a correct statement of the facta, is the Minister considering cutting back Australia’s order to eighteen of the fighter bombers so that some savings can be made in the spiralling costs of the Fill?
– The report is not correct.
-My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, concerns his negotiations with the Australian Medical Association for the admission to the pensioner medical service of pensioners and their dependants who qualified for its benefits as a consequence of the relaxation of the means test in April of this year. Will the Minister advise the House of the result of these negotiations and of the agreement made with the Association? Are there any conditions attaching to this agreement? Has the Government always been prepared to examine any problems of concern to the AMA in relation to the pensioner medical service?
– I know of the continuing interest that the honourable gentleman has taken in this question. I am therefore happy to tell him that since I last reported to the House on this matter I have had a number of discussions with the president, the executive and finally, a few weeks ago, with the council of the Australian Medical Association. The AMA decided to call a meeting of its federal assembly for last Saturday to consider the question of the admission of the new pensioners. Following the meeting of the federal assembly on Saturday the AMA advised me that it was prepared to accept the pensioners into the pensioner medical service provided that I agreed to a full scale review of the pensioner medical service, the review to be set in train before the next meeting of the federal assembly in May. I have informed the AMA that I am willing to put such a review in train immediately and that I will study the proposals as soon as it forwards them to me. I might say, in answer to the honourable gentleman’s specific question, that I have on a number of occasions indicated to the AMA that the Government is only too willing to look at anything which worries the AMA about the conduct of the service. We shall certainly do so in this case. I expect to receive from the Association within the next few weeks formal advice of its acceptance of the new group of pensioners. In the meantime I have set in train the administrative action that is necessary so that the pensioners will receive the benefit of the general practitioner service as soon as the Association’s formal advice is conveyed.
– Has the Minister for Immigration refused a visa to Dr Nicholas Nikolaides, a leader of the Greek Centre Union Party, to attend a congress in Melbourne on Friday next, convened by the Australian Council for Democracy in Greece? Is the Minister aware that Dr Nikolaides was secretary to Mr Papandreou who was the Prime Minister of Greece at the time of the military coup in April 1967? Is the Minister also aware that Dr Nikolaides has been a welcome visitor to many democratic countries including France, West Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland and the United States of America-
– The United States?
– Yes. As a matter of fact he is there now. Does the Minister know that he has been received by the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of Denmark, Sweden and Italy? Therefore, will the Minister urgently reconsider his decision and allow Australia to take its place amongst the enlightened countries who regard freedom of travel and freedom, of discussion of great public issues as essen.tial features of democratic government?
– The Government decided that a visa should not be given to Dr Nikolaides for the purposes for which he intended to come to Australia. An application was made in New York for a visa on Tuesday, 31st October and the notification by cable came to us on 1st November. On 3rd November the office in New York was instructed that a visa was not to be granted. The Government came to this conclusion essentially for two reasons. Firstly, it believed that international practice and courtesy should not lead it to facilitate a visit by a person attending Australia for the proclaimed purposes for which his sponsors intended him to come here. Australia, in common with other countries, is in normal diplomatic relations with Greece. I will deal with this in a moment because I first want to mention the second reason. The Government is concerned that the great number of Greek settlers in Australia should become part of the Australian life. While not severing any fondness for and recollection of their home country nevertheless they should not become embroiled in the politics of their home country. The Government is anxious that this settler community should not be subjected to the stirring of dissensions by foreign influences. The Australian Committees for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece were to sponsor the visit. Mr Victor Nollis is the President of the Victorian Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece. On 21st September 1967 he made a statement, in which it is reported that he said:
Exiled Greek political leaders will come to Australia next month for a conference to discuss the overthrow of the military regime now ruling Greece.
It has come to my attention, through medium of television, that Mr Nollis maintains that he did not make that statement. However on 29th September 1967 Mr Nollis wrote a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, a copy of which was forwarded to me. His letter says, amongst other things:
On behalf of my Committee I wish to enclose herewith, a copy of a Press Release giving particulars of the forthcoming visit in Australia of four Greek Political Leaders, now in exile in Europe after the Military Coup of 21st April 1967.
I would like to give you hereunder, personal details concerning each of the said Leaders, who have accepted the Invitation extended to them by all Australian Committees for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece.
I make the point that this morning my attention was directed to the fact that the Australian Labor Party in Melbourne had indicated that the Government’s refusal to issue a visa to Dr Nikolaides was an affront to the Party. I am not aware that the Australian Labor Party was sponsoring this visit in any way and the decision was taken for reasons quite unrelated to any support which the Australian Labor Party may give to Mr Nollis for the purpose of the visit. The letter gives details of Mr Dragoumis, Dr Nikolaides. Mr Someritis and Mr S. Mercouris. The letter continues:
Let me assure you, Mr Holt, that our Committee is not a political Organisation, neither is it our wish to bring Greek Politics into Australia. As free Australian citizens, we are fighting against Dictatorships of any form imposed by the use of force in Greece, or in any country of the World.
Members of our Association are Australian and Greek citizens of all political shades, whether Liberal, Labor, Free Democrats, Centre Union, Right Wing and even with Left Wing inclinations.
What we aim for, is the overthrow of the Puppet Dictators of Greece, the restoration of the Democratic Rights of the Greek people, the holding of Free Elections in Greece and the release of all political prisoners.
It will be observed, from the letter, that the word ‘overthrow’ which he denies using in the public statement on 21st September is incorporated in the letter of 29th September. I shall now read certain parts of the circular or Press release which was attached to that letter. Clause 1 reads:
Mr Nollis stated that this will be the first official conference of all Greek Political Leaders now living in exile, after the Military Coup of April 1967, with the object of co-ordinating their efforts, and adopting uniform measures in their fight against the Military Junta.
The point made by Mr Nollis that these men have been to other countries has to be considered in the light of the fact that the officials themselves claim this to be the first official conference of all Greek political leaders now living in exile after the military coup of April 1967. In clause 3 of the Press release, under the heading ‘Support by Australian political parties’, Mr Nollis reaffirmed certain beliefs. He indicated his belief that Australia had a moral obligation to take active steps to:
Intervene at high diplomatic levels by making direct approaches to President Johnson and his advisers, to the effect that unless the military junta is overthrown immediately, Greece will turn into another battlefield, similar to that in Vietnam.
This statement appears as sub-paragraph (b) of clause 3 of his Press release. The Government was naturally enough concerned that it did not permit the stirring of dissension in the Greek settler community and that it did not in any way contravene international practice and courtesy.
I should add that Mr Nollis wrote a letter to me, which I received on Monday, inviting me to attend any of the meetings and to speak. I replied to his letter as a matter of courtesy saying that I would not be attending any of the meetings. Having so replied to him I felt I should tell him, as I did tell him, that the visa for Dr Nikolaides would be refused, and I gave him the reasons that I have outlined in this answer.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement on matters relating to No. 34 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force, well known as the VIP flight. I do this because my integrity and the integrity of the Government and of my colleagues have been challenged and because certain matters affecting my own administration, particularly as they bear on passenger manifests for VIP aircraft, have come under criticism. Before I deal with these matters, which provoked the the want of confidence motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in this House, I think I should tell the House that I have not previously made a detailed statement on the subject of VIP aircraft in this House other than the original statement which I made on the purchase of them nearly 2 years ago. One of the matters on which I could usefully speak is the ordering of these new aircraft for the VIP flight, and I still would wish to deal with this matter, but I do not intend to do so in this statement which I believe should be related to the actual matter raised in the want of confidence motion.
What I have to say will deal with two particular matters - the controls that exist over the authorisation of passenger move ments in VIP aircraft and the actual recording of passenger movements. The issue before us today concerns the answers given to questions on notice from Senator Gair, dated 10th December 1965, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), dated 31st March 1966, and to Senator Turnbull’s series of questions, of which the first was dated 8th March 1967. Senator Gair asked questions dealing with the circumstances in which the Government made a VIP plane available to convey the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) and a number of Australian Labor Party officials to a special conference of the Labor Party, and the answer provided by Senator Henty, relating to passengers, said:
Particulars of passengers carried are not available.
The relevant part of the question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler was:
In respect of each such flight during this period, what was the name of any other passenger?
The answer provided by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) to this part of the question was:
Passengers’ names are recorded only so that aircraft may be safely and properly loaded. After a flight is completed the list of names is of no value and is not retained for long.
Senator Turnbull also asked a series of questions. They were all in the same form. He asked how many passengers were carried, and the relevant answer was:
No detailed records have been Kept of who travelled with an applicant on a particular flight.
In my answer to Senator Turnbull it would have been better, and more consistent with my answer to the honourable member for Grayndler, if I had added the words ‘complete and accurate’, but apart from this it is quite obvious that the answers were consistent and and followed the same pattern.
Now I will tell the House how this came about. I am responsible for the control of passengers in VIP aircraft and the authorisation of their flights. Consequently the information dealing with answers to these questions comes from my own office. It has been the practice, therefore, to handle the preparation of these answers in this way. In the course of preparation of the answers to these questions I asked my persona] staff what records existed in the Air Force concerning passenger movements. They told me there was in existence a passenger manifest and that this manifest had three copies, one copy being given to movement control at the airport of embarkation, another to movement control at the port of disembarkation, and the original being kept in the squadron for a short time. This was the information I was given. The purpose of these manifests, I was informed, was to have a record of passenger names in the event of an accident. Once the flight was concluded the purpose of these manifests had been served, and therefore there was no further need for their retention. The information that I received was that they were retained for only a few weeks.
My responsibility as Minister for Air has been directed to the authorisation and control of passenger movements. It has not been my particular business, of course, to handle the further recording. I sought this information at the time I was preparing the draft answer for the honourable member for Grayndler in April 1966. Having received this information I formed the firm belief that passenger manifests were not kept for long, and I retained that belief right up to the Mme when I left for Uganda, 21 weeks ago. This was the basis on which I provided the draft answers for Senator Gair and the honourable member for Grayndler. This was the basis on which I provided the answers for Senator Turnbull. It will be seen from the answers I have read to the House that the information conveyed was consistent.
At this stage the House may well ask why I did not carry my inquiries into passenger manifests further, and the answer is this: I believe that the prime need is the control over the authorisation of flights and the carriage of passengers. I accepted the reasons given me for the temporary retention of passenger manifests, and I did not consider this as a matter of anything like the importance, that I attach to the authorisation, at ministerial level, of passengers to be carried. I can say now that there has been a change over the period in these control arrangements. Years ago, and for a period of years, the persons responsible for authorising passengers were the VIPs themselves. Today the authorisation of passengers is the responsibility either of the Governor-General, as to his own passengers, or of the Prime Minister or of myself. It will be seen therefore that I have directed my attention over this period to the control of passenger movements and have not had occasion to inquire again into the retention of passenger manifests.
As the House knows, I left for Uganda 2i weeks ago. Soon after I left, the Government learned of the existence of passenger manifests and it immediately tabled them in the House and in the Senate. When I returned from Uganda at the weekend I also realised that in fact passenger manifests were kept and that they were kept for 12 months in accordance with Australian Air Publication No. 873. Let me repeat once again: I did not know these facts until I returned from Uganda last weekend. There are, of course, many publications and orders covering the operations of the Royal Australian Air Force which I have not seen. This, I think, would be true of any Minister in any government. Also I must say that I have now taken steps to make sure that the records are kept properly because, as was evident from the tabling of the manifests, there was a number missing and they had not been kept entirely properly or accurately. I have arranged also for a procedure to be established whereby documents dealing with the control of authorisation of passengers are prepared. From time to time these records will be co-ordinated with the records maintained in the squadron. Information on these points will be available both in my office and in the Department so that on any future occasion the Department will be able to have ready access to all the information required to assist in the preparation of answers to questions, as is now the case with all other questions.
Since I assumed a wider authority over VIP authorisations there has been stricter control and in fact I have on occasion been criticised for being too tough and too inflexible. But my aim as Minister has been to exercise my responsibility to ensure that the use of VIP aircraft is properly controlled. This I believe I have done. But it is true that I have failed to establish as soon as I might have the fact that the records were maintained and that this was required by orders. It is true that this led . to subsequent and further misunderstandings. It is true that I might have taken earlier steps to examine records that were available. These things in sum have had no unhappy results in terms of the operation of the flight or the discovery of any grave misuse or abuse of the service, but the course of the discussion in this House has created a climate of doubt and anxiety which has caused me concern and distress.
I have now told the House how this matter occurred. There is one more thing I wish to say. In my whole parliamentary career I have respected at all times the discipline and the authority of this House. In my whole ministerial career I have accepted fully the responsibilities that go with this post of honour and trust. I would not be a party to any deception, nor would I mislead the House or any honourable member in any particular way, no matter how trivial. I recognise that it is a Minister’s responsibility to have a final responsibility in his own field. If there are deficiencies then he must shoulder the blame. I have told the House of the deficiencies that have come to light in this VIP aircraft debate and of the steps that I have taken to correct them. There have been mistakes; not large, in my view, and not harmful by any measure, but they have been made and I am the responsible Minister. I have therefore felt it necessary, out of respect to my colleagues and to this Parliament, to say to the Prime Minister, and I have so informed him, that I was prepared to offer my resignation to him and to place my future in his hands. I have done this even though I believe that I have acted at all times honestly, with integrity and in the best interests of serving this great nation of Australia. I present the following paper:
Royal Australian Air Force VIP Flight - Ministerial Statement by Minister for Air, 8 November 1967.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
– by leave - Before I come to the broad aspects to which my colleague the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) has referred and, if I may say so, referred in manly and dignified terms which I am sure have impressed all honourable members with his sincerity, there are two things that I should like to do. The first is to give a summary of recent statements made here and in the other place. The second is to give some fuller explanation to the House of the reasons why the honourable gentleman was not asked to return to Australia at a time when honourable members, particularly of the Opposition, felt that he should be back in his place here.
I believe we have now, after a series of statements and discussions, cleared the air of most of the aspects which have been raised by way of query and argument on this question of the squadron used for VIP purposes. I made a statement originally setting out the purposes of the flight and the extent of its use. I said at that time that I would see whether there could be some realistic dissection of costs which would enable the Parliament to make an effective scrutiny from time to time of the way in which the flight was operating, at least as to its costs. I subsequently referred that matter to the Treasury which, in my view, was the most objective and best equipped body to advise on it. I reported to the House the recommendation of the Treasury and indicated that the Government proposed to pursue a course of having costs assessed on an extra cost basis which would be available for periodical scrutiny. Whatever basis of cost was selected would produce some discussion, and indeed argument, but I felt that in putting forward the basis which had been recommended as a practical basis the House would be able from time to time to make its own useful assessment.
We examined the types of aircraft and the need for them. We discussed the use in particular instances which had been raised either in the Parliament or in the Press. I think that most fair-minded listeners who were able to pursue this matter through all this discussion will agree with me that we did clear in a satisfactory manner all the points of query which had been raised. I know of no substantial matter outstanding, subject to a particular matter which we have come to discuss here again today. I say that by way of preliminary because all along it has been my desire to see the House informed as fully as the Government could inform it without giving incomplete information which itself, because of its lack of completeness or because of inaccuracies inherent in the material, could lead to conclusions not justified on the data brought forward. It was this factor which prompted me to delay the answers to questions asked in the Senate in particular until the House had this general statement before it against which these questions could be viewed.
All the information which has come to the Parliament and the public has been information supplied by the Government. So if now the Parliament and the country have a full and detailed account of these matters, it is as a result of the data that we have supplied to them. I shall say a word or two more about that later when I come to the statement of my colleague. The second matter is the fact of this being raised in the House quite recently on a basis of a motion of want of confidence and at quite short notice. The House will remember that immediately after that motion had been moved the Parliament went into debate on it. It would not have been practicable in any event to have brought my colleague back from Uganda in the space of time and in the frame of body and mind from an exhausting journey of that dimension to deal with that motion unless there had been some considerable postponement.
Let me just tell the House why I felt it important that my colleague should remain in Uganda on the mission on which I had sent him. I happen to believe that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, this great organisation which is representative of all the Parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations, has a potential for value in binding the Commonwealth together, greater I believe than any other of the Commonwealth institutions. I do not exclude from that meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I think that over the long haul the Commonwealth countries, by this regular meeting of representatives of Parliaments of the Commonwealth at which there can be free debate, will build up a knowledge of each other and an intimacy which will be helpful to our continuing association inside the Commonwealth. This has become infinitely more important since we have had what is known now as the new Commonwealth which is so diverse, so large and has such differing attitudes to so many great questions.
As honourable gentleman may recall, at one time I was Chairman of this body for a period of 3 years. I felt its value then. I have done what I could in this Parliament to see that Australia supported its activities, that we were well represented and that we contributed where we could to a strengthening of it. One of the mediums which I used for this purpose was to ensure that we had some continuity of representation at a high level. This was given to us in a very distinguished way earlier by the President of the Senate and more recently by my colleague the Minister for Air. I have made my views known to him and have employed him in this fashion. I made it known to him that I wanted a continuity of representation so that Australian influence would be maintained and indeed increased, and that I was looking to him to exercise this role for this country. So I come to recent history. In October 1966 at Ottawa he was appointed chairman of a working party of the General Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. There was a feeling that the General Council had become too large for effective executive work and so a working party was appointed to make recommendations to the Council for improvements in the organisation. He was appointed chairman of it. Earlier this year, at Malta, he chaired the meeting of the working party. That meeting produced important recommendations for the future of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. These went before the General Council in Uganda. My information is that all the recommendations of the working party were adopted. People from countries I have visited during the course of my journeying have told me that he chaired the working party with distinction.
One of the principal recommendations was that an executive committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association should be appointed to conduct its affairs rather than to look to the General Council to do this in an effective way. The General Council continues but the Executive Committee is the hard core - a sort of cabinet - of the Association. My colleague - I say this proudly for Australia - was unanimously elected Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Association, which is made up of eighty-six parliaments with representatives from thirty-seven Commonwealth countries. It may interest the House to know that included in the Executive Committee, which he chairs, are Mr Thomson, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in the Government of the United Kingdom, Mr Connolly, Government Leader of the Canadian Senate, Mr Reddy, Speaker of the Indian Parliament, Mr Pindling, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Mr Kalema, Minister of Trade for Uganda, Mr Ngaza, Minister for Social Services in Kenya, Mr McNeill, Minister for Home Affairs in Jamaica, Mr Ngkampoh, Assistant Minister for Finance in Malaysia and Mr Perera, the former Minister for Finance in Ceylon. I give the House that detail because, when it is sitting in judgment on my colleague and his conduct, it is relevant to know that he enjoys the respect and the trust of men of this quality from all these parliaments and that they have this confidence in him. In justice to him, these facts should be known.
He has come to us today and has explained how answers came to be supplied which, in the light of the tabling of information later in the Senate by my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton), who discussed the matter with me and had my authority, seemed to be at variance with the position. The information tabled in the Senate included the flight authorisation book and the passenger manifest. If my colleague had added the words he has just given to us, that complete and accurate particulars were not fully available, his answer would not only have been a precise statement of the position as it existed then but would have been in accordance with the facts as we still know them to this time. I gave the House a little detail on that when I spoke to it some time earlier. It was in his mind that these passenger manifests, ‘ maintained for limited purposes, were kept for only a short period of time. In fact, he has given a period of weeks as his understanding of the position. Our subsequent information is that a considerable number of them were kept, if not complete and wholly accurate, for a considerably longer period than this. When we discovered that this was the position, we made the information available. We thought at the time that to make it available in that form could lead to mis leading conclusions, wrong inferences and wrong statements of the facts. I have already dealt with that in some detail in the House because this in fact did occur. Our fears were well grounded. But the mistake existed in his mind and as a consequence of this the questions were answered in the form that he has just outlined to us.
Having discovered this, he has come to me and has had a full discussion with me. He came at my request to the Cabinet this morning and discussed these matters fully with his colleagues in the Cabinet. He has made his mistakes and he has frankly acknowledged them here today. He has acted honourably by placing in my hands his resignation, if I choose to accept it. To a degree my own Department and my own position were involved in this matter. Normally as Prime Minister I would deal with the situation of a Cabinet colleague who was in such a predicament as this, but in my judgment this was a matter that should be considered also by my Cabinet colleagues. This has been done. We have come to the firm conclusion that, whatever mistakes were made, they were made honestly. The Minister had no intention to mislead the House. We have known him over a long period of years and we have known of his record of service in other fields, in time of war and in time of peace. He does not strike us as a dissembler who would wilfully mislead not only the Parliament but me and his colleagues in the Cabinet. For our part we do not believe that these mistakes are of such magnitude that they would warrant us taking the step - a drastic step for him and his future - of requiring, his resignation or of accepting his resignation when tendered by him.
Much has been made of these matters over recent weeks and some molehills have been made into mountains. I hope that now the explanation given by my colleague can be viewed in its true perspective, as the whole matter should be, and that not only will he continue to receive the respect of all sections of the House but his explanation will be accepted as having been made honestly and in good faith. The measures he proposes will avoid any danger of a repetition of these events in the future. Supporting evidence that there was no intention to mislead comes from the fact that the original answer from which these other answers flowed was made to a question asked by Senator Gair about the former Leader of the Opposition (Mr Calwell). There is no question of protecting the Government or any member of the Parliament on the Government side of the House. An honest reply was given, it is true, with a mistaken impression of the facts, but the intention was to deal fairly with whoever was involved in the question. This being so, I and my colleagues believe that our colleague has been sincere in what he has told us and that he has acted in good faith and we have asked him to continue his services with the Government. I present the following paper:
Royal Australian Air Force VIP Flight- Minister for Air - Ministerial Statement by Prime Minister, 8th November 1967.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill 1967.
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Bill 1967.
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Exploration Permit Fees) Bill 1967.
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Production Licence Fees) Bill 1967.
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Pipeline Licence Fees) Bill 1967.
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Registration Fees) Bill 1967.
Petroleum (Ashmore and Carder Islands) Bill 1967.
Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Bill 1967.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1967.
Public Service Bill (No. 2) 1967.
States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill 1967.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1967.
Nauru Independence Bill 1967.
States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill (No. 3) 1967.
Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill 1967.
Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the consequential amendment made to this Bill by the House of Representatives.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Yesterday I opened the King Island Show. At that Show I was speaking about the drought in Australia, and I made the statement that our rural export earnings would be down some $300m to $400m this year. In the newspapers today one can read the inference that as a result our overseas balances this year would be down by $300m to $400m. This is not the way in which it was intended to be stated. The impact of the drought will have the effect of reducing our overseas earnings by $300m to $400m but that effect might be over a couple of years.
Debate resumed from 1 November (vide page 2572), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no disagreement, I will permit this course to be taken.
– We intend to give our support to one of the Bills that is before us, but we want to move what might be called a technical amendment to the second Bill in order to point out certain views that we in the Labor Party have regarding the question of foreign investment in Australia. The Loan (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill refers to a loan for Qantas Airways Ltd, as it is now known, and the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill refers to a loan for the Australian National Airlines Commission which, of course, is more popularly known in Australia as TransAustralia Airlines. Regarding the loan for
Qantas, the sum to be borrowed - and it is to be borrowed over a 7 to 8-year period -is $US68.7m or $A61.4m. Regarding the loan for TAA, the sum to be borrowed is $Can3m .or $A2.5m. The sum to be borrowed on behalf of TAA is such a small amount that our view is that the equipment ought simply to have been paid for out of Australia’s international reserves which, I understand, at the moment are more than $1, 000m - they are near enough to $ 1,200m when we take all the prospects into account. It seems to us that it is not good national accounting to borrow a sum as small as $3m when there are reserves of that nature, particularly when the interest rate for the loan will be 7%. Therefore in respect of the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill we propose to move the following amendment:
That all words after That* be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House, whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, is of opinion that the financing of the purchase of aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas.’
-Order! I take it that the honourable member is forecasting the amendment and not moving it.
– I am forecasting it in order to indicate the difference in approach to the two measures. We are supporting the Loan (Qantas Airways Limited). Bill for reasons which I hope to be able to outline. The reasons why we propose to move an amendment with respect to the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill are, firstly, that in our view $3m is a trivial amount when Australia has plenty of overseas reserves on which to draw and, secondly, that we have to pay an interest rate of 7%. It seems to us to be not very sound accounting. After all, 7% is paid to Canadian interests. We derive no taxation from the 7% when it is collected. If, for argument’s sake, the money were borrowed internally by debentures or by Commonwealth loans, at least the people concerned would have to pay taxation on the interest derived from the loan. So the real interest rate is above 1% when we take into account the fact that no taxation revenue is derived as a complement to the interest.
We take a different view in respect of the Loan (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill because here we have a form of foreign investment that is terminable, that is, it is not permanent in its effect. The loan is paying for itself as it goes because Qantas, by reason of adding this additional equipment to its fleet, is better able to participate in international airways activity. Qantas will pay for the servicing of the loan out of the fruits of its endeavour. It is rather interesting to read the annual report of Qantas which was. tabled in the House only a few days ago. The results in this financial year were not as good as those in other years because of the unfortunate domestic differences that took place between Qantas, as the employer, and its pilots, as employees. I do not want to go into the details of that matter at this stage because that is not the purpose of the discussion.
Pages 26 and 27 of the annual report refer to a 10-year statistical review which shows that in a space of 10 years the revenue of Qantas has risen from approximately $42m in 1957 to more than $123m in 1966-67. In fact, the figures for 1965-66 would have provided a better comparison, because the effects of the strike were reflected in the figures for 1966-67. I think it is stated in the report that if the strike had not occurred it is likely that the revenue of Qantas in 1966-67 would have been more than $140m - in other words, a threefold increase in 10 years. There has certainly not been anything like that rate of increase in fares. Fares have altered only marginally in that , period. The main reason for the increase in revenue is the increasing amount of business that Qantas now attracts. It will be from revenues of the nature I have mentioned that Qantas will be able to service the debt incurred under, this Bill.
One or two of my colleagues intend to speak about some aspects of foreign investment. But we in the Labor Party have never maintained that in no circumstance should there, not be .foreign investment. What we say is that the Australian economy, like that of any other country, should be particularly careful as to the extent to which it allows foreign investment and the form in which foreign investment comes into the country. Foreign investment can take three forms. It can be direct investment, it can be what is called portfolio investment or it can be a terminable kind of investment such as when the Government or some other agency raises a loan via debentures or other means for a particular purpose. The ultimate assets will still be owned and controlled by Australia.
At least, in Qantas Airways Ltd we have an example of a government undertaking in this field of transport that is working very successfully in international operations in contradistinction to, say, Trans-Australia Airlines, which is engaged in internal operations. I do not think it is always realised that TAA and Qantas have a combined annual turnover of the order of $200m, or $4m a week, if honourable members like, i think that th’e figure for TAA is something like $80m a year. That for Qantas was $123m last year and is likely to be $140m this year. This gives some idea of the vastness of these undertakings. They are very successful undertakings, too, if I may say so. I for one have no quarrel with TAA and Qantas as forms of socialised enterprise, if one likes to so describe them, and very successful ones at that. This success shows that the same sort of management techniques as are applied to private enterprise can be successfully applied to publicly owned enterprise. Not many commercial undertakings in Australia have an annual turnover of the magnitude of $80m or $123m. At least, it is gratifying to see these two airlines operating so successfully.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who, in the absence of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), delivered the second reading speeches on these measures, commented that Australia has traditionally been a net importer of capital. In the economic life of any community, there are certain periods when it would be futile to suggest that the community’s economic development could be secured by a closed economy as it were. In the early stages of a community’s economic development, when perhaps imports tend to be higher than exports, the community may have to have recourse to foreign borrowing. This has been the case in several phases of Australia’s development, but in recent times there has been quite a change in the nature of foreign investment in this country. In the years from the turn of the century to about 1916 - a year when economic arrangements were dislocated by wartime circumstances - the pattern of foreign investment was mainly one of borrowing in London by governments in Australia, principally for development works associated with railways, transport, public utilities and the like. In those days, there was very little direct private investment involved in the foreign capital that we obtained. But subsequent to 1945, when the last war ended, the pattern became quite different and, as the Minister said, Australia has continued to be a net importer of capital. He went on to say:
In a growing economy such as ours it is inevitable that there, will be a continuously increasing demand for imports of materials, capital equipment and other items … the Government believes that it should take advantage of opportunities … to borrow . overseas on reasonable terms and at acceptable rates of interest.
So the philosophy of the Government seems to be: Borrow when you can if you think the terms are reasonable. There can be lots of argument about what terms are reasonable. In the view of the Australian Labor Party, a lot of the foreign investment in Australia over, say, the last 20 years has not been reasonable in terms of the ultimate return expected for it. In Australia at present, quite significant areas of our economy are entirely controlled by ownership outside Australia. It is true that the ownership has established ‘ assets in Australia. No one imagines, to take an illustration, that, in a fit of pique, General Motors-Holden’s Pty . Ltd or any other concern will pull up its stumps and go home just because it does not like the things that are being said about it. Such concerns at least realise that in respect of that kind of investment their bread has now to be found in terms of the internal level of the Australian economy.: Nevertheless, there are significant and quite strategic sections of our economy that are entirely outside local control. Examples are the automobile, chemical and paper industries. Lists of industries have been quoted in this chamber on other occasions, and I do not want to go into them again this afternoon.
We on this side of the Parliament believe that Australia has now reached a stage at which, bearing in mind the yield that the owners of the capital expect, we see that unless the scene is resurveyed this country is likely to have too big a burden in servicing the debt, public and private, that has been incurred in recent years. I would think that over the last 15 or 20 years, the preponderant part of this investment has been private. My colleague, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), has some figures relevant to this. We on this side of the chamber suggest that at least this sort of situation has to be scrutinised from time to time. We, for our part, have raised objections particularly to what is described as portfolio investment. That represents simply the buying- by foreigners of interests in already established Australian firms. We regard that in a way as the worst form of foreign investment, because it is purely speculative. It does not bring anything into the country except greater foreign reserves, which may be used for something entirely apart from the particular industry in which the interest was bought. We resent the increasing foreign participation in already successful Australian industries and the many bids for mergers and takeovers of industries that Australia is well able to look after itself.
At least, in relation to the Qantas proposal on which we are deliberating, there is a pattern to which we can raise little objection. The proposal is that funds be borrowed for the purchase of jet aircraft of the latest type. We cannot at present make these machines ourselves, for we have not yet a big enough internal market to support such manufacture. It would be futile to suggest that we should build our own large commercial aircraft at this stage, though, with due respect to those concerned, I believe that we could be a lot more audacious with respect to the manufacture of other types of aircraft. We are able, under licence, to manufacture military aircraft here as well as they can be made anywhere else throughout the world, and I suggest that perhaps the same could be done with some kinds of commercial aircraft. Nevertheless, I believe that there are times when it is futile to suggest, in the situation of a limited market, that we should establish every possible kind of industry. This applies particularly to the manufacture of aeroplanes of the type involved here. Many of these large commercial jets cost $10m to $12m each. I propose shortly to say something about the insurance of machines such as these, because it seems to me that in recent times there has been a change in the policy of Qantas with respect to insurance.
In the instance that we are considering, we are concerned with an asset bought overseas and financed overseas, the Com monwealth Government acting as intermediary. The loan will be repaid over a limited term, commencing on 3 1st December 1968, in fourteen half-yearly instalments which will extinguish the debt. Under this arrangement, at the end of the term, we shall have the aircraft and, in essence, they will have been paid for out of the earnings overseas . of the airline operating them. That seems to us to be a form of foreign investment that can be justified. As I mentioned earlier the other loan is for TAA.
Such an amount seems to us to be so small and so trivial that it would be imprudent to pay the interest rate of 7%. The Qantas rate starts at 6% and then is subject to something which, to my mind, seems to be an underwriting clause in reverse. It is the most peculiar kind of arrangement I have come across. The Minister for Civil Aviation drew attention to it in his second reading speech. He pointed out that the form of issuance of the loan was different from anything else and that in the first instance the loan is taken up from the Commonwealth by the United States Export-Import Bank at a loan rate of 6% and the ExportImport Bank will then, if it can, sell off those securities. It is allowed, if it wishes, to sell them off at a rate as high as 7%. That seems to be a rather peculiar arrangement. I have described it as an underwriting in reverse. The usual practice is for ah underwriter to guarantee to take a loan over hoping that the public will take it up and he will be left only with what cannot be disposed. He gets a commission for his services and certain terms are determined in advance. But in this case we have a 6% minimum to start with thrust on to the market and able to be sold at a rate as high as 7%.
Again, I do not claim to know enough about the intricacies of New York finance to know whether this practice is typical or not. But it seems to me that someone will get an extra 1% when they have not really done much to justify it. It is true that there is some sort of vague option that if an offer or attempt is made to sell at 7%, the Commonwealth may, if it is able, finance at something less than 7% . It has an option to do so. However, again this seems to be rather vague. I can understand the reason for the Export-Import Bank wanting to float the loan on to the public because that perhaps gives it larger reserves, as the Minister pointed out, to finance purchases for aircraft by other countries. There are one or two matters that I would like to bring to the attention of the House. Perhaps later the Minister may care to give us some indication of why the policy was changed.
On page 24 of the 1966-67 annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd, under the heading Insurance Reserve’, it is stated:
This reserve is held to cover risks which the Company may decide from time to time as a matter of policy to self-insure.
I think this practice is adopted by many government departments if their activities are large enough. As I pointed out, Qantas has a turnover that very few other concerns in Australia can match. Often it pays an organisation to carry its own insurance. Instead of paying separate premiums for a large number of aircraft an organisation can create its own reserve hoping that the whole of its fleet will not go down at once. Of course, in the case of aircraft, this fortunately does not happen. Aircraft accidents are relatively rare. When an accident does occur only one of the fleet is affected. Qantas has quite a considerable fleet and it would seem to be a prudent enough policy for it to self-insure. Apparently that policy is now to be changed. At the moment I think the reserve stands at $13,640,000, so the reserve is still pretty considerable. It would seem to me to be adequate to cover any kind of foreseeable contingency. Under the heading ‘Insurance Reserve’ the report also states:
In past years the accounts have shown separately the amounts set aside for fleet and other risks but, as the Company is now insuring aircraft on the commercial market, it is more appropriate in these accounts’ to group them in one figure.
I would like to know the reason for the departure on the part of Qantas and insuring aircraft on the commercial market. It seems to me that the aircraft are not being insured on the internal commercial market but that maybe insurance is carried by overseas insurance companies. I hope that, is not the case because I believe insurance is a form of economic endeavour that we can well look after internally. I hope that if insurance is being carried out on the commercial market the companies concerned are Australian companies. I would still think, in terms of the amount that has been built up in recent years, that self-insurance is a preferable form of activity. Maybe the Minister will be able to throw some light on this.
I would have liked to say something about one or two other matters contained in the annual report although I am not quite sure whether they are relevant to this particular Bill. The point I want to make is that organisations as big as Qantas - this applies to some extent to TAA - are able to do internally what a lot of other organisations cannot do. For instance, I note that Qantas has built what is called an international hotel at a cost of $12m. This is the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney. I do not say that this necessarily is wrong. At least it is a pretty significant endeavour. The other matter I was interested in concerns closed circuit television. In order to supervise the whole of their works both at the head office and presumably at the airports, Qantas has installed two closed circuit television systems. I am a great believer in the advantages of television particularly for educational services, but I would scarcely have thought that the airways had one of the highest priorities for closed circuit television systems. I should think that there are many higher priorities such as schools, universities and the like. Again, I do not have figures of the costs involved here. Sometimes people who have the money are able to achieve their visions while other people can be only dreamers because they have not the money. Whilst I am an admirer of Qantas and TAA in the form of activity which they pursue, I think ‘ a little more information should be given on some of these matters. For instance, 1 do not know what the cost of the two. closed circuit television systems is.
When I look at the way in which Qantas has advanced I wish that we had shown the same vision 40 years ago with respect to shipping and its impact in Australia as we have shown in the last 20 years in respect of international airways’. For instance, if we had had the same vision in 1927 with respect to an Australian owned shipping line as we had in 1947 when we established an Australian owned international airline, we would have been a better country for it. It is true that shipping is now making more progress than before. But even in 1967, and although shipping is an older form of transport endeavour than is air transport, the value of the fleet of the Australian National Line as recorded in its last annual report is $75m. By contrast, the asset value of Qantas is over $150m. In other words, this Bill will bring the investment up by something over $200m. Here again, we have gone more strenuously into the expansion of international airways than we have of international shipping. I hope that some of the same vision will be shown in the future with respect to the expansion of the Australian National Line as has been shown in respect of the Australian overseas airline and the Australian internal airline. When the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill 1967 is before us I will formally move the amendment that I have foreshadowed.
– The two Bills before the House are the Loan (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill and the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill. The latter Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $Can3m, or $A2.5m, from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to assist in financing the purchase of up to six Twin Otter aircraft for the Australian National Airlines Commission. The other Bill seeks to borrow from the United States ExportImport Bank and the Boeing Aircraft Company in the United States of America the sum of $A61.4m for Qantas Airways Limited. My remarks are related to the first Bill. The $6 1.4m is to be borrowed for the Government-owned or peopleowned airline, which has been functioning successfully on international air routes and is one of the most successful airlines in the world. Any person who has travelled by Qantas feels very proud that it is owned not only by Australia but by the Australian people.
My colleague made some comments on the construction of the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney. I speak with some pride and perhaps with some chauvinism because the hotel is situated in Sydney. I had some association with agitation to get the Government to approve the construction of this magnificent hotel. The Wentworth Hotel, which is of international standard, was opened on 14th December 1966. The construction of this 450 bedroom hotel was commenced in April 1964 and was completed at the cost of $12m. It is owned by
Qantas and gives first class and international standard service to international travellers. For many years the old Wentworth Hotel was a third class hotel and when international visitors were taken to it they no sooner arrived than they booked out; usually they went to other hotels of superior standard to that of the old Wentworth but of course not up to the international standard which was needed to build up goodwill for Qantas. The Korman groupKorman is the gentleman about whose financial failure so much has been heard - owned the Chevron Hilton, as it was then known, and put pressure on Government supporters to forestall the granting of permission for Qantas to enter into the hotel business. Questions were asked in this House. However Cabinet, in its wisdom, after years of procrastination, eventually agreed to give permission to Qantas to go ahead.
I shall refer briefly to the balance sheets of this great, successful people’s undertaking, Qantas. I shall exclude last year’s financial balance sheet because, due to industrial difficulties between the pilots and the management, a great loss occurred. The balance sheet for the year 1965-66 showed a $4m profit after paying $3. 3m tax to the Australian Government. So Qantas earned in foreign revenue for the people of Australia more than $7m. Certainly it earned our balance of payments that much exchange. The balance sheet for 1964-65 showed a profit of $4m after paying $3.8m tax. The 1963-64 balance sheet showed a profit of $3. 59m after paying $2.6m tax. Clearly Qantas is a very successful undertaking.
My colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), reminded the Government that we could have an overseas shipping line doing very similar transactions for the Australian people. The borrowing of $61.4m raises an important point because it bears on the foreign exchange problems that the Government has to face. One might well ask why Australia has to raise this foreign loan of $61. 4m. If a correct policy of trying to balance our payments were carried out, if our economy were planned and if our exports were built up, possibly Australia could purchase these air liners out of its credit balance overseas. The Minister for
Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), in his second reading speech, said:
In a growing economy such as ours it is inevitable that there will be a continuously increasing demand for imports of materials, capital equipment and other items which must be obtained from abroad.
That is the excuse given for the raising of the sum of $6 1.4m. An examination of the Government’s record in its 17 years of office discloses a deficit on current account with all countries of $6.290m. The figures for individual countries are not available. In the last financial year our balance on current account was on the wrong side of $655m. Even though we had a favourable trading balance last year of some $90m we still had a deficit on current account of $655m. In other words, our invisibles cost us about $730m. That amount was paid for mainly in shipping freights. If the proposition for an Australian overseas shipping line put forward by honourable members on this side had been accepted, our overseas shipping freights would have diminished a great deal and so lessened the $750m invisible deficit. Overseas insurance costs also bite into our overseas balances as does the continuing, increasing outward flow of private dividends to overseas owners of companies. Invisibles during the whole of the Government’s administration have cost us something over $7,000m. Those figures illustrate the high cost to Australia of shipping freights, insurance and dividends remitted overseas. If the Government accepted its planning responsibilities these costs would be considerably lower.
Let us examine further the question of foreign investment in Australia. As I have mentioned, we have a deficit on current account of over S6,000m since 1950. This can be accounted for by Government loans and by the inflow to Australia of private investment which is generally unplanned and uncontrolled. The loan for Qantas, which we are told will cost between 6% and 7%, is the lesser of evils when we borrow on a foreign market, because it is being borrowed at government level. The Government will borrow the money and make it available to Qantas. There is no reason why the government should not borrow more often at Government level for capital equipment and know-how for the private sector. It might be possible to negotiate private loans from the overseas private sector for our private sector at a fixed low interest rate over an extended period. It seems to me that this is a more sensible way of borrowing money than having private equity being established in Australia and earning up to 600% on the original investment and, in many instances, being used to buy out established business concerns, to control our offshore oil and gas deposits, the iron ore and nickel deposits that have been found in such vast quantities in Western Australia or the bauxite and copper deposits of Queensland.
Many foreign companies set up internal organisations in Australia thereby placing a form of indirect taxation on the Australian consumer. They produce and sell on the Australian market. They work on a restricted franchise. By so operating they can make the Australian consumers pay for the future development of those companies within Australia. The Government has acted responsibly in obtaining $62m for Qantas at the government level. It is interesting to study the trend of our overseas indebtedness. In 1950 our overseas debt totalled about $ 1,098m. In 1967 it amounted to about $l,532m. This is an increase of less than $500m during the 17 years of this Government’s administration. The cost of servicing this foreign indebtedness was $36m in 1950 and has increased to $72m in 1967. However, it is interesting to compare this with the Government’s lack of planning, :nd in this regard I refer to the ‘Bulletin of Overseas Investment, Australia 1965-66’. If we take into account the total paid up value of shares, debentures, unsecured notes and other obligations of Australian companies held by overseas companies or individuals, in 1950 the assets of foreign companies in Australia totalled $263m. By 1966 they had increased by almost tenfold to $2,788m. As the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) publicly stated about 3 or 4 years ago. we are selling a little bit of our heritage every year. He has had little influence on the Government of which he is Deputy Prime Minister. He is the leader of the tail which should guide the dog but which, in fact, does not seem to have much influence. He certainly has not had much influence on the Government’s policy on foreign investment in Australia or foreign ownership and control of Australia’s assets.
What has been the cost to the private sector in dividends that have been paid overseas. In 1948-49. overseas dividends cost Australia $34m. In 1965-66 this figure had increased to $155m. This is not taking into account, of course, undistributed profits which, in most cases, are used as a form of indirect taxation and as a means of developing great public monopolies within Australia. Another method used by foreign owned companies in Australia is to water down their share capital. For instance, a few years ago General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd overnight increased its share capital from $1.9m to $11.3m.
-Order! I have allowed the honourable member for Reid some latitude, but I remind him that these Bills relate to the financing of aircraft and related equipment. I do not think a general discussion on overseas investment and overseas capital in Australia is warranted.
-I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your tolerance in allowing me to discuss this matter. I was referring to the Minister’s second reading speech when he said:
Australia has traditionally been a net importer of capital. It has been the Government’s continuing policy to arrange overseas finance for a large proportion of the cost of new aircraft purchased by its two airlines. In a growing economy such as ours it is inevitable that there will be a continuously increasing demand for imports of materials, capital equipment and other items which must be obtained from abroad.
The Minister spoke on the general trend of overseas borrowing. I was suggesting that it is better to raise money at the government level on a fixed interest basis, as is proposed in relation to the $62m loan for Qantas. It is regrettable that the Government has not had a sounder policy on overseas borrowing. It is regrettable, too, that during its administration it has increased its borrowing by way of fixed interest Government loans from a little over $ 1,000m to only about $ 1,500m whereas it has permitted foreign investment in Australian companies to increase from $260m to about $2,700m. It seems to me that the Government has a false set of priorities. Obviously the Government has made no attempt to plan and control Australia’s economy.
I rose today to speak in this debate in order to show clearly the blundering, the stumbling, the blindfold struggling, of which this Government is guilty from day to day. It has carried out no planning over a long period of time. Because it has continued over the years to rely on private and uncontrolled overseas capital to fill the gap between imports and exports it has blindly stumbled on and in doing so has sold more and more of our heritage. That is why our offshore oil and gas deposits are overwhelmingly in the hands of foreign investors.
-Order! I will not allow a discussion of offshore oil deposits.
– I think I have made my message clear. I hope the people of Australia will approach the coming Senate election with some understanding of the way in which this Government has allowed Australia’s assets to fall more and more into the hands of overseas investors.
– The two Bills before the House have as their purpose, as was explained by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), the obtaining, in the first place, of $3m from Canada to finance the purchase of aeroplanes for Trans-Australia Airlines and, in the second place, of $61 m from the United States of America for the provision of aeroplanes for Qantas Airways Ltd. Either Qantas er TAA might, of course, have been able to provide the money to purchase these aeroplanes from its own accumulated profits. That would be the easiest way of getting the aeroplanes. If you are operating for a number of years and you want aeroplanes to replace some which have gone out of operation or in order to expand your undertaking, you can either buy the aeroplanes with your accumulated profits or you can do as Ansett-ANA has been doing over the years, issue debentures to the general public and use the money thus obtained to buy your aeroplanes.
It seems that Qantas and TAA cannot provide the money from their accumulated funds, and so they have to borrow it. They could, of course, borrow money in Australia for the purchase of these aeroplanes. If they did so they would get the money at a cheaper rate than they will have to pay to get it from Canada or the United States*
They could probably raise loans in this country at 6%, and the interest paid to Australian investors would be subject to Australian income tax. The Australian Government would immediately take back out of those, interest payments anything from 20% to 60% by way of income tax. The apparent liability of 6% of this Government, which owns both Qantas and TAA, would accordingly be reduced to about 4%.
– Who is going to invest money for that kind of repayment?
– How much do you want? Every Government loan that has been raised in this country has specified an interest rate below 6%. I have said 6%, but even if it was as much as 8% the money would be raised more cheaply than it can be raised, overseas. These two Bills specifically state that the interest payable upon these loans shall not be subject to Australian taxation. In the case of the loan for Qantas the interest rate will be 6.5% plus accommodation fees and other fees that are added on and -which will raise the cost of the loan to the people of this country to about 7% - and all of that 7% free of Australian taxation. If the loans were raised in Australia the interest payments would be subject to Australian taxation. The Government would impose income tax on those interest payments and could use the money to provide the things that this nation needs. What was left in the hands of the investors would also be spent in this country. But when we raise a loan overseas not only are the interest payments free of Australian taxation; all the money paid by way of interest is spent outside Australia. It plays no part in the development of this nation.
The best way to pay for these aeroplanes, as I have said, would be to use the accumulated profits of Qantas or TAA. The second method would be to raise a loan within Australia. But of course we are not going to raise a loan here because we are not in a position to finance these purchases. We are being forced, because of the actions of this Government in the past, to go abroad for loans. What would happen if we decided to finance the purchase from within Australia? The money would be raised by way of loan and paid into the Commonwealth Bank or some other bank which would have to finance the operations overseas. We would have to make the money available overseas, and if we did not borrow it we would have to take it out of our existing overseas funds, and that is what this Government cannot do because the overseas funds of this nation have been deteriorating to such an extent that the Government cannot allow them to deteriorate any further.
In 1965 our overseas funds stood at $l,354m. By August 1967 they had dropped to $l,151m, which is not much more than £500m. This is less than they have ever been at any other time in our recent history. Remember, too, that I have given the figures for August 1967, and the. position has been deteriorating more and more rapidly since then. If we raised a loan within Australia and then used our overseas funds to purchase aeroplanes there would be a deterioration in our overseas funds such as this Government does not dare to contemplate. That is the position.. That is why we have to go abroad to finance these purchases. It is solely due to the activities of this Government in the financial sphere during, recent years.
There are only two ways, of course, in which the Government can possibly get the money from overseas. The first is the loan method. The other is the method that was pointed out by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), involving the inflow of overseas capital. Of the two methods the method of loan is preferable to the permanent sale of Australian assets in order to secure aircraft or some other temporary means of transport for our people or to improve their living conditions. The fact that we have to seek this money abroad is not in the interests of Australia and its people or in the interests of generations to come,
At present more than’ $370m is payable out of this country every year in dividends and interest payments. Our overseas funds are deteriorating more rapidly than ever before. We are importing more and exporting less, relatively, than for some years past. As has been pointed out by a Minister who explained today that he did not exactly mean what he said recently at a function, our exports will not increase considerably in value. People may point to the vast amounts of minerals being exported, but recent figures show that notwithstanding the vast increase in the value of our mineral exports in recent months, our trading deficit has increased because the value of rural products exported has fallen. The decrease in the value of rural products exported has been greater than the increase in the value of irreplaceable minerals exported. I do not have the exact figures but I hazard a guess that if these transactions were made overseas our overseas reserves would be much lower than they have been in the last 14 or 15 years. They would be so low as to be in a dangerous position. This is why everything possible must be done to get other nations to pay for goods overseas. We cannot pay for them because our exports are not big enough. We cannot do it out of our blood, sweat and toil, so we borrow in order to get an inflow of foreign capital. We sell the machine, the farm and the factory in order to meet our commitments. We sell the absolute necessaries of life in order to pay the grocery bill. This is why we are forced to borrow overseas the money required to re-equip the airline companies.
Even if TAA and Qantas had vast cash resources within Australia with which to buy this equipment, we could not use those resources because of the difficulty of transporting that cash from Australia to other countries. This is because we are a debtor nation, not a creditor nation. Nor can we use money borrowed within Australia in order to meet our commitments overseas. However, if our overseas funds were buoyant, if we had vast reserves, if we were a creditor nation instead of a debtor nation, we could buy these things overseas without endangering our international solvency. But Australia is a debtor nation and this is the only reason why the Government is raising these loans overseas at an interest rate of 7%. The money could be secured within Australia at much less cost. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) said that the Government could not raise loans in Australia at 6%. Suppose the loans were raised in Australia at 7%, which is the amount that will be paid on the loans to be raised under this Bill. The interest payable on the loans raised overseas will be free of income tax. The tax on that rate of interest would be equal to about 30%. So of the 7% interest, 2% represents tax and the remaining 5% goes to the investor. If the loans were raised in Australia the investor would get 5% clear and I venture to suggest that he would be perfectly satisfied with such a return. The Govern ment would get the remaining 2% in tax, As I pointed out before, if these loans, amounting to a total of about $64m, were raised in Australia, the interest of 5% clear would go to the people of this country.
– Is not this money which the honourable member would borrow in Australia already working?
– What does the honourable member mean?
– If you raise this money in Australia does it not mean that you reduce investment in some other field? Where does the money come from?
– It comes from the people of Australia.
– What is it doing now? Is it in a tin at the bottom of the garden?
– The honourable member thinks he has made a very clever remark. The point is that this money may be used in one thousand different ways at present, but it is not necessarily being used in the best interests of this country. Under this legislation the 7% interest earned on these loans will go overseas and will never return to Australia. The money that is currently invested in Australia will continue to be used within Australia. Under the policy supported by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) the 7% interest paid on these loans raised overseas will not be kept in Australia but will go overseas. As I pointed out earlier, already more than $370m per year flows out of this country. To that sum will be added the 7% interest on these loans. Before the end of this year more than $400m will be payable annually overseas by Australia to meet dividends and interest, although not all of that sum will leave this country. The effect will be that exports will have to go from Australia to that value to pay those dividends rather than to pay for imports that Australia may require. All that money will be going out and nothing will be coming in. Is that in the interests of the people of this nation? I suggest that certainly it is not in their interests. Those who are responsible for our continuing financial policy as a result of which we are more and more dependent on overseas countries for our right to exist are betraying the best interests of the Australian people.
– The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) has some very strange ideas about finance. One aspect on which he should be put right is that Australia is, in certain respects, unique. He should be reminded that we divert more money away from consumption in this country towards capital works, foreign aid and defence than any other country in the world. We just do not have a limitless pool of capital available for investment in Australia and in order to maintain our rate of expansion we are compelled to. borrow from overseas sources. This is a truism and it is amazing that a member of the Opposition should be so ignorant of Australia’s position in the world as to make statements such as we heard from the honourable member for Scullin in the course of the last 20 minutes. We in Australia can do no better than to borrow overseas for the purpose of enlarging our overseas airline. We have already repaid more than half of the amount which was borrowed to purchase aircraft for the Qantas Airways Ltd fleet. This has been repaid from profits made by Qantas operations. But let us look at this matter in another light altogether.
The fact that we have today a magnificent and efficient airline service operating throughout the world provides us with a means of bringing foreign currency into this country. Not only are people who travel on these aircraft paying passengers but also when they arrive in Australia they spend a large amount of money. It has been estimated that within the next 10 years we can expect 750,000 people to come to Australia by air as tourists or on business and that they will spend about $250m in Australia. That will be $250m imported into Australia and spent on Australian goods and services. So any investment that we make in our international airline service, whether we have to borrow the initial capital or not, is a thoroughly good one and deserves every support. We must recognise that our need for investment in our airline services is growing at a very fast rate. In the United States of America passenger travel has averaged an increase of more than 16% over the last 5 years and this rate is expected to accelerate in future years. An increase of 16% in airline passengers is a remarkable increase. Yet we can expect the same sort of increase and the same tempo of passenger travel from our international air service - Qantas - as that expected in the United States, or something very close to it
I believe that in dealing with airline services we must look ahead and we must be flexible in our attitude. We must expect the figures of past years to be surpassed continuously in future years because it is quite obvious that air travel is the mode of travel for the future. That is why earlier today I advocated that Qantas should establish a new route across the South Pacific to Chile and up the coast of South America. This would be one of the two services which were pioneered originally by Sir Gordon Taylor, who was a great Australian aviator. The first service pioneered by him was across to South Africa. Now we are running a twice weekly service by Qantas to South Africa. I believe that we should follow the other track blazed by Sir Gordon Taylor across the South Pacific and establish a Qantas service there.
– I wish to voice my opposition to the manner in which the Government is raising loans overseas for the purchase of aircraft for Qantas Airways Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines. As an Australian who is a shareholder in both these companies I am one of those persons who believe that Qantas and TAA should expand. We are all -aware of the wonderful work performed by those companies and the names that they have established for themselves in the airline industry both in Australia and internationally. My colleagues have stated that we are opposed to money being raised overseas for the purchase of aircraft by these companies because high rates of interest will be paid to people who do not live in Australia. The Australian Government will reap no benefit from payments of interest. The people who will provide the money do not reside in Australia, yet they will be the ones to benefit greatly from the high interest rate. I think it is important to mention that on almost all occasions we find it necessary to go to the United States of America to raise money for the purchase of aircraft. There is no doubt that we are tying ourselves to business corporations in the United States. They are the ones who benefit most from these transactions.
I do not believe that there is a reciprocity extended by the United States Government. It has imposed import restrictions on Australian goods, both primary and secondary, and we do not receive favourable treatment of the kind that we extend by borrowing money from Americans at exorbitant rates of interest. Honourable members will be aware that the Boeing Company is one organisation which will benefit greatly from these agreements. But it will be the Australian taxpayers who will pay for this in the long run. This is one of the main reasons why we on this side of the House are opposed to interest payments going out of Australia on money invested by overseas interests. We feel that whatever is required could be raised in Australia. If the other airline company operating in Australia can raise funds by issuing debentures to enable it to buy aircraft overseas, why cannot TAA raise finance in the same way? But of course the Government’s policy does not allow TAA to borrow on the Australian market in opposition to the other airline company. The result is that we are forced to go overseas to raise funds.
We know that in the airline industry today there is a change. Automation is coming into the industry. It is quite natural that TAA, which at present is selling some of its older type aircraft such as Viscounts, will soon be getting rid of the Electras and will be looking for other aircraft to replace the smaller aircraft now used on the shorter routes. We know that over a period the people of Queensland, Tasmania and some of the other States have been suffering because some airline services have been taken from their States. The six Twin Otter aircraft which TAA intends to buy will assist in providing services to people in country areas. We know that the people will appreciate this and we support it.
I am a little disappointed at the Government’s attitude towards TAA. For some months now, the airline has been crying out for permission to import more DC9 aircraft, which are larger than other types of aircraft now in service - but the Government has not allowed it to do so. The airline maintains that if it could get the additional aircraft it could ultimately provide cheaper air fares for its passengers. The Government should help the airline by allowing it to import the aircraft so that it can give a better service. TAA is very concerned about the Government’s veto. It says that without the extra aircraft it will not be able to keep air fares down to their present level. The Government should give further consideration to the request of TAA. Big changes are occurring in airline operations. The airlines are changing to automation and this will affect the public as well as the pilots. One of the larger aircraft, say a Boeing 727, is equal to four Viscounts, two Electras or five Fokker Friendships. Automation can have a serious effect on the employment of pilots in the airline industry. When the smaller aircraft are taken out of service, one Boeing will take the place of four Viscounts and fewer pilots will be required by the airlines. I sincerely hope that there will be no retrenchment of pilots.
Recently airline pilots have been agitating for better superannuation benefits. They want the basic hours on which superannuation is calculated increased by 10. One company within New South Wales has already given this increase and the other two companies may agree to do so in the future. If this happens, the pilots will be rostered” for an extra 10 hours. This will be coupled with a reduction of the number of aircraft flying in Australia. TAA has 462 pilots. The increased hours will mean that these pilots will be flying around Australia for an additional 4,620 hours and sufficient aircraft may not be available for them to do this. The result may be a retrenchment of pilots. The Government should examine this position. It may look good on paper to the pilots who want the extra 10 hours so that they will receive a larger superannuation payment, but we should consider whether it will cause any retrenchments. I do not know whether the Australian Federation of Air Pilots has considered this aspect, but it could have a serious effect, especially on the younger pilots.
I raise these matters because they are important to the Australian airline industry. As I said previously, I agree with my colleagues that the money required by TAA could be raised in Australia. But the Government is not attempting to raise it in Australia. It should consider doing so, because if the money were raised in Australia the people of Australia would benefit. Interest on the loan would then be paid to Australians and the whole of the community would benefit. Of course, the Government’s policy of all the way with LBJ requires us to purchase capital goods and raise the moneys we need in the United States at exorbitant rates of interest. Of course, the people who suffer from this policy are the poor old Australian workers and the poor old battlers. Although I and my colleagues keep raising these matters in the Parliament, it is just like pouring water on a duck’s back. In the future, and not far in the future, there will be a change of government. There will then be a change of policy and both airlines as well as the people of Australia will benefit. I put these propositions Before the Government for its consideration.
– I had not intended to speak on this legislation. However, I interrupted my distinguished friend, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) and I do not think he understood the point I was making. Having heard the speech of the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine), I am sure that honourable members opposite do not understand my point. The honourable member for East Sydney said that when the great day came, if ever, things would be better for Qantas Airways Ltd, Trans-Australia Airlines and all the other sections of the Australian economy, because the policy propounded by the honourable member for Scullin would immediately be given effect and the troubles of Australia would be over.
The point I raised with the honourable member for Scullin - I did not get any clear answer from him - was that if we do not ge overseas to borrow this money it is reasonable to suppose that we will get it from some other section of the Australian community. I think his answer to me was: *Yes, we will get it from somewhere. It may ‘be spent somewhere else, but it may not be weB used’. If we apply the proposition of the honourable member for Scullin not merely to the loans required by Qantas and TAA for the purchase of aircraft but to oil exploration, defence equipment and all other such purchases, we find that a very large sum of money is involved. It is reasonable to suggest - I think he would agree - that we are a capital hungry country. We do not have excess capital as the United States and some other countries may have. Every $1 in Australia should be used - I am not saying it is - as best we can for the development and protection of this country. Let me give an illustration of a situation that parallels this stiuation. We compel the life assurance companies to put a percentage of their moneys into government and semigovernment loans. This prevents the life assurance companies ‘from lending the money to industries that may want to develop or become established. Industries that are assisted by these companies employ people in whom we are interested just as the Australian Labor Party is interested. The honourable member said that we should raise the loan in Australia at 7%. But where will we get the money? If we raise this loan in Australia, will lenders be prevented from putting money into housing or into the development of factories that employ people? Basically will it force up the cost of money to people who want to borrow for homes? When money is in competition, a higher interest rate is created.
If we raise all the money we need in Australia and do not take advantage of overseas loans, we shall not be planning wisely. Most industries work on overdrafts. They find an overdraft is effective. If we borrow overseas, make the money work for us and then pay it back from the profits we make while retaining the asset that it created, we have done some good business. The people of Australia should listen to the proposition advanced by the honourable member for Scullin. They will then be able to assess what the end effect on the Australian economy may well be if Labour ever becomes the government.
– I want to deal with two matters that have been raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) during the course of this interesting debate. I think that the question of borrowing by Trans-Australia Airlines is a matter that be has raised on previous occasions. I seem to have heard these remarks previously. I point out that I know it is a small sum and that on occasions the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has suggested that loans should be provided from revenue. I want to emphasise that TAA would not be able to finance the purchase from its own funds. The Commonwealth would have to make the funds available to it. Originally TAA had proposed to buy aircraft on deferred terms offered by the manufacturer at an effective interest rate of over 7%. The Commonwealth was successful in obtaining funds from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at an average rate of 6?%. In borrowing the finance to purchase these aircraft TAA is following the normal airline practice. The obsolescence rate in aircraft is high and the life of aircraft fits neatly into the terms of overseas loans available. Therefore in the opinion of the Government it is reasonable to cover these fairly costly purchases in this way.
There may be a small amount involved, but I refer to what the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) said in his second reading speech on the Loan (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill. He said: . . Qantas will be requiring large sums in tbe years ahead to help it to maintain a fleet that will keep the company in the forefront of international airline operators.
If, therefore, we will require large sums in the future to maintain an effective airline in the way in which we are doing it now, then surely any amount, small or large, is useful to this operation. To this extent, if the manufacturers and the Canadian banks can assist in this regard, I believe that it is in Australia’s interests to take up this offer.
I think I should also refer to the question of insurance that was raised. When Qantas purchased its first Boeing 707 aircraft in 1959 London underwriters required premium rates which in the company’s judgment were exorbitant. In the circumstances, Qantas, by an arrangement with the Government, arranged a form of self insurance. This arrangement still applies in respect of any other risk which the Board of Qantas considers is a sound commercial proposition of self insurance. However, aircraft hull insurance, such as that which is mentioned in this agreement, is currently insured with underwriters. The rates have come down. They are now reasonable. In the old days they were unreasonable. Qantas has now indicated that if premiums for aircraft hull insurance rise again to levels considered unreasonable by the Qantas Board, then Qantas will be prepared to consider self insurance again for such risks. The schedule in article 7 of the agreement permits Qantas to do this as long as insurance proceeds are payable in United States dollars in the United States. The agreement therefore does not prevent Qantas from self insurance should it wish to do so in the future. Again this will be a matter for the Qantas Board to decide. I think those are the main matters which were raised during the course of the debate. I hope that the Bill will now be given a speedy passage.
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.
Debate resumed from 1 November (vide page 2572), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As indicated in the previous debate, on behalf of the Opposition I move:
I do not intend to add anything further. I have already explained in the cognate debate the reason for the amendment.
-(Mr Drury)- Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I think I gave in my speech in the cognate debate the reasons why the Government does not accept the amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr
Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr E. N. Drury)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirma tive.
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.
Debate resumed from 25 October (vide page 2249), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill seeks approval of an agreement relating to the provision of financial assistance to the State of Queensland in respect of the sugar industry. The Opposition fully supports the principle of providing financial assistance for the Australian sugar industry in its hours of financial and economic crisis, but we do not support the pinchpenny financing methods of this Government which are so freely enunciated in this measure. Some sections of the sugar industry are down on their knees. Many cane growers and their families are in desperate financial straits but the Government, like some back alley pawnbroker, is saddling the sugar industry with savage interest bearing loans. These interest bearing loans are utterly unfair because they discriminate against the cane growers. Let us compare this treatment with the relatively lavish treatment being handed out to other primary industries and some secondary industries by this Government. It is becoming increasingly obvious why the people in the cane growing areas-
Order! There is too much audible conversation in the chamber.
– The honourable member is whispering. We cannot hear him.
– It is becoming increasingly obvious why the people in the cane growing areas are becoming fed up with the Government, and particularly the Australian Country Party section of it. Can the honourable member from the Country Parly hear that? Government members have consistently refused to help the cane growers in their fight to improve their critical financial position but, at the same time, they lavish praise on the Government’s action in providing interest bearing loans and refusing to provide non-repayable grants or interest free loans. If Government supporters sincerely wished to help the cane growers, they would ensure that the growers received at least - I emphasise the words ‘at least’ - as favourable financial treatment as is being given by this Government to those engaged in other primary industries. It has amazed me over the last 18 months to see supporters of the Government patting the Government leaders on the back for this interest bearing loan. They know full well that other industries with which perhaps they are more concerned are receiving nonrepayable grants, in terms of stabilisation, of great magnitude. I refer to such industries as the dairying industry and the wheat industry.
The Labor Party has always supported in full the principle of stabilisation and financial assistance to primary industries when those industries are in need of assistance. But unlike the Government the Labor Party does not differentiate or discriminate between industries. In fact, it believes that the same basic policy of financial assistance should apply to all primary industries. For this reason the Opposition will not condone this discriminatory attitude that the Government is displaying towards the cane farmers. To the sugar industry the Government makes interest bearing loans as opposed to the provision of non-repayable grants or interest-free loans to other primary industries. If it is good enough for the dairying, wheat, wool, meat and cotton industries to receive non-repayable grants for price support, research and promotion then it is good enough for the sugar industry to receive at least the same method of financial assistance by way of non-repayable grants.
Let me now deal with the facts in order to establish my contention that the sugar industry is receiving a raw deal from this Government with respect to the payment of interest-bearing loans. On Tuesday, 31st October, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) supplied me with information relating to the payment of Federal funds in the form of non-repayable grants to primary industries for price support, research and promotion.
These figures are most interesting. I shall deal with the major industries of dairying, wheat, wool, meats, sugar and cotton. Since 1946 a total of $700m has been provided in the form of non-repayable grants to the above industries. This amount has been made up as follows: Wheat, for stabilisation and research, $101.4m; wool, for promotion and research, $53.2m; dairying, $529.5m; meats, for research, $3.4m; cotton, because of the bounty, $12. 7m; and sugar, nothing. So $700m was made available in this period for non-repayable grants of which the sugar industry has received nothing. In the same period the petroleum research subsidy has amounted to a non-repayable grant of $59.6m. It can be argued, of course, that the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy introduced last year helps the sugar industry. There is no question about this because the cane growers are the main users of nitrogen. In the last two years a total of $ 14.4m has been provided for nitrogenous fertilisers. However, to counter this argument the phosphate fertilisers bounty paid on phosphate used amounts to $120.5m. The sugar industry uses relatively small amounts of phosphate fertiliser compared with the wheat and other industries.
Most of the non-repayable grants to primary industries have taken place in the last 10 years. According to figures the Treasurer has supplied to me a total of S433m has been paid over the last 10 years in the form of non-repayable grants. This amount is made up of wheat $101.4m; wool $44.4m; dairying $272.2m; meat $3. 4m; and cotton $12m. These grants are made, with no strings attached, to producers or to the industry in general. The sugar industry in the last 10 years has received not one cent in the form of nonrepayable grants. To those who may argue that the sugar industry has had the benefit of a stable domestic price under the Commonwealth and State agreement let it be said quite categorically that any financial assistance to the sugar industry that has come its way has in fact been financed principally by the low income earning sector of the community. This is because finance has been collected in the form of a consumer tax. This tax has been paid by people who consume food, soft drinks, beer and other major outlets for the use of sugar. This in fact only strengthens the argument that discrimination is being displayed against the sugar industry. As I have stated, other industries are in fact receiving their funds direct from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The incidence on the low income group is not as harsh when the funds come from Consolidated Revenue as it is when a consumer tax is levied as is the case when the domestic price of sugar is above the export parity price of sugar.
Of course, the dairying industry is in the unique position where it receives both the non-repayable grant which I have mentioned - since 1946 it has received over $500m from this source - and the benefit of a stabilised domestic price. So the dairying industry is in the unique position of receiving both major benefits; one in the form of a consumer subsidy and the other in the form of a straight-out subsidy from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It must be clear to everyone that the correct financial measure te support the average price paid to the cane farmer for No. 1 pool sugar would be a non-repayable grant and that for the 1967 season a non-repayable grant of $15m should be made. But in spite of the established policy of making nonrepayable grants to assist primary industry in the past and in the future, as in the case of the dairying industry, the Government has provided to the sugar industry an interest bearing loan not of $15m but of up to $15m. In other words, there is no guarantee that the amount will be $15m. There is no guarantee that it will be $10m, as has been, provided for in the Budget. The loan could even be less than that if the export price rises.
The sugar industry has been staggered to learn that the $19m loan granted last year will demand a total refund of $25m which includes $6m interest. These figures have been provided to me by the Treasurer. This proposed interest-bearing loan is just another millstone around the necks of producers and will drag them deeper and deeper into debt. I am also very concerned about the way the Treasurer is skirting around the truth in this matter. In fact, the mildest comment I can make about his prepared speech is that it is inaccurate and misleading. The Treasurer stated that the industry requested this loan in respect of the 1967 season No. 1 sugar pool. That is untrue. I now quote from page 317 of the official journal of the Australian Sugar Producers Association Ltd, September 1967. Discussing the results of industry submissions, the official journal stated;
Hie industry submissions sought assistance for a sugar tonnage not exceeding aggregate mill peaks, which total 2,300,300 tons, including NSW, whereas loan assistance has been prepared for only No. 1 Pool sugar, which is likely to amount to roughly 2.2 million tons, including NSW.
Although the Treasurer stated that the industry asked for financial assistance for No. 1 pool sugar, the industry did not; it asked for financial assistance for aggregate mill peaks, which is different from No. 1 pool sugar only. The Treasurer and the Government again attempted, in our opinion, to misrepresent the facts with respect to the loan itself by implying that the industry had asked for the loan under the terms and conditions approved by the Government. That statement is not true. I again quote from the sugar journal of the same date, at the same page:
The industry had requested that the loan be interest-free, with repayment due only in certain agreed price situations, whereas in fact the loan will be repayable, with interest, over a fixed period.
The industry asked for an interest free loan; it did not, as the Treasurer implies, ask for an interest bearing loan. At the Committee stage the Opposition will move two amendments to give effect to what the industry has asked of the Government. The. Opposition challenges those honourable members who are so vocal in supporting primary industries, including sugar, and who say that the Government gives those industries what they ask for, to vote for the amendment which envisages precisely the type of finance asked for by the sugar industry. The amendment will be moved to allow the Agreement to be redrafted to provide for a nonrepayable grant, a matching grant or an interest free loan. An interest free loan is what the industry asked for. The Government claimed that last year the sugar industry had requested a $19ni loan under the conditions granted by the Government. My inquiries have shown that that statement is not true. The industry did not ask for the rate of interest which is being charged by the Government. Honourable members should know how very severe the interest charges are on those who have to repay the loan. The total interest charges are directly related to the rate of interest, the amount of principal and the time of repayment.
– In what year is the interest to be repaid first?
– In 3 years time.
– Why not mention that also?
– I am trying to give a completely unbiased picture. I am stating that interest charges are severe. Let me illustrate, for example, how much the interest charges amount to. Some honourable members who are not familiar with developmental projects will be astonished. The $19m loan for the sugar industry entails a total repayment of $25m. So, an amount of $6m interest is charged. The loan of $34m for the Mount Isa railway has an interest bill of $23m. The total repayments by the State Government will be $57m. The beef roads scheme loan of $8.Sm has an interest bill of $4.1m. The brigalow scheme loan of $9m has an interest bill of $4.8m. Those three projects, plus the loan for the sugar industry, have entailed the borrowing of $70.5m, on which the interest bill is $37.9m. That amount has to be repaid by the Queensland taxpayers. The figures are very high when one takes into account the non-repayable grants - no strings attached, no repayment of interest - to other primary industries. The repayment of the interest bearing loans, as I have said, falls severely on the Queensland taxpayer who, in the main, under the State system of taxation, is in the low income group - this is not so with income tax.
The average price of $86 per ton, on which the present loan is based, is not regarded by major sectors of the industry as satisfactory. It may be satisfactory for well established farms with big peaks in areas not affected by the drought. The farmer with a small peak, under 1,200 or 1,300 tons, and the new farmer - more than 1,000 new farmers came into the industry with the expansion - are the men who are in serious trouble. The people in areas such as Ingham, Tully, Burdekin and Cairns where per acre costs are higher than in the Mackay or Bundaberg areas - not much higher, perhaps, nevertheless higher - are in trouble also. The $86 per ton is not a substantial return for those farmers.
That the present financial crisis in the sugar industry is due entirely to a combination of two things, the expansion of the industry and the low price of sugar on (he world market, cannot be emphasised enough. The present position is that the industry has to sell 50% of total production or 70% of total exports on the world market - that is the residua] free market. The industry is in a highly unsatisfactory and precarious position. To argue that the sugar expansion will be of great benefit at some future date is irrelevant. .1 am one of those who believe that the expansion will be of great benefit because it has taken place on one of the few occasions when an industry has been able to expand without being told not to do so or having to rely on the Commonwealth Government’s approval. Nevertheless the future position is irrelevant; the present time is what we are concerned with because this is the time when cane farmers need financial assistance to stabilise not only production but also their incomes, through price. The stark economic facts today demand immediate action to guarantee a satisfactory stabilised price and to put an end to the discriminatory interest bearing loans.
What are the alternatives? The first is a non-repayable grant of $15m. This terminology ‘non-repayable grant’ seems to have come in only in recent months. Previously only two terms were used - ‘grant’ and ‘interest bearing loan’. But nonrepayable grant is the terminology used in this and other legislation. The next best alternative, one could argue, is a half grant to the State Government and a half interest free loan. Then comes an interest free loan of $15m, which is what the sugar industry asked. The worst alternative is what the Government has given the industry - an interest bearing loan of up to $15m. I repeat that no guarantee of receiving $15m has been given. In fact there is no guarantee of receiving $10m, which has been provided in the Budget. The loan could be even less than $10m.
Why is the industry in trouble? We need not go deeply into this. As 1 have stated before, a combination of two factors - of increasing the peaks from 1.6 million tons to 2.3 million tons and of a drop in the residual price on the free world market - has resulted in a substantial decline in the income of the sugar industry. As the Queensland Government took it upon itself to adopt the recommendation Of the Gibbs Committee of Inquiry into the Sugar Industry to go ahead and expand, and as the Commonwealth Government completely endorsed this expansion, both governments must share responsibility for assisting the producer today. I think this is fair because, after all, both governments actually endorsed the expansion and advised the industry to go ahead. The expansion has involved about $200m in fixed capital - in bulk handling facilities, which are completely financed by the industry, in research, in promotion, in expenditure on new farms and in expansion of old farms. When prices were high the industry contributed greatly by way of increased taxation and at the same time increased the circulation of money in the sugar towns. All these factors are on the credit side of the industry, so one would expect the Government to adopt a more humane attitude to the industry, particularly as it has done so with other industries.
If it had been the practice to provide interest bearing loans to other primary industries then I would not have much of an argument, but as it has been the practice to provide non-repayable grants - and I have given full details of such grants to other primary Industries over the years - surely the sugar industry is entitled to the same treatment. At the very least it should receive an interest free loan. The position is precarious. It has been argued that an internal sugar agreement is just around the corner, but we hear this claim almost every month in the Parliament. I have been hearing it ever since I have been a member of this chamber. At the annual conference of the Queensland Cane Growers Council early this year the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) said that we could have an agreement almost for certain early in the new year and possibly by October - and he was referring to last month. We are still no closer to such an agreement and according to well informed sources we will be no closer to one until Cuba and the United States of America patch up their differences. Until that happens there may be little chance of getting an international sugar agreement.
While this uncertainty persists there is instability and unemployment in the sugar towns. I can speak only of the Queensland areas but in Mackay, which is the biggest cane growing area in Australia, unemployment benefits have increased from $78,000 2 years ago to $250,000 during the last 6 months. It is expected that when the crushing finishes and when the slack starts in January even greater unemployment benefits will be payable, and a significant portion of those benefits will be paid to cane farmers. The situation has been clarified to my satisfaction by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) who has stated that cane farmers are entitled to unemployment benefits under certain conditions. There is no question about that. Many cane farmers in the Bundaberg, Gin Gin, Mackay, Burdekin and other northern areas will be applying for the unemployment benefit this year and will be entitled to it under the provisions of the Social Services Act. ‘
The next point that I wish to make is that stability of income is required. It is dependent not only on price but also on stability of production. One multiplied by the other gives gross income. The principal concern in the Burnett area is, I think, not price, although price is very important to new farmers and to farms with small peaks. The big question in the Burnett district, particularly in areas which supply the Fairymead, Wallaville and Bingera mills, is stability of production because of the hazardous nature, proven over the years, of growing sugarcane under dry land conditions. It is imperative in the interests of the industry in that area that production be stabilised by the damming as soon as possible of the Kolan and Burnett rivers, because this will provide sufficient water to stabilise and increase production in those areas. These three mill areas are the ones which are really suffering from the effects of drought and which really need stability of production. They certainly require some alleviation of their conditions and the only way, or the best way, in which this can be done is by water conservation in the Kolan and Burnett rivers. -
In conclusion, I reiterate that the Opposition supports the principle of the financial assistance being given in this Bill to the cane farmer, because the principle is consistent with support given to the dairy industry, the wheat industry, the cotton industry, the wool industry in terms of promotion and research, and the meat industry in terms of research. The principle is consistent but the Opposition does not support the particular way in which this money is to be provided to the Queensland Government to be passed on to the sugar growers as a crushing interest bearing loan. In the Committee stage we shall move that the Schedule be redrafted so that a nonrepayable grant of $15m may be given to the State Government, which will be consistent with the treatment given to all other primary industries. If this is not accepted, we shall ask that at least the industry have the benefit of what it asked for, namely, an interest free loan.
– I rise to support strongly the measure before the House, which is for the purpose of providing S15m to assist the Australian sugar industry. This, of course, follows previous action by the Government to provide the industry with $19m in the past season. The assistance that we are now considering is in respect of the current sugarcane crushing season in Australia. It is timely assistance which is welcomed by the industry and is in accordance with proposals put to the Government by the industry. I want to say very briefly that not only is this proposal recognised by the industry as a practical and positive means of assistance in a time of crisis but also it is regarded as something that breaks completely new ground in assistance for the sugar industry in Australia. Substantial benefits will flow from it directly to the industry.
We have just heard criticism from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). That is nothing now in this House; the honourable member criticises every measure on which he speaks. He does his best to write down the status of any industry or development that is debated. We have seen a typical example this afternoon. He said the industry was getting nothing from the Government. To begin with, this very legislation gives the industry a straight-out financial concession of about $5m. This is the interest that has been waived on the two loans, the first one of $19m and the second loan of $15m now proposed, for a period of three years. This is regarded by the industry as a very sizeable contribution towards the boosting of the economy of the industry. Of course there is a further contribution by this Government in the form of the fertiliser subsidy, which is calculated by the cane industry to be worth about $2m a year. So we see that over a period of some 3 years - although 1 suppose portion of the benefit will flow for 4 years - there is a direct benefit to the industry of something approaching Slim or $12m. Yet the honourable member for Dawson says that this Government has given no help to the sugar industry.
– He is a knocker.
– Yes, he always wants to mislead and knock and confuse, and we see again today evidence of this tendency on his part. In a debate recently about, sugar prices the House was given a full exposition of the problems of the industry, and there is no occasion for me to repeat the details today. But I do want to refer briefly to some fundamental points. First, the honourable member for Dawson has charged that what the industry asked for is not in fact what is being provided. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. The honourable member knows this perfectly well. He plays with words when he refers to comparisons between the amount of assistance being given and the level of productivity. He refers to the mill peaks and then he says the assistance is in respect of the No. 1 sugar pool. He completely overlooks the fact that what this Government has done has been to provide a guarantee for the sugar industry of a return of about $86 a ton, and the cost of production quoted by the honourable member himself a couple of weeks ago in this House was of the order of $80 a ton. These are the matters that are traditionally taken into account when arriving at a decision as to the measure of assistance to be given an industry.
The fundamentals to which I referred are these: The sugar industry is one of Australia’s great industries. It has been highly developed and is most efficient, lt has been a most prosperous industry. But for a reason that is well known, the fall in the world price of sugar, a great disability now confronts the industry. But this has not meant that the industry has come crashing down overnight, and the assistance that is being given is of a kind designed to meet the existing situation, to sustain the industry while market conditions are given a chance to even themselves out and while the Government plays its part in the international scene in endeavouring to re-negotiate a world sugar agreement.
The honourable member for Dawson has passed some very disparaging remarks about the Government’s efforts in this regard. He said that some months ago the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) bad said that the agreement might be renegotiated within a matter of a few months. This was not what the Minister said at all. His words were clear and precise. He said that certain conferences were being held at which it was hoped that progress would be made. There would be a foundation for re-negotiation within a reasonable time. Since that time there have been positive statements in this House - heard by the honourable member for Dawson - which have indicated precisely the dates upon which conferences were to take place at an international level and the operation of the machinery in respect of the lead-up to these negotiations. The honourable member for Dawson fails to have regard to these statements or even to acknowledge the fact that they have been made and made quite positively.
It is the responsibility of this Government to make every endeavour to bring about an improvement in the realisations for sugar on the world market. This can be achieved only by successful negotiations through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. This has been clearly indicated as a result of the negotiations by the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government represented by senior Ministers of both governments at conferences at London and Geneva. This is the fundamental upon which the present action of giving further assistance of $15m to the industry is based. This provision of $15m interest free for 3 years follows the previous provision of $19m interest free for 3 years. If we take into account that the commencement time of the first loan of $19m in respect of interest in fact gives a 4-year period - this was raised firstly by the Rural Credits Department, a section of the Commonwealth Bank, and was later taken over as a financial responsibility of the Commonwealth as an ordinary loan - in both of these categories we see a direct and positive benefit being given to the sugar industry.
It has been said quite clearly by responsible Ministers that this is in the form of an interim arrangement. When the time comes, if there has not been a worthwhile recovery of the world sugar market and if realisations for Australian sugar have not reached the point where there is a return to a sound economy for the industry, the matter will be reviewed. There could be nothing fairer or more positive than this proposal. I repeat that the contribution of some $5m in the meanwhile represents a direct provision by this Government. Interest has to be paid on a loan that has been raised. The people paying the interest are the taxpayers of this country. It is fair that the Parliament should be clear and informed in this regard and know that this benefit is given directly to the sugar growers.
These are facts that should be understood by every member of this House. Yet the honourable member for Dawson says that no contribution has been made by the Government to this industry. What complete folly. How hypocritical this is. Undoubtedly the sugar industry in Queensland would not want a member of this Parliament to come here and attempt deliberately to mislead the House. The honourable member for Dawson went on to say that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) had skirted around the truth and had been inaccurate in his speech on this measure. Again, this is an attempt to mislead and to delude. The whole position is one that deserves not the kind of poor approach in debate that we see on the part of the honourable member for Dawson. It is the kind of situation where every effort should be made by the Government and the Opposition in the interests of the sugar industry. It is not a matter for political argument; it is a matter in which the welfare of a great Australian industry is at stake; it is a matter to which we should apply ourselves on a basis of sound common sense, because it affects the welfare of some 30,000 Australians engaged in the sugar industry.
It has been suggested that the assistance is to be limited in respect of some growers who are newcomers lo the industry and who have entered the industry as a result of the increased cane permits that were granted a few years ago. Undoubtedly this Government is very sympathetic towards these farmers. It would like to find a way to give them special assistance; a way to assist them independently of the established growers who have greater economic stability and therefore greater strength to meet the crisis with which they are confronted. But due to constitutional limitations this cannot be done. It is primarily a matter for the Queensland Government and, in the case of farmers in northern New South Wales, for the New South Wales Government. I believe that both State governments have given considerable assistance to farmers in difficulties.
Special assistance was provided in Queensland in 1965 under a scheme to assist cane farmers suffering from drought. The amount of assistance per growers has been considerable. Both States have adopted other measures to assist growers who are new to the industry. In my electorate there are growers who are facing terrible problems because they are new in the industry. They have outlaid capital for land and plant and for the planting of an original crop. These are the people who are to be pitied because of the plight in which they find themselves. The various schemes financed by the State governments to assist settlers in necessitous circumstances are available to these growers. In my State I have found no reluctance on the part of the Rural Reconstruction Board and the government agency department of the Rural Bank of New South Wales to assist any farmer who finds himself in a predicament of the kind to which 1 have referred. The honourable member for Dawson would be well advised to assist growers in his constituency to solve their problems as individuals and through the instrumentalities set up to handle the difficulties that confront the growers. In so doing he would help to overcome the overall problem of the cane industry. If there is recognition of the guarantee of $86 a ton for the current season’s production there will be a sound basis upon which to deal with the problems of the individual grower.
Numerous other matters affecting the sugar industry could be dealt with. Many of these were referred to in the debate 2 weeks ago on the price of sugar. From time to time reference- has been made to some form of stabilisation in the industry, but anybody with any knowledge of this industry or of primary industries generally will readily appreciate that at this juncture there is no basis for a stabilisation scheme in the sugar industry of the kind which applies in other industries. In fact, what we are dealing with is a guarantee of price, which is comparable to stabilisation; it is a form of stabilisation. It is recognised by the cane industry that this is a sound and proper approach and the only practical approach that could be entertained at the present time.
Another aspect of the matter is the need to engender confidence in the industry. There must be confidence in the industry if we are to have international negotiations at government level and industry level to try to bring about a better market result. These negotiations can best be undertaken if there is a feeling of confidence within the industry. To promote this confidence is one of the Government’s motives in providing the sum of $15m in this legislation. The Government has provided this money to ensure that there is economic stability within the industry. In my opinion this is the only sound way of dealing with the problem at this time. 1 commend the measure to honourable members. I trust that it will receive the support of the House.
– The measure before the House provides for a loan of up to $15m, not for a loan of $15m as was suggested by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson). Indeed, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has made it quite clear that the immediate amount of assistance will be $10m and that consideration will be given to providing further assistance up to a total amount npt exceeding $15m. The Minister also said in his second reading speech that this assistance is being given as the result of a request from the industry for a loan in respect of the 1967 season’s No. 1 Pool sugar. It will be recalled that a similar loan of $19m was made available to the Sugar Board through the Queensland Government to assist to build up the price of No. 1 Pool sugar from the 1966 crop. Was the Treasurer correct when he said that this money is being made available as the result of a request from the industry for a loan, or did the industry not ask for a loan as has been suggested by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson)? I am sure that the honourable member for Cowper reads the journal of the Australian sugar producers. At page 317 of the journal this statement appears:
The industry had requested that the loan be interest free, with repayments due annually in certain agreed price situations . . .
In reply to a question that he asked, the honourable member for Dawson was informed by the Treasurer that there will be an interest free payment of $5.8m in respect of the previous loan. The first 3 years of this loan will be interest free; thereafter ten equal annual repayments will be made by the industry. Any suggestion that the world price will improve is speculation.
The sugar industry depends on the export of 50% of its total production for its income. The loan that is being made available does not apply to sugar which is in excess of the No. 1 Pool, the amount being about 2.2 million tons. It is well to remember that whilst about 70% of our export sugar is sold at world market prices, a relatively small percentage is sold on the open market. This is one of the problems that face the industry. The stabilising of the cost of production poses another problem.
I wish to refer in passing to a statement that was made by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) in the House last week in regard to the Nogoa scheme. He said that the State of Queensland gives No. 1 priority to this project. The members of the Bundaberg Irrigation Committee, with whom I have been closely associated and who are sponsoring the Kolan scheme, were told by the Queensland Government that their scheme had the same priority as the Nogoa scheme. I do not attach any blame to the Minister for what he said, but I do say that these people have been deceived all along the line into believing that the Kolan scheme and the Nogoa scheme have the same priority. These people have contributed to the sum of about $20,000 which has been provided by the cane growers councils and the Bundaberg and Isis mills to enable an investigation to be made into the need to stabilise the cost of production.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was saying that the Australian Labor Party supports the principle of financial assistance to the sugar industry. It is worth noting that this is only the second time in 12 months and within the history of the industry that the Commonwealth has come to the aid of the industry. The honourable member for Dawson cited instances in which assistance had been given to other primary and secondary industries and he mentioned the extent of the assistance that had been given. I do not propose to repeat those figures. There is a great difference between the type of assistance that he mentioned in respect of the wheat, dairying and cotton industries by way of grants and subsidies and the assistance proposed for the sugar industry. In this instance it is proposed to make a loan of $ 10m for the 1967 sugar crop. The Labor Party believes that prejudice is being shown to the sugar industry because the loan made to the industry is repayable. It is true that no interest will be charged for three years, but nevertheless the loan will still have to be repaid. 1 mentioned earlier that I believe that the Treasurer misled the House when he said that the industry had asked for a loan. In a journal published by one section of the industry, the sugar producers, who are the millers, it was stated that the industry had asked for an interest-free loan and was prepared to repay it. Nevertheless, the form of assistance given by this legislation shows a prejudice against the sugar industry when we consider the treatment given to other industries. The honourable member for Dawson has foreshadowed an amendment to the Bill so that instead of a loan a non-repayable grant of $15m will be made to the industry in Queensland. Although this measure provides for financial assistance of up to $15m for the industry, provision for only $10m is made in this year’s Budget. I have pointed out also that one of the problems associated with the sugar industry is its increased dependence on the world market. At present world prices for sugar are greatly depressed. I, with others who have taken some interest in the sugar industry, believe that this situation cannot continue.
I believe that because of the increased consumption of sugar throughout the world and because some countries cannot produce sugar at the current world prices, the industry in Australia has proved itself to be self-reliant in many respects. It is true that it has been protected and that it is assured of a market at home. It is true also that it is assured of a market for a minimum production measured in mill peaks and farm peaks. But I want to point out that there is a government responsibility in this regard. If a wheat farmer or a cotton grower produces an amount in excess of market requirements he takes a risk as to what his return will be, but growers in the sugar industry are obliged to produce a certain quantity. If they do not produce sugar then somebody else will and their assignments will be given to somebody who will produce a given amount of sugar.
The loan proposed under this Bill is being made available at a time when it is estimated that between 50% and 60% of the current crop will be left in the field because it will be uneconomical to harvest it. One of the problems facing the industry is brought about by lack of water, which has its influence on stability of production. I have already mentioned the need for irrigation for this industry and have explained how irrigation brings stability to the industry. By way of indication I have mentioned that in the Bundaberg area the growers supplying the six mills associated with the district had contributed $20,000 of their own money towards an investigation of the water resources of the area. This was an effort by them to avoid a situation which could be brought about by two consecutive years of drought as happened in 1964 and 1965. To give some indication of the value of the irrigation, the six mills in the Gin Gin, Bundaberg and Childers area have allocated peaks of 342,000 tons, valued at $28.5m, but the short fall in the 1964-65 seasons reached a value at current prices of $18,800,000. This shows what can be grown in a good season when there is an assurance of a certain tonnage per acre. This short fall occurred despite the fact that 46,000 acres in that area were under irrigation.
To give a further indication of the benefit of irrigation, in the Qunaba mill district with 95% irrigation there was a short fall of only 13%. At Millaquin with 69% irri gation the short fall was 20%, compared with Gin Gin where very few farms are irrigated and where the short fall was 59%, a short fall of 83%. All those places feil short of the mill peak production for the year 1965. 1 have referred to the Monduran dam site in respect of which the local people prepared a case and submitted it to the Government. I do not blame the Minister for National Development for inadequate water resources in that area because, as he said, the Queensland Government gave top priority to the Emerald-Nogoa scheme. I congratulate the people in that region for having received some Commonwealth financial assistance. However, I believe that the people associated with the Bundaberg District Irrigation Committee who have put in so much work are disappointed because they were led to believe and were assured by the Queensland Government that they had the same priority as people in the Emerald-Nogoa district. All that people in the Bundaberg area ask is that this dam which will have an initial cost of $20,820,000 be constructed. This will bring stability to an established industry in an area which showed a loss of $18,800,000 over two seasons. That is an indication of the plight of the industry.
The guarantee of $10m from the Commonwealth, whether by loan or by grant, will provide an assurance of a price for No. 1 pool sugar of $86 -per ton instead of $78 per ton. As the honourable member for Dawson has said, this amount represents the minimum cost of production, lt was pointed out in an earlier debate in relation to the Commonwealth and State sugar agreement that $86 per ton is the price that was returned to the growers in 1957 and was a return that they considered to be wholly inadequate. I believe that the least the Commonwealth can do is to assist this industry in its time of need as it has assisted other industries. Some mention was made of drought relief and assistance from the private banks. It is common knowledge to anyone in the sugar districts that when growers applied for new assignments they were given guarantees by the private banks and were left with the impression that the banks’ policies would be determined by the return from the properties. The banks are not in a position to give guarantees today.
Some farmers, particularly in the Isis district, have received drought assistance, but they have had to leave their farms and take work with the local government authorities so that they would have some income. While they are away from their farms they are not producing sugar. These people can obtain drought relief only after they have exhausted every other avenue. They must satisfy the authorities that they cannot obtain a further advance from their own bank or from any other source. Drought relief is given only as a last resort. The industry has said that loans are not the answer to the problem. They serve a purpose only in the short term. As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said, this problem can best be solved by giving assistance to the industry. Perhaps the industry now will think of adopting a stabilisation scheme, as other primary industries have. The honourable member for Dawson proposed such a scheme during the campaign for the byelection at which he was elected. He was scorned and laughed at by the people who thought they knew more about the industry than he did. But now people whose livelihood depends on the industry are more in agreement with the honourable member for Dawson than with the supporters of the Government. I agree with the principle of an advance to the industry, but this assistance would better serve the industry if it were a grant.
– I support the amendment foreshadowed by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).
– It has not been moved yet, has it?
– I said it had been foreshadowed.
-Order! The House is still debating the motion that the Bill be read a second time. The amendment has not been moved.
– The Bill provides a loan of $1Om and up to $15m for the sugar industry. The industry should be given an interest free loan or a grant. In the past it has made substantial contributions to the export earnings of the nation and it is only recently that it has fallen into its present condition. This is not the fault of the industry itself. A committee investigated the possible expansion of the industry. It went through the whole of the north and the south of the sugar growing areas and reported to the governments, which supported the findings of the Committee.
The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) said that the present situation was hard luck for the new growers, but they had had sympathy and pity from the Government. But the growers do not want sympathy or pity. They want some solid form of assistance. After all, they were encouraged to enter the industry, because the Governments thought that the expansion of the industry was warranted. They were not foolhardy in becoming sugar growers. They understood the industry. They were possibly the sons or sons-in-law of sugar farmers or they were graduates of the agricultural colleges. They were encouraged to enter the industry by the governments and the committee of investigation, which saw fit to- advise them that the industry could expand.
Many honourable members may recall that some people went even further and wanted to have new mills established. They wanted to have mills established at Cooktown and elsewhere. We can realise now the state that the industry would have been in if that advice had been followed and new mills had been established. But sanity prevailed. I was one of the people who were called knockers because we advised against expansion. I said that I thought the authorities should act more steadily in the expansion of the industry and I was told I was a knocker. But this was not a matter of being a knocker; it was a matter of common sense. Production in Cuba had fallen, but everyone expected it to recover to some extent. Bad seasons in Europe had affected the production of beet sugar and created a demand for cane sugar. However, that is all history now. The only idea we can have now is to keep the industry alive as a productive industry so that it can earn further export income for Australia.
The loan of $15m will keep the price of the No. 1 pool at $86 a ton. This does not mean a big profit margin; it is barely the cost of production. However, some of the product will be sold overseas. Before the expansion of the industry, only 1.5 million tons of sugar remained to be sold and only one-third of that was on the world markets. The farmers carried that. Today they have 2.2 million tons of sugar on hand’ and nearly 50% of it is on the world markets. This is the reason for the trouble that the industry is experiencing now.
Certainly the $15m will help and we do not oppose it. Members of the Australian Country Party should be more interested in this industry. They have always said that they were stalwarts of the primary industries. The Government has over many years assisted other primary industries to overcome their problems, and this is certainly a primary industry. The members of the Australian Country Party cannot say that it is not a primary industry and forget about it. They should not say that the cane growers are too big and can look after themselves. This is not a worthy attitude to adopt. The honourable member for Cowper said that the young growers who had been encouraged to enter the industry had been satisfied in their own areas by the Rural Bank and other institutions. All I can say to him is that he is lucky. The new sugar growers in north Queensland are not so fortunate. They have not been able to convince the banks to give them support and the State Government will not help them. Around the Babinda area more than 100 young farmers have had to walk off their properties and get jobs somewhere else. This trend will continue unless some keen interest is taken in this industry, which for many years has helped Australia by earning export income.
Instead of giving this money as a repayable loan, the Government should make it a straight out grant or an interest free loan. If it cannot do that, it should give part of the money as a grant or an interest free loan. The industry needs some assistance of this kind, and the growers have asked us to put this proposition to the Government. I will not go into the detail of the industry’s position. This was given to the House in the debate on a previous Bill and the honourable members for Dawson and Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) have already in this debate explained the present position thoroughly.
I support their suggestions. The growers ask the Government to consider giving the $10m to $15m as an interest free loan or a grant, if it is possible to do so.
– It is my intention to speak for only 1 or 2 minutes. I do so in order to make clear certain of the facts relating to this industry. From the speeches of honourable members opposite, one would think that the sugar industry had been severely disadvantaged by the Government in recent years. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who led for the Opposition, made a very wild use of adjectives. But adjectives do not provide an analysis of the situation, and it is in an attempt to make the situation much clearer that I want to mention one or two features of the sugar industry and the interest of the Queensland and Commonwealth governments in the industry. This is the third measure in 2 years designed to assist the industry. Not many industries have received assistance as regularly or as promptly as this over the past 24 months. Let me go through the measures that are involved. This is the second loan which has been granted to the sugar industry. The first loan was granted last year-
– Repayable with interest.
– I shall say something about that matter in a moment. The first loan of SI 9m or $20m was granted last year. This measure is designed to assist the sugar industry by providing a loan of $15m under very generous circumstances. But in addition, this legislation has to be considered against the background of the legislation which was passed in this House a fortnight ago and which caused the home consumption price of sugar to rise. That legislation applied to No. 1 pool sugar and it was designed principally to assist growers in the industry. So within 2 years three measures have been introduced and their effect has been to assist the industry by means of direct grants or subsidies. This comment certainly applies to the legislation dealing with the home consumption price of sugar. Repayment of the two loans is not to commence before the middle of 1970, so the effective grant alone involved in these two loans can be worked out by simple arithmetic to be of the order of $5.5m. We see that assistance to the industry is not by way of loans but by increased receipts which go principally to the growers. So there is an increase of approximately SI 5m in direct return to growers in the trinity of Bills to which I have referred. Honourable members opposite who say that this Government is discriminating against the Queensland sugar industry and that it is adopting a pinchpenny attitude towards the industry do not know the facts concerning those for whom they purport to speak.
When one looks at the history of the sugar industry it is immediately clear that this kind of assistance has never been given previously, although the sugar industry has been in difficulties previously. It was in difficulties in the 1930s and it was in difficulties with the cost problem after the Second World War. When Labor Governments were in power in Queensland and at various times in the Commonwealth, no grant was ever made to the sugar industry as a whole. No loans were made to the industry’ as a whole. The principle that was always adopted was to raise the home consumption price of sugar. In fact, we have gone much further than that in this case. Why shrink from acknowledging that the sugar industry has been treated fairly in this respect? But while the sugar industry is being treated fairly it should be remembered that there is always the cost problem in the industry which is related to the return to the grower. One should not forget that a fortnight ago in this House proposals were made by the honourable member for Dawson regarding the sugar industry which were designed to hurt it in respect of freight rates. The Opposition would like to run away from this fact, but those honourable members who were present on that occasion know that this is true. They know that Labor Governments have hurt the sugar industry in terms of freight rates. The rates of cartage of sugar have increased at the various stages of production. This was supported by Labor governments in this place and by Labor governments in Queensland. These matters ought to be made known and ought to be appreciated by the Opposition on this occasion.
We have heard some unctuous remarks concerning the Opposition’s stabilising policy in relation to primary industries. We know its policies. Honourable members opposite always advance a vague proposition. They never quantify it. They say: ‘We believe in the stabilisation of primary industries’. But if one looks at their record in the past, parrticularly their record with respect to costs, one sees that they believe in stabilising primary industries by stabilising costs upwards. They always do this quite effectively. By doing this they have hurt primary producers in most fields of primary production. It was my intention to speak for only 5 or 6 minutes, and I intend to hold very firmly to that decision which I know is supported by everybody in this House. But I reiterate that the measure before the House is far more generous per grower than anything that has been proposed or attempted to be implemented by honourable members opposite. They have never given loans to the industry as a whole. It is all right to talk about repayable grants. Honourable members opposite never knew what a loan was. Their policy was always to raise the home consumption price of sugar and to make the position of primary producers and the sugar producers difficult by pricing them out of their industries as a result of increased freight rates. I support the measure and repeat that it should not be forgotten that the amendment which was moved by the Opposition in this House a fortnight ago was designed to hurt a certain, section of the Queensland railways system which carries sugar at freight rates which are reasonable. In fact, on that occasion honourable members opposite voted in favour of this proposition, and by doing so they voted against the principles of their own Party which they have purported to support for a number of decades.
– in reply - There is not a great deal further that I think I need say in concluding this debate. I believe that the case for the Government has been extremely well put in the speeches by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). I am pleased with the great job they have done.
– Do not gild the lily.
– We are dealing with sugar, are we not? As amendments are to be moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) I feel that I should reiterate the Government’s attitude concerning the contentions made by the honourable member. In his speech he said he believed that the Commonwealth should make non-repayable grants rather than a loan to the sugar industry. But as the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pointed out in his second reading speech, the industry itself and the Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth for a loan. The Commonwealth agreed to the request.
The honourable member for Dawson referred to the types of grants that are made to other primary industries, such as the dairying industry, the wheat industry and the wool industry. These grants are designed for an altogether different purpose. They are not to tide the growers over a period of temporary difficulty, as the sugar industry believes it is now encountering. The honourable member will recall that there are other ways in which we have helped the sugar industry, such as by the introduction of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty legislation. This particular measure is designed to deal with a period of temporary difficulty. Sugar returns have been stabilised only in respect of production within mill peaks. That is the main purpose of successive Commonwealth-Queensland sugar agreements. This is the principle which we have adopted in the past and which is now being adopted in this case.
It is true that the industry asked not for a grant, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson, but for an interest free loan. But quite rightly I believe the Government decided that the situation should be the same as that last year in regard to interest provisions. In fact, there is no interest accruing before 1st July 1970. The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) said: ‘What about a 50-50 arrangement?’ This is very close to it. Has he really done his homework and seen that there is no interest to be paid until 1st July 1970? I do not think that he has really looked at this matter. After 1970 interest will accrue at the medium term bond rate which is 5% per annum.
I think that I should deal with the formal position because the Bill will be the subject of amendments. It might be as well if the House knows what is actually happening. Following an exchange of correspondence between the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Premier of Queensland an agreement was signed which is set out in the schedule to the Bill. The agreement was prepared by the Commonwealth’s legal officers in accordance with instructions given by the Government. The Premier of Queensland signed this agreement without any alteration and entirely without demur. In the case presented to the Premier by the industry, a copy of which was forwarded to the Commonwealth, a loan of up to S 1 5m was sought in order to enable the State to lift the return to the industry to $86 a ton for a tonnage not exceeding mill peaks plus the New South Wales equivalent of peaks totalling in all 2,300,000 tons. The industry proposed that the loan be interest free. The Commonwealth agreed to make a loan of up to SI 5m to the State depending on the movement in the world price of sugar, but decided that interest should apply on the same basis as that applying to the earlier loan of $l9m for the 1966 season’s No. I pool.
Why should the Government, having agreed with what was done last year, change the basis this year? It was also decided that the loan in respect of the 1967 season should be related to production within mill peaks including the New South Wales equivalent, because sugar produced outside mill peaks is traditionally at the producers’ risk. At the time the request by the Premier for a loan from the Commonwealth was first made, the amount of assistance required was put at $15m. When the Budget was presented, it seemed that $10m would be sufficient because of an upturn in the world free market price. The latest estimate supplied by the Premier indicates that about $5m will suffice. I think that I need only repeat what was said earlier by the honourable member for Cowper: The Commonwealth has at all times watched over the interests of our great sugar industry. We have helped it through the present series of difficult years. We have helped it in difficult’ periods in the past. Honourable members can be certain that if we receive requests for help in the future, we shall again see that the great sugar industry of
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
The agreement a copy of which is set out in the Schedule to this Act is approved.
- Mr Chairman, I move:
At the end of the clause add: ‘subject to the agreement being amended to provide for a nonrepayable grant of financial assistance of $13 million to the State of Queensland’. lt is obvious from the. remarks made by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) that he does not come from an electorate in a sugar producing area but represents a heavily populated part of Brisbane. I was very happy to hear his contribution to the second reading debate. 1 issue to him a cordial invitation to go north in the next few weeks and repeat the remarks that he has made in this chamber tonight. They will certainly assist the Australian Labor Party.
The Minister for Air (Mr Howson), as Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), asked: Why should the Government change the principle of payment? In other words, why should it revert from an interest bearing loan to a non-repayable grant? In the first instance, an interest bearing loan is completely discriminatory against the sugar industry. Last year, an interest bearing loan of $19m was made to assist the industry, and this will entail an interest payment of $6m. This season an interest bearing loan of up to $ 15m is to be made, and this also will entail the payment of a large sum in interest. Over the last 21 years, a total of $700.2m has been paid to the dairy, wheat, wool, meat and cotton industries in the form of non-repayable grants. Whether or not the dairy industry should have received $573m in that period by this means is irrelevant.
The point is that the sugar industry, over the same period, has received nothing in the form of non-repayable grants. Yet, when that industry is in trouble, as it certainly is now, the Government will provide it only with interest bearing loans, and these have to be repaid. The point that the Opposition is making is simply this: If it is good enough for non-repayable grants to be made to the dairy industry and to the wheat industry for stabilisation and research, to the wool industry for promotion and research, and to the cotton industry - in the form of a bounty - surely it is good enough for the sugar industry to be given a non-repayable grant when it is in trouble because of expansion of the industry on the one hand and a reduction in the residual world free price on the other.
Previously, only 20% of total production of the Australian sugar industry was sold at the residual world price. If peaks had remained at 1.6 million tons, the sugar industry would have been in a reasonably comfortable position. But 70% of its total exports now have to be sold on the residual free market, and this represents 50% of its present total production. This is the reason why the industry is in trouble and why, in proposing this amendment, we ask that the Government should follow with respect to the sugar industry the same practice as it has adopted for all other primary industries in the past - the payment of non-repayable grants. In the last 10 years, $43 3m has been allocated to other primary industries in the form of non-repayable grants, but the sugar industry has received nothing. These are the reasons why the Opposition has proposed this amendment. We seek for the sugar industry the adoption of exactly the same procedure as is adopted by this Government in relation to other primary industries.
[8.38J - Mr Chairman, I dealt with this matter at the conclusion of the second reading debate. The amendment does not accord with the request by the Queensland Premier for a repayable grant of up to $15m or with the proposal for a repayable grant put forward by the industry. For this reason, the Government does not accept’ the amendment.
That the amendment (Dr Patterson’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 33
Question so resolved in the negative.
At the end of the clause add: ‘subject to the agreement being amended to provide for a grant of financial assistance of $15m to the State of
Queensland, one-half of the grant to be a nonrepayable grant and one-half to be an interest-free loan’.
The principal reason given by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who is at the table, for refusing to accept the last amendment was that the non-repayable grant was not asked for by the industry. I now give the Government the opportunity to vote on the amendment which was asked for by the industry. The industry asked for an interestfree loan and in essence my amendment asks for a matching grant as to one half and a loan as to the other half. In other words, the principal reason why the Government rejected a non-repayable grant was because the industry asked for a loan. The Minister has admitted that the industry asked for an interest free loan and this in essence is what the Opposition is now moving in this amendment - a matching grant for half of the amount and an interest free loan for the other half.
– Again, this further amendment is not in accord with the request by the Premier of Queensland which was for a repayable loan of up to $15m. We have an agreement which has been clearly signed by the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister of Australia. This is the arrangement we are discussing and for this reason the Government cannot accept the amendment.
That the amendment (Dr Patterson’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howson) - by leave - read a third time.
– I present the sixth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - agreed to.
Debate resumed from 26 October (vide page 2366), on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill will not delay the House for very long, and 1 thank the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) for his co-operation in allowing the Bill to be dealt with at this stage. This, I believe, will suit the convenience of the Opposition and of the House. The Bill is to establish in Canberra a tertiary institution to be called the Canberra College of Advanced Education. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) stated that the College will be an autonomous institution, responsible to the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) but governed by its own council. I will have a word or two to say about that conflict. The second purpose of the Bill is to set out the functions of the College and the way in which in will operate.
The Bill was presented in another place by the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) and was adequately debated by the Opposition in that chamber. I am satisfied that the Bill has been examined adequately. In the course of that examination in another place two amendments were moved. I have no intention of moving those two amendments here. Therefore the Bill need not go into the Committee stage. ButI shall notify the House of the amendments and explain why the Opposition considered it necessary to move them. Earlier I pointed out that the Minister had said that the College will be autonomous. The important clause of the Bill is clause 5, which sets out the functions of the College. Here we find an inconsistency or clash between the general concept of autonomy and what the clause in fact provides. The clause reads:
The functions of the College are -
to conduct, in the Australian Capital Territory, an institution for the provision of education and training of such kinds, and in such departments of science, technology, art, administration, commerce and other fields of knowledge or of. the application of knowledge, as the Council, with the approval of the Minister, determines or as the Minister requires.
What the Council can do is subject all the time to the approval of the Minister. The Opposition, in its discussion of the Bill, considered that this was taking the powers of the Minister too far and that the college could hardly be autonomous - it is quite a contradiction to call it autonomous - while the Minister has these powers. So, in another place, the Opposition moved for the omission of the words ‘with the approval of the Minister’ from that clause. We agree with the action taken by the Opposition in the Senate and we consider that such an amendment should be accepted by the Minister for Health in this chamber.
Clause 25, relating to fees, considerably restricts the autonomy of this new college. The clause states: (1.) Subject to this section, fees are payable to the College, at such rates as, subject to any directions of the Minister, the Council determines for all courses of study or instruction of the College, for entry to examinations conducted by the College and for such other facilities or privileges of the College as the Council determines or the Minister directs.
This gives the Minister powers well above those of the Council, so the Opposition in the Senate moved two amendments to the clause, the first to omit the words ‘subject to any directions of the Minister’, and the second to omit the words ‘or the Minister directs’. The Opposition in this chamber approves of those two amendments also and considers that the Minister should accept them. Apart from this inconsistency between the so-called autonomy of the college and the power of the Minister, the Opposition approves of the Bill. We have stressed this lack of autonomy because for centuries the autonomy of various institutions of education has been carefully guarded. It has been considered that unless they are free of outside interference they cannot properly perform their work. For these reasons the Opposition considers clauses 5 and 25 to be defective, but approves of the establishment of this college in Canberra and hopes that it will be a success. We have previously expressed reservations about these tertiary colleges and we will be watching carefully to see that they do not amount to some dilution of university education by the provision of a lower standard that we otherwise would not accept.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Forbes) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 2780), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the House take note of the following paper:
Royal Australian Air Force VIP FlightMinisterial Statement by Minister for Air, 8 November 1967.
– Is it the wish of the House to debate the two statements together? There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– Neither the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) nor the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has yet explained how the House was given inaccurate information in written answers that they afforded in the other place and in this place in May last year and in the other place at the end of last month. The Minister for Air made ten references to passenger manifests. He made not one reference to flight authorisation books. In fact, the flight authorisation books are kept indefinitely. From the flight authorisation books it would have been possible to give full and accurate information in May last year to the question put on the notice paper 6 weeks before by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). The Minister for Air flew during the war. He has flown in service aircraft in recent years. He knew, as Senator Gorton who was in the Royal Australian Air Force also knew, that in these flight authorisation books are recorded the date, the aircraft, the hours, the destination and all intermediate ports, the pilot, the crew, the purpose of the flight and the passengers. This was the practice during the war and it has been the practice since then as well. The Minister made not one reference to these flight authorisation books. How else was it possible for him to tell us who were the
VIPs who travelled? How else was it possible for the Prime Minister on 13th May last year to tell the honourable member for Grayndler who the VIPs were who travelled in the Transport Squadron? This information came from the flight authorisation books and the same books would have established the other information which the honourable member for Grayndler sought, which was withheld in May, which the Minister for Air did not explain and which the Prime Minister did not explain either.
We were told by the Minister that the passenger manifests were not available. He did not know until after he went to Uganda that the passenger manifests were retained. This afternoon he told us that there is, in fact, an Australian air publication which sets out that these documents have to be kept for 12 months. The information was available all that time. The Prime Minister made no reference at all to the matters which he said he would look into as a result of a further question asked last Thursday by the honourable member for Grayndler. The honourable member asked:
Was his answer given on 13th May 1966 to my question on notice seeking details of passenger lists for VIP flights identical with the draft reply forwarded to him by the Department of Air? If not, in what way did he alter the Department’s suggested reply before initialling it?
The Prime Minister replied: 1 will examine the honourable gentleman’s question. I will not tie- myself to what happened that length of time ago. To the best of my recollection the reply was not amended by me - certainly not in substance. I shall check whether texts are available to enable me to ascertain this.
The Prime Minister today made not one reference to what he said he would look into 6 days ago. The Minister for Air gave no explanation of his overlooking - his concealing - of flight authorisation books. He did not explain how the Prime Minister was able to give, and he himself was able to give al’ the end of last month in another place, answers to some questions about the VIPs but not the other information which would appear from the very same document. Accordingly we are still in the situation where no explanation has been given at’ all.
The Minister for Air is far from being the most blameworthy in this regard. Eight days ago, when moving our want of confidence motion we named also the Prime
Minister. He has spoken today. He has given no explanation. He has assumed that he has been exonerated. We also mentioned the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). The Minister for Air can scarcely be blamed in this matter as much as the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who used the formula, in answer to a question by Senator Gair in the other place and in answer to a question by the honourable member for Grayndler in this place on 13th May last year, that no records were available. This was the formula initiated by the Prime Minister. Is it any wonder that the Minister for Air retained that formula and abided by it at the end of last month? Is it any wonder that the Minister for Air, who is also the Minister assisting the Treasurer, is unable to explain the Treasurer’s use of these aircraft?
The conduct of the Prime Minister and the Government in this matter was challenged in May last year. Mr Harold Cox, I think the senior newspaper man in the Press Gallery, stated in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 28th May 1966-
– Yes, Mr Harold Cox, O.B.E. Mr Harold Cox said in the Melbourne ‘Herald’:
Since the Prime Minister told the House of Representatives 2 weeks ago that the operational cost and other details of the Government’s VIP flight could not be given, it has become pretty clear that the Government is practising a policy of deliberate suppression.
Mr Holt said that na records were kept of who used the planes or where they were flown.
But it is now clear that full records and costs of the flight could be easily maintained.
The Air Force keeps meticulous records of the use of all its operational and training planes to ensure the strict observance of inspection and maintenance schedules.
This is a fundamental safety measure. It is hard to believe that the same careful records are not maintained for the nine machines of the VIP flight.
If they are not, then the VIP aircraft must be the only ones operating in Australia whose operation is not subject to this basic safety measure.
Commercial airlines follow the same close logging routine.
While these records may not be kept indefinitely, they are kept for fairly long periods us a basis for maintenance schedules.
Air Force regulations require that the passenger manifests must be retained for 12 months and the flight authorisation books are retained indefinitely.
The Prime Minister has assumed that he has been exonerated. He took the position that the only responsibility lay with the Minister for Air, and that it was sufficient justification for the Minister for Air to say that he had received wrong information, which had been passed on to this Parliament, from his personal staff. Today the Prime Minister assumes that his involvement was merely that of a Prime Minister having to adjudicate on allegations of delinquency on the part of one of his Ministers. But the fact is that the Prime Minister himself is charged with having given the Parliament false and misleading information, with having initiated this formula that has been used. If the Minister for Air gave us false and misleading information, inaccurate and incomplete information, so did the Prime Minister.
There was an element of fantasy about both statements that were given to the Parliament. The Minister for Air spoke principally about the passenger manifests. He said nothing about’ the flight authorisation books. He said that he could not be expected to know of the regulations requiring these manifests to be retained for 12 months. It may be true that Ministers do not keep all departmental regulations at their fingertips, but this particular regulation was fundamental to the dozens of questions the Minister has been asked about the use of VIP aircraft.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for Air have laid great emphasis on the defence value and the defence component of the VIP Flight. They always emphasise that it is part of the defence force of Australia, an integral part of the Royal Australian Air Force. They have not explained at any time during these 17 months how the Flight procedures were different from the procedures in any other flight or squadron in the RAAF.
We have to make a number of astonishing assumptions if the Ministers are to be cleared. The first is that the Minister for Air fails to follow the normal practice of having answers compiled by his Department. The Prime Minister said that this was the practice, in answer to a question by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) last Thursday. The Minister said he gets his answers from his personal staff. He implied that the Department itself did not prepare the answers.
But even if we accept that his practice is unique amongst the practices of Ministers, we are then asked to believe these further incredible things. We are asked to believe that for 17 months neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Air once asked the Department of Air for information on a matter which was the subject of continual questioning, debate and Press speculation. We are asked to believe that for 17 months the Department of Air, through its permanent head, has not once told the Prime Minister or the Minister for Air that wrong information had been given to the Parliament.
An answer given on 13th May last year by the Prime Minister to the honourable member for Grayndler and to Senator Gair contained two falsehoods. We have to believe that the falsehoods originated with the personal staff of the Minister for Air and that for 17 months neither the permanent head nor any officer of the Department directed the attention of either the Prime Minister or the Minister to the fact that a gravely misleading statement had been made on so contentious and explosive an issue.
The Minister says that he did not know of the existence of the regulation. The permanent head of his Department is the Chairman of the Air Board which makes and polices all regulations, including this regulation. If the Prime Minister’s statement of 13th May last year had been correct, it would have meant that the regulation was not being observed. Yet we are asked to believe that the permanent head did not notice the fact that wrong information had been given or that an Air Board regulation was not being observed, or that the permanent head made no attempt to see whether it was being carried out, or, having found that it was being carried out and that the records were being kept according to regulations, he made no attempt to put the Prime Minister and the Minister on the right track, or that he made no attempt to see that an error committed in May last year was not repeated at the end of last month. We have to make all these assumptions if we accept the statements of the Prime Minister and the Minister.
The Prime Minister, with great unction, takes it as proof of the Government’s honest intentions that all the information on this matter came from the Government itself. This is technically true. How could it be otherwise? The Prime Minister knows very well that what happened was that the Government was forced to make available the information tabled by Senator Gorton in the face of repeated requests and motions in the Senate where the Government no longer had the numbers to cover up this matter. The catalyst that led to the tabling of the information was Senator Murphy’s announced intention to move that the Secretary for Air be brought before the Bar of the Senate unless the information sought by the Senate was given. The Government was determined that the permanent head would not be brought to the Bar of the Senate. It was known that the Secretary of the Department would have to give the facts or admit that he was not carrying out his job and that the law was not being observed. One question the Secretary would have been asked was whether the records were kept according to regulations. Another question was whether it had not been pointed out to the Government that the Prime Minister’s answer of 13th May last year was false. Clearly the Government did not want those questions asked of him or answered by him. That was the reason behind Senator Gorton’s action.
The picture the Prime Minister tries to paint of an open-handed Government, a firm, forthright, frank and friendly Government, magnanimously giving the Parliament all the information it wanted, freely and voluntarily, is just part of this whole fantasy.
The fact is that by a protracted and painful process the Parliament has had to extract and extort from this Government as much truth as has so far been revealed. The Government gave the information because it was forced to, not because it wanted to, and clearly Senator Gorton did not realise that the records he was tabling themselves provided the refutation of the statements by the Prime Minister and the Minister. We would not be sitting in this House tonight if the Labor Party had not notified the Government late last Wednesday night that we would move an urgency motion last Thursday which would have meant that the whole matter would once again have had to be debated. Today both the Minister and the Prime Minister implied that they were reluctant to table the records because they were inadequate or inaccurate or incomplete. But Senator Gorton did not think so. At 8.50 p.m. on 25th October- the night of the day on which Senator McKellar, representing the Minister for Air, said that no records were kept - Senator Gorton said:
I have tabled the flight authorisation books which give the times of departure and the duration of particular flights for the period March 1966 to 14th October 1967. These flight authorisation books record not only VIP flights but also all the other flights undertaken by No. 34 Squadron. The whole of the information required by the Senate is in the books I have tabled. . . . The only information I am unable to table . . . relates to the cost of each flight.
This brings us to a further effort of belief that we have to make. Senator Gorton was able to find out that these records existed as soon as he started to look for them. As I mentioned earlier, he must have wondered why this information was no longer kept by the Air Force, and, of course, the Squadron’s books were all kept 3 miles from where we are meeting tonight. All the other documents of the Air Force were kept 1 mile from where we are meeting tonight. Senator Gorton was able to ascertain this in the course of a few hours. The Prime Minister could not do it. or did not care to do it, for 17 months. The Minister for Air could not or did not ascertain what records his own Department kept.
What happened in the case of the question which the Prime Minister answered on 13th May last year? Did he go through the procedure which he told the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) last Thursday he adopted? Did he get the answer from the Minister for Air, as he suggested in his answer last Thursday? Did the Minister for Air get the answer from his personal staff? Senator Gair’s question had been on the notice paper for 5 months. The question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) had been on the notice paper for 6 weeks. These were not replies off the cuff by the Prime Minister. Presumably he follows the procedure which he himself says he always adopts, even if the Minister for Air does not. Did he do this in May, April and March last year? He does not vouchsafe any explanation today. If the reply came from the Department of Air through all the machinery which the Prime Minister mentions, then the Department gave the Prime Minister wrong information. Or if the information had been correct it would have meant that the Department was breaking its own regulation. This is not something that can be explained by blaming the personal staff of the Minister for Air. Or are we to believe that the Prime Minister answered questions by a senator and a member of the House on the basis of information supplied by the personal staff of a junior Minister?
It is well for us to remember that such information as came out on this matter came out only when the Opposition in the other place threatened to move that the Secretary of the Department of Air be brought to the Bar of the Senate. The Secretary is responsible for keeping the records laid down by the body of which he is chairman. He is responsible in all normal practice for the preparation of answers to questions on notice. Can we believe that he was breaking the law, that he destroyed or lost the records which the law which he helped to make said had to be kept? Are we to think that he would not have told the truth in the other place? To ensure that we get the rest of the information, that we get the facts which the Prime Minister skated over and avoided and which the Minister for Air substantially left unanswered, I move:
That the following words be added to the motion: but considers that the Government has failed to give any proper explanation or excuse for its inaccurate statements on VIP aircraft and orders accordingly that
the Secretary of the Department of Air be called to the Bar of the House, by summons under the hand of the Clerk of the House, to give evidence upon the circumstances relating to the preparation of an answer to Question No. 1660 asked by the honourable member for Grayndler on 31st March 1966 and to produce all relevant records in his possession, custody or control; and
the calling to the Bar of the House of the Secretary of the Department of Air be fixed for 10.30 a.m. on Thursday 9th November 1967’.
-Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has, as is palpable to every thinking person in this country, sought to squeeze the last drop out of the lemon of the political gimmick that he has been working with his colleagues in both Houses of this Parliament over recent weeks. I think that fair minded people who heard the statement of my colleague today and who heard what I had to say about it accepted the fact that if there had been an error it was an honest error, that it had been corrected as soon as the error had become perceived, and that the Government had gone out of its way to give all the information that could reasonably be expected of it to both Houses of the Parliament. I think that would have been the verdict of any fair-minded Australian who had listened to the two statements made earlier today. The Leader of the Opposition would have appeared a much bigger man in the eyes of the Australian public than he did on his performance tonight if, having heard the manly, honourable and dignified statement of my colleague, he had said: ‘We accept the fact that there has been an honest error in this matter. The Minister has acknowledged his error. He has assured us that procedures will be adopted in the future to avoid any repetition of this matter. Let us get on with the business of the House.’
The honourable member began his speech by a misstatement of fact on his part. He said that the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) knew that details of passengers were kept in the flight authorisation book. Everybody in this House who heard the Leader of the Opposition speak heard him make that statement. This document was tabled in the Senate. It has been there for some considerable time. I produced it in this House myself a few days ago. It was open to inspection by members of the Opposition and it has been inspected by them. They will see that apart from the name of the applicant who secures the flight there is no reference in detail to any passenger on that flight. So the honourable gentleman was grossly in error in the statement which he made to the House just a few minutes ago. If the error by my colleague was inexcusable when he was drawing on his recollection, how far was the Leader of the Opposition, whose colleagues had this document in the Senate, who saw it produced by me and has had it available for checking, grossly misleading the House on that point himself?
Then the honourable gentleman went on to invoke Mr Harold Cox who is well and affectionately known to all of us in this House. He has been here, I believe, for as long as I have been in this place. If there is any man who gives a more waspish treatment than Harold Cox to the amenities which members of this Parliament, the Government and the Opposition, provide for themselves I have yet to meet him. This is well-known. Harold never lets up in his campaign of criticism against the use of telephones, stamps, motor cars, trips abroad or flights in VIP aircraft. This is a line of journalism which he has cultivated, and we take this as it comes. But the Leader of the Opposition must be desperate for material if he has to turn in that direction in order to mount a case against the credibility of this Government.
Tonight he has chosen not merely to attack my colleague; he switched the main artillery against me personally. I have been here rather longer than the honourable gentleman. I have been under the spotlight for a great deal longer and I venture to suggest that when the honourable gentleman has been under the spotlight of public observation for as long as I have he will not be Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition and he will not be Prime Minister of Australia; he will have been discarded by his colleagues because if there is one man from whom the charge of lack of credibility comes ill, it is the Leader of the Opposition. He was the Deputy Leader of his Party for some considerable time. So was I. When my leader retired from office I had been under the spotlight of observation by my colleagues behind me and by the public for a very long time, but I am proud to say that I was the unanimous choice, unopposed, of those who sit behind me. But the Leader of the Opposition had been the Deputy Leader for some considerable time. As I recall the voting figures at that time, there were thirty-nine of those in his Caucus who supported him and twenty-nine who were not prepared to accept his leadership. If this is a contest in credibility, if this is a contest in good faith, I am prepared to rest on the figures.
– Don’t rap yourself up.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Kingsford Smith.
– The Leader of the Opposition chose to attack the validity of the statement made by my colleague, the Minister for Air. My colleague admitted frankly today that he did not personally know the details of all of these orders that operate in his Department. I have been a Minister of several departments and 1 would not like to be cross-examined about any regulation in any department that I have ever administered. The book that I now hold in my hand contains Air Force orders. It is a fair-sized volume. Would any honourable member opposite who exercised that portfolio undertake to recall the detail of what appears here?
– He has a staff.
– Of course he has a staff.
– He blamed them.
– He did not blame his staff. He was man enough to accept responsibility for himself and we. having heard what he had to say not only in this House but also in the Cabinet-
-Order! I point out that anybody who interjects from the galleries of this House will be dealt with. The House will come to order.
– The Minister for Air not only made his explanation in this House; before that he had made his explanation to his colleagues in the Cabinet. His colleagues in the Cabinet, with a full sense of their responsibility - and they are responsible men, as he is a responsible man - have said that this error, being an honest error of fact, would not justify us in requiring him to resign his position as a Minister in this Ministry. My colleague is in the Ministry; he is not a member of the Cabinet. He ranks eighteenth in the order of seniority in a Ministry of twentysix. Honourable gentlemen opposite, recognising this, have shifted the line of attack not to him but to me, the head of the Government. Earlier in the day 1 showed that even if he ranked eighteenth in my Ministry, he was sufficiently highly regarded and his capacities were sufficiently approved for him to have been elected unanimously as head of an organisation of eighty-six parliaments of the Commonwealth. It is not a bad administration that can throw up in its Ministry a man who commands that kind of respect among thirty-seven countries which send representatives of eighty-six parliaments to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting.
Now let us get back to the origin of this thing. We have said it often enough, but the original answer, on which so much has been constructed, related to a question asked by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair). It was clearly designed to embarrass the Leader of the Australian Labor Party. What motive could my colleague have had in wilfully misleading this House on a point of fact relating to a situation of a Leader of the Opposition? If ever there was proof needed that this was an honest error of fact, it was provided in the answer that he gave relating to a Leader of the Opposition. That answer having been given, it was repeated in respect of the question asked by the member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). The honourable member for Grayndler did not challenge the point that I put to him the other day, nor do I think that anybody who knows the recent history of the Labor Party would challenge it, that at the time the honourable member for Grayndler was out to get the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), who was then Leader of the Australian Labor Party. These were the two original questions asked and they were answered in similar terms, in substance, by my colleague the Minister for Air. He has believed, and he has led us to believe, that these documents were necessary for purposes of safety while a flight was on but were of no great significance after the flight was over, because the flight authorisation book had the details of who called for the aircraft, the number of passengers, the destination and matters of that sort. Therefore it was in his mind that the records were not retained for long.
Even when we probed as deeply into this matter as we could and finally presented all this data to the Parliament, what emerged was that the details were not complete, that a number of manifests were not complete and that in all those manifests there were inaccuracies as some people at the last minute got off a plane or someone at the last minute got on a plane. Out of this molehill has been constructed this great mountain producing first a want of confidence motion and now tonight a motion which is tantamount to the same thing from honourable gentlemen of the Opposition. I put it to the Parliament that, if a Senate election were not in the offing, we would have heard about one-tenth of all that has been inflicted on us over recent weeks. The very motion put to us tonight shows clearly to anyone who has followed these proceedings that what is intended is not that the motion will be dealt with seriously in this House. Opposition members know that it will not be dealt with here in a way that will meet their wishes. But they intend to move their motion in the Senate in the hope that, in a chamber that they are pledged to abolish, they will be able to use against the elected Government of the people the numbers that they can muster there and so embarrass us. That is the motive behind the Opposition’s amendment and only a fool would be deluded by it.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), with no great originality because he picked up these words from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy), concluded his remarks the other day by saying:
O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive.
– That was not the first time it was said.
– No, it was used in the Senate, was it not, by Senator Murphy? It is an old saw, we all recall it and he adopted it with no great originality. As he said it, another couplet came into my mind, this time from Kipling. It is:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.
The Australian people are not fools. They have been following this argument week after week until they have become nauseated by it. They know the great issues that a government must deal with. They know the state of welfare that exists in Australia at this time and the economic, political, defence and security condition of the country. These are the matters that determine the wellbeing of the people and this is the Government that has secured those conditions for them. But the Opposition must dredge through the whole area of
Government administration and policy and oan find no other issue than this to help them, and this is an issue involving an item of administration in one of the junior ministries. But the Opposition clings to it tenaciously week after week until it has squeezed every drop of juice out of the lemon. The people are not fools. They will not be trapped by members of the Australian Labor Party or by people who act as knaves in this situation.
My colleague, the Minister for Air, today put straightforwardly to the Parliament the situation as he knew Lt. We in Cabinet, having heard his story from him and recognising him as a man of decency and honour, have accepted his explanation. We concluded on the explanation he gave us that there was no justification in our eyes for requiring him to cease his able service in so many other directions with the ministry of which he has been a valuable part. As 1 said at the outset, that would be the verdict of fairminded listeners who heard the statements that were made earlier today. Honourable gentlemen opposite choose to make this a political stalking horse. Let them do so - that is the privilege of an Opposition - but they will not delude the Australian people who know where their best interests lie. They know how ably they have been represented by a Government that has secured so many material benefits for them, that’ has held Australia secure and that has kept this country’s credit high in the recognition of other nations.
– We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) make two speeches today and three speeches before today on this subject. Not on one occasion has the right honourable gentleman chosen to explain to the Parliament how it was that he came to tell the Parliament a falsehood when he answered a question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) last year - 16 or 17 months ago. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to assume that he has been acquitted of the charge that was levelled against him during the debate on the want of confidence motion, but this is the way he behaves. He came into the Parliament and had the audacity to defend the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) as though he were the only culprit and the only one whose veracity and integrity was in doubt.
It reminded me of a court scene in which the principal and his accessory are in the dock. The principal suddenly jumps out of the dock, puts on the advocate’s wig and gown and proceeds to explain why his accessory is not guilty. Then, not satisfied with this performance, he throws off the advocate’s wig and gown, dons the judge’s wig and gown and proceeds to pontificate on his own submission. That is the role the Prime Minister played today. He said: ‘Look at the Minister for Air. He is a manly man and man of integrity. I ask the House to acquit him.’ But as he pointed his one finger at the Minister for Air, three other fingers were pointing back at himself. He has not yet explained to the Parliament how it came about that he gave his false reply to a question.
The Prime Minister said that his Government has gone out of its way to give the Parliament all the information at its disposal. Let it go just a little further and support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and allow the Secretary of the Department of Air to come to the bar of the House so that we can get a little more information. I know that the reason why the Prime Minister is preventing the Secretary of the Department of Air from coming to the bar of the House is not to protect the Secretary, because he does not need any protection. If the Secretary were responsible for the false information that the passenger lists were not available, why did he go to such pains to preserve the passenger records that would prove that he had misinformed his Minister? Clearly the one and only person who can clear the Prime Minister of blame is the Secretary of the Department of Air. Nobody will believe that the Prime Minister really intends to protect the Secretary even if it brings down his Government. The Prime Minister made some play of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition had referred to the flight authorisation book which the Leader of the Opposition said contained the names of the people who ordered the aircraft or who used the aircraft.
– No, he did not.
– -The Treasurer is not out of it yet; I am just coming lo him. When I looked at this book I imagined that it would be taken as literally true. But what do we find in this book? The Prime
Minister chided the Leader of the Opposition for referring to it. It contains the names of the persons using the aircraft.
– The authorisation.
– They are the Prime Minister, Mr Fairbairn, Mr McEwen, Mrs Hall I think it is, and so on. But I want to ask the Prime Minister something else. How does he account for the fact that he was able to supply the names of all of the VI Ps who appear on page 1913 of Hansard of 13th May 1966 if the information that he said was not available in fact was not available? Did he look into a crystal ball and discover it in that way? How did he discover the list of all these names? Let me ask one other question. In reply to the question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler the Prime Minister said that there were no records kept of the places to which aircraft in the VIP flight went. That is not true. It is an untruth. Whether it is a lie or not we will not know until-
-Order! The honourable member will not use the word ‘lie’, lt is completely unparliamentary.
– I did not accuse the Prime Minister of telling a lie. I said it was an untruth. Whether it was a lie or not we will not discover until-
– Order! I remind the honourable member that the use of the word lie’ in this debate will be ruled completely out of order.
– If I cannot use the word ‘lie’ 1 shall refer to a falsehood. We know it was a falsehood. But it seems impossible for us to conduct a debate if we are not able to draw a distinction between the word ‘lie’ and the word ‘falsehood’ because here in this very book is information showing where VIP aircraft flew, although the Prime Minister told the parliament that the information was not available. I want to know from the Prime Minister how he was able to get the names of all of these people who used a VIP plane, without also being able to supply the honourable member for Grayndler wilh information concerning where the VIP planes travelled, when both lots of information were in the one document. Let the Prime Minister explain that if he can. If he cannot explain it he is duty bound to allow the Secretary of the Department of Air to come to the Bar of the House and to give these answers to the Parliament. If the Prime Minister refuses to accept the amendment there is only one possible construction that people can place upon it, that is, that the Prime Minister has something to hide, that he does not want the Secretary of the Department of Air to appear at the Bar of the House because he knows that the Secretary will tell the truth. The Secretary of the Department of Air would not dare tell a lie to the Parliament at the Bar of the House. Anybody who knows the Secretary of the Department of Air would not even suggest that he would tell a lie to the Parliament. But honourable members opposite do not want the Secretary to appear because they fear his replies.
The Prime Minister says thai he has been in the spotlight of public opinion longer than has the Leader of the Opposition. That is correct. But I am not one, at any rate, who has always accepted the Prime Minister as one who would not mislead the Parliament when he got an opportunity. Let me remind the right honourable gentleman that on 19th April 1966 he got up in this Parliament and read a letter which he led the Parliament to believe was a letter written by the Editor of the Brisbane Truth’, lt was only when it was challenged - when I asked that the document be tabled - that the truth came out. It was only by accident that we discovered that the letter which he pretended was a letter from a responsible person was from an anonymous person. How did this come about? He said: ‘I cannot table this document because it is confidential.’ He said: ‘For instance, there are certain passages.” He said: ‘For example, there is this passage: “And for this reason, Sir, I am unable to append my name’’.’ It was only by sheer accident it came out that this was an anonymous letter. The Prime Minister got up in all solemnity and with the dignity that goes with the prime ministership of this country and said: ‘Here I have a letter stating the opposite point of view.’ A person who would do that to the Parliament would do anything to the Parliament.
I am not at all satisfied with the Prime Minister’s statement so far. If it were possible to convert tragedy into humour, the
Prime Minister has succeeded in doing it this afternoon and again tonight. He has the cheek to tell us that we have got to accept as a completely satisfactory answer to the questions that we have asked and the charges that we have made that the Minister for Air had to be acquitted because the information supplied to him so far as records were concerned was either inaccurate or incomplete. This answer was available to the Prime Minister last week because he himself drew attention to it. But he did not use it last week as an excuse for what had been done because he thought it was too weak. He was hoping, like Micawber, that something would turn up. But when something did turn up from Africa it did not have any better excuse. All he could say was: This is the truth. The only excuse I can offer is the one you thought of last week but which you did not use because you thought it was too weak. Therefore I will hang on to it.’
I believe that the reason why Cabinet met was not for the purpose of deciding the question that the Prime Minister mentioned. It was necessary to have a Cabinet meeting to close the ranks behind the Prime Minister - not to decide whether the Minister for Air should be sacked or not. The Prime Minister was on trial and he knows that he was on trial. He got Cabinet to back him in getting out of it. There is a simple way for the Prime Minister to prove that everything I say is not true - that is, to support the amendment. Let the Secretary of the Department of Air come to the bar of the House with the documents and let us examine him. If the Prime Minister has nothing to hide he should welcome it. The only reason why he would refuse would be if he were hiding something that was detrimental to his own integrity. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to put on that false smile, but I know that deep down he does not feel like smiling, and no wonder. That is the only thing I can say to his credit.
During the debate on the want of confidence motion, I said I believed that the Prime Minister was guilty. I made that statement. Subsequent events have strengthened my conviction that this is true. I say that just as the Minister for Air had the decency to offer his resignation, the Prime Minister not only ought to offer his resignation but he should insist upon it being accepted because he was the one who committed the original sin. The Minister for Air merely followed up. We cannot allow the centre of gravity to shift from the Prime Minister’s false reply to the honourable member for Grayndler last May to the Minister for Air because the plain fact is that both replies were in answer to a question on notice. Do not forget this. They were carefully prepared replies after weeks of cogitation and presumably after a great deal of time in which the Department examined them. This is the information we received. It was untrue. It was false. The people responsible for giving false information to this Parliament ought to be dealt with. If it is the Secretary of the Department of Air - and I do not believe that it is - he ought to be sacked. If it is the Minister for Air he should be dismissed. If it is the Prime Minister - and I think he is responsible - he ought to be dismissed. I say that in full recognition of the seriousness of the charge that I make against the Prime Minister. He can prove I am wrong by bringing the Secretary of the Department of Air to the Bar of the House so that we can examine him. This is the only way in which the Prime Minister can prove that he is innocent of the charges and of the suspicion that now rests so heavily upon his shoulders.
I believe that when the Minister for Air gave his reply a fortnight ago he did it in the full knowledge that the Prime Minister had given a false answer to the honourable member for Grayndler 16 months ago. I know that had the Minister for Air told the truth in answer to Senator Turnbull’s question last week it would have exposed the Prime Minister’s answer to the honourable member for Grayndler as being a false statement. In this instance, would the Minister for Air have done this without first of all discussing the matter with the person whose reputation would have been injured by a truthful reply? It is not likely, because he is eighteenth in the hierarchy. He is well down the list. Therefore, we can be assured that he did discuss the matter with the Prime Minister at the time. Therefore, the fact that the Minister for Air gave a false reply to Senator Turnbull would strongly suggest that he gave the false information to the Senate with the knowledge and approval of the Prime Minister. I would repeat that. No wonder the Minister for Air is smiling. No wonder that he said on his way home from Africa that he had a perfect answer for everything. And no wonder he looked so grave when he left the Prime Minister’s office in Melbourne after the Prime Minister had said: ‘No, that explanation cannot possibly be given*. Why was there this sudden change of face on the part of the Minister for Air? If it is true, as I believe it is, that he was acting with the knowledge of the Prime Minister, he should not have been made to resign. Let me amend that, and put it this way: He should not have been made to resign until the Prime Minister had first tendered his own resignation. That is what I say.
Up to this point, Sir, there appears to be no possible way in which the false information given to the Parliament by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air could have been exposed. But then the unexpected happened. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) secured the support of enough non-Labor senators to carry a motion requiring the Secretary of the Department of Air to appear at the bar of the Senate for questioning. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) then knew that the game was up. He learned of this move in the afternoon and, on the Prime Minister’s own admission today, he went and discussed the matter with the Prime Minister. It was then - and only then - that the documents that both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air said did not exist came to light - documents which, according to regulations, have to be kept, and documents that the Secretary of the Department of Air knew had to be kept because he was the person responsible for the implementation of the very regulations requiring these documents to be kept.
– They were caught red handed.
– Yes, they were caught red handed. It was only then, Sir, that the Government came clean and produced the passenger lists and the information that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air had said was non-existent. Not only were the documents produced, but Senator Gorton promised to give whatever further information the Senate might require. They were then prepared to do anything to prevent the Secretary of the Department of Air from being brought to the bar of the Senate. This they did not want to happen. Why? Why were they so terrified of his appearing before the Parlia- ment to be questioned? They feared the truth so much that they dared not have him appear before the Parliament to be questioned. We on this side of the Parliament have not the right to go to the Secretary of the Department of Air as members of the Opposition, but, as members of this Parliament, when somebody appears before the bar of the Parliament, we each assume the right of a judge in a court and every one of us has the right to question that person and to expect truthful replies. Knowing the reputation of the Secretary of the Department of Air as I do, I would say that he would unhesitatingly give the truth. And it is because he would unhesitatingly give the truth that the Prime Minister is not prepared to allow him to appear before the Parliament. The fact that the Government was able to produce the allegedly non-existent passenger and other records proved the innocence, as I said before, of the departmental officers who had so carefully preserved these records that were so damning to these people who said that they did not exist.
Not only was the Prime Minister the one to tell the original untruth, but also he admitted the other day that he had approved the answer to the honourable member for Grayndler without any alteration. I do not believe it. Frankly, I do not believe it, because I do not believe that the Department of Air gave that kind of reply to him to send in. I repeat that there is only one who can clear the Prime Minister of the guilt that I believe rests on his shoulders. Why does not the right honourable gentleman support the amendment? I say that if he had nothing to hide, he would support it. If he refuses to support the amendment, this will strengthen the belief in the minds of all who have heard these things that the Prime Minister is more culpable - much more culpable - than is the Minister for Air and that the Prime Minister is the one who ought to resign because, as is our belief, he is the one who was guilty of misleading the Parliament, and the Minister for Air merely followed the pattern set by the Prime Minister.
110.5] - Mr Speaker, many of us hoped, when we came into this House tonight, that we could keep this debate at a responsible level and that our opponents would not once again fling muck around in a manner that would create an impression that on the opposite side of the House there was not a responsible attitude to the problems of responsible government. I know that we on this side of the House want to sustain the credibility of the Government and to live up to ministerial responsibility not only before this Parliament but before the people of Australia. I should have thought that the test tonight would be the question of credibility of the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) and the credibility, if we care to put it that way, of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). But this has not been the case. The Opposition has debased a debate on this subject once again. It has debased it to a greater extent tonight. After the statement by the Minister for Air members of the Opposition realised that they could no longer keep on attacking him. The answer the Minister for Air gave was a reasonable one and will be accepted by the Australian people. I believe that the Australian people are sick and tired of the Opposition trying not only to divert attention from the real issues that face them today but also to create a new issue by turning away from the Minister for Air and concentrating their venom, as did the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), upon the Prime Minister. This is an understandable but degrading tactic. It is one which I think will rebound against the Labor Party and prove to the Australian people that it lacks sincerity.
I want first to mention a few facts of life. First I want to explain the facts and their importance. We have to look at the various documents that are available in two ways. There is a flight authorisation book that is under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force and is kept for the purpose of establishing who authorises the flight, which Minister was responsible for it, where it had to go, and other essential details. This is necessary in order to know the time flown by the aircraft, the training time that is flown by the pilots and the amount of training of the assistant pilots. There is also another book which is called the daily log, Form EE500, which applies to the flying log and engine log times. Besides these books personnel manifests are kept. These are compiled by the pilot himself and set out the number and names of people on the actual flight. The personnel manifest is kept for only one purpose and that is to ensure that the people do in fact get to their destination. It is then of no further use. So when we look at this we find that the important book and the one which must be kept - it is not so much vital as important because none of the books are vital - is the flight authorisation book. The passenger manifest is of little importance whatsoever after the flight has been completed. I want honourable members to keep this in mind because so much of the Opposition’s arguments are centred on the passenger manifest which records the names of the people who have flown. This is not the important book and has never been regarded as important. It is kept for Air Force purposes and not for the purposes of the Government or for the purposes of departmental administration or use by the Minister for Air.
A second set of procedures also is followed. A flight authorisation is made when a Minister or whoever else it is wants to make a flight. The person wishing to make the flight goes to the Minister for Air and asks for authorisation. In such circumstances there is a set of guidelines prepared by the Prime Minister’s Department that set out who in fact are entitled to travel with the Minister or the person seeking the authorisation. These details are under the control of the Minister for Air and they are the ones that are of importance administratively. These details were not recorded because they were not considered to be of sufficient importance to keep records. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) wanted to get an authorisation he would ring and he would be asked who was going with him and then authorisation would be given. If he wanted to include someone such as a beautician or a pediatrician, approval would have to be obtained somewhere else because this would not be within the guidelines. Those were the records that the Minister for Air kept. I make it clear to everyone that these were the only records that were important from his point of view, and the passenger manifests were of no great importance at all. That has to be kept in mind as background fact.
What happened as the Minister for Air said in making his explanation in the House this afternoon, was that he was localising this debate to one matter and one matter only, and that was the passenger manifests - documents not of great importance at all, outside his control and of little or no significance to him. But he localised the debate for this very good reason: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) gave notice of his intention to raise a matter of public importance, namely, that the House remain in session to enable the Minister for Air to give honourable members an explanation of the statement that no detailed record of passenger lists on VIP flights were retained. In other words, members of the Opposition are not interested in any other matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition or, in some excess of emotion, by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. So we were concentrating attention on what the Opposition wanted and what I. believe the people of the Australian community wanted.
I believe that the answer can be given fairly easily and in this way: I speak with a great deal of sympathy for the position of the Minister for Air. Only a few weeks ago 1 happened to be overseas in Rio de Janeiro attending a conference of the International Monetary Fund. While I was there the Australian delegation did remarkably well but, although I. was anxious about what was happening back in Australia, from the time I left Australia until 1 arrived in New York 3 weeks later 1 was not able to obtain any sensible information on what was happening here, even in the by-election in the Capricornia electorate. 1 can imagine the position of my colleague the Minister for Air in Uganda, practically divorced from sensible information and carrying out a highly responsible job on behalf of the Australian people. In those circumstances could it have been thought that, in the kind of company in which he was, he should have been brought home immediately and should have given up the chairmanship of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting? I do not believe that that could have been thought.
When he arrived home he made inquiries about what was happening. 1 have pointed out to the House that the passenger manifest is of no great importance and that the matter of public importance that was to be put before the House was related to the passenger manifests and to nothing else. So the Minister for Air, when asked, gave this answer: ‘I did not know (hat the passenger manifests were kept for any great length of time’. They were not important. I thought they were destroyed fairly quickly. That information was given in answer to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) on 13th May 1966. It is exactly consistent with the information that was conveyed to the House by the Prime Minister and the information that the Minister himself believed to be true. What the Prime Minister said on the basis of a minute received from the Minister for Air and in answer to one of the questions asked was:
Passengers’ names are recorded-
The fact that they were recorded was made clear; there was no attempt at misrepresentation here-
That was the honest opinion of the Minister for Air. It was the honest information given by the Prime Minister. The moment the Minister for Air returned to Australia he made inquiries and found out that under one of the regulations of the Royal Australian Air Force the manifests should be retained and that in fact they are retained for a period of 1 year.
Against that background in relation to what we were really looking at - the passenger lists - could it possibly be honestly argued by members of the Opposition that we were trying to deceive them? Could it honestly be said that a man with the reputation of the Prime Minister was trying to do that? He has a wonderful reputation for forthrightness and for giving everything that he has. I have known him for many years inside and outside the Parliament. I regard him as probably the most honest man I have met in my life. Could it honestly be argued that he could be guilty of an attempt at misrepresentation? No. The fact was that the Minister made an honest mistake, which he admitted. Immediately the Minister found out that a mistake had been made he tendered his resignation to the Prime Minister. Let me take the House a stage further and indicate of how little importance the passenger manifests were. They did not mean anything to the security of operational efficiency of the. Air Force and had nothing at all to do with flying times or the necessity for maintenance. It is true that the Minister might have made further inquiries and said: ‘I am not quite satisfied that the information given to me is right.’ But should a Minister be dismissed of his responsibilities simply because he did not pursue further inquiries, because he did not think the matter was of sufficient importance and because he did not believe that further inquiries would add anything to the security of the Air Force or its operational efficiency or to matters under the jurisdiction of the permanent head of the Department or the staff of the Air Force? Nothing has been lost. What becomes perfectly obvious is that the House has been arguing not about a matter of grave substance but about a minor technical error which has been of no great significance to anyone. I have pointed out already the answer given by the Prime Minister on 13th May 1966. I want to go back a little earlier in history and show the nature of the background” to the debate tonight. The initial question asked by Senator Gair in the Senate was asked of the former Prime Minister, and was intended to embarrass the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Calwell. The question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler was asked for the same purpose.
– How does the Minister know that?
– If the honourable member does not know it he ought not to be here. He ought not to be here anyhow; there are good reasons why he ought to be somewhere else. He need not cry because I do not intend to give him my handkerchief. These facts have been pointed out before. The matter was raised because the honourable member for Grayndler believed that his prospects of becoming Leader of the Opposition were being jeopardised by Mr Calwell. Against that background the House has to look at the political nature of the questions and at the sensible nature of the answers. Senator Turnbull did not ask for the names of the passengers. All that the honourable senator asked for was the number of passengers who had travelled on VIP aircraft. By a complete accident of fate, when the answer was given it did not relate to numbers but said:
No detailed records have been kept of who travelled with an applicant on a particular flight.
The simple fact, as the House was told recently, is that only 70% of the passenger manifests can be gathered together at any one time. The figure may be a little higher - 75% or 76% . And those records are only 80% accurate. So in truth no detailed records are kept. The Minister frankly admitted in the House today that he should have used the phrase: ‘No complete and accurate records were kept.’ I would have put it differently. I would have said: No detailed and accurate records were kept.’ That would have been the complete and perfect answer to Senator Turnbull. Because of that one samall deficiency, and only because of that one small deficiency, the Opposition is making this hurroosh in the House about misrepresentation, lies, falsehoods and a dozen and one other expressions that literally cannot be taken seriously because of the few facts on which judgment can be based.
I want to take the matter no further than to sum up in this way: The pity was that the Minister was not in Australia. If he had been here, the debate would have been terminated in double quick time. In substance, I believe that what he said was very nearly accurate enough. It was only by the skin of his teeth that he missed being completely accurate. He has made an apology to the House, he has offered his resignation to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet as a whole decided that this was not a big enough issue to be treated as a ground on which a Minister should be deprived of his portfolio. 1 know him well. For two years he has acted under me as Assistant Minister. In all that time I have known him to be a man of integrity and a man of responsibility. I am prepared to state that most decent persons - here I exclude the Opposition - willing to listen and willing to read what has been said in this House today, will come to the conclusion that this matter has been grossly exaggerated and that not only has the Prime Minister sustained his reputation - I know he has - but also that the Minister for Air has been a man, that he has stated that there has been a minor fault and he was prepared to take the full responsibility for that. But we in the Cabinet were not prepared to go any further than to say: ‘A mistake was made. Let us correct the grounds on which it occurred on this occasion and try to make it impracticable for it to occur again’. By that 1 mean that while it is not necessary for him to keep a book authorising flights or the List of people who are to travel, he is now going to the enormous trouble of keeping up to date what are not records of any great importance to the country - to ensure that passenger authorisations are recorded and kept up to date and that a correlation can be made - in order to overcome the possibility that in some circumstance such as this a debate can be staged, people can be misled, the matter can be given an importance it does not really possess and, in the long run, damage this Parliament. We on this side of the House think that the Opposition has acted in a degraded way, and we expect it to continue to do that, but I believe that all my colleagues on this side of the House, from the Prime Minister down, have done their best to sustain the integrity and authority of Parliament. What little part I can play in that 1 hope I have been able to play tonight, and I hope that my colleagues who follow me in this debate will do exactly the same.
– lt seems that we have reached a very remarkable stage in this debate about the use of VIP aircraft and the Government’s failure to provide to the House and the people of Australia information about the use of those aircraft. It seems that we have reached a remarkable stage indeed. It would seem that the fault all this time has really been with the Opposition, that it is the Opposition that has degraded Australia, to use the remark used by the little gentleman who preceded me - the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). It would seem that there is no fault on the Government side. The Minister for Air (Mr Howson) is a distinguished gentleman with a magnificent record. He has risen really higher today than ever before in his career. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) is a gentleman who gives everything he has got to the nation. It would seem that on the Government side we have all the perfections, the perfection of the church militant, the perfection of the Minister for Air. All the faults in the debate are on this side of the House. We should never have asked any questions. We should never have questioned these great gentlemen on the other side of the House. We should have taken their word at face value, lt was quite wrong for us to ask questions in the way in which we have done. The fault has been with us all the time. This is the state of affairs that has been reached in this debate.
What we are talking about tonight is something quite different. We are talking about the use of some aircraft which are very costly and which take a great deal of the taxpayers’ money to run, aircraft which I think have had a certain veil of secrecy drawn over them in the past, aircraft which represent a certain measure of privilege and about the use of which a number of people have considered there ought to be a discreet silence. So about 17 or 18 months ago members of the Opposition began to ask questions about the use of these aircraft and the Government, with some kind of consideration, gave answers that no detailed records were kept, and maintained that position for just on 17 months. Then at the end of that period and not because of the goodwill, generosity or consent of the Government but because of the pressure of the Senate a whole pile of records was revealed and it was found that these flight authorisation books and passenger manifests have been kept continuously, it is now apparent that thousands of people all over Australia were well aware that these records had existed all the time. The Treasurer who preceded me in this debate, was Minister for Air for 3 years and he must have known of the existence of flight authorisation books and passenger manifests which Royal Australian Air Force orders require to be kept for 12 months. The Department must have known of the existence of these records. These people were aware that responsible Ministers of this nation had, in answer to questions in this House and in the Senate, said that no records were available. All these people presumably maintained silence throughout this 17 month period. No-one said to any of the Ministers responsible: You have made a mistake. You have misled the House. You have misled the Senate’. Nobody apparently at any stage drew to their attention that they had made a mistake of this kind.
We were not given the facts. We were given the facts only as the result of pressure in the Senate, and even then the facts are not complete. I direct the attention of honourable members to the flight authorisation books that have been presented in the House tonight. I remind the House that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) sought information about these aircraft last year when, in a question on notice, he asked:
Does the Government maintain a special aircraft for the use of the Prime Minister and VIPs?
The Prime Minister managed to answer yes to that question. It is perhaps amazing, but he did answer yes to that question. The honourable member for Grayndler also asked:
If so, what VIPs other than the Prime Minister used this aircraft during the past 12 months? In respect of each such flight during this period, what was the (a) name of the VIP who used the aircraft; (b) name of any other passenger, (c) destination, (d) cost and (e) purpose?
The question could have been answered substantially from the book that has been tabled in the House tonight - a book that the Minister for Air and many other people must have known for years has existed. They must have known that in this book is recorded the name of the VIP using the flight, the destination and the times of flight. Much of the information that was required by the honourable member for Grayndler could have been provided out of this book, but what was the answer that the Prime Minister gave to that question? The answer was that no detailed records were available. What he meant by that was that no detailed records were available that would have allowed this question to be answered, but the question would have been substantially answered out of this book without any reference to the passenger manifests at all.
What we want to know is whether the Minister for Air was aware that this book existed at the time that question was answered. Was the Prime Minister aware of it? What kind of inquiries were made? The Minister told us that when he proceeded to answer his questions he had discussions with members of his staff. The Prime Minister said that the usual thing that is done when a Minister is asked a question on notice is to refer the matter to the
Department to provide the answer. Does the Minister for Air really say that at no stage did he refer this matter to his Department and that he discussed it only with private members of his staff? Does he really want the House to believe that at no stage during this 17 month period did any member of his Department say to him: ‘Look, Mr Minister, in answering questions about VIP aircraft you said that no records are available, but we know that records are available’? Was this fact never drawn to his attention at any stage? If it was not drawn to his attention the questions that arise are, firstly, did his Department know of the existence of these records that were produced last week in the Senate and, secondly, if it did know, did it know that the information that was obtained could have been obtained from these records? Of course the Department would have known about this. The staff of the Minister for Air must have known throughout the whole of this period that these books were in existence. They knew, too, throughout the whole of this period that the Minister responsible and the Prime Minister had, in answer to a question, said that no records were available, and so they went on in that situation. This is a position that I would find it very hard to accept.
When it came to the answering of questions by the Prime Minister, he answered a question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler. The answer that the Government chose to give, through the Prime Minister - the senior Minister of this nation - and the Treasurer was that it was not they who were at fault in any of this; it was the honourable member for Grayndler who was at fault. He, so they say, was really trying to get information to embarrass the former Leader of the Opposition. I asked by interjection how did the Treasurer know this. Of course, he does not treat any query of that sort seriously. The position is that throughout this period the honourable member for Grayndler was a close supporter of the then Leader of the Opposition and was not opposed to him in any way, and I verify this from very close observation. I say that what the Treasurer said tonight and what the Prime Minister said tonight was a completely false statement, made carelessly and without any concern for its consequences, like most of the other things that the honourable gentlemen were prepared to say this evening in defending themselves. It was not they who were at fault - it seems that it was the Opposition - the whole of this time.
The Prime Minister began his attempt to answer this failure of his Government to solve the problems which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) was able to solve in a very few minutes only last week, by saying that the Opposition was trying to obtain the last drops out of the lemon of the political gimmick. But this is the lemon of a political gimmick which has made a Minister in his own Government seriously offer his resignation to the Prime Minister, who said that he was unable to adjudicate on the resignation because he, too, was involved in the circumstances. He therefore referred the matter to the Cabinet as though it was some impartial judicial authority which could reach some independent decision. This thing that he chooses to call a political gimmick has attracted the attention, and properly so, of people throughout Australia and it has brought one of his own Ministers to the point of tendering his resignation, a resignation which was not finalised, partly because of the natural concern of the Prime Minister and of the Cabinet to protect the Government from anything which would make it vulnerable, not because they have necessarily reached a proper judgment upon the situation that has come about.
When the Prime Minister turned to answer this question from the honourable member for Grayndler, how did he get his information? Was it conveyed to him only by the Minister for Air? Was this information obtained by him only from his personal staff? Was no reference at any stage made by the Department? When and how did the Government find out that this was wrong? For the whole of the 17 months it has been answering questions and misleading this nation to believe that no adequate records were made from which questions about these aircraft could be answered, and then suddenly last week the Government makes a change. How did the Government find out that this was wrong? To whom did Senator Gorton direct his queries and why was it that he got a different kind of answer from that which had been obtained by the Minister for Air and the Prime Minister in the 17 months that had preceded this? Why was it that Senator Gorton was able to get a different answer in just a few hours?
The position, I think, turns upon the role of the Department of Air in this matter and the relationship that exists between it and the Minister and the Prime Minister. This relationship goes to the root of this question and to the root of the integrity of the Ministry in this question. I find it difficult to accept that the records that have been now produced for the inspection of this Parliament have been in existence for 17 months in the possession of the Department of Air whilst the Minister responsible for answering questions in relation to those records and the Prime Minister, too, who at the earlier stages was answering questions, were able to give answers contradictory to the situation that the Department knew in its own mind of its own knowledge to be true, and yet nothing was brought to their attention to correct the position that they had taken. When was it discovered for the first time that wrong information had been given? Why could it not have been discovered at an earlier time?
This situation came about only because of what took place in the Senate. What a contrast there was between what happened on 25th October this year and what had happened previously. A question was first placed on the notice paper in December 1965, but that question was not answered for 5 months. How was it that a relatively simple question about the use of aircraft in a squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force waited 5 months before being answered? Is this not consistent with what I suggest the Government was seeking to do? Here we had aircraft being used by important people and the Government intended to keep the use of these aircraft away from prying eyes. It wanted to draw a discreet curtain across the use of these aircraft. This would have been consistent with its taking 5 months to answer a simple question about the use of one aircraft. I do not care who was in that aircraft. Certainly a Leader of the Opposition happened to be in that one, but if the Government was going to produce information about an aircraft used by a Leader of the Opposition it would have had to produce information about aircraft used by everyone else, lt would even have had to produce information about the fifty-four flights of the Treasurer between Canberra and Sydney during the last 9 months.
The Government was not trying to do any favour for the Leader of the Opposition. Does anyone in his senses believe that the Government was willing to try to keep secret the use of that particular aircraft because it wanted to do a favour for the Leader of the Opposition? That will be the day when anybody on the Government side seeks to do a favour for the Leader of the Opposition. The obvious reason why it took 5 months to answer the question, and why the answer was misleading when it eventually came, was that it was all part of a pattern that had been decided at pretty high level. I think that level was not the level of the Minister for Air. I do not think the Minister is nearly as blameworthy in many of these matters as are his seniors in the Government, not only since he has been a Minister but even before that time. The information on this matter was not concealed because the Government wanted to do any favour for the Leader of the Opposition. It was concealed, I believe, because it was part of a pattern of concealment, a pattern which the Government intended to maintain.
Then we come to the later stage of the questioning and we find that it took 3 months to answer a question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler. This was a general question, a question that would not have required a great deal of detail. It required no more detail than was obtainable from the flight authorisation books. Then we come to the morning of 25th October when finally in the Senate, in answer to a question by Senator Turnbull, the statement was made that no detailed record had been kept. This followed the constant pattern of keeping a veil of secrecy across the use of these aircraft. This, I believe, was no accident, but was because the Ministers responsible thought that this was wise and discreet and the proper thing to do. But during the time this veil of secrecy was drawn across the use of these aircraft the records were available in the Department, as anyone who has ever flown in the Air Force would have known they must have been available. Anyone in the
Department must have known they existed. People in the Department must have known that their responsible Minister and the Prime Minister had been answering questions incorrectly and had been misleading the Parliament. But apparently nothing was said about it. If you can believe that, Mr Deputy Speaker, you can believe anything.
This position stood and it would have continued. There was no reason why the position should have changed on 25th October. There was no reason now why it should be different to what it had been in the preceding 17 months, except for one thing. That was that on 25th October the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) gave notice that he would move a motion in the Senate. The text of his proposed motion appears on page 1666 of Hansard. It became known to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Gorton, that the Opposition in the Senate would have the numbers to carry the motion. The motion would require the Secretary of the Department of Air to be brought to the bar of the Senate. Everyone knew that if the Secretary of the Department of Air were brought to the bar of the Senate he would tell the truth and would say that the records existed - records which up to that very morning the Minister for Air and his representative in the Senate had been prepared to say did not exist. I believe that this was the cause of the change in the situation.
From then on the attitude of the Government was completely different. The Leader of the Government in the Senate produced the records. Having done so he was confident that this would be the end of the matter; that the complaints, publicity and interest of the Press would come to an end. But we still have not an explanation as to why for 17 months those records existed - records which are well known to Air Force people and to the Department - at a time when the Minister and the Prime Minister were answering questions in this Parliament inaccurately and improperly.
The Parliament cannot allow this sort of thing to pass unchallenged. It cannot accept the practice of Ministers deliberately refusing tq give information in answer to questions and treating question time with total disrespect. One good example of this practice was given earlier today by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck).
If members of this House consent to allow this kind of practice to continue one of the most important elements in the conduct of this Parliament will be called into question. It seems to me that this matter is not yet cleared up. After 17 months and 3 weeks of intense questioning we still do not know the facts. Many of the facts have been concealed and remain concealed. The amendment moved by the Opposition should be carried.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This afternoon members of this House witnessed one of the most emotional spectacles that any of us can remember. We saw one of our colleagues, the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), make a statement in this House. Unfortunately he was away from Australia last week when this issue reached boiling point. Since this issue was raised last week and crystallised into one small matter of substance the name of the Minister for Air has been bandied across the nation in newspapers; he has been portrayed as a man who has committed a grievous crime against the Parliament.
We all know the Minister for Air. He has been in this place far longer than I, but I have watched him here for about 10 years, performing his duty as a member of the Parliament. In debates he has given no quarter and asked for none. He has been a good Minister. He has had difficult tasks to undertake but he has defended the Government and acted with probity and integrity at all times. This afternoon he made a clear and sincere explanation of the circumstances which led to his giving a slightly inaccurate reply to a number of questions on the notice paper. He accepted full blame for doing this, so much so that in his opinion if the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) did not like to accept his word and integrity or accept his replies and reasoning he would resign from the Ministry. The Prime Minister, feeling that this was a matter which should be discussed by the whole Ministry because he was partly involved, brought the matter before the Ministry. The Ministry listened carefully to the reasoning and explanations stated by the Minister for Air and felt that although on a minor point there may have been some error, that error was not nearly great enough to warrant asking for his resignation or expecting him to resign.
This issue has become a political gimmick. It has been a political football now for some weeks. The Australian Labor Party is not content to leave it alone until it has smashed the reputation of one of our Ministers, a man who has committed possibly a very slight misdemeanour. But he is not just apologising. He has said that it has happened and that it was his fault. He is not passing the blame to anyone else. Just how severe was this misdemeanour? The Minister was asked numerous questions which all came down really to one question about the giving of names in a list of passengers on VIP aircraft. In his various replies he said that the record was not accurate, was not complete, was not available or had been destroyed. In differing degrees this was the sort of answer that he gave. Today, as a result of certain documents which were tabled in the Senate, he got up in this place and told ns that he was not aware that there had been a passenger manifest. I take his word when he says that he did not know. I am sure that if he did know he would have told the House and would have answered these questions much earlier.
What is this passenger manifest? It is not a book but is a series of sheets of paper. It is a guide to the officers in charge at the point of embarkation or the officers at the destination. Its purpose is also to enable the crew of an aircraft to know who is on the plane. It is a record in case there is an accident. As we can see clearly now from the documents that have been tabled in the Senate and in this House, these records were not complete and were not accurate. There are plenty of cases in which they can be shown to be inaccurate and incomplete. It has been possible to obtain only about 76% of them. After hearing the Minister’s explanation this afternoon, feeling that it was a very good one, that it was sound and convincing - I am sure that it is accepted completely by all Government supporters and will be accepted by the Australian public - the Labor Party felt that it had lost a point. Consequently it decided to change horses in midstream and to swing its attach to somebody else. Tonight the Labor Party has swung the attack back on to the Government and on to the Prime Minister. Honourable members opposite had their bayonets out ready for a kill today. They started screaming like madmen after blood and when they missed with the Minister for Air they had to go charging on somewhere, after anything. They had been making an issue of this for weeks and they had to resolve the situation somehow or other. On every issue that they have raised - the extravagance of VIP aircraft, the lack of need for or abuse of VIP aircraft - they have been beaten.
Last week, as the culmination of these debates, the Opposition arrived at one point of substance. This was that the Minister for Air did not give an accurate reply to a question on notice - that he did not completely accurately inform this House on that matter. It is a pretty fine line of demarcation. Just how accurate can one be when one has not accurate records and one knows that the records are not complete? The Minister for Air did not know that these records existed. Perhaps there were some people in the Air Force who thought that these records were not accurate and were not complete. Knowing this, they may have thought that these records should not be given to the Minister for him to table. I can understand this sort of thing happening in a department. When a department advises its Minister at all times it wants to be absolutely right.
Tonight on the television programme This Day Tonight”, Professor David Butler, an English political scientist who is visiting Australia, was interviewed. He was asked about the debate that took place in the House today on VIP aircraft. He said that the Opposition was making a mountain out of a molehill, that it was just a lot of nonsense, really, to expect a Minister to resign on such an issue. He said that there was no comparison between this case and other cases in Great Britain or other countries where a Minister had been expected to resign or to tender his resignation. What has the Minister for Air done wrong? Has he been lacking in responsibility in the way in which be has administered his Department? Has he not been carrying out Government policy? Has he been acting against Government policy? Has he done anything corrupt? Are these the issues? Of course they are not. What he has done is in a grey area. The Minister gave a reply that was not absolutely right but which could be interpreted as being right because the figures were not available as far as he knew. The Minister for Air admitted his error in not having these figures. Do not ask me why he did not have them. He did not even know this himself. He told the House that he took the blame for this.
The Labor Party has been making a furphy of this matter for some weeks. Why has it done so? It has done so to try to divert attention from the big issues in the coming Senate election campaign. This matter would never have come up except for the fact that a Senate election will be held in 3 weeks time. I refer to big issues such as Vietnam. The Labor Party has not wanted to debate this subject in the House. When a statement was made to the House a few weeks ago by the Prime Minister concerning Australia’s commitment in Vietnam, the Leader of the Opposition did not seek a debate on the matter. Last week, when a very short debate took place on Vietnam at what we thought was the close of the parliamentary session, the Leader of the Opposition did not give us one indication of what the policy of the Labor Party was. When a statement was made last week about the grants to be made by the Government for the Emerald project and the Ord River scheme, what did the Opposition do? It spent half the day trying to accuse the Government of playing politics. The Opposition scorned the projects. It almost appeared as though the Opposition did not want to see these dams constructed and that it was sour about this happening. I know why the Opposition was sour. It is quite amusing. The fact is that the Labor Party had already written its policy speech and had probably recorded its television and radio publicity criticising the Government. The Opposition will now have to change all that. This is quite clearly the reason why the Opposition was so concerned.
I come back to the VIP flight issue. How did it all start? It was not started by the Austraiian Labor Party. That Party cannot take any credit for starting the issue. The Opposition cannot take any credit for the Australian public being informed about who uses VIP aircraft. I repeat that it was not the Australian Labor Party that started the issue or that can take credit for getting this information. It was the Australian Democratic Labor Party which raised the issue in the Senate. That was the Party which initiated it, but it did so, of course, on devious grounds. It wanted to get at the Leader of the Opposition because of rumours that he had misused an aircraft. Then follow up questions were asked by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who was trying to get at his own Leader at the time. Further questions were then asked by an Independent in the Senate who wanted to gain certain political kudos.
But the big issue at the outset was why we should have a VIP flight. It was suggested that this was an extravagance and the question was posed: Why should Ministers use VIP aircraft? I will answer the question in this way: If VIP aircraft are good enough for generals to use when they travel around to ensure that we have good, effective and efficient defence forces, if VIP or executive aircraft are good enough for the top men of big companies in Australia to use so that they can ensure that their rate of development increases and that they can meet competition from other countries, then VIP aircraft are good enough for the people who are managing this nation of ours. If we want to have a dynamic nation, a nation with drive and go, the Ministers in charge of it ought to be given all the services and assistance they need so that they can give the proper direction to the nation and so that they can get around the nation, meet the people and see the enterprises that are under way. That is why we need a VIP flight.
The top Ministers - men like the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) or the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) - whose duties are most onerous and who can be called upon at any time during the day, cannot be expected to coordinate their activities with normal air services. If they must attend a Cabinet meeting, if they need to interview officers of their departments or if they have arranged to meet deputations or groups of people, they do not have any idea of the time that they will cease work. They may continue working into the night. If they have engagements for the next morning in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, they must get there. Only by using VIP aircraft can these Ministers do their work efficiently. If the Parliament wants to slow down the tempo of the nation and to have it develop at a slower rate than it has been, it need only stop the Ministers from getting around the country to see what is happening and to meet people. If it is good enough for companies to have VIP aircraft of their own and if it is good enough for top military personnel to use such aircraft, it is good enough for the Ministers who run the nation to use them.
The second issue related to the misuse of the aircraft. Opposition members wanted to see a record of the use that had been made of them. So we obtained a book that contained a record of all the flights. This was presented in the Parliament. But this led to rumours being bandied about that Ministers had misused the aircraft. This did not carry any weight at all. There was a flutter about it for one day and then it ended. All the Opposition had left was an allegation about the poor Minister for Air who had given a slightly wrong answer to a question that had been placed on the notice paper. I suggested before that this was not an issue of great substance. I do not deny that there was some substance in it and I do not deny the right of the Opposition or the newspapers to attack the Government on the use of VIP aircraft or on any other matter. The newspapers have a duty to watch the interests of the taxpayers. They have a duty to attack members of the Parliament if they abuse their privileges. Every one of us in this House has a responsibility to be sure that we do not abuse the privileges that are given to us. I do not hold any grudge against the newspapers for attacking us. Somebody must do so and the newspapers are the official opposition of the members of the Parliament. I do not complain that we have been attacked over the use of VIP aircraft. But the issue todayis the credibility and the integrity of one Minister.
– One Minister. The substantive issue last week was whether the Minister for Air had given an honest reply to a question on the notice paper.
– And the Prime Minister.
– The honourable member refers to the Prime Minister, but the substance of the reply given by the Prime Minister came from the Minister for Air in the first place. That has already been stated in this chamber. The Prime Minister obtains his information in that way before he presents it to the House. The fact is that the Minister for Air did not know that there was a passenger manifest. He stated that in this chamber. The Prime Minister last week said that he was not going to prejudge the case of the Minister for Air until the Minister for Air returned and gave his reasons. Nobody knew then why the Minister for Air had given that reply. The Minister has now explained that there was only one reason - he did not know there was a passenger manifest. As I said earlier, it can be understood why certain people in the Department of Air may not have given this information to the Minister. It was not accurate or complete. It was not a book or log. It consisted of sheets of paper on which the records were entered. Apparently it was not widely known in the Department of Air or in the Air Force that the manifests are to be kept for 12 months. It came as news to all of us that there is an Air Force publication which lays down that the manifests should be kept for 12 months. The Minister has said that he will see that these records are kept accurately so that if ever in the future Parliament wants the information it will be obtained.
I listened to the explanation given today by the Minister for Air. It was a humble, honest and sincere explanation. He took the blame and offered his resignation if people were not prepared to believe him. But we are prepared to believe him. We believe that he made an honest error. It was a slight error, not a great error. Realising that, I reject the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Opposition is merely playing for more time to divert attention from the big issues on which the Senate election will be fought. I refer to Australia’s commitment in the conflict in Vietnam and our treaty obligations to the United States. They are the big issues, together with the development of this country. Our economy is so sound and so much development is taking place so successfully that the Opposition cannot find an issue on which to attack the Government except a minor misdemeanour of the Minister for Air. He has clearly explained his error to the House and it is plain that the matter contains nothing of great substance.
– If this decision on VIP aircraft has done nothing else it has at least temporarily brought together the Liberal and Australian Country Party members of this Parliament. It is significant that this is probably the only debate in this sessional period in which the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Liberal Party. The reason is that they realise as everybody in this Parliament has realised, that if they do not hang together they will hang separately. Of course, today Cabinet excused the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) and that is only because a Senate election is approaching. Everyone knows that but for that factor today they would have joined in demanding the resignation of the Minister who, to be charitable, is guilty of the greatest possible incompetence in ministerial office.
Let us turn our attention to the Minister for Primary Industry who has just spoken in this debate. Have we ever seen him to worse advantage? In this Parliament he is a vibrant young personality. He is the White Hope of the Country Party in elections to come. But what a disadvantage he suffered tonight. He was uphill in two ways: He was defending a Liberal Party Prime Minister and a Liberal Party Minister. That is a degrading experience for a member of the Country Party. In addition he was, as a reputable young Minister, defending a Prime Minister and Minister who are guilty of misleading this Parliament and the Australian people. Is it any wonder that he spoke with his tongue in his cheek in an attempt to defend the indefensible? Tonight the stuttering, muttering approach that he adopted to this problem made it apparent that he realises that the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who sits beside him tonight, is guilty of misleading this Parliament. But even more guilty is the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who selected the Minister for Air for appointment to the Ministry and gave the answer which is a falsehood in every sense of the term, as has been stated in this Parliament even by the Minister for Air himself.
When we debated this matter a few weeks ago the Prime Minister said that it concerned pettifogging trivia. Today he said that it was being used as a gimmick and a political football. What is the reason foi the meeting of this House today if this is a trivial matter, a gimmick, and if it does not matter much? Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister has made two speeches today in this Parliament on this subject? If this is a trivial matter why was the Government afraid to adjourn the Parliament last Thursday night? It was afraid to do se because the Australian Labor Party had brought in a proposal which demanded that the House should meet to discuss what the Government terms a trivial matter. We are meeting today for the simple reason that the Government realises, as every person in this country realises, that this matter places in doubt the very integrity of the Minister for Air and of the Prime Minister and the very fabric of our democracy. Every honourable member has the right to expect the truth from those who are honoured by ministerial office in this country. The Government knows as well as I do that we are meeting today because this question is not a trivial matter.
The Minister for Air, who returned from Uganda at the weekend, was condemned OUt of his own lips today. The apologetic statement made by the Prime Minister did not deceive anyone as to his own guilt and complicity in misleading the Parliament on this question. In March 1966 I asked the Prime Minister a question regarding VIP aircraft. An answer was given on 13th May - 6 weeks later. This, of course, is really rapid progress for the Liberal Party of Australia. The Government had thought over the answer that it would give me. My motives for asking the question have been impugned by honourable members opposite. They have no right to impugn the motives of any honourable member when he asks a question. No matter what may be the motives of the honourable member concerned he is entitled to a truthful answer, not false statements like those that were given to me by the Prime Minister.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Grayndler that he restrain himself in this debate. There is a difference between it and the debate on the want of confidence motion. I suggest to him that he should be careful in his statements.
– I always admire your judgments, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I adhere to them. I bring honourable members’ minds back to the question that I asked in May 1966. It was as follows:
In reply to the first part of the question the Prime Minister said that the Government had such an aircraft. In answer to the second part of the question he gave me the names of the VIPs who had used the aircraft. In answer to the third part of the question he stated: (a), (b) and (c). Passengers’ names are recorded only so that aircraft may be safely and properly loaded. After a flight is completed the list of names is of no value and is not retained for long. For similar reasons, no records are kept of the places to which aircraft in the VIP flight have taken VD? passengers. The answers to these questions are thus not available.
Let me repeat the last part of that answer.
For similar reasons, no records are kept of the places to which aircraft in the VIP flight have taken VIP passengers. The answers to these questions are thus not available.
In order to show that a false and misleading statement was given to this Parliament, I refer to the book from which the Government gave me the names of the people who had travelled on VIP aircraft. Listed within the book are the destinations, the aircraft and the times of departure. In fact, almost every bit of information sought in my question was available to the Government.
The Minister for Air cannot get out of it by taking the rap for the Prime Minister today. I ask the Minister to tell us who compiled the answer which the Prime Minister gave to me and which, to put it on the most charitable level, was false and misleading to me and to the Parliament Was the Secretary of the Department of Air responsible? He is as silent as the grave. The Government has hidden him from the sight of day. It has refused to let him answer. The Minister contemptibly placed the blame on his personal staff. We want the Secretary of the Department of Air to-; stand at the Bar of the House tomorrow to give the truth to this Parliament in order to show that the Minister for Air and the Prime Minister should accept full responsibility for misleading the Parliament on this question. The fact that the Minister refuses to do that indicates that he is afraid of the evidence that the Secretary of the Department will give because it will impugn his integrity and that of the Prime Minister on a matter which is the very basis of our parliamentary system - truth and honesty in government.
The Minister for Air came into this Parliament today and asked us to believe that he himself took the responsibility of personally answering questions on notice, using information given to him by members of his personal staff without any consultation whatsoever with his own Department. Secondly, the Minister asked us to believe that he did not bother, over a period of 17 months, to consult with his own Department as to the accuracy or otherwise of the answers given by him to questions on notice. He asked us to believe that his permanent head, Mr McFarlane, did not in that 17 months venture to tell him that the answers he had given to the Parliament were in fact incorrect. What a damning statement for a Minister to make and expect this Parliament to believe? It is completely unthinkable that a permanent head, in this case Mr McFarlane, would allow his Minister to continue innocently divulging incorrect information through the Prime Minister, mind you, to the Parliament and the people of Australia.
Let us take it a step further. If any private member of this Parliament were a Minister and had inadvertently provided incorrect information continuously to the Parliament, and his right-hand man, like the Secretary of the Department, had not let him know that he was wrong, would he not have taken action against him? If that did happen the permanent head of the Department would not remain permanent head of the Department and he would not deserve to be permanent head of the Department. Mr McFarlane probably knows that he deserves to be Secretary of the Department but he knows full well that the Minister for Air and the Prime Minister do not deserve to occupy the positions in this Parliament that they occupy. That is why he should stand at the Bar of this House tomorrow and tell the people of this country what the Minister and the Prime Minister have done in relation to the misleading answers they have given to questions.
The Minister said that he obtained information for the reply to my question from his personal staff. What he should have said, or what he probably intended to imply, was that he got the kind of information he required from his personal staff and did not go any further - a very convenient arrangement. Were it not for the Opposition, particularly in the Senate, this may never have come to the light of day. Why will they not tell the Parliament where the Minister’s personal staff got the information? There are the documents. In another place, Senator Gorton put them on the table in front of the Country Party Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) who represents the Minister for Air in the Senate and who had said they could not be produced. Tonight when I heard the Minister for Primary Industry defending the Liberal Party I wondered whether he realised what a donkey it had made out of the Country Party Minister in another place on that occasion. That proves there is more behind the scenes on this matter than the Government likes to admit.
Why do not the Secretary of the Department, the Minister and the Prime Minister tell the people of this country why $21m of defence money is being spent on flying VIP personnel throughout the length and breadth of this country? We could easily impugn the Auditor-General. We could ask him to come to the Bar of the House because he, too, should carry out his responsibilities and criticise this Government for the wasteful expenditure of defence funds.
– He wanted to comment on it but the Prime Minister directed him not to.
– I am told by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) that the Auditor-General did comment on it and the Government intervened to make sure that he did not continue that line of criticism. That again proves that something is wrong. I suppose that kind of thing is done. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh said tonight, the Prime
Minister got out of the dock and left his fellow accused there and then defended his colleague in preference to taking his own medicine. I suppose down the line some poor public servant will be reprimanded and brought to book for some information that has been passed along yet the real culprits will retain their positions. The penalty they will suffer will be that they will have to travel by Ansett-ANA or Trans-Australia Airlines instead of in the VIP aircraft in which they have been travelling to date.
Let us take this issue a step further. I asked a question about it some 16 or 17 months ago. It was replied to and, as a parliamentarian and knowing the Prime Minister, I expected that the answer would have been satisfactory and truthful in every way. Consequently, it does not matter what my purpose was in asking the question. I say to the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), who is attempting to interject, that he should not impugn motives. I asked it because of public interest in this matter and the honourable member should not endeavour to mislead the people into thinking that my reason was otherwise or that the question was not justified in any way. It was seen today why the Government did not want to answer that question and why the matter was allowed to go for about 16 months. The Government realised that it was vulnerable on this question. Little do honourable members opposite realise that at this very moment the integrity of the Prime Minister of Australia is under challenge because of the answers given to these questions. He was endeavouring to hide the real facts of this matter, as were the Minister for Air and others.
Let us look again at the statement made today by the Minister for Air. He said that he offered his resignation to the Prime Minister. I will tell honourable members why the resignation was not accepted. It was because the Minister for Air has the wood on the Prime Minister. The Minister ought not to be taking the rap for the Prime Minister. If the Minister were dismissed from the Ministry because of incompetence - and that is being charitable - the Prime Minister who personally selected him must also be responsible. I do not blame the Minister for Air. He only comes indirectly into my line of thought. The answer to my question was given by the Prime Minister. Where did he get that information? Who gave it to him? Why was it an untruthful answer? It is all right for the Minister for Primary Industry, a Country Party member, to say that this is a trivial matter. I suppose a couple of lies, or a falsehood more or less, about a political issue and in a political life, do not matter very much to the Country Party. But if that is the standard of integrity of the Government, let me say that we on this side of the Parliament have a much higher standard. I think the people of Australia should realise that this matter would never have seen the light of day had it not been for action in another place. We can give the Labor Party or the Democratic Labor Party or anybody else the credit, if we like, but members of the Government parties crossed the floor in the Senate to make this Government face up to its responsibilities on this question. It was only after there was a real and direct threat that the Secretary of the Department of Air would be called to the Bar of the Senate that the Government came to book. It is useless for the Government to try to hide its guilt on this issue. Look at this list, Mr Speaker, which contains the efforts made to bring the matter before the Parliament. There were twenty or thirty moves made in the two Houses of this Parliament before we could get even reasonable answers from the Government Consequently the Government is now on the defensive. If this is not a trivial issue, if it does not matter in the eyes of the country, why is the Minister at the table, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) to speak next in this debate? Other speakers have included the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Primary Industry and other members of the Country Party and the Liberal Party who are uniting as one because they realise the Government is guilty in every way and that their Prime Minister is under challenge in this country today. People doubt the integrity of the Prime Minister when answering questions in this Parliament.
That is why we say, Mr Speaker, that the Government is back here tonight at a time when the House ought to be adjourned. It is back here because the Labor Party forced this matter to a head by threatening the
Government that it would have to face the Senate election on this issue. The Government knew that it had to be cleared up if possible.
I do not wish to speak at much greater length on this issue, Mr Speaker. I point out to the members of the Parliament, however, that the Prime Minister must answer for what is before the House today. His responsibility was to answer my question. I have read the reply to the House and that reply was criticised by none other than a Mr Cox who is in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. The Prime Minister sneered at him but his Government recommended that he Se given the O.B.E., the Queen’s honour. If Mr Cox is a man without integrity then the Government must have some funny types on its honours lists. In addition, the Prime Minister said that this was a trivial matter. We are here when the Parliament ought to be adjourned, so it is not as trivial as the Prime Minister says. Last week the Prime Minister said that Ministers had the right to tamper with questions. If we go to a dictionary we find that that means to deceive, to mislead, to give a false meaning to things. Why does he not produce the file showing where this answer was given?
In addition the Prime Minister said that for the 33 years he has been in this Parliament his integrity has never been questioned. Yet, when the Air Force told him after the 33 years in question that it had no records of where a plane was going but it was just like a doodlebug in the Second World War in Britain, he took that for granted. His only defence today was to eulogise the Minister for Air for the position he held at some parliamentary conference. I do not want to underestimate the capacity of the Minister for Air but I wonder whether there were any other candidates for the job of chairman of a working party at that conference. The Prime Minister then said that what happened was just a simple mistake. After 17 months of delay he wants us to believe that the Secretary of the Department of Air allowed the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air to present wrong information to the Parliament. This was after 17 long months. Now he will not accept the Minister’s resignation. He knows, as I said, that the Minister is taking the rap for him. But the main reason why the Prime Minister did not accept his resignation was that a Senate election will be held on 25th of this month. How could the Government go to the people after the Prime Minister had dismissed a Minister from office because of his lack of integrity in answering a question in which important information was sought by members of this Parliament? These are important questions.
Whilst the Minister for Air may have a great reputation, be a man of great standing and have a great record in peace and war, the fact of the matter is that it was the Prime Minister who answered my question. The Government has not faced up to who prepared this information. It has not faced up to the question as to where the information came from. Something has been hidden. This information has been dragged out of the Government after 17 months. If the Secretary to the Department of Air is called before the Bar of the House tomorrow we will get the real truth and the real facts of this case. Only then will the Prime Minister be cleared of the cloud that is over him at this time as one who has betrayed the integrity of this Parliament and who has destroyed our faith in the parliamentary system.
– Before I move to the main substance of the matter before the House I would like to refer to what appears to me to be a very serious question that is raised by the terms of the amendment moved by the Opposition. The amendment proposes that the permanent head of one of the departments of the Public Service should be called to give evidence to this House. What I want to say on that question does not relate to the powers or functions of this Parliament. These have been covered by very learned authorities and I do not call them into question. What I am about to say relates to the wisdom of the action which this amendment suggests should be taken in relation to the Public Service. My concern on that point has been added to very considerably by listening to the speech just delivered by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). In the course of his speech the honourable member waved a rather erratic finger repeatedly at the box occupied by the advisers of the Government.
He mentioned by name a distinguished public servant who was sitting there and indicated that this was where we ought to have a raking over and where we ought to be trying to get some additional information. He indicated that this is the man we ought to be grilling.
Earlier in the debate the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), after laying charges that false information had been given, said that the people who gave the false information ought to be dealt with. If I remember correctly - I jotted it down at the time - the honourable member said if the Secretary to the Department for Air was the man who gave false information, he ought to be sacked.
– Hear, hear.
– The honourable member says: ‘Hear, hear’, so apparently I have quoted him exactly. As I said, this is not a question of the power of the Parliament; rather is it a question of the Parliament considering very seriously the wisdom of pursuing this course of conduct
Paramount in this debate has been the thought of the Minister’s responsibility. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has accepted his responsibility as Prime Minister. The Minister for Air (Mr Howson) has accepted his responsibility as Minister for Air and has faced up to it. This House would rightly think ill of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air if they had come here and said: ‘It was not my fault. I have no responsibility for it. That public servant should be blamed.’ As a corollary to that, should not the House think ill of anyone who suggests that, although the Minister has accepted responsibility, we should refuse to let him take the responsibility; that we should want to get behind him; that we should want to pursue the matter and see whether there is behind him a civil servant who is to blame? Members of the Opposition cannot have it both ways. If they accept, as I believe the House should accept, the fact that the Ministers have taken responsibility and should bear responsibility, they cannot then say: Nevertheless we will go and chase a public servant too’.
It is unfortunate - unfortunate for the Opposition, although perhaps fortunate for the nation - that no member of the Opposition front bench has had ministerial experience, in view of the long period during which the present Government has been in office. So possibly none of them has first hand knowledge of the way in which relationships grow up between a Minister and his department, the great reliance that a Minister places on his department and the nature of the independence and integrity of the department itself. In the functioning of government in the Australian parliamentary system we depend a great deal upon the probity and independence of the public servants, on the frankness of their advice and on the expectation that their advice, whatever it may be, will be given in good conscience and will be quite unfettered and that if called upon to give information they will give it, not with a desire to please the Minister or to pander to what they may fancy to be the Minister’s own predilections, but in good faith, to the best of their ability and in complete and total integrity. That is the way in which government works. It is one of the most precious things about our government.
In order that that sort of system should continue, the public servant must have some expectation of his independence, his security and, if I may use a word that may be misunderstood, his aloofness. By that I mean that he is not to be penetrated by outside political influences; that he can remain aloof from this political strife; and that no matter which party comes to office by the will of the Australian voters the distinguished public servants at the head of our permanent administration will be able to serve a successor government with the same honesty, integrity, independence and frankness with which they served the predecessor government. This is most important.
Can honourable members conceive a situation in which a Minister applying to his department for information or advice or asking for a submission had first to deliver some sort of caution, as though he were a policeman cautioning a person whom he is about to arrest, with the words: ‘You are not required to say anything, but anything that you say may be taken down in writing and may be used against you when you are called to the Bar of either House of the Parliament’? It is unthinkable that government should proceed in that way. Yet that is the sort of thing that the amendment moved by the Opposition and the speeches of the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Hindmarsh would suggest is compatible with good government.
I wish to refer particularly to the nature of the sort of departmental work that precedes the submission of a statement to the House, the sort of work that precedes the answering of a question on notice in the House and the sort of work that precedes a great number of the public activities of Ministers; that is, the preparation of drafts. The process is a continuous one. To start with a comparatively junior officer may prepare a draft, which is passed on to his senior officer, who amends the draft. Perhaps the head of the Department then sends it to the Minister who has second thoughts and sends it back to the Department with some of his annotations on it and a new draft is prepared. These drafts in most departments appear on departmental files, quite properly, as part of the record. But essentially they are the record of a dialogue. If that dialogue is to be as free and open as conversation between two intelligent people, it must not be subject to the perpetual threat that somebody is going to say: ‘What was in this bit of paper? What was in that bit of paper? Was the second draft any different from the third draft? Was the third draft any different from the fourth draft?’ And so on. It has the nature of a dialogue, and if the dialogue is to be successful, it must be unfettered. I feel that I cannot insist too strongly in the debate, particularly having regard to some of the things said on the Opposition side, on the need for all of us, as a matter of public wisdom and regard for the nature of the Australian government system, to respect the right of the public servant to his independence and to his security, and that only in very exceptional circumstances should action such as the kind proposed in the amendment be taken. Those exceptional circumstances, in my mind, certainly do not arise in the matter before the House at the present time. As I have said, Ministers have faced up to and accepted their responsibilities.
Over the past few hours the House has listened to what seems to be a trial by declamation; not evidence, just addresses by the accusers and answers by the respondents. Words like ‘guilty’ have been flung around the chamber. That is not good enough really for intelligent men and even if it were good enough - and I doubt whether it is - for honourable members of this chamber or of the other place I am sure it is not good enough for the Australian voters. They expect a different sort of behaviour from that. Let us look at what is actually before the House. I was not present during the debates last week because I was overseas on ministerial duty, but 1 have read with some care the Hansard report of those debates. The matter started primarily as a discussion on the use of what are called VIP aircraft for travel by the distinguished guests of the Commonwealth, by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, Ministers, Chiefs cof Staff and other persons who come within that category. It seemed to me, from that preliminary debate on the primary question of VIP travel, the consequence was a realisation that in modern times, in the circumstances of government today, VIP travel was a necessity; that care had to be taken to ensure that privileges were not abused, but that it was a right and defensible line of ministerial conduct. It seemed to me that the Opposition was making such poor ground with its general attack on VIP travel as such that it changed its ground and started to make an attack on the probity of Ministers. This attack on the probity of Ministers turned at first in the direction of the Minister for Air alone and then tonight it swung back to include other Ministers as well as the Minister for Air. Let us see on what evidence this attack on the probity of Ministers is based. It is based solely on the answers given over a period of time to a succession of questions on notice. Two of the answers were given upon notice, as I understand it, by the Prime Minister, and one was given by the Minister for Air. The questions, so far as they are relevant to this matter of the probity of Ministers, related to the carrying of passengers and whether the names of passengers or the numbers of passengers could be given. The answer given to a question upon notice asked by Senator Gair in December 1965 and the answer given to a question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler on 31st March 1966 were virtually the same. They were:
Particulars of passengers carried are not Available.
The answer given to that part of the question by the honourable member for Grayndler which sought the names of passengers was:
Passengers’ names are recorded only so that aircraft may be safely and properly loaded. After a flight is completed, the list of names is of no value and is not retained for long.
– The honourable member for Grayndler also asked about destinations.
– I am dealing with this question of passengers’ names. In answer to a question upon notice asked in another place, the Minister for Air stated:
No detailed records have been k;pt of who travelled with an applicant on a particular flight.
As the Minister for Air pointed out this afternoon, those three answers to questions upon notice were consistent; they followed the same pattern. Obviously, they were not concocted in the sense of being devised to meet particular questions but were honestly given, even if given with a mistaken understanding of what records were kept. That consistency in the answers given to questions upon notice over a period is something which I think the House should bear in mind. The information conveyed on all three occasions was a consistent body of information.
In his statement to the House this afternoon, the Minister for Air informed honourable members that he had directed his attention, over the period in which he had been in charge of this matter, to the control of passenger movements and had not had occasion to inquire again into the retention of passenger manifests. This is what the Minister said to the House this afternoon, with great frankness:
But it is true that 1 failed to establish as soon as I might have the fact that the records were maintained and that this was required by orders. It is true that this led to subsequent further misunderstandings. It is true that I might have taken earlier steps to examine records that were available.
But those admissions did not mean that he misled the House intentionally, that he wilfully gave wrong information, or that he was trying to falsify the records. It was the unhappy result, to use his own phrase, of his lack of knowledge that certain records were in fact being kept, not in his own office, but elsewhere. If a Minister did wilfully give the House wrong information, if a Minister intentionally misled the House, if he deliberately withheld information, he would be culpable. But the one thing that is lacking in everything that has been said by Opposition members, even when they have spoken in the most extreme and vehement form, is that they have not established either wilfulness, intention or deliberation. Examine the Opposition case. This has not been established. Members opposite have attempted to assert that there was misinformation or withholding of information but they have not been able to establish - and I think they can be defied to establish - that there was intention, wilfulness or deliberation. The Minister for Air summed up his own position - and 1 think these words are well worth quoting - by saying:
I have now told the House how this matter occurred. There is one more thing I wish to say. In my whole parliamentary career 1 have respected at all times the discipline and the authority of this House. In my whole ministerial career I have accepted fully the responsibilities that go with this post of honour and trust. I would not be a party to any deception, nor would I mislead the House or any honourable member in any particular way, no matter how trivial.
That is a claim that can be tested both by the reputation of the Minister himself and by the circumstances of the case. Both his reputation and the circumstances of the case uphold the claim that he has made. He has confessed what can only be accepted as a minor error - a minor fault on his part. No question of his integrity or probity has really been brought under serious challenge and that is the reason why not only the Prime Minister, in whose hands these matters finally lie, but the whole Cabinet found faith in his probity and his integrity and said that the resignation which he tendered should not be accepted.
That the amendment (Mr Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . 31
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 2780), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the House take note of the following paper:
Royal Australian Air Force VIP Flight - Minister for Air- Ministerial statement by Prime Minister, 8 November 1967.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Designs Bill 1967.
Fisheries Bill 1967.
Loan (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill 1967.
Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill 1967.
Sugar Industry Assistance Bill 1967.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it does not insist upon the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
– I have received advice from the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) that he has appointed Mr Ian Allan to be a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in the place of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon).
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
– I think this is the sixty-first day on which we have met this year. I hope that next year we will start earlier, sit during more reasonable hours and deliberate more consciously the affairs of the nation. We are now going into recess until some time in mid-February, so that the mischief-making of this Government will continue unchallenged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
– As honourable members know, Mr H. L. White retires as Parliamentary Librarian at the end of this year and today is therefore the last day on which he will be associated with a sitting of this House. Mr White is not retiring from the Public Service as, on ceasing to be Parliamentary Librarian, he will take up full time the position of National Librarian. Since the passing of the National Library Act 1961 he has been filling both positions. Mr White was appointed to the staff of the Parliamentary Library in 1923 when the Commonwealth Parliament sat in Melbourne. He was promoted to be Assistant Parliamentary Librarian in 1928 and became the third Parliamentary Librarian since federation on his promotion to that office in 1947.
As far back as 1902 the concept emerged of a National Library growing out of the Parliamentary Library and this followed advice that the Library should develop on the lines of the Library of Congress in “Washington. On his appointment as Parliamentary Librarian in 1947 Mr White responded to the appeal of this concept. It is due in very large measure to his own devoted work that the National Library has developed to the status it holds today, known not only throughout Australia but throughout the world. In 1956 a report was received from a committee of inquiry headed by Sir George Paton, and this was followed by the passing of the National Library Act in 1961 resulting in the separation of the Parliamentary Library into a Parliamentary Library and a National Library of Australia as a corporate body under its own statute responsible to a Minister.
It is fitting that during the coming year, the National Library will be moving into its monumental new home and that Mr White should be the first National Librarian in that building. Honourable members will join with me in expressing the best of good wishes to Mr White in his new office.
Mr L. C. Key, who will retire from the service of the Parliament next month, has served it longer than most. He joined the Parliamentary Library in Melbourne in 1925 and came with it to Canberra as one of its few remaining pioneers. He also pioneered the legislative reference service of which he was the first and the only full time member in 1927 following the move to Canberra. He returned to the full time service of the Parliamentary Library with the separation from the National Library in 1961, and has concentrated since in building up the collections in the light of his special knowledge of public affairs and the needs of honourable members.
Between 1944 and 1961 he served the National Library especially, as its first representative in London until 1948 and until 1960 as Deputy Librarian in Canberra. For a time he was in Asia, under the Colombo Plan, advising on library services. Honourable members, including many no longer with us, would acknowledge their debt to his knowledge and wisdom and would like me to wish him well in his retirement.
I also desire to inform the House that on 1st December next Mr Johnson, the Deputy Principal Attendant on the staff of the House of Representatives, will retire after 40 years in the service of this Parliament. Mr Johnson, who is more familiarly known to all of us as Fred Johnson, came to Canberra in 1923 to join his father in the building trade. His father was one of the senior foremen engaged in the construction of this Parliament House and Mr Johnson himself worked on its construction. In later years, Mr Johnson’s son worked on extensions to this building and one of his brothers subsequently became Manager of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. The Johnson family has, therefore, a unique association with Parliament House as three generations have worked on or in the building.
After completion of Parliament House, Mr Johnson joined the staff of the Joint House Department and shortly afterwards transferred to the House of Representatives Department. He occupied the position of Speaker’s Attendant for some time, and for the past 20 years has been a senior chamber attendant. As I said earlier, he now occupies the position of Deputy Principal Attendant in this House. He was awarded the Coronation Medal in 1953 and was honoured in 1963 by Her Majesty the Queen by the award of the British Empire Medal. I am sure that all honourable members will join me in thanking Mr Johnson for his many years of devoted service to this Parliament and in wishing him many happy years of retirement.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– The motion proposed by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) brings us to the end of the formal business of the session, as I understand the position. I take the opportunity, which is customary at this period in the parliamentary year, to extend good wishes in a number of directions - to yourself, Sir; to honourable members; and to those who have served us so well in the course of the year.
We move into a period of parliamentary recess but none of us can feel that he is moving into a period of political inactivity. Indeed, we have quite an energetic time ahead of us in the ensuing weeks and perhaps even the poll for the Senate will not conclude our activities. I am sure that it will not conclude the activities of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and I suspect that it will not mean a termination of my own. This has been a shorter parliamentary week than is usual. If any honourable members feel that in some way they have been thwarted or frustrated in their desire to take some continuing part in political activity or in manifesting their political interest I would invite them to listen to me tomorrow night when I shall be outlining the Government’s case in the Senate election campaign.
Mr Speaker, whatever controversies may have raged around this chamber and whatever harsh words may have been exchanged in the course of debate between those of us who sit on this side of the House and that section of the Opposition which finds it necessary to keep up an aggressive attack on the Government, there has been no disputation about the manner in which you have discharged your duties. I am sure that every member of the House has appreciated and valued the impartial, dignified, authoritative manner in which you have maintained control of the proceedings of the Parlia-ment. You have the warm good wishes of us all. We thank you for what you have done to ensure that the Parliament maintains the decorum and the efficiency which those who sent us here are entitled to expect of this place.
The Leader of the Opposition, his frontbench members and others who sit behind him have carried out vigorously the role expected of an Opposition. I have never, whether as a member of a government or as a backbench member of a government party, underrated the impact that well presented, honest and factual opposition can make upon the policies of a government and upon administration. I think that members of the Opposition can fairly claim that they have upheld, by their own vigorous courses, the tradition of a democratic Opposition in this place. We have our differences and they are strong differences on many matters, but we maintain for each other a respect as men who have been sent here to carry out as best we can and according to our lights the wishes of those who sent us here to represent them and to interpret what they would have us say in this place.
I extend my thanks for the loyal support given to me not only by my own colleagues of the Ministry and members of my own Party but also by our allies of the Country Party with whom we have been able to maintain such a solid front on matters which have seemed to us to be in the national interest throughout this parliamentary year. You are assisted in your tasks, Mr Speaker, by the Chairman of Committees and his deputies. You all form part of the machinery of parliamentary administration and we have reason to value the service which has been given in these capacities.
As for the Clerk of the House and the other clerks at the table, they maintain remarkable serenity and objectivity amidst the storms that rage around us in this place and the Parliament could not function efficiently without their valuable service. We do in all sincerity thank them for the assistance that they have given to us. Our thanks would be entirely incomplete unless we included the many other members of the parliamentary staffs who serve the National Parliament. I speak of a National Parliament which holds a high place among the democratic parliaments of the world. Those of us who have had contact with parliaments in other places have no reason to be other than proud of the National
Parliament of our own Australian democracy. We are able to maintain these high standards not only by the contribution made by the elected representatives but also through the help that we get from the various parliamentary staffs.
I refer to Hansard, the typing staff, the staff of the Parliamentary Library, even the parliamentary bar which brings solace in times of stress, the Parliamentary Refreshment Room which assists us in satisfying our bodily needs and also the attendants and others in the various parts of Parliament House who make their own contribution to our work. I express good wishes to the gentlemen of the Press and to the ladies of the Press who are occasionally included in their ranks. If Hansard sometimes makes us read rather better than we might have sounded at the time, the Press reporters can be relied on to keep us in a state of balance by making us read rather worse than we thought we sounded at the time. But we have, ali of us, goodwill towards them. They have their part to play in seeing that the democratic system of government functions in the manner that people who support democracy would wish.
Finally, in relation to those who are continuing members of the establishment, I am sure that all of us have reason to be grateful for the assistance given in the ordinary conduct of our business by the hard working Leader of the House and his opposite number, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard). I have had the privilege of serving as Leader of the House. The Leader of the Opposition in his time has had occasion to serve his Party in the capacity in which his Deputy now serves that Party. We know how arduous these duties can be and how they can tax resourcefulness at times in the service of the House. These remarks apply to the Leader of the House respecting the Party that he serves and also to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concerning the Party that he serves. The House could not get through its business in a way that would minimise inconvenience to members and see that a heavy programme of legislation was carried through in proper fashion unless these members of the Parliament gave to their duties the attention that we find they do give so readily and so ably.
Mr Speaker, you made reference of a personal kind to three people whom we know well and again to whom we all have reason to feel deep appreciation. Perhaps I might be permitted a rather more personal note when I say that while there may have been some doubts in the minds of honourable gentlemen about the qualities of two or more members of this Parliament who are products of my old school - I refer particularly to my predecessor, Sir Robert Menzies, and myself - I am sure that honourable gentlemen will feel that in Harold White and Courtney Key Wesley College has well served the National Parliament and the nation. We extend both to Harold White and to Courtney Key our good wishes and our thanks.
Fred Johnson is familiarly known to us all and is a friend to us all. I gather that each of the three Parties represented here has taken the occasion to express in some tangible form its friendship to him. I was interested to learn that he proposes to apply the recognition given to him by my Party in the acquisition of a television set which will enable him to follow more closely the proceedings of this place to which he has given so much of his service in the past.
We are some distance from Christmas, Mr Speaker, and perhaps until we get the Senate election behind us it will be difficult for us to stir the convivial feelings in our breast that the season would normally call from us. However, I take this opportunity of wishing all honourable members and in particular you, Sir, a very happy time in the Christmas season. Our hopes are that the New Year will be a good year for Australia and will be another good year in the life of this Parliament and its working. Whatever fluctuations may occur in our political fortunes, we are all of us proud to have earned from those who sent us here the privilege of representing them and of making our own contribution as best we can to the working of the Australian democracy and our contribution to the well being and security of our people. We rank it a privilege and I hope that in the service we can give in the forthcoming year the Australian people will feel that they have been well and truly served by the national Parliament.
- Mr Speaker, I support the remarks that you and the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) have made. You referred particularly to Mr Harold White, Mr Courtney Key and Mr Fred Johnson. I have been . associated with this city for nearly 40 years, IS of them in this place. Throughout the 40 years I have been aware of these three gentlemen and their families. I took the opportunity about 2 weeks ago to make some reference to Mr White. In my Party room I had the opportunity of taking much the same action as the Prime Minister did in his Party room in relation to Mr Johnson. Mr Courtney Key should be remembered as the pioneer of the Legislative Reference Service in the Parliamentary Library. I have often expressed the view that the greatest improvement in our legislative workings can take place insofar as the Legislative Reference Service is augmented. On this occasion I think I should acknowledge the man who pioneered it and did enduring and effective work for it.
Mr Speaker, you will not mind my saying that one of the most agreeable features of this year has been your own transformation. I could not take such liberties on any occasion since the day you were elected. I notice that on that occasion I said:
In your new office a great transformation is required and expected of you. St Augustine of Hippo achieved it; St Francis of Assisi achieved it; I hope that the honourable member for Phillip also can achieve it. We shall pray to that end.
Sir, our prayers have been answered. A year ago I would not have believed that you could have become so august and benign a figure. I constantly admire the tolerance you show to your former colleagues. From your own experience you know that regeneration is always possible.
I also support the remarks that the Prime Minister has passed about all of us. We can make these comments with fewer inhibitions on this occasion since there is no election for anybody in this chamber before the festive season. It has turned out to be a much more interesting year than many people thought it would be when we assembled. I enjoyed 6 years close contact and competition with the Prime Minister when he was Deputy Leader of his Party and I of mine. We had to arrange the affairs of the Parliament, bearing in mind the interests of the people who had elected us to our positions. I am well aware that he is a man who justifies constant vigilance. In private I have never met a more urbane person.
I would like to acknowledge the work that has been carried out by our successors. The Parliament would be quite chaotic if it were not foi* the Leaders on each side. They have to stand up for the interests of their supporters and at the same time are under some necessity to justify themselves to their supporters. There are few people in the Parliament who receive more criticism than the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because between them they must try to make Parliament run smoothly. I think they have done so. I acknowledge that just as cordially in respect of the Leader of the House as I do iri respect of my own Deputy Leader.
The Whips have an unremitting labour. In many cases the Whips this year have been forced to forecast the movements and the programmes over a shorter period of time than has previously been the case. They have had to be more on their toes. More events have developed at shorter notice. In referring to you, Mr Speaker, I should also like to mention the Deputy Speaker, and the Chairman and Temporary Chairmen of Committees. I think there have been good relations between them and honourable members on both sides of the chamber, just as there have been between you, Sir, and all honourable members.
I think it is probable that members of the Opposition depend on the officers of the House even more than do Government supporters, because the Government has a great number of departmental advisers. In my position as Deputy. Leader of the Opposition and still as Leader of the Opposition I have found my tasks much easier because I have been able to discuss matters quite frankly and freely with the splendid professional men who sit in front of you. I refer to the Clerk of the House and his officers. They are extremely patient and competent persons. The Parliament is indeed very well served by them. There have- been occasions during the year when the Opposition has asked Ministers to make available the services of officers of their departments or of the parliamentary draftsmen. This has usually been done. We know at . first hand the skill and patience of the Commonwealth Public Service. We thank the Ministers concerned, and particularly the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) for having made available in that way the services of their officers.
Various persons report these proceedings. I refer to Hansard, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Fourth Estate of the Press. I think there is a very valuable inter-relationship between the three. We have criticisms to make of all three, but we know quite well that we would not be nearly so well known to the public, nor become persons of such significance as we may be, if it were not for the fact that all three methods of projection are at work. It would not be satisfactory if the public knew us only through the Press, only through the ABC, or only through Hansard. They all make contributions. The fact that there is this trinity is beneficial to the parliamentary institution.
There are many people in and about this Parliament and in this city to whom we are indebted. It may be, naturally, that in this city a great deal turns on the Parliament. The original raison d’etre of this city is the Parliament, and parliamentarians know the great number of people to whom they are indebted. Those who are not in the chamber or in the galleries or in the radio boxes are constantly in our minds. The employees of the Joint House Department, the people in the dining room and in the bar, the attendants, the. police officers, the telephonists and the transport drivers all are persons of amazing reliability and courtesy. They have to work long hours and under stress. But they do not flag and they do not react. We are well served indeed, and we all have a great number of personal friends amongst them. 1 should mention also the drivers and I suppose the pilots who look after us on our way to and from this place. All these men and women we acknowledge at this time.
I conclude with a reference to members of the Parliament itself. Although we get a bit hardened or immune to what is said about us in this place or even outside it, probably it is very difficult for our dependants to become immune. Our children, our wives, and our fathers-in-law in some cases, come in for some notoriety. Of course, they cannot be expected to suffer these things as calmly as we do. The most vile, scurrilous things which are said about me frankly do not worry me but they worry my teenage daughter. So perhaps we might spare some time for these people whom we have relatively to neglect and who suffer the slings and arrows more than we do but who sustain us in our public work. We serve the public to the best of our ability. We thank them for the trust they have placed in us and the opportunity they have given us to serve in what we all find to be an interesting, exciting and, we believe, useful occupation.
I share the Prime Minister’s wishes to all honourable members and to all the persons who work in this institution. I think I can probably do better than he, because I expect to meet them all next Monday night at Blacktown. It may be that in the next few weeks all of us will be thinking more of 25th November than of 25th December. I extend seasonal greetings to the Prime Minister’s relatives, his followers and the people who work with him. I thank him for his personal good wishes and I reciprocate them. Again, Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your first year in office.
– Mr Speaker, in the absence of my leader the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) tonight, I should like on behalf of members of the Australian Country Party to extend seasonal greetings to you, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and all other members of the Parliament. We go into what is well-known to the people of Australia as our three months holiday. I think the only people who will not agree with that are the members of Parliament who find their ‘time fully occupied attending to the demands of their constituents and informing themselves of what is going on in this great nation of ours.
We have come through another testing year for the Parliament. I suppose only the records of history will show whether we have lived up to or enhanced the reputation of this great institution. But irrespective of whether we have succeeded, I am sure every member of this House is proud of the fact that he is a member and has been able to give some service to the nation and to the people he represents. I do not think there is any greater satisfaction in being a member of Parliament than in doing the little things - helping the pensioner or the person in poor circumstances to get better conditions or some consideration, or to overcome some injustice. Whilst at times we may appear to be lowering the dignity and decorum of the Parliament by the way in which we act, I am sure that it is not our intention to do so because we all respect this place and want to see it work as successfully as is possible.
I have noticed that our Parliament is becoming more important from an international point of view. During the past year heads of state from several countries have visited Australia and we have had a number of functions for them. As the Parliament is growing in status, the National Capital is keeping pace with it. 1 think all of us can take pride in the fact that Canberra is becoming a city of great distinction, a city that impresses our visitors.
J pay my tribute to you, Mr Speaker, on having completed your first year in the Chair. You have shown great capacity and dignity in your job. We all expected you to do the job well and you have lived up to our expectations. We congratulate you.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that by some good fortune the coalition had managed to keep working. I can assure him that it will keep working for many years to come. We are proud to say that we have completed nearly 18 years of coalition and there has not been a cross word between us. We will continue to work in that way. The Opposition can take no comfort from the fact that there might be any differences of opinion on little matters.
The Leader of the Opposition and his supporters put us on notice at the beginning of the year that we would have a pretty vigorous Opposition. I do not know whether it has been as vigorous as the warning led us to believe. I think it managed to keep us on our toes and did a reasonably good job. I did qualify my praise.
To the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who keep the business of Parliament going, I think we should pay a tribute. They have enabled the House to get through its business without too much agony. I have never known a year in which we have had fewer late nights than this year. That is a tribute to the way in which things have been managed.
To our two white sentinels at the top of the table and the officers behind them who seem to possess great patience, I pay a tribute for keeping the House working and for keeping us on the rails. The Parliament just could not function unless those dedicated officers did the work necessary for legislation to be processed. We acknowledge the work done by the people in the fish bowl in getting across to the Australian people a true impression of what happens in the Parliament. This is slightly in contrast to what happens a little higher up - in the Press gallery. But what would Parliament be without the Press gallery? I think the Parliament would be a very dull and unimpressive place so far as the Australian public is concerned if we did not have the Press gingering things up and adding a bit of spice through the gossip columns of the newspapers. I regard the Press as rather like garlic in the mince; it puts a bit of flavour into things and makes all the difference. We must pay tribute to the Hansard writers who display infinite patience. They never seem to complain when we have late nights but they must be in more agony than anybody else in this place.
I would like to pay tribute to the Whips, particularly to the Whip of my own Party. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) is quite a remarkable man. He has a record which I do not think will ever be equalled. In 22 years in this House I do not think he has missed a single day of the Parliament. This is a tremendous record. People often look at the segment of the chamber occuped by members of the Country Party and express amazement at the good attendance. I will not give credit for this to the members concerned; all the credit goes to the Whip who is continually whipping them up and telling them that the seats are warmer inside the chamber than outside.
I would also like to join with you, Mr Speaker, in paying a tribute to the three people who have given such long and dedicated service to this Parliament and who are leaving this year. Firstly I refer to Mr Harold White who has been the Parliamentary Librarian but is now moving across to become the Librarian of the
National Library. I think this great Library, standing as a national memorial at the lakeside, is a tribute to him. It is a fine building but would never have been constructed but for bis enthusiasm and drive. I hope the day will come when we will see the national Parliament set adjacent to the National Library in that area. I pay tribute also to Mr Courtney Key for his work in the Library on behalf of the Parliament. He too is to retire in the near future.
I want now to refer to Mr Fred Johnson. I have clear recollections of him when I was a schoolboy living in the Kurrajong Hotel. On one occasion, when I was about 7 I think, he almost booted me out the front door of Parliament House. I am not going to say what I was up to at the time but our association has been quite a long one.
I pay tribute also to the Ministerial staffs who are very devoted and loyal to their jobs, and I would mention particularly, the motor car drivers who serve the Parliament. I pay this special tribute because for nearly 4 years I was the Minister in charge of their activities. They devote themselves to their jobs and to looking after members of Parliament generally. I have never heard a driver say a cross word about a member of Parliament. They must have had good reason to do so sometimes when they had to wait long hours for us on cold nights when the House was sitting or while we attended functions. These men do a terrific job; they are a wonderful race of fellows. Many men have been doing this driving work for up to 30 years. In fact last year I was present at a farewell for a driver who had been doing this work for 47 years. They are courteous and obliging at all times. Mr Speaker, I conclude by offering seasonal greetings to all honourable members. Particularly I would like to wish them good health. We always seem to come back here after a recess to hear some sad message of condolence. I certainly hope we do not have any such message after this recess.
Mr Speaker, I wish very briefly to support the remarks about the retirement of three persons who have been associated with the work of this Parliament. I refer to Mr Harold White, Mr Courtney Key and Mr Fred Johnson. I have known Fred Johnson since I entered this Parliament. As the
Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and other speakers have said, Mr Johnson has made a notable contribution to this Parliament during the 40 years that he has been associated with it. I join in the sentiments expressed about the work he has done. I acknowledge his energy, good fellowship and companionship and wish to thank him for the help that he extended to so many of us. I recall, even as far back as the days when Jack Rosevear was Speaker, the kindly attention he gave to the needs of new members and the courtesy with which he always received us. I join sincerely in the sentiments that have been expressed to all of these people and particularly to Fred Johnson, whom I wish a very happy and long retirement.
– Mr Speaker, much to everyone’s delight I have almost lost my voice. The men on this side of the House tell me that this is a great improvement. So I trust that, honourable members can hear loudly and clearly what I have to say, filtered through laryngitis though it is. I hope honourable members will understand that it hurts to do this. I realise that it is a great privilege to speak on behalf of the new members - I think I had better write honourable members a letter about this because I am not going to get through my speech. Firstly, we wish to thank you, Mr Speaker, and all the old members for the help that has been given to us in settling down to the duties we have in this House. We also assure you that we are aware of our duty to this House and through it to Australia. We like to feel that we have not come here empty handed. We think that we have brought to this House the training and perhaps the knowledge that we were lucky enough to get in the various spheres in which we worked before we were elected. We assure you, too, that we are aware of the part that we must play in Parliament and we also know the part that we must play in what that Parliament must achieve. Not the least of these things is keeping this country economically sound by promoting, among other things, the lifeblood of Australian industry, which is trade with a proper pattern of imports and exports and also a proper flow, domestically and internally, of goods and money. We are aware of the importance of these things. We are aware also of the importance of keeping this country safe because we realise there would not be very much point in our slaving away here and working ourselves to death in our electorates struggling to obtain shelter for old people and provide education for young people, if we did not have a country in which to carry out these things.
We offer our thanks tq the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and also to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and to the men whom they lead. This leaves one man to thank - the independent member. So we include him, too. The new members would also like to thank all the people who help to run the Parliament and who have been mentioned by other speakers tonight. We wish you, Mr Speaker, and all members of the Parliament a very merry Christmas when the time comes and a very happy New Year. We add the hope that very soon all nations will be able to live in true peace, because this is the only kind that lasts. We also hope that soon all nations will see, understand and enjoy once more the dignity of man. I am sorry about the laryngitis. I could recommend a very good cough drop but I expect that to do so would be to lend myself to a commercial as it is known in radio and television.
-I would like to thank the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill) for their perhaps somewhat over-generous praise of myself. I am always a modest man and I thank them sincerely. I believe that in answering the prayer of the Leader of the Opposition at least I have been able to achieve something. Without the co-operation of all members on both sides of the House, my task during the session would have been immeasurably more difficult. I say thank you to members of all parties for their tolerance, understanding and good nature, particularly in the early part of my occupancy of this position.
I was particularly pleased to hear the kindly references to members of the staff, particularly to the Clerk and Deputy Clerk, who are sitting at the table, and those who assist them. The Parliament is greatly dependent on the excellent work of the Clerks. They are fountains of knowledge. Their impartiality and courtesy are well known. I am sure that honourable members would like their gratitude extended to the Clerks. They have been a tower of strength to me, the Chairman of Committees and the deputy chairmen of committees.
As a former Whip, I realise the difficulties and problems that Whips have in understanding the different personalities and the different ambitions of members. This year I congratulate the Whips of all parties on the excellent job that they have done in this chamber. I particularly thank them for the co-operation that they have given me while I have been in the chair. This has been most beneficial and has assisted in the smooth running of the House. The honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) has occupied the position of Chairman of Committees for many years now with great distinction and loyalty. His charming manner is such that when he rules against a member the member finds it difficult to take any objection to the ruling. I personally thank him. I am sure that all. honourable members extend .to him. their thanks for a joh well .done.
The members of the Hansard staff are overworked. As the Prime Minister has said, they improve some of the speeches that are made by honourable members. They work under great stress and strain. They work assiduously under conditions which, in the late hours, .are not compatible with reporting and transcribing accurately the quickly spoken words of honourable members. But each morning the Hansard report is available to all honourable members, and it is a credit to the accuracy of the members of the Hansard staff and to the devotion that they have to their work. I refer now to the members of the joint committees of the Parliament Who have worked very well this year. These committees are composed of members of all parties. At all times they have been devoted to the improvement of the lot of the members of the Parliament. I am sure that honourable members will agree that the members of these committees have devoted a great deal of time and study to their work. On behalf of all honourable members, I say thank you to them for their co-operation during the year.
I do not want to go right down the list of people in the various spheres of activity connected with this chamber. On behalf of all honourable members I extend to them our sincere thanks for their co-operation during the year. We look forward to having them back with us next year and to working in harmony with them in their many and diverse activities. Finally I wish the compliments of the season to you and yours. Like the Minister for Primary Industry, I trust that next year we will come back in good health and be prepared to work well, as we have endeavoured to do this year.
– I would like to pay certain tributes. One is to the work of the Parliamentary Draftsmen, who do a magnificent job. They are men of tremendous intellect and’ tremendous training in the law. They apply themselves to their task in a spirit of devotion which is scarcely believable until one has worked closely with mem. John Ewens, Charles Comans, Bronte Quayle and Geoff Kolts are four men whom I know very well. All are able to pick up lists of instructions and translate them into the legislation that we discuss here. Our thanks go to them. I would like to take the opportunity, and 1 transgress on honourable members’ time in doing so, to thank the Chief Government Whip, Mr Erwin, the Deputy Whip, Mr Turnbull, the Assistant Whip, Mr Kevin Cairns, and that remarkable little thing called the mini-whip. I would like to thank my opposite number, Mr Barnard, in’ relation to the conduct of the business of the House. I find it easy to deal with him, as I hope he does with me. Finally I want to say that I appreciate the work which has been done by our staff. Mr Lloyd, who is the Private Secretary to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and Mr Ian Grigg, who is the Liaison Officer from the Prime Minister’s Department, have worked closely together. I ‘know of the devotion with which each serves his office. I thank my own personal staff, including Mr Macafee, who is going to Italy, and Miss Thompson, who has found my office in turmoil at times.
– I am fully conscious of the time, but in view of what has been said by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) I think I should take the opportunity to reciprocate and to express my appreciation of the very valuable co-operation and assistance that have been given to me by his staff. I would like particularly to express my appreciation to Mr Grigg, who has been most helpful, on behalf of the Minister, in assisting me to arrange the business of the House. I certainly appreciate what has been said by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and by my own Leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), both of whom have expressed appreciation of the activities of nien such as the Leader of ‘the House and myself.
– Do not forget to thank the Opposition Whip.
– I do that. I believe that the Leader of the House and I have been able to contribute towards helping the House to run in a way that we would all like to see it run. I would like to express my own appreciation to the Whips. They have been most co-operative. Having said that, may I finally associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and you, Mr Speaker, and particularly do I express my own good wishes to you on what I believe has been a very successful year of office in a very important office in the Parliament. I would like to express my appreciation to all those officers in the Parliament who have made a very fine contribution towards enabling this Parliament to function very successfully and in the way in which we all want to see it function.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.49 a.m. (Thursday), until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr Speaker and to be notified by him to each member by telegram or letter.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What steps have been taken since die referendum on 27th May 1967 to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107 cited as the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention 1957?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I would refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s reply to question on notice No. 367 which appeared in Hansard for 19th October 1967. The Government continues to keep in mind the question of ratifying the Convention and is in touch with relevant authorities. These exchanges have been continuing since the referendum of 27th May 1967.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What was the value of defence equipment purchased (a) in Australia and (b) overseas, in the last financial year?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Expenditure in 1966-67 on defence equipment purchased (a) in Australia and (b) overseas in the ments of Defence and Supply, (a) in Australia and (b) overseas, was: ‘
The excess of overseas expenditure over that in Australia reflects the falling due in 1966-67 of substantial payments on account of equipment being purchased in the United States for the Australian Services.
The value of equipment actually received in 1966-67 was, however:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has supplied the following information: 1 and 3. The information requested is shown in the following table:
Successful candidates at the 1966 examinations were - New South Wales Leaving Certificate 4,803, Victorian Matriculation 8,096, South Australian Matriculation 875, Tasmanian Matriculation 687. In Queensland and Western Australia the candidates do not pass the examination as such; instead every student who is successful in one or more subjects receives a certificate to this effect. Statistics of students who were successful in this way are not readily available for Queensland, but in Western Australia 906 passed in seven subjects, 666 passed in six subjects, 566 passed in five subjects, 509 passed in four subjects, 438 passed in three subjects, 488 passed in two subjects and 954 passed in one subject.
The number of Commonwealth scholars in first year is smaller than in 1966. This was brought about by a substantial reduction in the number of students competing for awards in both New South Wales and South Australia as a result of changes in the secondary school systems of those States. 5. (a) There are 21,464 Commonwealth scholars in full-time studies at universities.
There are 1,268 Commonwealth scholars in part-time studies at universities. 6. (a) 5,912 Commonwealth university scholars are eligible to receive part living allowances and (b) 2,695 are eligible to receive full living allowances. In addition there are 990 ‘independent’ scholars who are eligible to receive full living allowances.
Enrolments are limited in various Faculties at the Universities of Sydney, New South Wales, Macquarie, Melbourne, Monash, La Trobe, Queensland, Adelaide, Flinders and Western Australia.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Royalties to be paid for the commodities concerned in the areas mentioned are set out. in the respective agreements with the Queensland Government. It is understood that they are:
Thiess Peabody Mitsui Coal Pty Ltd - 6d per ton on all coal won.
Total value of royalty paid to the Queensland Government in connection with the mining of bauxite at Weipa or with the mining of coal at Moura is not available. In 1966 a total of 970,968 tons of bauxite was produced at Weipa but tonnages of export shipments are not available and the tonnages of bauxite for domestic use are not recorded. According to the Queensland Coal Board, black coal production at Kianga/Moura was 1,278,595 tons in 1966.
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that it is not possible to give a current average value of exports of bauxite from Weipa as, in accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905-66, the quantity figures for exports of this commodity are no longer available. He further advises that the average value of exports of coal shipped from Gladstone derived from export statistics was $8.71 per ton during 1966-67.
Grants for Post-graduate Research (Question No. 616)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: l.(a) The maximum amounts available from the Commonwealth for special research purposes of the Universities during the triennium 1964-46 were set out in the Third Schedule to the Universities (Financial Assistance)’ Act 1963-66 viz:
In addition the Universities allocate monies for research from their general recurrent grants. 1. (b) Grants for specific research projects made by the Minister for Education and Science on the recommendations of the Australian Research Grants Committee commenced in October 1965. The first grants were foraperiod to the end of 1966. The grants are now on an annual calendar year basis.
The Commonwealth allocations have been:
2 and 3. As to 1 (a), general research grants - Each University received its full allocation of the special research grant plus the matching State grant except the University of New England which has not claimed the full Commonwealth allocation.
As to 1 (b), Australian Research Grants Committee grants: For the 1965-66 period all State universities received matching grants from the State Governments equal to those given by the Commonwealth. For the years 1967-68 and 1969 some State Governments were not prepared to provide matching grants and, therefore, the Minister for Education and Science has exercised his discretion under the terms of the States Grants (Research) Act 1966 to authorise Commonwealth payments for the whole of the grants approved on the recommendations of the Committee for those years.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 (a) and 2 (a):
1 (b) and 2 (b):
1 (c) and 2 (c):
The following comments apply to answers 3 to
As compared information on State revenues and expenditures for 1966-67 and 1967-68 (estimated) is not available, it has been necessary to use figures which refer to Consolidated Revenue Funds as published by the respective Treasuries.
These figures are not fully comparable as between States or as between years. In particular, h might be noted that:
3 (b) and 4 (b):
S (a) and 5 (b):
6 (a) and 6 (b):
asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Minister, appointed 18th December 1963 - 18 visits totalling 59 days.
Secretary, appointed 23rd April 1964 - 11 visits totalling 47 days.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Is he able to say what the comparable percentage was for the following countries:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Figures for the financial years 1965-66 and 1966-67 are not available for some of the countries mentioned in the honourable member’s questions. Accordingly the following figures are for the calendar years 1965 and 1966. I have taken the expression ‘United Nations Programmes’ to mean the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) Recruitment of Colombo Plan personnel is arranged by the Department of External Affairs, in most cases with the assistance of the Department of Labour and National Service which keeps detailed records of persons with suitable qualifications.
Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, India, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Commonwealth Statistician has furnished the following information:
For the taking of the Census, Australia is divided into Census Divisions which closely approximate Federal Electoral Divisions and which are given the same names. As the collection system includes a count in the field of the number of persons in each Census Division, field count statistics of the total population on this basis are available. However in the main compilation of the Census results an entirely different geographic dissection is used, based on Local Government Areas, which aggregate to Statistical Divisions in conformity with general practice in other fields of statistics. For this reason statistics of the characteristics of the population (such as age and birth place) are not compiled for Census Divisions. The answers to the three points in the question are therefore:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions, is as follows:
Questions seeking information on matters which are the responsibility of State Ministers for Education, and therefore not matters as to which the Commonwealth Minister is responsible to the Parliament, should be addressed to the relevant Ministers in State Parliaments.
Taxation on Clubs (Question No. 675)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. The circumstances in which tax instalment deductions are required to be made from fees paid to performing artists are governed by the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act, and are not dependent on any direction from the Commissioner of Taxation. Shortly stated, there is an obligation to make tax instalment deductions if the fees represent ‘salary or wages’. This expression is denned in the Act so as to include any payments made under a contract which is wholly or substantially for the labour of the person to whom the payments are made.
Tax instalment provisions are explained in a booklet which is issued for the guidance of all employers and departmental inspectors make routine visits to employers’ premises from time to time. No general direction relating specifically to fees paid to artists has been issued in the Australian Capital Territory. 3 and 4. Clubs are wholly exempt from income tax if they are established for the promotion of athletic games or sports, music, art, etc., and are not carried on for the .profit of the individual members.
Other clubs pay tax on net profits resulting from sales to, or transactions with, non-members, and also on income from investments. In calculating the net amount subject to tax, deductions are allowed for expenditure incurred in gaining the non-exempt income and for donations made by the club to certain charitable purposes prescribed in the income tax law. A clubs that qualifies as a non-profit company does not pay tax unless its taxable income after allowing all deductions exceeds $416 in the year.
Most clubs in the Australian Capital Territory are not required to pay income tax, as they are either exempt from tax, or their taxable incomes fall below the minimum, under the provisions mentioned. Separate statistics are not kept for clubs but the assessments raised in respect of clubs constituted as non-profit companies would be included in one or other of two categories for which statistics were tabulated, i.e., ‘Amusement, Sport, Recreation’ or ‘Personal and Domestic Services’. The number of assessments for Australian Capital Territory non-profit companies falling into these categories and the amounts of income tax payable under these assessments were as follows:
These* figures relate to the cases in which assessments had actually been issued within 18 months of the close of the year of income. They would not necessarily include all cases in which further inquiries were needed to determine whether or not a liability existed.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Why has he not yet submitted to Parliament an agreement embodying arrangements between the Commonwealth and New South Wales for the upgrading of the Parkes to Broken Hill railway, as forecast in his answer to me on 13 September 1966 (Hansard, page 828)?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Work is proceeding on the agreement, but it was found impracticable to complete the agreement in time to introduce legislation during the current session, lt is anticipated that the legislation will be introduced during the next session.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. Statements by the Australian Government that North Vietnam is initiating aggression against South Vietnam are consistent with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam. While the demarcation line between North Vietnam and South Vietnam was not intended by the 1954 Conference to be permanent, the present reality is that Vietnam has not been reunified and that until it is reunified the separate administrations will continue to exist. Internationally, the governments set up in the two zones have gained extensive recognition as separate States. The Republic of Vietnam, which is the victim of the aggression initiated by North Vietnam, is recognised as an independent sovereign State by some sixty nations including Australia.
The aggression conducted by North Vietnam against the Republic of Vietnam is in breach of the provisions of the Geneva Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam. Under Article 19 of the Agreement, North Vietnam undertook, inter alia, not to use the territory north of the demarcation line ‘for the resumption of hostilities or to further an aggressive policy’.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he consider establishing a special development tax the proceeds of which would be earmarked for capital development programmes through public investment?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member is, as I understand it, proposing that an additional tax be imposed to subtract resources from the private sector and add to those available to the public sector. I do not consider that this is in present circumstances either necessary or desirable. Already, as much is being allocated for public authority capital expenditure as the Government considers to be consistent with balanced development of the economy. As I explained in my Budget Speech, the Government fully recognises the need for capital works to establish the foundations for larger economic growth. There has, however, been a need for a large expansion in defence spending and room has also been left for balanced expansion of the private sector. The Government’s policy has been directed to achieving the best allocation of available resources as between these competing needs.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he consider an amendment of the income tax law to provide that the repayments of mortgages on the first domestic home be an allowable deduction for income tax purposes?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government has considered similar proposals on a number of occasions but has concluded that such a departure from the general principle that deductions should not be allowed for outgoings of a private or domestic nature could not be justified. One consideration that the Government has had in mind is that such a concession would be an inducement to persons who otherwise had no need to borrow for purposes of house purchase to take up loans. This would reduce the funds available for persons less favourably placed.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
I have nothing to add to the information given by the Prime Minister in his reply on 18th October to the honourable member’s question No. 593.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What were the:
quantities- of sugar sold and
prices per ton obtained for the sale of sugar on:
the domestic market and
each of the export markets during each of the past ten years?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I have no information on the actual prices paid for most sales on overseas markets in the last ten years - and indeed the number of separate transactions would make it impracticable to convey that information concisely if it were available - I think that the most informative answer I can give the honourable member is to provide the attached tables. The first table shows the quantities sold on the domestic market and the average annual return to producers from that market over the ten seasons. The second shows the quantities of raw sugar exported to particular markets in each of the last ten financial years, and the average annual value by destination of such exports, f.o.b.
Some explanation of the basis of the two tables will help the honourable member. Although the export information is shown on a July-June year it is nevertheless closely comparable to the exports of sugar produced in the June-December crushing season shown under the same year heading in the table concerning the domestic market. Secondly, Commonwealth statistics of the export of raw sugar show tons of ‘actual’ sugar, i.e., irrespective of the proportion of pure sugar in each ton. However, the home consumption statistics which I have given are in the standard measure of purity used by the Australian industry, i.e., 94 nettitre’. One ton of ‘actual’ raw sugar is approximately equivalent to 1.026 tons of ‘94 net titre’ sugar.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honour able members questions are as follows:
Australian Casualties in Vietnam (Question No. 741)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the total number of casualties suffered by Australian forces in Vietnam since the date of the first commitment of our military forces? 2.How many of this number were
In each of these groups how many were
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
United States Forces in Vietnam (Question No. 742)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The total casualties sustained by the United States from 1st January 1961 to 14th October 1967 is 106,018. Of this figure
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
– On 1st November, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) asked me the following question without notice:
Does the Treasurer know that Julie Rogers, the 24-year-old English recording star, has money problems - how to spend the $4,500 a week she will earn in Australian for a 7-week season at clubs in Sydney and Melbourne? Is he aware that Julie said: ‘I just don’t know what to do with my money, but the tax man will take most of it’? Is it correct that Julie, who is being paid at the rate of $234,000 a year, will be liable for no tax at all to the Australian Government but that an Australian artist receiving $30,000 for a year’s work would pay over $15,000 in taxation? Will the Treasurer make it clear that the tax man referred to is not an Australian but an Englishman? Will he also state whether he considers that the Australian tax man is overgenerous to Julie and to other artists like her?
In reply I said that I would treat the question as being on notice. The answer is as follows:
As Treasurer, I have no personal knowledge of Miss Rogers’ taxation affairs and the secrecy provisions of the income tax law preclude the Commissioner of Taxation from divulging any information in his possession about the liability to Australian tax of Miss Rogers. I am not therefore able to give specific replies to the question asked in relation to Miss Rogers. I can, however, outline the general taxation position of entertainers visiting Australia from the United Kingdom.
Under the Australian income tax law, such a person is subject to Australian income tax on income having a source in Australia. There is no provision in the double taxation agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom that exempts from Australian tax the remuneration of a public entertainer from the United Kingdom for services performed in Australia. Apart from the differences between any two taxpayers resulting from such things as different amounts of deductions allowable against income, an Australian artist would thus pay the same amount of tax on Australian earnings as would an artist from the United Kingdom.
Remuneration from Australia of an entertainer from the United Kingdom may be taxed also in the United Kingdom but the double taxation agreement requires that country to give credit against its tax for the Australian tax on the remuneration. The United Kingdom accordingly only collects tax on the remuneration to the extent that its tax exceeds that levied by Australia.
Papua and New Guinea
– On 17th August the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) asked a question without notice concerning the future status of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
The Government’s policy on the question of the ultimate status of Papua and New Guinea was stated at length in this House by the Minister for Territories on 21st April 1966, and at this stage there is no plan for a debate on the subject in the immediate future.
The honourable member will have noticed that this policy was again referred to by the Minister in the course of his statement to the House on 26th October on the constitutional development of Papua and New Guinea.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
3 and 4. The number of applications received during the year ended 30th June 1967, from existing purchasers and borrowers for additional loans was 4,646. During the year 3,916 additional loans were granted.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
When will he give me the considered reply which he promised on 29th August 1967 (Hansard, page 499) to my question concerning the monitoring of telegrams and letters to members of Parliament?
Mr Harold Holt - On 29th August the Leader of the Opposition asked me a question without notice supplementary to one put to me by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell). The first part of that question asked whether I could give assurance that telegrams and letters to members of Parliament which the Leader of the Opposition said were not covered by statutory provisions, were not intercepted by any government agency. I undertook to treat that as a question on notice and I now givemy reply.
It is not correct, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, that there are no statutory provisions relating to the interception of telegrams and letters.
The Post and Telegraph Act provides that, except in the cases expressly mentioned in the Act, no letter shall be delivered to any person not named in the address thereof without the consent of the addressee or the direction in writing of the Postmaster-General.
The Act also provides that it is an offence for a person employed in a telegraph office to divulge the contents or substance of a telegram otherwise than by delivering the telegram to the person to whom he is authorised to deliver it.
However, authority is given by the Act to intercept, under prescribed conditions, letters reasonably suspected . of containing any enclosure, in fraud or violation of the Post and Telegraph Act or any Act relating to the Customs, or letters addressed to persons reasonably suspected of receiving money in connection with fraudulent undertakings or for certain other specified purposes.
In addition, the Telegraph Regulations provide that, upon a subpoena or written request by proper authority, a telegram may be produced by the Postmaster-General, the Director-General or a Director of Post and Telegraphs where required in the interests of justice or for the prevention or detection of crime or illegal practices.
These matters recognised, I am able to give the assurance that has been sought.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee is a committee established by agreement between the Commonwealth Government and press, radio and television interests in Australia.
The Committee consists of fourteen members, with Government members in a minority. I do not feel that it is appropriate that I indicate current membership by name. However, nine members represent a cross-section of the morning, evening and provincial press, and broadcasting and television stations. Five members represent the Defence group of Departments.
The Committee’s function is not to recommend, but in fact to issue D notices to press, radio and television. A D notice is a confidential request in the interests of national security not to make public specific matters referred to in the notice. The system is a voluntary one and non-compliance carries no penalties.
A request for a Dnotice originates with a Government department and is referred to the committee, which can either approve, refuse or suggest amendment. When it approves tha committee’s secretary issues the notice on a confidential basis to editors and managers. If it does not approve, the notice does not issue.
The number of D notices currently in force is small and it is not in the national interest to disclose the precise number or the subjects to which they relate.
The Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee renders a valuable public service and it is appropriate to record the Government’s appreciation of its work.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Details of fish, prawns (including shrimps) and crab imported in the years 1965-66 and 1966-67 are contained in Appendix ‘A’. These details were compiled from publications and preliminary tabulations provided by the Commonwealth Statistician.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many registered hospital and medical benefits organisations have memberships of (a) 1,000 or under, (b) between 1,000 and 5,000, (c) between 5,000 and 10,000, (d) between 10,000 and 50,000, (e) between 50,000 and 100,000, (f) between 100,000 and 500,000 and (g) 500,000 and over?
– The information sought is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he consider a plan for the stimulation of a greater amount of savings in this country by allowing such savings to be a tax deductible item?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The encouragement of a high rate of savings has been one object of the Government’s policies and, in fact, Australia has been achieving one of the highest rates of saving among the developed countries of the free world.
As 1 am sure the honourable member is aware, the term savings admits of various definitions. Perhaps I need only say that if it were defined widely for the purpose the honourable member has in view, deductibility of savings for income tax purposes would entail a heavy reduction in revenues, probably necessitating additional taxation in other forms.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
A detailed analysis of national service statistics was included in my Press statement of 10th August 1967, on the first 2 years of national service, a copy of which has been sent to the honourable member.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Persons subject to a prescribed physical or mental disability, theological students, ministers of religion and members of religious orders and those who satisfy a court that they hold conscientious beliefs which do not allow them to engage in any form of military service are exempt from liability to render national service.
The status of registrants believed to be entitled to exemption other than on grounds of conscientious beliefs is determined administratively on the basis of acceptable certification. No formal application for a certificate of exemption which is determined by a court has been received. At 30th June 1967, 429 had been exempted or were under consideration for exemption for prescribed disabilities and 241 on religious and theological grounds. As to comparable figures regarding total exemption on the ground of conscientious beliefs, 468 applications had been made, 78 were withdrawn or not proceeded with, 161 were granted total exemption, 82 exempted from combatant duties, 52 refused and. 95 remained to be determined.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. No registration forms received are ignored. The registration form is accepted and registered or the man is notified that he must complete and forward another form within the prescribed period, depending on how far in advance of the proper time he submits the registration form.
Taxation on Clubs
– In my answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) regarding the income tax payable by clubs (Question No. 533, published at page 823 of Parliamentary Debates for 5th September 1967) I provided a statistical table, which I had received from the Commissioner of Taxation, showing the numbers of current assessments which had been issued to non-profit companies which had been classified, for statistical purposes, under the heading ‘Amusement, Sport, Recreation’. -The Commissioner has now informed me that further inquiries have revealed that there are, in fact, two statistical categories in which registered clubs may be included. The second is ‘Personal and Domestic Services’. The statistics of assessments issued to non-profit companies are tabulated by the Commonwealth Statistician from basic information which officers of the Taxation Branch extract from taxpayers’ returns at the time of making assessments. If the taxpayer is a licensed club, the manner in which it is classified for statistical purposes will depend on the nature of its predominant activities and the manner in which they are described in its returns.
The numbers of assessments issued in respect of non-profit companies classified as being engaged in ‘Personal and Domestic Services’ were, as follows:
These figures, and the figures for nonprofit companies in the category ‘Amusement, Sport, Recreation’ which were previously supplied, include only those cases in which assessments were issued within 18 months of the close of the year of income. There could be additional cases in which assessments were issued outside this period or in which inquiries are still in course to determine whether a liability exists.
The non-profit companies in these categories would not all be registered clubs. It is also possible that there could be some clubs which have paid tax but which are not constituted in such a way as to be assessed as non-profit companies. The assessments for these clubs would not be taken into account in either of the statistical tables relating to non-profit companies.
Works, of Art, Music and the Arts (Question No. 540)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice: 1. (a) How many works of art have been acquired by the Government since his answer to me on 28th October 1966 (Hansard, page 242), and at what cost? (b) How many pieces of sculpture were included in the acquisitions? 2. (a) How many works of” art have Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities acquired since his answer for Canberra and each State capital, and at what cost? (b) How many pieces of sculpture were included in the acquisitions? ‘
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) During 1966-1967, 200 works of art were, acquired for the National Collection at a cost of $48,811. These do not include the items mentioned in 2 below.
One sculpture for Adelaide was included in these acquisitions.
The Board has drawn up a plan to promote the work of Australian composers nationally and internationally and I have recently agreed to funds from the appropriation already agreed to by the
Parliament being made available towards the first project.
Provision has been made in the present triennium under the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1967 for recurrent grants to the New South Wales State Conservatorium of, Music as a college of advanced education in addition to the grants to the Queensland Conservatorium of Music which I referred to in my previous answer to the honourable member for Oxley on 18th October 1966. The activities to which I referred in answer to Question No. 1986 are, of course, being continued.
Mr Keith Sinclair has been acting as a consultant in connection with a number of matters connected with the Arts as well as on other matters.
Works of Art, Music and the Arts (Question No. 648)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. The official bodies set up by the Commonwealth Government and still operating for the promotion of Arts and Letters in Australia are:
The Historic Memorials Committee - established in 1908. The Committee is advised by the Art Advisory Board, established in the same year.
The Commonwealth Literary Fund - established in 1908. From 1908 until 1939 the Fund was administered by a Central Committee appointed by the Governor-General in Council. In 1939, when the Government decided to extend the scope of the Fund, an Advisory Board was appointed to advise the Committee of the Fund.
Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers - established 1967. The Government in 1967 appointed an Advisory Board to advise on projects designed to assist Australian composers and to promote their work. 3 and 4. The members of each of these bodies and their ages are:
Historic Memorials Committee - The Prime Minister (Chairman)- 59, the President of the
Senate - 67, the Speaker of the House of Representatives -51, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate- 45.
Art Advisory Board:
Sir Daryl Lindsay ; 77 (Chairman); formerly Director of the National Gallery of Victoria; practising artist, Member of the Planning Commission of the National Capital Development Commission, consultant in art matters to a number of organisations.
Mr Robert Campbell, C.M.G., O.B.E.- 65; recently retired as Director of National Gallery of South Australia; formerly Director of Galleries in Perth, Queensland and Tasmania.
Mr W. A. Dargie, O.B.E.; 55; distinguished portrait painter and official War Artist, World War II. Mr Dargie has painted many celebrated personalities.
Mr Douglas Pratt, O.B.E.; 67; Australian landscape painter, Vice-President and Councillor, Royal Art Society Councillor, PainterEtchers Society.
Mr Russell Drysdale ; 55; distinguished Aus tralian artist, winner of Encyclopaedia Britannica Award in 1965 for services to Australian art.
Commonwealth Literary Fund: The Prime
Minister is Chairman, and the members are Mr E. G. Whitlam- 51; Leader of the Opposition, and Mr P. E. Lucock - 51, Chairman of Committees.
Advisory Board, Commonwealth Literary Fund -
Sir Grenfell Price, C.M.G.; 75 (Chairman); noted historian and geographer, author of a number of books.
Professor T. Inglis Moore, O.B.E.- 66; retired recently as Associate Professor of Australian Literature at the Australian National University; poet and critic.
Mr Kenneth Slessor. O.B.E.; 66; celebrated Australian poet and critic.
Mr Douglas Stewart, O.B.E. ; 54; distinguished Australian lyricist and literary critic.
Miss Kylie Tennant ; 55; distinguished novelist and critic.
Mr Geoffrey Blainey; 39; distinguished historian and writer, Reader in Economic History, University of Melbourne.
Advisory Board, Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers:
Sir Bernard Heinze, 73, formerly Director N.S.W. Conservatorium of Music, Ormond Professor of Music, University of Melbourne, Conductor Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras.
Professor Frank Callaway, 48, Professor of Music, University of Western Australia. Conductor University Choral and orchestral Societies, Western Australia.
Mr John Hopkins. 40, Director of Music, Australian Broadcasting Commission. Conductor, formerly associated with leading orchestras in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Formerly Musical Director New Zealand Opera Company.
In 1939 the scope of the Fund was extended to encourage Australian writers and to stimulate an interest in Australian Literature. It has also continued its original function of assisting writers in distressed circumstances.
The Advisory Board of the Fund advises the Committee on all literary matters coming within the scope of the Fund.
The Historic Memorials Committee was established to commission portraits of GovernorsGeneral, Prime Ministers, Presidents of the Senate, Speakers of the House of Representatives and Australians distinguished in the arts, sciences and letters.
The Art Advisory Board advises the Committee on the issue of commissions to portrait painters, and advises the Government on artistic matters which may be referred to it. Over the last ten years or so the Board has been providedwith funds to purchase paintings for the National Collection which will ultimately hang in a National Gallery in Canberra. In addition, in conjunction with the Department of External Affairs, the Board arranges through the Prime Minister’s Department for Australian art to be exhibited overseas. It also financially assists State galleries to circulate major exhibitions of Australian and international art throughout Australia. The Advisory Board, Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers, was established to advise the Government on the expenditure of funds to assist any project which will facilitate the performance of Australian serious music composition and to promote a better understanding of Australian music thereby improving the status of Australian composers. In addition, I recently announced the Government’s decision to establish an Australian Council for the Arts, with Dr H. C. Coombs as Chairman. An announcement about the membership of this body will be made in due course.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The names of qualified pilots employed on flying duties by the Department of Civil Aviation and the hours flown by each pilot for the three years ending 30th September 1967, are as follows:
Twelve of these pilots are employed full time on flying duties. The remainder, comprising administrative and senior administrative operational staff, are required to carry out flying duties on a parttime basis only. The hours flown by officers in the latter category have been limited in some cases due to sickness, or special assignments on nonflying duties. Ten of these officers have carried out additional flying . on pilot examining duties as supernumerary- crew -members occupying the extra crew seat on airline aircraft. The additional time flow on these commitments averages a total of 980 hours per year.
There arc many other Departmental officers who hold pilot licences but are not required to possess these qualifications for the work on which they are employed.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The following is a list of aircraft operated by the Department showing the region in which they are based and the hours flown by each aircraft since the date of purchase or hire:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What type of Civil Aviation aircraft have crash landed in the last 5 years and what were the reasons for these mishaps?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The only Departmental aircraft involved in a landing accident in the last 5 years was the HS-125 aircraft VH-CAO which was extensively damaged by ground contact and fire when it landed with the undercarriage in the retracted position.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In November 1949, immediately prior to the Labor Government relinquishing office, the comparable percentages were 100.8% and 65.9% respectively.
Similar figures at 4th June 1967, the -.day prior to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s announcement of the replacement of the basic wage concept with the total wage were 105.3% and 71.6% respectively.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Can he state the proportion of the adult population which:
it is anticipated will be in receipt of age pension in
it is anticipated will have reached or exceeded the age at which age pension is paid
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It would be extremely hazardous to attempt to forecast what that proportion would be as far ahead as the year 2000 as experience could well prove the assumptions on which the projections were based to be incorrect.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
It is assumed that the honourable member’s inquiry concerns the Government’s decision, announced in the Budget Speech, to increase the Consolidated Revenue proportion of existing superannuation pensions up to the amount that would have been payable if retirement had taken place on 30th June 1967.
At the time of preparation of this answer the legislation to give effect to the decision had not received the Royal Assent. The review of social service pensions of persons affected by the decision cannot be commenced until the Department receives advice of the new rates of superannuation pensions payable to the superannuitants.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19671108_reps_26_hor57/>.