26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker, it is my sad duty officially to inform the House of the death in London yesterday of Her Royal Highness Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. Princess Marina, who as we all know was aunt to Her Majesty the Queen and the widow of Prince George, Duke of Kent, had a particularly warm place in our hearts. With her charm, natural beauty and quiet courage she was, 1 believe, regarded with special affection not only in Britain but throughout the Commonwealth of Nations. The youngest daughter of Prince Nicolas of Greece, she endeared herself to the British people on her marriage to the Duke of Kent in 1934. She at once took an active part in public life, travelled widely and showed a special interest in hospital and nursing work. The war robbed us of the pleasure of having Princess Marina in Australia as the wife of the Governor-General. The Duke of Kent had been appointed Governor-General but with the outbreak of war he became involved with military duties. Her courage and composure on the tragic death of her husband in1942 in an air crash won admiration and sympathy, and despite her grief at her husband’s death she bravely took over many of his interests and many of his public duties.
Princess Marina was frequently called upon to carry out duties on behalf of the Sovereign. She made a Far East Commonwealth tour with her son, the Duke of Kent, in 1952, and in 1954 she toured the United States of America with Princess Alexandra with whom she also visited Canada and Latin America. In 1957 she was the Queen’s representative at the independence celebrations of Ghana, and in 1966 she represented the Queen at the independence celebrations of Botswana and Lesotho. We were delighted to have her here with us in Australia in 1964. She came here for the British Exhibition and while in Canberra, as many members will remember, she declared open the headquarters building, Department of Defence, at Russell Hill. We also had the honour of entertaining her at a reception in this Parliament.
When we think of Princess Marina we also think of her daughter, Princess Alexandra, who, reflecting in every way her mother’s grace and charm, made her own memorable visit to this country. Princess Marina had other links with us. She was honorary Commandant of the Womens Royal Australian Naval Service and, of course, ever since the war years she was Chief Commandant of the Womens Royal Naval Service in Britain. And who can forget the films and pictures of Princess Marina, the tennis enthusiast, watching Wimbledon and handing over the trophy to the champion, more often than not an Australian? She was in fact President of the All England Lawn Tennis Club for 25 years.
I think that even from these few vignettes it is clear why Princess Marina enjoyed such high regard and such warm affection. I had the pleasure of meeting her during her Australian visit and, like all who shared that privilege, I still have warm memories of that occasion. Princess Marina had known for months that she was suffering from an incurable sickness yet, as might be expected, she faced death in the same way as she had faced life, with that quiet courage and dignity that endeared her to us all. Mr Speaker, I. move:
That an address to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 in the following terms be agreed to:
To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty:
Most Gracious Sovereign:
We, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, have learned with heartfelt sorrow of the death of your aunt, Her Royal Highness Princess Marina. On behalf of your people throughout the Commonwealth of Australia, we express deep sympathy to Your Majesty and members of the Royal family in the loss which you have sustained.
– I support the motion of condolence which the Prime Minister has moved. Princess Marina had been a member of our Royal family for more than half her life. When she married into it before World War II she created as much interest as was created when her cousin married into it after World War II. The Greek Glucksburgs have been more fortunate as consorts than as monarchs. More tragically still, Princess Marina’s mother was a
Romanov. The British Royal family has been durable throughout the last generation because its members have been identified to an exceptional degree with the people in peace and war.
Princess Marina lost her husband in World War II. He was the first English prince to die on active service since the Wars of the Roses. She devoted herself to her sons and to her daughter who, like herself, is warmly remembered within our shores. She continued the very exacting round of public duties at home and abroad which falls to members of the British Royal family. The Prime Minister has very aptly and eloquently referred to the range of those activities as to place and time. Princess Marina contributed to a very great extent in her own right. She had in a very real sense charm, grace and style. She had charisma. At this time we remember her own children and the family into which she married. I believe that all who ever saw or met her will remember her.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
Mr BRYANT presented a petition from certain members of the Portuguese community in Melbourne praying that the House of Representatives take any action necessary to assist in obtaining a commutation of the death sentence passed on Jose Manuel Da Costa.
Petition received and read.
Mr CREAN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social service and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is there any truth in reports that the Government intends to invest between $30m and $40m in the British shipping company,
Port Line Ltd? If so, what is the basis of the Government’s negotiations with the company? Is it intended to operate ships of the Australian National Line in association with Port Line Ltd?
– Mr Speaker, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) will be going to Geneva in the very near future to lead the Australian delegation to the resumed International Sugar Conference which is of so much importance to Australia. While he is away he will be making some inquiries in London relevant to possible Australian participation in shipping. It will be known to the House that the Government is interested in entering into the carriage of some Australian goods in Australian ships, as has been evidenced by the arrangements made with the K Line to have an Australian ship operating in the Japan and British trade. That is simply where the matter stands.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. Has his attention been drawn to the public appeal at present being conducted in Victoria for the Aboriginal Advancement League? If so, will the Commonwealth Government give some support to this very worthy cause?
– This is indeed a worthy cause which has been supported by the Victorian Government. Money raised is to be used for the erection of hostels for Aboriginal children, for the maintenance of those hostels both in Melbourne and elsewhere, and for the training of teenagers to enable them to obtain apprenticeships and bursaries. The Victorian Government has supported this appeal, which I understand has amongst its patrons both Archbishops of Melbourne. I understand that the Victorian Government has allocated $10,000 for this purpose. The House will recall that in the Estimates now before it an amount is set aside for such purposes. When the Estimates are passed, I propose to ask the Prime Minister to allocate a matching grant of $10,000 for the furtherance of this very worthwhile public appeal. I hope that this evidence of both State and Federal support for what is a good project will lead to even greater generosity on the part of the citizens of Victoria in coming to the help of these young Aboriginal people.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question regarding the establishment of the Post Office Trust Account, ls it proposed that all Post Office earnings will be paid into this Account and that funds from the Account will be appropriated to Post Office development, maintenance and other uses? Can the Postmaster-General say whether this procedure will reduce the heavy interest payments made each year by the Post Office to the Treasury? Does the Minister know that this year interest charges cost the Post Office $94m?
– The principle behind the Post Office Trust Account is that only one line is to appear in the annual Estimates in regard to the capital works programme. This does not necessarily mean that the sum shown is the total capital works expenditure for the Post Office; rather does it represent the net funds required. This amount, together with all receipts of Post Office revenue, will go into the Trust Account. From this Account will be met recurring expenditures and also expenditure in relation to capital works. The effect on the interest bill of the Post Office will be very slight. Indeed, it will be to the advantage of the Post Office, because we are able to arrange an automatic daily drawing on the Treasury for additional funds that may be required.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Attorney General, with the following remarks: A sinister and evil publication entitled Kangaroo Court’, published by the Hubbard College of Scientology in England, has recently been produced in which the character and integrity of notable leading Australians has been defamed. It concerns an investigation into the conduct of the board of inquiry into Scientology in Melbourne and the subsequent banning of the practice of Scientology in that State. Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that Victoria and the integrity of its legal profession have been held to contempt by allegations of conspiracy and collusion, perjury, intimidation of witnesses, witch hunting, victimisation, bias and graft and that the church itself has been held to ridicule? Will the AttorneyGeneral please initiate urgently an investigation into what is now regarded as a brainwashing, blackmailing and corrupt organisation which is preying on the minds and the pockets of a patient public - an organisation whose real aims have been shown throughout the nation to be to confuse, solicit and to make profit-
-Order! 1 ask the honourable member to direct his question, lt is far too long.
– As all members of the Australian public are concerned and are targets of this scheme, if these claims cannot be substantiated will the AttorneyGeneral consider banning Scientology throughout the nation in the interests of the nation?
– I have not read the publication referred to and therefore I am not aware of its contents. However, I would make these comments: I have a high regard for the Victorian judges and for the legal profession in that State. I will be interested to read the publication if the honourable member will supply me with a copy. T will have some study made of it and give him a considered reply.
– 1 would like the Minister for Primary Industry to clear up confusion over the payment of the devaluation subsidy to Tasmanian apple and pear growers. T think this confusion would exist in other States also. To whom does the Government require the devaluation payment of 50c a bushel for apples and 53c a bushel for pears to be made? Are exporters acting correctly when they pay the grower in the form of a credit slip instead of by cash, thus ensuring that they recover their debts but depriving the grower of a choice in the payment of his accounts?
– The Government announced that the devaluation compensation of 50c a bushel for apples and 53c a bushel for pears would be paid to the owners of the export fruit. The Australian
Apple and Pear Board has been charged with distributing this money. Naturally it is the exporter to whom the compensation goes because he is the owner of the fruit at that time. In some instances it is expected that this money will be passed on to the growers as an ex gratia payment. In other instances the exporter may not see justification for passing it on. I cannot very well make any comment on the method of payment, whether it be by a credit slip or in some other form, but if the honourable member will allow me to contact the Australian Apple and Pear Board I will find out what the facts are and advise him accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I refer to the recent road needs survey by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, which is known as NAASRA. Is it a fact that in this survey the emphasis is placed on high quality roads and expressways in city and suburban areas at the expense of roads in food producing rural areas? Does the Minister consider that roads of a tolerable standard, as suggested in the survey, and therefore of a lower or sub-standard, for rural areas, will reasonably fulfil the requirements of country residents?
– The survey being undertaken by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities for the first time is to establish a standard pattern from which an assessment can be made of road needs throughout Australia. This, of course, will be necessary during the Government’s examination of the next term of the Commonwealth aid roads grunt, the present term expiring on 30th June of next year. It will be necessary, of course, for us to examine the standards that have been prescribed by NAASRA and also those suggested in many rural areas as being more applicable to their needs. There is no doubt that, wherever the situation of a road, it is necessary to take into account not only design factors but also safety factors. These are necessarily matters that the Government will consider at the time that recommendations are made for the ensuing quinquennial term of the Commonwealth aid roads grants.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. What action does he contemplate to ascertain the true cost of production of crude oil from its Bass Strait holdings by the Esso-BHP group? Is he in a position to refute the calculations of Dr Hunter of the Australian National University that the cost of such crude at the refinery gate valve in Melbourne is $1.20 a barrel, including depreciation and depletion allowances? Would this figure give a net taxable profit rate of over $200m a year on the group’s declared production rale in 1970 on the present pricing policy of this Government?
– As to the first part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman, it might more appropriately have been addressed to my colleague the Minister for National Development. It is within his portfolio and not within mine other than for the purposes of checking. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question relating to the cost of production and the profit margin as estimated by Dr Hunter, again this is a question which could well have been directed to my colleague because other than for the purposes of carrying out an audit or checking, ii remains within his portfolio.
– Are not von interested in company taxation?
– Yes. I am.
-Order! The honourable member has asked his question. He will cease interjecting.
– I am interested in the Commissioner of Taxation and the returns, but I do not interfere with his work. I accept his findings. It is this that distinguishes the Australian Labor Party from the Liberal-Country Party Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army who will appreciate that one of the problems of the Army has been to enlist sufficient medical personnel to meet our growing needs. What progress has been made in the construction of a military hospital which I understood was to be at Holsworthy? What capacity will it have? How many doctors will be required and are these available? Have arrangements been made for the attendance of honorary specialists? Is it intended to give young doctors an opportunity to develop as specialists in military medicine, as is done in most overseas hospitals?
– There are, of course, military hospitals at present at Ingleburn and also at Yeronga, but these hospitals do not constitute the larger Army general military hospital as envisaged by the honourable gentleman. I can inform him that a hospital of this latter type will in fact be constructed at Holsworthy and that on present planning bases it is expected that construction will commence in 1 970. It will have an establishment, of some twenty-one full-time doctors. It is expected that by the time the hospital is completed and is in a position to function these positions will have been filled. It will have a capacity of 200 beds with a capability for further expansion. Arrangements will also be made for the attendance of honourary specialists, including specialists in military medicine, a number of whom are serving in the Army at the present time.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to that asked by my Deputy. I assume that one of the great advantages of the shipping consortium which the Government is now considering is that it will enable the Government to ascertain the techniques and costs of transporting our exports and imports. Has consideration been given to repurchasing the Australian Government’s shares in British Petroleum Co. of Australia Ltd so that the Government can ascertain the costs of extracting, purchasing and transporting oil for Australia from overseas?
– The answer to the second part of that question is no.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer him to a recent Press statement that was made concerning the circulation of a memorandum pertaining to defence viewpoints of the Minister for External Affairs and the Prime Minister. I ask the Minister whether he would inform the House who originated the memorandum.
– There has been a good deal of public misrepresentation about this memorandum, and perhaps the easier way for me to clear it up is to read the circular to the House. But before I do so I would like to make two points clear. One Press statement implied, or said by headline, that this circular was the composition of the permanent head of my Department, Sir James Plimsoll. That is completely false. Sir James Plimsoll’s part in the matter was simply that at my request he circulated a statement which I had prepared. Another mis-statement made in another newspaper concerned the Prime Minister’s part in this. The decision to circulate was one that I made. As a matter of courtesy - and proper courtesy, I believe - I showed it to the Prime Minister, but it was not, as stated in this newspaper, an agreed statement between the Prime Minister and myself.
The reason why 1 circulated this is that senior officers of the Department of External Affairs, both those holding diplomatic posts abroad and those who have senior posts in Canberra and are responsible for advising the Government on these matters, do need to be free of confusion and misunderstanding. They need to be free from any involvement in political matters if they are to make their representations with directness and do their thinking with clarity. Because of the way in which these matters have been canvassed in public 1 felt it to be my duty, in fairness to my own officers, to ensure that their work, done on behalf of the Government with the detachment and high sense of integrity that they have, could be done free of confusion. I will read the statement circulated by the Department of External Affairs on 23rd August 1968 to heads of Australian diplomatic and consular posts and heads of divisions, branches and sections. The circular, which is marked ‘Confidential’ reads as follows:
Mr Hasluck has asked that the following statement by him be circulated to all officers of tho Department.
Members of the Department may have seen two articles in the ‘Bulletin” on 24lh August. One is by Allan Reid entitled “Out of Unity, Division”. The other is an unsigned article “Turning the Tables on John Gorton”. 1 would like officers of the Department to know that the account of the Party meeting given in those articles is quite inaccurate both in fact and in spirit. It would be a breach of the secrecy that should attend Party meetings for me to give information on what happened or to indicate in what respects the articles are false, but officers of the Department may be assured that they are not true.
The reports in the articles of differences between the Prime Minister and myself are equally misleading. It is part of political life that stories get circulated, either to secure political advantage or to create a sense of drama, which give a picture of differences between Ministers. Officers can be assured that the picture given by the two articles in the “Bulletin” is false. 1 make this statement to officers of the Department of External Affairs because they have a natural interest in matters that affect their work or which question the value or acceptability of what they are doing. What has appeared in the “Bulletin” should not be taken as accurate, nor other articles of the same tenor which might appear in other publications.’
I would only add to my statement that, as members on both sides of the House know, party meetings are private. Information about them can come only from either a pimp or the imagination of a journalist. I do not think either the stories of a pimp or the imaginings of a journalist are dependable evidence.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether an American shipping company known as Farrell Lines recently announced that it was building five container ships for the Australia-East Coast of America trade. Have British, Swedish, German and French shipping lines combined to form a container shipping conference to carry Australian trade to and from the United Kingdom and European ports? Is the Russian national shipping line pressing these overseas owned shipping lines for a portion of this lucrative container trade between Australia and Europe? In view of these negotiations and the bargaining by foreign owned shipping lines to carve up Australian shipping trade among themselves, can the Minister say whether the Government has given any consideration to building and operating container ships to carry a reasonable part of this country’s European and American trade similar to the recent decision to enter the Japan-Australia container trade? If this important matter has not been considered can the Minister say when it will be considered?
– The first part of the honourable gentleman’s question related to developments in overseas shipping generally. As all honourable members will be aware, a number of new vessels soon will be introduced into the Australian trade. Container vessels operating on the United Kingdom run will be put into service as ft om March 1969. Thereafter an additional container vessel will be put into service at intervals of approximately I month. There is a general reorganisation of world shipping. In this situation of change it is not unnatural that the Australian Government should have an interest in developments. It was because of this interest that the Australian National Line entered into an arrangement with the K Line to provide a roll-on roll-off service to Japan. Honourable members will be aware that this service was negotiated with the Japanese Government late last year by my predecessor. Looking into the future, the Australian Government will continue to take an interest in developments in international trade. The announcement by the Prime Minister of the impending visit overseas of my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry indicates the Government’s continued interest in developments which might be of advantage to Australian shippers and the carriers of goods to Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been drawn to an anomaly which exists in the payment of student child endowment to parents of four or more children? The endowment actually paid in such cases diminishes with the payment of student child endowment. As this situation appears to nullify the spirit of the legislation, will the Minister take some action to remove the anomaly?
– This matter has been brought to the attention of my Department, which is at present studying it. As the present legislation operates, the smaller families do in fact profit while the larger families sustain a certain amount of loss. It is a small anomaly but it is one which is due for correction. As I have said, the matter is being studied. The position is complicated, but it is not insoluble.
– The Prime Minister will recall that yesterday, in answering a question asked by the honourable member for Reid, he said:
Mr Speaker, the Government in question, which appealed for aid to President Kennedy and the United States, was the government led by President Diem-
Would you tell the Parliament, Sir, how President Diem was elected and who was the Leader of the Opposition in that country at the time?
– According to my recollection, and I believe it is an accurate recollection - certainly I am answering the honourable member in accordance with the best recollection I have - President Diem was, either before he became President or shortly after, elected or confirmed by a plebiscite in much the same way as President Ho Chi Minh was elected by a plebiscite in North Vietnam.
– I ask the Leader of the House: Will the business of the House permit all honourable members wishing to participate in the Budget debate to do so? If not, will the honourable gentleman assure honourable members that they will be given an opportunity to discuss whatever sections of the Estimates they wish during the debate on the Estimates?
– I propose that the vote on the second reading of the Appropriation Bill be taken tomorrow night at, I would think, about 10.30 p.m. One of our handicaps in having such a big majority - a handicap which I am content to put up with - is that some honourable members on this side of the House will not have the opportunity to speak in the Budget debate. There will be about half a dozen such members. The Whip has the responsibility of deciding who will speak in the debate. He has exercised that responsibility but he has said also that those who do not get an opportunity to speak in the general Budget debate will have priority in the debate on the Estimates. I think that the honourable member will be able to make a selection of the estimates on which he wishes to speak.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that Osta Chemicals (New South Wales) Pty Ltd recently mistakenly supplied the Canberra Community Hospital with washing soda instead of dextrose for use in the Hospital’s artificial kidney machine? Is it a fact also that the mistake could have caused loss of life if the washing soda had been used in place of dextrose either in the kidney machine or for some other purpose, such as in the preparation of mixtures for babies’ bottles? Is it a fact, too, that the company was fined $40 for a breach of the Therapeutic Goods Act? Does the Minister believe that this penalty was severe enough for such a serious case of neglect which could have caused loss of life? Will he consider tightening the law to help prevent such an error occuring again?
– In general terms, the answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is: Yes, I shall consider the proposal.
– My question, which is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Riverina relating to the survey conducted by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Will the Minister accept submissions from authorities controlling rural roads in support of their contention that there is an urgent need to maintain the allocation of Commonwealth Aid Roads funds to country roads at least at the present level? If he will accept such submissions, will he bs good enough to indicate the time by which they should reach him?
– As I intimated previously, there has been a survey supplementary to that organised throughout Australia by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities. That supplementary survey has embraced many rural areas. It is expected that its results will be considered by the Government when it is re-examining the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation. If bodies other than NAASRA are particularly concerned with the development of roads of a standard or a nature that they believe have not been taken into account adequately in these surveys, I shall be happy to receive their submissions. The legislation at present in operation is to terminate by the middle of next year,, and it is expected that it will be necessary for the Government to consider new legislation either late this year or early in 1969. Any submissions that interested bodies wish to make would have to be received by the Government before it considers the new legislation.
– 1 ask the Minister for Social Services: Is it a fact that he will shortly be leaving for New York to attend a conference on social security? Is it a fact also that his absence may delay the introduction of legislation to give effect to the meagre improvements in social service benefits for age and invalid pensioners which are provided for in the Budget? Will the Minister give the House an assurance that he will return in time to. avoid, firstly, delay in the commencing date of the higher rates of benefit and, secondly, restriction of debate or the legislation and therefore curtailment of criticism of the Government’s policy? Furthermore, will he consider doing what should always be done in these matters and backdate the new rates to 1st July?
– I can assure the honourable member that my absence overseas will not be as prolonged or as needless as was his absence from this country at a time when he came to be known as Dilly-Dally Daly. My absence will not in any way impede or delay the payment of the increased rates of benefit which this Government has proposed in its Budget. I shall attend a meeting of Ministers responsible for welfare in many countries throughout the world which has been convened in New York and which, I believe, will terminate on 12th or 13th September. I shall return immediately after the meeting, in time for the introduction of legislation soon enough for the new rates of benefit to operate from the earliest possible scheduled date. May I say that my Department is at present engaged on the work that is necessary to permit the increased rates to be paid without delay.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for External Affairs about the dispute which seems to be continuing between the Philippines and Malaysia over the territory of Sabah. Is it possible for the Australian Government to offer to act as mediator in this situation, which could represent a danger to the area if the dispute develops?
– 1 am happy to be able to report that there has been a very considerable lessening of the tension between Malaysia and the Philippines over the Sabah dispute. The two governments concerned are talking with each other from time to lime on this matter, and I can see no useful opportunity for Australia to be a mediator in this dispute. Already we have taken action to counsel moderation by both Malaysia and the Philippines. By reason of the fact that I was visiting both countries at the time when the tension was at its height 1 had the opportunity of speaking personally to the heads of government in both countries, and also to the appropriate Ministers, expressing our concern and the hope, too, that the two countries, with both of whom we are in the closest friendship and intimate association, should not come into conflict with each other. I believe that the counsel and the words that were spoken on behalf of Australia did have some moderating influence.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Since the right honourable gentleman has described the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia as an act of perfidy and a brutal use of force, can he say why his Government has not acted to withdraw its recognition of the Soviet and the accreditation of the Soviet’s representatives in this country?
– I direct the honourable member’s attention to the fact (hat while condemning the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia - I merely throw this in for the purposes of accuracy - what I described as a massive act of perfidy was the planning of that operation, the mounting of that operation, during a period when smiles were being exchanged and the public air, as I said, was full of smiles. That was the massive act of perfidy. The act of international brigandage was the actual invasion itself. 1 am at a loss to see precisely what benefits for the Czech people would follow from pursuing the course that the honourable member suggests.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the fact that cotton farmers on the Ord River are concerned that they may not share in the bounty payable on the 1968 crop because they harvest their crop some months later than growers in the eastern States, who can supply all of Australia’s domestic needs? Can the Minister say whether any action will be taken on requests made to the Government on this matter?
– Since 1964 the Raw Cotton Bounty Act has provided $4m annually for the sale in Australia of Australian produced raw cotton. This Act expires on 28th February next. We have not had a problem with the distribution of the bounty while there has been a deficiency of production to meet Australia’s needs, but during the last year of operation of this scheme Australian production has expanded to such an extent that there will be a slight surplus. It is possible that those who harvest their crop late in the season will not be able to share in the bounty. For that reason the Government has agreed to extend the present term of the bounty for another 4 months, to enable Ord River farmers to have the chance to sell their crop on the Australian market.
– 1 refer the Prime Minister to widespread concern amongst primary producers that compensation for devaluation losses on overseas markets will be limited to the one year. I ask: Will the Prime Minister give an unqualified assurance to industries such as dairying, fruit and others that genuine losses resulting from devaluation will be compensated for by the Government and that the undertaking given by the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, in November 1967 will be honoured?
– The Minister for Primary Industry will answer that question.
– From the very- begining the Government has said that it would compensate for those devaluation losses which were unavoidable and demonstrable. It has announced that it will compensate losses for this year. As far as future years are concerned the Government will have to look at the circumstances then applying.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education and Science. I ask: In order to reduce the failure rate of university students, has the Minister given serious consideration to the need for universities to use closed circuit television on a much greater scale to replace those lecturers who may be incompetent? Are the qualifications of lecturers to teach seriously checked before they are appointed to the academic staffs of universities?
-The honourable member should appreciate that he is asking a question about a matter in which the universities are autonomous and a matter upon which the universities do, within their financial limits and responsibilities, make their own decisions. I believe that in the great majority of cases the academic staffs of universities jealously guard the standards of appointment of new staff. The honourable member may be interested to know that at Sydney University and the University of New South Wales - I have not been able to ascertain the position at other universities - closed circuit television and radio have been used on quite an extensive scale. The University of New South Wales began external courses using radio 10 years ago and more recently it has been using television. I think that it is the only university in Australia with its own radio station and television stations. From the end of this year the power of these stations will be magnified many times. This university has also extensively used closed circuit television for its own internal courses.
I have been told by the university authorities that this does not in essence reduce the work load on the teaching staff but that it does enable high quality staff to make contact with a much greater number of students, so that time which might have been spent in repeating lectures and that sort of thing is in fact spent on tutorials amongst more intimate groups of students. For the last 3 or 4 years Sydney University has been using closed circuit television in much the same way. Indeed, last year almost 400,000 student hours were spent on teaching by these techniques. I think that this is something that will be growing and extending if the experience of these two universities is any guide. I imagine that, if their confidence is justified, other universities that have not already moved in this direction may make a decision to do so.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services follows on a previous answer that he gave today. I ask: Is the Minister aware of a very commendable appeal conducted by the Melbourne Herald’ to provide blankets to pensioners? In view of the desperate need of these people, will the Commonwealth Government consider making a contribution to this appeal?
– I am not aware of this appeal though, on the face of it, it seems good. I shall consider the matter. However, I do not think it is appropriate for such an appeal, which aims at a public response, to be made directly in this Parliament.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is there anything in the proposed Government wheat stabilisation plan which in itself would cause a reduction in the first payment to wheat growers this year as compared with the first payment on deliveries in the three previous years?
– The current wheat stabilisation scheme and the proposals that have been put forward by the Government do not include any provision for a set amount for the first advance payment to wheat growers. The Government determines annually what this rate shall be. For the past11 years it has been $1.10. Normally the Government makes an announcement in October of what the rate will be. It has yet to consider the rate for this year. However, I hope to be able to announce it so that people who are harvesting this year’s crop will know the rate as early as possible. The announcement should be made about the beginning of October.
Debate resumed from 27 August (vide page 604), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision:
to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits for them,
to plan defence procurement and expenditure,
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities, and
to retain control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources’.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) last week. This Budget has been tabbed a Budget of compassion or a social welfare Budget.I think it would be more accurately described as a ghost trick Budget’, introduced by a phantom Prime Minister. It takes me back to my schooldays when we used to put a white sheet over our heads to frighten another boy. It was called the ghost trick. This Budget is nothing but a ghost trick. It does not make provision for the needy, the poor, the aged, the weary and the weak - that long line of people who, down through the ages, have borne the labours of the human race. I was amazed to hear the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs), who was speaking in this debate ratherlate last night, say that the Budget indicates that we are on the verge of a new era in the field of social welfare. He said that it is a very exciting development in social welfare and is an example to the rest of the world. Yet we find that the social welfare measures in Canada, Sweden and other parts of the world leave ours for dead in this so-called affluent society.
The Government has failed to meet the needs of the needy for fear of offending the greedy or high income groups from whom it derives so much electoral and financial support. I refer to the privileged and wealthy section of the community. People in this section of the community have the most sensitive hip pocket nerves. They have a more sensitive hip pocket nerve than pensioners, the aged, the infirm and those in the low income brackets. Yet research would probably reveal that during freedom from hunger campaigns and when other appeals are made to the community, proportionate to their income, those in the low income groups would give more than people in the rich sections of the community. It is well known, particularly in the Newcastle area in the Hunter electorate, that when these appeals are made pensioners will contribute 10c or 20c because they know what it is to have experienced hunger and deprivation. The Budget provides a miserly $1 increase for single aged and invalid pensioners and widows with children. This is insufficient even to make up for the increase in the cost of living since the last miserly increase in their pensions. The Treasurer has automatically tabbed himself as Dollar Bill - the only man who can tell people how to live in Kings Cross on $10 a week.
In industrial areas such as the electorate which I represent, where employment fluctuates with local and overseas orders for commodities or minerals produced and where fear of unemployment is a constant nightmare, no increase in social service or sickness benefits has been made. Such an increase has not been permitted by this Government. 1 remind the House that some years have elapsed since the Government has seriously considered raising the sickness benefit or social service benefits. An unmarried person in the 16 to 17 years age group who is unemployed receives $3.50 a week. If girls of this age are unemployed the tendency, particularly in city areas, is for them to be forced into an immoral life of prostitution with the result that parasites like the late Joe Borg can amass a fortune of about $250,000. I am damned if I know why the Taxation Branch did not catch up with him while he was alive. Unmarried persons in the 18, 19 and 20 years age group receive a miserly sum of $4.75 if they happen to be out of work. This is disgraceful. I definitely think that the Budget is correctly tabbed as a go-stop Budget
Every member of this House should appreciate that even the most thrifty of people in the low income group who aic out of work for 2 or 3 months take at least 12 to 18 months to recover. During the period they are out of work mental anguish is imposed on them. In many instances the breadwinner develops a sense of nobodyness. This is one of the reasons for an increase in alcoholism. Many people turn to drink to forget their worries and problems. The wife and children of an unemployed person suffer. The wife in particular suffers as much mental anguish as her husband, or even more, because she has to face the tradesmen who come to the door for payment of food bills that accumulate. I know of many instances in which a boy’s schooling has been interrupted Decause the father has not been able to afford to send him to high school as a result of temporary unemployment. The Government expects such a man to live on a miserly social service payment that it has not considered increasing in this Budget.
The Government has apparently abandoned any idea of gradually abolishing the means test. I would like to quote briefly some of the gross injustices that have been imposed as a result of the means test. Le! me quote from a letter written by Mr J. P. Magnay, of Newcastle, who represents the Retired Police Association. He said:
Sydney Mc Alister McLeod, now aged 78 years, retired in 1949 when the basic wage was £6.2.0. per week. He is a widower and is in receipt of superannuation payments of S24 per week. He has no other income and has to pay his own medical and hospital costs and full council rates on the cottage in which he lives and owns; full bus and rail fares, etc. He compulsorily paid 4% of his salary towards superannuation over the whole of his police service.
His brother, a retired railway driver, also a widower, under the old railway superannuation scheme, could not pay more than 51c per week towards superannuation, and received about $12 per week railway pension. He is therefore eligible for almost the full old age pension and together with his railway pension is in receipt of $23 per week. He is therefore eligible for and receives; free medical, hospital, dental and optical benefits, rebate on rates if he owns his own home, transport concessions by bus and rail and also periodic rail passes as a retired railway employee.
Yet supporters of the Government have the temerity to rise in this place and tell us that this is a new era of social welfare. I do not know how they can say this without their consciences being pricked. It is obvious that they have no conscience.
I want to make some mention of retired mine workers, many of whom are constituents of mine. They have to pay heavy medical costs. Although they retire at 60 years of age they are not eligible for the age pension until they reach the age of 65. They receive no rates or travel concessions. Many of them suffer from ailments, chest ailments in particular, which are peculiar to this industry. Yet the Government fails to recognise their need. The Government should make a grant to the States to enable them to give these people an automatic increase when age pensions are increased by the Commonwealth. In the United Kingdom the Government gives retired miners who worked for the National Coal Board free issues of household coal. Retired mine workers in Australia do not receive a benefit they enjoyed when they worked in the industry. This Government could easily follow the United Kingdom example. With modern mechanisation in the coal mines today, it would cost almost nothing to give retired miners a free coal grant. Perhaps this grant could be made each quarter; it would see them over the winter months. Such a benefit could easily be arranged by the Government by increasing the welfare grant to the Joint Coal Board. I urge the Government to give serious consideration as soon as possible to granting this long overdue right - not concession - to the mine workers who have worked underground in this arduous industry. The Government could well have increased the welfare grant to the Joint Coal Board.
The Government has promised tax deductions for expenses incurred in travelling to work. When I have asked questions about this the Treasurer has said: ‘Yes, we will consider it in the next Budget*. As a result of changes in the economy and in industry, men are compelled to travel long distances to work. It is only fair and right that these men should be allowed a tax deduction for the cost of travelling to and from work. Particularly in Newcastle and the electorate of Hunter, because of sweeping changes in the coal mining industry many men have to make an 80-mile round trip each day at a cost of as much as $5 or S6 a week. Yet they cannot receive the benefit of a taxation deduction. Doctors, businessmen, commercial travellers and the like are able to claim travelling expenses as part of their business expenses for taxation purposes. These people are in a higher income group than the unfortunate men who have had to change their employment due to changes in the coal mining industry. The Government ignores this section of the community because it realises that they are not sympathetic to its line of politics, even though it is pledged to act fairly and squarely in regard to all manner of people.
I have in my possession letters from the Retired Railway and Transport Veterans Association. The first one is from Mr Lawson of Merewether, Newcastle. 1 also have a letter from Mr Edwards of the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers Association, who pointed out the anomalies of the means test. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has indicated publicly that he will do his utmost to abolish the means test gradually. Now is the time for the Minister and the Government to indicate to the people of the nation that they intend gradually to abolish the means test. The Government says that it virtually cannot abolish the means test yet because it would cost S340m a year to do so. If we abolished the means test for all persons over 75 years of age the cost would be $65m. It would cost SI 2m more to abolish it for pensioners who are over 74 years of age. Why did not the Government take this line of action? It has not done so because it has not been sincere in its public statements that it intends gradually to abolish the means test. As I said earlier, the Government has had the temerity to describe this Budget as introducing a new era of social welfare.
The Government has again failed to bring medical and dental costs down to a more practical level such as exists in Canada, the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries. The schemes in those countries should be examined and, as a prime national priority, made a part of our health insurance scheme. The Australian funds, if I may use the vernacular, pocket about 25% of the contributions. The funds in Canada retain 15% of the subscriptions paid by contributors. I. agree that some doctors are very conscientious and honest men, but some of them are the greatest rogues that the community can produce. We want more doctors of the type of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). I congratulate him on his forthright and honest speech in this House last week. It was a credit to the Australian Labor Party and a credit to his high and rich principles. I was disappointed that the doctor on the Government side of the House, the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs), did not follow the example set by the honourable member for Capricornia.
Recently a constituent of mine received a medical account for $180 for a minor operation. He was not in a medical fund and he took the money to pay the account from bis bank. He went to the doctor’s receptionist and said: ‘1 have the money here to pay the account. 1 have just drawn it out of the bank. The account is a bit steep, is it not?’ He was told: ‘You can get the money from your medical fund.’ He said: ‘I am not in a medical fund.’ The doctor’s secretary withdrew the account and gave him another one for $60. What is going on? The Australian Labor Party did not receive any support in the Senate when it suggested a short time ago that a committee be set up to investigate the hospital and medical schemes in Australia. Anyone who picks another man’s pocket is liable to imprisonment for 6 months, but when people in the upper strata aci as they do they are unhindered and unembarrassed.
– They are given honours.
– As the honourable member for Wilmot says, this is sometimes the sure way to receive a knighthood. These pillars of our society indulge in these methods and then receive honours. While this is happening, I. will always support moves for a royal commission to investigate medical and health schemes in Australia. I believe that such an investigation would disclose some activities that are as revolting as those that were disclosed by the Royal Commission into liquor that was held in New South Wales not many years ago. On that occasion the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales put the pillars of society into the witness box and under cross-examination they were shown to be engaged in some of thi; most wicked rackets that could bc imagined. Some of the evidence revealed nauseating activities. But we rarely have a royal commission that investigates the people in high places who hold up (heir heads and seek knighthoods and honours from the Queen.
The Government should urgently consider increasing the unemployment and sickness benefits. The Treasurer had the temerity to call this Budget a social welfare budget and a budget of compassion. But he failed to increase child endowment. Endowment for the first child now has not been increased for 17 years. The need io increase the maternity allowance has been completely overlooked, ls it any wonder that the abortion rate in this country is rising rapidly? People who have done research into this subject estimate thai there are about 100,000 illegal abortions each year in Australia. Yet the Government will not honour its commitment to the community. This country urgently needs a rising birthrate and not a declining birthrate. But in recent years, while this Government has been in office, there has been a shocking decrease in births. One reason for this is that the Government will not meet the needs of the under-privileged section of the community.
Each year deaths on the roads have shown a sharp upsurge, but the Government continues to ignore the real cause of this situation. We are told by some experts that speed is the cause; yet we make faster and faster motor cars. We ire told that drunken drivers are the cause; yet we legalise longer drinking hours. It is my belief that the main cause of the increasing toll of the roads is thai the roads themselves are inadequate. They are not built to meet the demands of the modern and faster motor cars. Roads of the proper standard are not built because the Commonwealth has failed to meet its obligations to the States and so enable the States to improve the roads and reduce the toll of the roads. The Government is willing - I believe rightly so - to contribute money for the construction of rehabilitation centres, such as the Melville Rehabilitation Centre in Western Australia, where people injured on the roads are trained for new jobs. But the Government would do better if it contributed finance that could be used io prevent these people from being maimed.
The greatest contribution the Government can make is to help the States to overcome the rapid rise in motor accidents.
I think you would agree with me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if the figures were taken out they would show that, since the new expressway between the Hawkesbury River and Wyong has replaced the old twisting road, the number of serious and fatal accidents in this area has fallen to an extent that is amazing. The expressway was built as a result of the actions of the present Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr Pat Hills, when he was Minister for Highways. If the toll of the roads is to be reduced, the Commonwealth Government must take some practical action. It must give more money to the States so that the States can build highways and improve rural roads. The Government has continually failed to meet the urgent need to give more aid to the States to improve roads in rural and urban areas. The Government, under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, requires the States to spend not less than 40% of the money it grants on roads in rural areas other than main roads. This imposes on the States a burden that they cannot carry.
I was surprised to hear the answer given yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to a question asked by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). It is no wonder that the members of the Liberal Party are getting fed up with the Prime Minister, as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) pointed out last night. He has deceived the nation and the Parliament. Yesterday the Prime Minister made a misleading statement to the House. He is not unknown for this. I find myself restrained here.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! If the honourable member for Hunter does not find himself a little more restrained, he will transgress the Standing Orders.
– The action of the Prime Minister yesterday is not something new. He should be reminded that a half truth is no truth at all. He should also be reminded that there was a time when the basic truths of the scripture, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, were either believed or rejected and such belief or rejection determined whether a person was a Christian. The words used yesterday by the Prime Minister were more or less a verbatim account of a passage at page 53 of the book ‘Living with Asia’, which was written by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). This is a magnificent book and it is accepted by all universities as an authentic document. Before I read from it, I will quote from the answer given by the Prime Minister yesterday. It appears at page 542 of Hansard. He was answering a question, which was asked by the honourable member for Reid and which dealt with Vietnam. It related to the invitation to the United States Government to send troops to South Vietnam. The Prime Minister quoted the following extract from a report of the International Commission:
In examining the complaints and the supporting material, in particular the documentary material, sent by the South Vietnamese mission, the committee has come to the further conclusion that there is evidence to show that the Vietcong has allowed the zone in the North to be used for inciting, encouraging and supporting hostile activities in the zone in the South aimed at the overthrow of the administration in the South. The use of the zone in the North for such activities is a viotation of various articles of the agreement.
He continued to quote the report:
Having examined the complaints and the supporting material sent by the South Vietnamese mission, the committee has come to the conclusion that, in specific instances, there is evidence to show that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies have been sent from the zone in the North to the zone in the South with the object of supporting, organising and carrying on hostile activities including attacks directed against the armed forces and administration of the South.
Then the Prime Minister stopped. That is practically verbatim what appears on page 53 of Dr Cairns’ book. But half truth is no truth at all. The Prime Minister omitted to read this statement from the report of the committee of the International Control Commission which was responsible for keeping peace in Vietnam after 1954, and in the Cairns book it follows immediately the quotation referred to by the Prime Minister:
Taking all the facts into consideration, and basing itself on its own observations made in the US of America and the Republic of Vietnam, the Commission concludes that the Republic of Vietnam has violated Articles 16 and 17 of the Geneva Agreement in receiving the increased military aid from the US of America in the absence of any established credit in its favour.
The Commission is also of the view that, though there may not be any formal military alliance between the Governments of the US of America and the Republic of Vietnam, the establishment of a US Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam, as well as the introduction of a large number of US military personnel beyond the stated strength of the MAAG (Military Assistance Advisory Group) amounts to a factual military alliance, which is prohibited under Article19 of the Geneva Agreement.
Therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, on this evidence I am fully entitled to accuse the Prime Minister of telling the Parliament an untruth, which you somewhat resented a little while ago.
– Order! If the honourable member for Hunter carries on in this way he will be resuming his seal. The Chair directed his attention to the Standing Orders. The honourable member will not reflect on the Chair in any way.
– Mr Deputy Speaker,I respect your high position. I am citing the facts, but if you are ruling against me I will cease to tell the truth to the Parliament. The United States White Paper on this matter also omitted to point out these other sections of the report of the Committee of the International Control Commission. But, Mr Deputy Speaker, due to the attitude you have taken I will have to curtail my remarks in that regard.
I also point out that right from the inception of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war, the Government frightened the Australian people by saying: ‘If we do not stop them there we will have to stop them in our own backyard.’ When I was speaking one night the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) asked me: ‘Do you believe in stopping them here at Lake Burley Griffin?’ I have never heard so much piffle in all my life. I refer honourable members to a publication entitled the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’ of 15th August 1968. It is a conservative magazine. It is printed in Hong Kong for the information of businessmen. Under the heading ‘Singapore’ it says:
Official statistics showed that Singapore’s and Malaysia’s rubber exports totalled 735,847 tons during the first 6 months of 1968,123,000 tons more than 1967’s corresponding period. The biggest importers were Russia (122,930 tons), United States (112,808), China (75,451)-
And China is said to be the great threat to the Australian people -
Britain (58,331) and Japan (52,255)
If China is such a great threat in South East Asia and to Australia, it is a pity that Malaysia, which is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations is allowed to export this strategic material to China. I suggest that the Government has lied to the Australian people, it has deliberately misled them and it has instilled a fear into them by telling them that China could be regarded as the ultimate threat to Australia. There is no possible threat from China because it has a great Army but it does not have a Navy or an Air Force. AsI have said previously in this Parliament, the real basis of the Vietnam war is international money. The war has been instigated by the war mongers so that they can enrich themselves. International finance knows no principles and it has no boundaries.
– I support the Budget and oppose the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). No budget in itself does all that individual members would like it to do. The case is always made out that there are certain people for whom more should be done, and there are people paying taxes who would like to pay less. But the proper way in which toconsider the Budget is to look at it in its entirety. Over a period of time the Government has been providing more and more in the field of social services. The important point is that by its economic policy it has created a climate which has enabled this country to expand its economy and to develop in a way that is the envy of the rest of the world. One has only to leave Australia and to return to see what is happening in this country. Anybody who has moved around Australia particularly in the north and in the north-west, and who denies that amazing and fantastic development is taking place in Australia is simply not keeping up with current facts. This is very largely - nobody would be so biased as to say ‘wholly’ - due to the wise economic policy that has been adopted and maintained by this Government.
It is rather interesting that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) should refer to half truths and distortion by innuendo. I want to draw the attention of the House to something that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said last night, and in doing so I take the opportunity of congratulating the leader of the nation on an excellent speech. The Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition had been incorrect regarding one matter. I suggest that that was not the only matter in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition which was incorrect. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the moneys that are directed to the States and the moneys which are raised by the States for road purposes. He said that the States allocate more than 80% of the grants received under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and more than 80% of their general road expenditure to roads in rural areas. Of course, this applies to all States. But it is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition was reported in the ‘Courier Mail’ of 29th July 1968 as saying that 90% of Commonwealth roads finance was spent on roads in rural areas and 90% of the road revenue raised by the States was spent in rural areas. If he were taken to task about this statement he would say that his statement in the House was quite correct because he said that more than 80% of the money is spent in rural areas.
The fact of the matter is that in New South Wales, in particular, all revenue fi om licence fees, motor vehicle registrations and road maintenance contributions - that is the ton mile tax - is derived from within the State. Of this money, 20% goes to the County of Cumberland and 80% goes to the remainder of the State, which includes Newcastle, Wollongong and all provincial cities and towns. The money is not spent entirely on rural roads. Of the money received under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, 40% goes to non-classified roads largely in shires, many of which, incidentally, embrace towns, and some goes to urban councils and municipalities. The remaining 60% goes to the Department of Main Roads. Of this, 12% goes to the County of Cumberland which results in a figure close to that given by the Leader of the Opposition. The other 48% goes to country towns and cities but not to rural roads. This is misleading. I will be generous enough to say that the Leader of the Opposition has been misinformed. I will say that NSW does not stand for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. It stands for New South Wales. This needs to be looked at in a sensible, reasonable and equitable way. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) answered a question of mine today about the road survey that has been recently carried out. If I may use an ungenerous word, this survey has been slanted very much in favour of the roads in the cities. The emphasis is placed on the high standard that is set down for rural roads but this standard, termed a tolerable standard, is not reasonable and realistic. The means of contact that people in rural areas have with commerce, centres of culture, amenities and centres where they can gain medical aid should be of the highest standard that our economy and technical knowledge can provide. The decision to build high standard rural roads has been a wise one, because it has helped to develop certain areas and to expand industry. It has been a contribution by this Government to the expansion of industries which earn the greater portion of our export income. This income, in turn, enables us to import the raw materials and other things that keep industry going. That is a simple, basic economic fact.
I am pleased to note that in the Budget the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has referred to a matter which I have brought up in this House over a period of time. I refer to drought bonds. He said that primary producers in arid areas will be given the benefit of purchasing drought bonds. One thing disturbs me. Who will determine what is an arid area? If drought bonds are to apply only in the arid areas I have referred to where 30% of our wool is grown, I am very much afraid that because of drought conditions in the last few years not too many people will have made sufficient profit to be able for several years to come, to put aside an amount for drought bonds. I would like to see drought bonds available to all primary producers, because they afford a method of saving by setting aside profits in years of higher taxable income for use in years of low income. This system has operated very successfully, particularly in New Zealand. The system in New Zealand is not quite on the same basis as that proposed in the Budget but fundamentally it is the same.
This Budget provides for an increase in the superphosphate bounty. A good deal of this increase of $2 will be lost because the sulphur used in manufacturing superphosphate has increased so much in value recently. Nevertheless the increase in the bounty is a sign of good intention on the Government’s part, and will be a great contribution to the continued expansion of primary industry. As was ably pointed out by my colleagues, the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) and the honourable member for Calare (Mr England), in their speeches on the Budget, the situation in regard to primary industries is one for concern, particularly the wool industry. In the light of what has happened over the last 10 or 15 years this calls for very careful reflection and very careful consideration. Whilst costs have continued to rise - there is no way that the primary producer can avoid fixed costs in the form of fixed tax and fixed charges - the price of the product has remained at about the same level, or at least any increase which has taken place has not been consistent with the increase in charges. The wool industry in particular has suffered. I am not one who goes around saying that the wool industry is finished. To do this is one of the very worst things we can do for our industry. It is very far from finished, but nevertheless it does require considerable consideration. Perhaps ‘assistance* would not be too strong a word to use. The figures quoted by the honourable member for Canning are worth repeating. Those figures used as a base on a 5-year period ending in June 1950, that being the year when the price of wool was at the highest point ever known. Using 100 units as a base, the price received for wool has declined from 62 units to 49 units between 1965 and 1968 whereas in the same period costs have increased from 235 to 247.
Very many things influence costs and prices. Tariffs seem to be very much to the forefront in the minds of many growers. Tariffs very definitely pose a problem in relation to costs. Many of my colleagues in the wool industry almost see a tariff man behind every salt bush. This is dangerous thinking, because there has to be a balance in our economy. We must have secondary industries to build up our population, to keep up our immigration programme and to enlarge our home markets. But this needs watching and does call for careful consideration. It is interesting to note that 76% of the products we bring into this country come in tariff free and that we impose tariff duties on only 24% of imported items. The general position of rural industries is not one where, as we were led to believe, everything is rosy and thriving. To some extent every industry is causing anxiety. Our wheat industry, which I hope to say more about during the Estimates debate, has gone through a period of prosperity, and I have reason to believe that that prosperity will be maintained. The most prosperous industry at the present time is our beef industry. The prosperity enjoyed by this industry is due in a fairly large measure to the increase in our exports to the United States of America over the last decade and particularly over the last 5 years. There has been strong pressure and strong lobbying in the United States to increase the content of soya bean meal in processed meat from 3% to 7%. Although this is not a matter for alarm, it is a matter for considerable thought, because the 4% meat content that would be displaced in American processed meats coincidentally equals approximately the quantity of meat imported from Australia.
Australia has emerged from a time of drought into one of the most bountiful seasons ever known. The present good season tends to lull people into a false sense of security and to blind them to the importance of water. I still maintain that water is our most vital commodity, not only for irrigation purposes but also for domestic and industrial use. In many cases the only limiting factor on mining in northern and central Australia is the availability of water. Fortunately, a good deal of work is being done in surveying underground water resources. Our next breakthrough will probably be the discovery of large quantities of underground water. It has already been found in large quantities in parts of central Australia. Some people become very worried, as well they might, about the economics of using underground water, but surely in a world hungry for food we can do something to utilise the water resources that exist beneath the surface.
Some people are prone to say that large monuments of concrete in the form of dams are built without regard to their cost or productivity. In this regard it is interesting to note that in the 5 years ended 1965 the total annual value of production using irrigation was $150m in Victoria. $100m in New South Wales and S50m in Queensland. I am not able at the moment to give the capital cost of the irrigation works which enabled this production to take place, but it was a little more than one-eighth of the total value of pastoral and agricultural production and about one-quarter of the value of our gross agricultural production. This production came from an area of about 2.5 million acres or about 6% of our present cultivated land. It has been possible to dissect costs in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Capital investment in the MIA amounts to $32m but the return from that area now exceeds $32m a year. So one should not condemn the cost of irrigation projects without looking at the other side of the picture. As the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has rightly said, the future of our nation must be built on a sound economy and the development of our industrial potential.
We all must have been rudely shocked by the events of recent weeks, particularly of the last week. I refer to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by troops of Russia and her Warsaw Pact satellites. The Prime Minister has said that the invasion must have been planned in advance. I would suggest that the Warsaw Pact military exercises carried out in Czechoslovakia some weeks before the invasion were nothing more than a rehearsal for what took place. It is very difficult to understand how anybody could claim that Russia was able to invade Czechoslovakia because the Americans were preoccupied in South Vietnam. It is interesting to note that the only nation to congratulate the Russians on their efforts has been North Vietnam. Of course, Ho Chi Minh is an expert in these tactics. He adopted them in invading South Vietnam.
The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) said this afternoon that China did not pose a threat to this country because China does not have an Air Force or a Navy. Apparently the honourable member has never read Mao Tse Tung’s red book. Surely nobody believes that the threat from
China is a threat of immediate invasion. The Chinese are far too wise for that. They say that time does not mean anything. The threat comes from subversive activity directed at the countries in our region. I would hope that the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia will cause the British to revise their decision to withdraw from the Persian Gulf, where the Russians have been exerting a tremendous amount of influence in recent times.
In conclusion I repeat that although we all would like to do more for people less fortunate than ourselves, this Budget does assist to alleviate the difficulties faced by the needy people in the community without detracting from the development and defence of the nation. I therefore support the Budget.
– I rise to order. Did you notice, Mr Deputy Speaker, that while the honourable member for Riverina was speaking not one member of the Liberal Party was present in the chamber?
-Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable member. [Quorum formed.]
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), which clearly specifies the inadequacies and shortcomings of the Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). Like other members of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) expressed the usual token thanks to the Government for the wise economic measures taken in the administration of the affairs of the country. The uttering of such platitudes is the usual custom of the junior partner in this coalition and is one of the reasons for the maladministration of the economic affairs of the country by the Gorton Government.
In this Budget we have once again witnessed the scandal of a Liberal Government protecting the interests of the greedy at the expense of the needy. This situation is highlighted in the field of taxation. No attempt has been made by the Government to rectify the unjust, unfair and scandalous practice of placing the emphasis on indirect taxation instead of on direct taxation. Since the Chifley Labor Government went oat of office in 1949 Liberal-Country Party Governments have adopted the practice of placing the emphasis on indirect taxation, thereby imposing a burden on the great mass of workers in this country. The need to consider the position of the people on lower incomes is clearly outlined in the preface of a book, ‘Taxation in Australia - Agenda for Reform’, which was written by a group appointed by the Social Science Research Council of Australia - Professors R. I. Downing, H. W. Arndt, A. H. Boxer and R. L. Mathews. The preface states:
The report submits for consideration a number of proposals designed primarily to improve the equity of the Australian tax system with special reference to direct taxes on income and wealth. We have also borne in mind the need for the tax system to contribute to the stabilisation, efficiency and growth of the economy. Equity, nevertheless, has been our touchstone. Many people have said to us, in the course of our work, that they do not think equity is of such great importance. We on the other hand would regard it ac irresponsible to rate equity less highly than we have. It has seemed to us an axiom rather than a value judgment that people with more or less similar economic strengths should be taxed similarly. It seems just as important that people with differing economic strengths should be taxed in such a way as to reduce inequality. We certainly do not suggest that there should be anything drastic or revolutionary about this process - but simply that, for some time yet, inequality should be gradually reduced.
Every member of the community accepts the responsibility for taxation to achieve orderly administration of the affairs of the nation. Therefore, governments of democratic communities have a responsibility to provide a tax system which is just as fair and equitable to those with low incomes and little wealth as it is to those who have high incomes and great wealth. Successive Federal Liberal-Country Party governments since 1949 have increased excise, sales tax and company tax - in other words, indirect taxes - and liberalised tax concessional deductions in such a way as deliberately to place the burden on those in the groups with low and middle incomes. This so called compassionate Budget recently presented by the Treasurer provides for an increase in the general rate of sales tax from 12i% to 15% on commercial motor vehicles, motor spare parts and accessories, soaps and detergents, potable spirits, typewriters, office furniture and equipment, sporting goods, toys, motor cycles, lawnmowers, caravans, polishes and chemicals, travel wares and musical instruments. It is significant to note, however, that the Treasurer has learned a lesson from the mistakes of his predecessors and has chosen not to increase the rate on noncommercial vehicles, which already are subject to sales tax at the rate of 25%. We recall that an increase in the sales tax on motor vehicles generally initiated the Government’s credit squeeze policy in 1961, with all its disastrous results.
The increase of 2£% in the general rate of sales tax will raise an additional $44m a year. The rate of company tax will be increased from 42i% to 45%, bringing a further $60m a year to the Government’s tax revenue. These two increases alone will bring in a total of $104m a year, all of which will have to be paid by the consumers in the form of indirect taxation, because the impost will be passed on to them. I know that some honourable gentlemen on the Government benches will dispute the claim that company tax is a form of indirect taxation. However, 1 am sure that all honourable members who are conversant with the manner in which the wealthy business enterprises of this country operate are well aware that, despite the pious platitudes of the Treasurer, the increase in the rate of company tax will be treated as a cost of production and will be absorbed in prices charged to the consumers for the commodities that they buy. On 20th July 1968, more than 3 weeks before the Treasurer presented his so-called compassionate Budget, there appeared in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’, under the heading Steep Rise in COL for State’, a report in the following terms:
South Australians were hit by the highest cost of living rise in Australia in the June quarter.
In Adelaide, the rise was 52c.
This is shown in figures issued today by the Commonwealth Statistician Mr K. M. Archer.
Mr Archer’s figures show that the main factor in SA’s cost of living rise was the price of meat.
An average family’s meat bill rose by 38c in the quarter.
The average potato bill also went up 2c. while the price of other foodstuffs rose by 4c.
The average cost of living in the State capitals rose 28c, or 0.8%, in the quarter, the Federal Statistics Bureau reports today.
Sydney was up 25c, Melbourne up 35c, Perth up 30c, Hobart up 2c and Canberra up 18c.
On u weighted average of the six State capitals, housing showed the biggest cost rise - up 1.3% - followed by food 0.9%, household supplies am! equipment 0.8% and clothing and drapery 0.5%.
The weighted average of the cost of living in the- State capitals was up SI. IS over the financial year.
By city this was: Sydney. 98c; Melbourne, $1.12; Brisbane 9Rc; Adelaide, 92c; Perth, 82c; Hobart. S 1 .OK 1 ilia II refer to this article in more detail later when I come to various aspects of social services. lt is an interesting study to analyse taxation by type for ail public authorities. 1 huw 1.,ken from the publication entitled Australian National Accounts’ for the years 1953-54 lo 1966 67 figures for direct taxation and for indirect taxation of public authorities, including Commonwealth and St.ite governments and local government authorities, showing these types of taxation a– percentages of the gross national product. lt is most noticeable that between 1953-54 and 1966-67 there were at times sharp decreases in direct taxation but indirect taxation progressively increased. In 1953-54, direct taxation totalled $1,1 16m, or 12.3% of the gross national product. Indirect taxation totalled S968m, or 10.7% of the gross national product. In 1958-59, direct luxation represented only 10.4% of the gross national product, whereas indirect taxation had risen to 11.5%. A similar trend was noticeable again in 1959-60. This trend clearly indicates that Liberal governments place greater emphasis on indirect taxation than on direct taxation, though indirect taxation operates to the disadvantage of those in the low and middle income groups.
This attitude of Liberal governments is further highlighted by changes in the concessional tax deductions that have been allowed. The greater a person’s income, the more advantage he can take of these deductions. A particular instance is the concessional deduction of $1,200 allowable in respect of life insurance premiums. How many workers - or even people in the middle income group, for that matter - can afford to take full advantage of this deduction? It has become a major selling point with insurance agents in their efforts to sell life insurance. I am well aware of this because I have a friend who is in the insurance game. He has informed me that his company has told him and his fellow agents to use to the utmost the argument that this deduction provides a means of obtaining assistance from the Commonwealth in the payment of life insurance premiums. The Commonwealth takes over part of the responsibilities of a taxpayer who can afford to take advantage of this concessional deduction. Similar considerations apply over the whole range of concessional deductions. So a person who pays tax at the rate of 50c in the dollar has the advantage of having the Commonwealth pay half the expense that he is allowed to claim as a concessional deduction, whereas the person in the low or middle income group gains much less benefit, though it is those in these income groups who most deserve assistance from the Government. Events have proved, particularly this Budget, that they have not received it.
The “Commonwealth Taxation Assessments 1965-66, Bulletin No. 5’ provides information about concessional deductions as related to ranges of income. It indicates clearly the unjustness and inequity of our taxation structure. 1 regard the average wage earner in Australia as the person who is earning between $1,801 and $3,000 a year, lt is interesting to compare this wage earner with the person in the classification of $4,001 upwards. It is obvious from the information contained in that booklet that abuses are made of taxation deductions, particularly by the wealthy supporters of the Government. There are 1,669,800 wage earners who are receiving between SI, 801 and $3,000 annually and 594,300 earning $4,001 and upwards. Statistics indicate that the average wage earners receive 33% of the education deduction benefits whereas those earning more than $4,001 a year - one third of the number of average wage earners - receive 35.1%. This pattern extends right through the concessional allowances. It applies to claims for medical costs, for chemists’ charges and particularly for life assurance payments. I cannot stress strongly enough the abuse being made of life assurance concessions by those who have the means to take advantage of the situation. Those in the average wage class get 27.7% of the life assurance concessions whereas those in the wealthier class get 41.5%. This is a clear indication of how the Government looks after its wealthy friends.
The taxation structure, as administered by the present Government, is loaded la favour of the haves as against the havenots because statistics indicate that 30% of the face value of concessions goes to fewer than 13% of the taxpayers and the tax worth of the concessions would be nearly 40%. Surely this situation clearly illustrates that the time is long overdue for a reform of our tax structure. It would be more equitable and just to abolish all concessional deductions and to make a reasonable payment to wives and children, in the same way as child endowments are made, and to levy taxation at progressive rates on total income. This at least would go some way towards ensuring equality in the tax structure.
I should like now to make some comments on the social service benefits as contained - or perhaps I should say not contained - in the Budget. The Australian public was treated to a fanfare of Press statements, following the election of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the appointment of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). Both of these gentlemen made numerous statements that social welfare would occupy a predominant place in the immediate future, but the Budget makes it crystal clear that the Government is not taking action to rectify the glaring anomalies that successive Liberal-Country Party governments have allowed in the social services field. The Government said that it would look after the less privileged and less fortunate people in the community who have to rely on age pensions and unemployment and sickness benefits. The first thing I want to do is to comment on the great hand-out to pensioners. It is most interesting to refer to newspaper articles and to headlines concerning pension payments. In one newspaper, under the headline ‘Pensioners Happy’, and bearing the date line Canberra, 14th June, the following article appears:
Representatives of the Australian Pensioners Federation today met the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for 2* hours.
We had a good hearing,” the Federation’s national president Mrs Irene Ellis, of Melbourne, said. ‘We are happy now.’
Mr Wentworth commented: ‘It was a most useful meeting. I now know the pensioners’ priorities and they outlined what they wanted most clearly.’
The day following the introduction of the Budget a newspaper published an article headed ‘Pensioners Are Unhappy’. It stated:
Pensioners were in a fighting mood last night after learning of the $1 pension rise in the Federal Budget.
The secretary of the 80,000-member Commonwealth Pensioners Association, Mrs Irene Ellis, of Victoria, had this to say in Canberra: ‘We aro disgusted. It is a mere pittance, and pensioners will still have to live at a subsistence level. We will fight it. We will call on the Australian people at the next Federal election to show their objection through the ballot box.’
During the last financial year there has been an increase of $1.15 a week in the cost of living, and in the last Budget no provision was made for pension increases. So it is obvious that the increases proposed in this Budget are measly. When the Minister for Social Services was a back-bench member he took a considerable interest in social service matters and I should have thought that he would have done more for pensioners. Consideration should have been given to the allowance paid to the wife of a pensioner. She should receive at least the age pension even if she were under 60 years of age. A number of such women are living at a mere subsistence level and cannot obtain the agc pension. It has been suggested that if these women went to see a doctor they would probably be able to get medical certificates that would enable them to qualify for an invalid pension, but this should not bc necessary. When a man reaches 65 years of age and qualifies for the age pension he still has the same responsibility to maintain his wife. It has been argued by some honourable members opposite that if we granted wives an age pension before they reached 60 years of age. and when their husbands reached 65 years of age, this would encourage a lot of young women to marry old men. I have never heard a more stupid argument. The Minister for Social Services was a great champion of pensioners before he was appointed to his portfolio.
– He was a rebel then.
– That is so, but he was a great advocate for the abolition of the means test. So he should have been. The abolition of the means test was one of the main items of the platform of the Liberal Party of Australia in 1949 when it defeated the
Chifley Labor Government. It was an election promise that the Liberal Party put forward to get the support of the public. But at no time since has the Government attempted to bring legislation of that nature before this Parliament. The Government has been in office 19 years. During that period it has introduced at least eighteen Budgets. Tt has liberalised the means test but it has not attempted to introduce the legislation that it promised in 1949 for the abolition of the means test.
The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) this afternoon put forward a detailed case for the abolition of the means test. He suggested that abolition of the means test should begin with all persons over 75 years of age. I suppose that I am a little more radical than the honourable member, but I would prefer to see this Government or some other government in the future make a more positive approach towards abolishing the means test. At least a decision should be made to abolish the means test over a period of two parliaments. In other words we should go one sixth of the way each year for a period of six years. The thoughts expressed by the honourable member for Hunter are most valid.
This Government has a poor record as far as unemployment and sickness benefits are concerned. An examination of the rates will show that they are the same now as they were in 1962. Six years ago the rate for an adult was $8.25 a week, with $6 for a dependent wife. The same rates are still in force. I am indebted to the Minister for Social Services, who is sitting at the table, for this information. The last time that there was an increase in unemployment and sickness benefits was 1962, yet the cost of living has increased by $1.15 in the last 12 months. I understand that a similar increase occurred in the previous 12 months. Why should those who have to accept unemployment and sickness benefits be asked to live on the same amount today as in 1962?
During the last period of this Parliament I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) whether consideration would be given to providing travel vouchers to those seeking jobs. I said I had been approached by a constituent who had been directed by the Department of Labor and National Service at Elizabeth, which is my electorate, to go to Adelaide, a distance of approximately 19 or 20 miles, to get a job. A return ticket by train costs 64c. The man has not been successful in getting a job although he made four other attempts. I received a nice reply from the Minister to the effect that he had made some inquiries and that in the future people might be assisted with travel warrants for a return journey to an agreed destination, but that recipients of this assistance would have to undertake to repay the cost of the fare involved after they had commenced employment and were receiving wages. A mere pittance is involved and yet this compassionate Government, which has supposedly gone out of its way to make things easier for recipients of social services, expects to be reimbursed.
Time does not allow me to discuss fully maternity allowances and child endowment rates, but I will take the opportunity of doing so during the Estimates debate. Every person has a moral right to share in the wealth of the Australian community, and this applies to pensioners as well. Australia’s growing productivity and expansion are making us a richer nation. Yet the Commonwealth Government refuses even to maintain social service benefits at the levels of from 5 to 20 years ago, let alone do anything to ensure their continual advancement in value. The manner in which the Commonwealth Government is acting is entirely contemptuous of those who are the most needy and who should be given extensive consideration. The Government should increase all social service payments at least to their former levels and should take early action to make them commensurate with current living standards.
This year is Human Rights year - so determined by the United Nations. There can be no greater human right than the health and welfare of the nation’s citizens. This is a year when we have ali been asked to recognise the suffering, misery and needs of those requiring assistance and least able to fend for themselves. As a matter of conscience, the Government should read and heed the 1963 report of the International Labour Organisation, which showed that in regard to the amount of money spent per head of population on social security, Australia had slipped from its 1949 position of third to sixteenth out of twenty-six countries. The position is even worse today.
Mr WENTWORTH (MackellarMinister for Social Services) [4.471 - I think that this is the nineteenth Budget to which 1 have spoken. It is the first to which I have spoken as a Minister. I wonder what subject I would have chosen if I had been speaking from the backbenches. Perhaps I would have spoken on foreign affairs, which commands much of our attention today. Perhaps I would have spoken on the economic climate or overseas trade. 1 may even have spoken on the revolution which is taking place in grain production throughout the world with the introduction of the new strains of wheat and rice that will transform the grain economy of the world and will have tremendous significance to Australia because they will mean that for only 3 or 4 years at the most will it be possible for Australia to find a market for large wheat crops.
This revolution may require some adjustment of our rural economy in the interests of the wheat growers, whom I hope will not be let down by their friends. It will mean that for the future Australia must look to minerals and meat rather than to wool and wheat as the mainstays of our export income. I do not for one moment mean that there will nol be any wheat exports or that wool exports will not be the biggest item in the receipts from our exports. But those two commodities will lose their predominant importance. Therefore, some kind of adjustment will be necessary.
Those are the subjects that I would have preferred perhaps to speak about from the backbenches. However, I think that the House would prefer me to say something about social services this afternoon. 1 feel that I should do so because the Government really has a story to tell in the Budget. It has a plan to put forward. It has already achieved a great deal. When the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) took office he set up the Welfare Committee of Cabinet to consider the whole question of social services and what is incorporated in this Budget is the first instalment only of the plan which the Prime Minister set out. Honourable members will know very well that there is naturally some tendency for social services to grow in a haphazard way under the influences of political and other pressures. This is helped in our system by two factors, the first of which is that these services are divided between the Federal and the State Governments. I think it is proper that each of these Governments have their sphere and in the passage of, for example, the deserted wives legislation only a few months ago this House very properly recognised that.
There is the other factor, however, which does lead to this kind of haphazard growth, namely, that of necessity the real field of social services impinges upon more than one Commonwealth department. The greater expenditure, of course, lies in my Department, but this cannot be entirely divorced from the operations of the Department of Health or the Department of Housing, or indeed from other aspects of the Government’s administration. This is of the nature of things. Until the present Prime Minister took the matter in hand there was a tendency for each of these Departments to develop its plan without proper reference one to another, so there was some kind of overlapping and wasteful duplication which was not to the benefit of people who needed help from the Government.
Until this present review started there was not a proper co-ordination between the services provided by the Commonwealth and those provided by the various States. Now, for the first time, we are setting out on a purposeful and coherent plan. But this is not yet fully developed. As I have said, this Budget is the first instalment. The Prime Minister has laid down twin objectives: First, that our resources should be directed primarily to the areas of real need so that they should do the most good. We do not have unlimited resources, but we do have increasing resources and, as honourable members who listened to the Prime Minister last night will know, it is the Government’s intention to allocate increasing resources for this general purpose. The second objective is that in so doing we do not want to neglect entirely the thrift which is the basis of our economy and which provides the sinews without which the maintenance of our structure of social services would be entirely impossible.
Let us look in general at the plan that is envisaged in this present Budget which we are now debating. Firstly, there is the raising of the standard rate of pension throughout by Si. I think the House should note that in the cases of greatest need the supplementary assistance is also payable. The pension is therefore $16 plus the fringe benefits. The House might appreciate that this, in terms of real purchasing power, is the highest level to which the Commonwealth pension at standard rates has ever come. This is the high water mark. I do not say that it will not go further forward, although it may well be that in its development of its objectives the present Government may be more selective rather than increasing very much the overall rate above any changes in the cost of living.
I think the House will remember that when the pension is looked at in terms of present day purchasing power - I have adjusted this to the changes in the cost of living throughout so that I am using a set of figures which can be compared, one with another - from the inception of Commonwealth pensions they did not go above the $6, $7 or $8 level until towards the end of the Second World War. It may be, and I think it was, that in those days families had more regard for their responsibilities as a family. There may have been other factors at work, but up to a time towards the end of the Second World War, $8 was the ceiling in terms of present day purchasing power. From then there was a rise under the Chifley Government to a ceiling of about $10 in terms of present day purchasing power. At the time of the change of government in December 1 949 the pension rate in terms of present purchasing power was about $9.35. This was an improvement on the level of the past, but it was vastly less than the level of today. I remind the House again that in those days the main fringe benefits in the shape of medical services were not available to pensioners to the degree that they are today.
So honourable members can see that in the lifetime of this series of governments since our side came to power in 1949 we have just about doubled the rate of pension in terms of real purchasing power, and the rate proposed in this Budget is the highest it has ever achieved. Perhaps honourable members would say that it is still not enough. In point of fact all of us would like to pay more to everybody. This is a general view. However, I have a feeling that if we are to increase these rates it may be better for the future to have selective increases devoted to the areas of greatest need.
In this Budget, as in some previous budgets, the increase in the married rate has been less than the increase in the single rate, but there is a good reason for this. This is an example of the principle of directing funds towards the areas of greatest need, using available resources where they will do the most good. I know, and everybody knows, that there is the odd exception to any rule. But the married couple would be better off than the single person if they received exactly twice the amount, because some of the expenditures, not all, are shared. For example, rent and items of that character are shared.
Professor Downing, who conducted the needs survey in Melbourne, but forward the general principle that the single rate pension should be 60% of the married pension rate. Under the Government’s present proposals, I think the figure is about 56%. The difference between the pension of a married and a single person is not as great as it is in most other countries and is not as great as the university people would like it to be. But I believe that in this case the Government has a sound point in mind. The Budget is directed specifically to the needs of widows and of widows with children. The child’s allowance has been raised from $1.50 to $2.50. This is a great, significant and good rise. It is something from which widows with children particularly will benefit. Provision has been made for the surviving partner of a married pensioner couple. We propose to pay the double pension for 12 weeks after one of the partners dies. In the case of a migrant widow we will no longer insist on residential qualifications. Provision has been made for a special rehabilitation course to help widows to train for profitable industry. We have made a small change - it is not of tremendous importance, but it will be of advantage wherever it operates - in the method of calculating the allowance for the first child. We have also made provision for an increased wife’s allowance. For a full year these benefits will cost S70m. They will benefit over 1,000,000 people consisting of 800,000 pensioners, 80,000 widows, 105,000 children and 20,000 wives. I have rounded these figures a little and because of this they are not entirely accurate to the last decimal place. But I am giving the House a correct picture of the situation.
The Government has also looked at the subject of health, which really is of concern to the pensioner. In the past the pensioner has not enjoyed proper provision for his hospitalisation. There will now be no limit to the time insured people may spend in hospital. Most important of all perhaps, we have raised from $2 to $5 a day the subsidy for heavy nursing cases. These matters concern the Department of Health rather than the Department of Social Services. But primarily they affect the pensioner. This is an example of the way in which the Welfare Committee of the Cabinet has been able to co-ordinate a policy which is directed towards the real needs of pensioners irrespective of whether the action should lie with the Department of Social Services or the Department of Health. We intend to put more emphasis on voluntary effort. Provision is made for an extra subsidy for home nursing in this Budget. We are developing a new system of domiciliary care whereby support will be given to all those excellent and wonderful organisations, such as Meals on Wheels, which are of benefit to pensioners. Senior citizen centres will be subsidised in accordance with a plan that will be worked out with the States. The Welfare Committee has only just really started its work which will be carried on into the future.
Finally, I do not wish to take up the time of the House too long, but I would like to discuss briefly the question of accommodation for the aged, sick and needy. Perhaps the most important aspect of all Ls that if a person can obtain proper accommodation, other problems become manageable. The Government will further develop its system of providing aged persons homes. This matter is at present under consideration by the Welfare Committee of the Cabinet and I am hopeful that before Christmas 1 shall be able to introduce a Bill to improve yet further what has turned out to be an excellent scheme. I would like to mention to the House one important by-product of the Government’s decision to raise the heavy nursing subsidy from $2 to $5 a day. As honourable members will know, under the existing provisions it is possible for an aged persons home to have, as an adjunct, a nursing home that may consist of up to half the number of beds in the institution itself. Full advantage has not been taken of this because many of these organisations have felt that they would not have the financial resources to run the nursing homes, lt is inevitable, though perhaps regrettable, that as people advance in age more of them become heavy nursing cases. We can well understand the reluctance of some aged persons homes to undertake commitments which they felt they did not have the financial capacity to maintain. This impediment will no longer exist because, under the scheme announced in the Budget, even though there will be a high proportion of heavy nursing cases in the home, it will still be possible for the organisation concerned to obtain finance to maintain the attached nursing home on an even keel.
Under existing arrangements we have a leeway of about 10,000 nursing beds for our aged persons homes. This is the number of beds which are available under the Government’s existing legislation but which have not yet been taken up by these organisations. All these beds will not be taken up, of course, in a single year. But I am certain they will be taken up at an increasing rate as these organisations realise that under the proposed scheme as announced in this Budget, it will be possible for them not only to obtain a $2 for $1 subsidy for their nursing homes but also to obtain an additional $2 a day for light nursing cases and an additional $5 a day for heavy nursing cases. Under these arrangements the maintenance of their homes will be financially possible.
I should like to have said many other things if I had the time to do so. I should like to have said something about the Government’s desire to develop its rehabilitation services. Time will not permit me to do so. May I finally and just in passing say, not in regard to social services but in regard to my other responsibility, Aboriginals, that here again this Budget breaks new and, 1 am sure, fruitful ground. I have made a statement to the House and I hope it will be debated as soon as time can be made available for it. Therefore, I will not pursue this matter. I hope it will be possible to have the House discuss it later.
Could I just say by way of summary that the Government is providing in this Budget an extra $10m for Aboriginal welfare. This is in addition to the $7m or so it provides for Aboriginals in the Northern Territory and the estimated $13m a year that is being spent on social services for Aboriginals within the scope of my other responsibilities. Therefore, this amount of $30m a year - the special amount of $10m, the $7m to the Northern Territory and the $13m in social services - is a substantia] Commonwealth contribution to the welfare of Aboriginals for whom we have now this new responsibility, which the Commonwealth Government will do everything it can to discharge. In both areas, social services and Aboriginals, although we are providing the financial sinews, we will not be as successful as we should unless we can mobilise, as I believe we can and will mobilise, the goodwill that is inherent throughout our community for both sections - for the pensioners, for the aged, for the needy and for the Aboriginals who also in a sense fail within this same category.
– 1 rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The tragic events of the last week have overshadowed the Budget. The Parliament quite properly interrupted this debate to express the dismay and the resentment of all sections of the Australian people at the illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army. I should like to place on record my support for the sentiments that were expressed during the debate that took place last Thursday. Having said that, I would like to deal with some aspects of the Budget presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) two weeks ago. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), in the speech that he has just concluded outlined quite a number of propositions. He made one point that I found rather fascinating. He said that the fringe benefits now available to pensioners were not available prior to 1949. In at least one respect, and I think a major respect, the benefits available under the pensioner medical scheme were not required before 1949 because people in all sections of the community were able to obtain public hospital treatment without cost.
– If they could get a bed.
– If they could get a bed.
– Which they could not.
– I mention to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) that if they can get a bed now they are very lucky. If they live in a country area, where there is bush nursing or only private hospitals, beds are just not available.
– The honourable member should confine his remarks to Victoria.
– 1 happen to represent an electorate that is in Victoria and the people who are in Victoria are the people on whose behalf I speak in this place. In his speech, the Treasurer constantly referred to the Budget as a social welfare Budget. This, 1 would suggest, was a deliberately misleading term. It has already been shown that the words were little more than an empty catch cry. It may be as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has suggested, that the Government has social welfare in mind, but it has very little social welfare in this Budget. Pensions have been treated in exactly the same way as they have been treated by this Government over a considerable period of years. In 1946 the combined pension for an aged couple represented 73% of the basic wage. The basic wage has since been abolished, but at the time it was abolished - the actual value of the pension has not materially altered since then - it still represented 73% of the basic wage. That basic wage was not related to the C series index as the basic wage in the past has been. The basic wage was frozen in 1953 and had not advanced with the cost of living.
The rate of child endowment for the first child has not altered since it was introduced in 1950. The rate for the second child has never been altered at all by this Government. It remains at the level at which it was fixed in 1947. Since then money values have altered substantially and the cost of maintaining a family, in relevant terms, has not changed for the better. Indeed, I suggest that the cost of maintaining a family is now higher in relevant terms than it was in 1947. Applied to young families and those dependent on social services, this Budget could not possibly be described as a social welfare Budget. It seems to me that social welfare means the acceptance by the community of responsibility for those persons who for many reasons are unable to care for themselves. I do not think at this time that this Budget even suggests that we are accepting that sort of responsibility. A married couple, without children, in receipt of sickness benefit or unemployment benefit - of course, the position of people with children is no better - are left to maintain themselves, sometimes for long periods, on a sum of $14.25 a week. I would ask any honourable member on the Government side who has the courage to stand up and say that this is social welfare.
– What about the other benefits?
– What other benefits?
– The fringe-
– What other benefits are available to a person receiving unemployment benefit or sickness benefit? This applies especially to a migrant family receiving sickness benefit because they are not eligible for an invalid pension and must remain in receipt of the sickness benefit until such time as they are eligible. It is impossible for a married couple to live on sickness benefit or unemployment benefit of $14.25 a week. This is the sort of situation in which many people are placed. I think that every honest member will admit that people have been in his office telling him of their troubles and that he has been forced to tell them that they have to go to charitable institutions to try to obtain additional assistance. Widows with children who, for various reasons, are not in a position to obtain employment and people who are virtually permanently on an invalid pension are hardly dealt with in a manner which could be classified as conforming to social welfare.
An independent survey conducted in Melbourne by a section of the University of Melbourne suggested that a very high percentage of Australian people were living below the poverty line. The Government has not been prepared to accept the findings of that survey, as has been indicated in answers to questions in this House, but it is also not prepared to conduct its. own survey to ascertain the real position. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in his speech indicated that he at least is aware of some of the problems which exist in the community. But not all of them relate to social services. Because of land speculation, shortages and high interest rates, the cost to a family of finding suitable accommodation is extremely high. In many low income families it would represent one-third of their total income. This cost cannot be afforded unless a person is able to purchase his own home. In many cases it is necessary to do this in order to obtain accommodation. But rates are continually rising, interest rates are increasing and recently the rates charged by the Commonwealth Bank to housing societies were raised by one-half of 1%, which added approximately $2.50 a month to repayments by members of co-operative housing societies. These increases which are constant are making home ownership a burden for persons whose incomes would not be classified as being in the middle income range.
Employment for persons who are unskilled or semi-skilled and who are over 40 years of age is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. It makes home ownership a real gamble for persons who will be over 40 years of age at the completion of the long-term purchase of a home because unless they are skilled in a trade which is not likely to become obsolete with technological changes, they are contracting for something which they have only an even money chance of being able to pay off under a long-term arrangement. Thirty years is a long time for anyone to undertake to meet repayments.
Turning to the question of employment opportunities, it is extremely worrying to examine trends which have taken place in the United States of America. The percentage of the United States work force listed as farm labourers was 4.5% in 1950, but it dropped to 2.7% in 1964. Those listed as farmers and farm managers represented 7.3% of the work force in 1950, but the percentage dropped to 3.1% in 1964. The percentage of persons listed as semi-skilled workers dropped from 22.8% in 1950 to 17.7% in 1964. Even among those classified as skilled workers and foremen there was a fall from 13.6% in 1950 to 12.2% in 1964. The position among clerks and sales people was practically static at 21%. There was a movement of only 1% in the period between 1950 and 1964. The big rise in employment opportunities took place in the service field. In 1950, 7.2% of the work force was employed in this category, but it had jumped to 16.7% in 1964. Substantial rises also occurred among the professional, managerial, proprietor and official sections of the work force.
It is true to say that, in future, prospects for employment will diminish with age and technological obsolescence. Already those in the 40-plus age bracket are finding it difficult to obtain constant employment. This situation applies particularly to unskilled and semi-skilled persons who are aged over 40 years and who, in the main, were denied educational opportunities for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the advent of the depression in the 1930s and the World War in the 1940s. This was the period when these people, if they had had the opportunity, would have completed their secondary and tertiary education. Apart from the extremely successful rehabilitation scheme following the last World War. little or nothing has been attempted which would bring about the necessary upgrading of the all too large section of the community which must at present depend on continued labor shortages in order to retain their employment.
The policy of the Government and of industry today appears to be: ‘If you are over 40 years we would be obliged if you would stop making a nuisance of yourself.’ Even Government departments have policies which deny employment to persons over 40 years. The tragedy of people in the over 40-age group is more than matched by people who are physically handicapped, mentally retarded or have some other disability which prevents them from obtaining regular employment. 1 1 is unlikely that any member of this House can say that he is not aware of cases of persons who have not been able to get a job because of some disability which constitutes a bar to normal employment. These people represent one of the great tragedies of today. Unless they are helped they must surely sink deeper into the morass of hopelessness which is already so evident in so many cases.
I would like to put forward for the Government’s consideration - and I hope for implementation - a proposal which I believe would go some of the way towards easing the plight of these people and enabling them to seek employment in sheltered workshops. I would suggest that the Commonwealth should offer to pay the salary of a manager and a supervisor in any sheltered workshop which is established by the local community as a non-profit venture. Also, invalid pensioners who are employed in the workshops should be allowed to retain their pension as part of their income in order to make up their total earnings to at least 85% of the award rate for the job which they are doing. That would encourage them to obtain work in industry so that they could earn the full award rales, lt would also enable them to recover their self-confidence, which is an important matter in a number of cases.
In the Geelong area alone I would suggest there are at least 500 persons who receive sickness benefits, unemployment benefits or the invalid pension and who could perform useful work but at present they are not able to compete for jobs on the open market.
– Did not your Party oppose Ihe adult apprenticeship scheme?
– I do not know because I was not here. The field of education is one in which much remains to be achieved, and every day that action is delayed means that some child has had his future jeopardised. The under-educated of today are finding employment difficult to obtain. Tomorrow they will find it impossible to obtain employment. A child should be able to obtain an adequate education, irrespective of the financial position of his parents. Unfortunately, this is not the case at the present lime. Children who are fortunate enough to have well endowed parents can expect to obtain the maximum possible level of education which they are able or willing to accept. For the less fortunate children cost is often the only relevant factor. A low income family does not normally provide a child with the broad cultural outlook which would serve as a base for educational expansion. The schools which these children will attend are often less well equipped because under present policy most school equipment must be paid for by the parents.
Even in the field of Government grants there is evidence that low income areas are not as well served as are the more affluent districts. In my area, for instance, the only co-educational high school without a science block is at Norlane, which serves Geelong’s biggest Housing Commission estate. This, I admit, is a matter of State priorities. But the fact remains that these children are less well endowed than those in more affluent areas where parents are able to afford the greater part of the cost of their children’s education. Every child, boy or girl, who is forced out of school because of the economic circumstances of its parents, or who is subjected to less than adequate educational facilities, as often happens in schools which are established in temporary accommodation that is not suitable for the level and type of education being attempted, is disadvantaged for the rest of its life. It costs a parent up to $150 per year to keep a child in a State high or technical school. Where there is more than one child of secondary school age the situation constitutes a severe economic strain. lt is impossible if for various reasons the breadwinner is unable to earn a reasonable level of income constantly. Migrants are adding to the strain on the education system and have had a severe effect on both independent and State schools. To date the Commonwealth has not appeared to concern itself with assisting to meet the financial problems faced by schools, and the educational problems faced by children who lack a sufficient command of the language or teachers with classes so large that they cannot give the attention that is needed. Education is vital to every child, lt is time the Government stopped skirmishing with the needs of the entire education system and came to grips with problems which are placing too many children’s future in jeopardy.
The other area of welfare which has been neglected in this Budget is health. Under our present so called health plan no person can afford to be sick. The cost of adequate insurance cover is beyond the financial capacity of most low income families. Pensioners are placed in a position of having to deny themselves care that they may need because they cannot afford the cost. The longer the Government delays effective action to solve the glaring weaknesses in the present system, the harder.it will become to bring about effective reforms. The present system has already created within itself vested interests that are prepared to do everything possible to maintain the status quo. It should be the right of any person who needs medical attention to have treatment irrespective of his ability to meet the cost. To describe as a welfare budget a document which so neglects the whole welfare structure is plainly dishonest.
I would now like to deal with one or two specific matters which are related to my own electorate. A week ago during an adjournment debate I spoke about discrimination by the Commonwealth against persons who live in the cities of Geelong, Newtown and Geelong West in the allocation of funds for drought relief. A serious disability has been placed on the residents of one-third of the urban area of Geelong. In an answer I received from the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) within the last 2 days he said that the object of funds for the relief of drought caused employment was to maintain employment in rural areas. I dispute that this in fact was the manner in which these funds were distributed. The city of Ballarat received some $60,000 for relief of drought caused unemployment, the city of Bendigo received $59,000, and the Shire of Corio, which is part of my electorate, received about $40,000. The Shire of Corio has 36,000 people living in the urban area of Geelong. The Shire of South Barwon, which adjoins my electorate and is represented by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), and the Shire of Dellarine which is on another side of the three cities which make up central Geelong, were all able to use funds for the relief of unemployment caused by the drought. Only the cities of Geelong, Geelong West and Newtown in the areas outside the Melbourne area in Victoria were excluded, ft is not true to say that this money was allocated only for rural areas. The facts are that it was allocated for part of the urban area of Geelong. There seems to be no reasonable ground why a person who lives in a brick house on one side of Boundary Road, which is about 50 yards from my home, and who works at Jackson’s meatworks on a boning line and who was put out of work because of rain, the price of stock going up and the re-stocking that took place following the drought, should not receive some form of relief. It seems unreasonable to say that a person who lives on the east side of Boundary Road is drought affected and the person who lives on the west side is not, merely because the name of the municipal area in which he lives is different. That is the only difference between the two areas. There are 70,000 people in the urban area of Geelong who are or were eligible for employment on drought relief projects and 46,000 persons who were not so eligible.
I also draw attention to the continued running down of the Government Aircraft Factories, particularly that section which is at Avalon in my electorate. In answer to a question on 13 th August the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) indicated that rationalisation of the aircraft industry would most likely mean that it would not be possible to maintain three aircraft establishments in Australia. He also indicated that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, which is privately owned, had no real problem in maintaining staff and that the Government aircraft factory was more likely to be affected. The employment figures for Avalon which were supplied to me indicate that at 1st July 1966 and 1st July 1967 405 persons were employed at that plant. At 1st July this year 328 were working there, a drop of seventy-seven during a period of 12 months. Another thirtynine have received notice of retrenchment and it is expected that others will receive notice before Christmas. This is an establishment to which a large number of persons have devoted a lot of time. Most of those who are being dismissed are classified as tradesmen but have been up-graded to that position and have little or no hope of obtaining employment as tradesmen outside the industry. They are skilled in aircraft production. They are being thrown on to the employment scrapheap.
The employment position in the area in which they live in Geelong is such that at present about 900 persons are in receipt of unemployment benefits. A lot of these are over 40 years of age and will not be eligible for employment in major industries, which have a policy of not employing persons over 40. They are being seriously jeopardised. I suggest that the Government has treated very lightly what I regard as being a very vital defence establishment. The skills which have been attained in this industry through the construction of the Sabre, the Canberra bomber and the Mirage fighter would be vital to this country if ever we were involved in a defence emergency. It is not reasonable to expect that we would be able to send our aircraft to some overseas establishment for maintenance during a defence emergency. If provision had been made for the Fill aircraft to be serviced in Australia - this should have been possible - the people employed in these establishments would have been able to attain the skills necessary to maintain the aircraft if they were required in the active defence of this country. I hope they will never be required for this purpose.
I would like now to draw attention to something which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) mentioned and which is in my opinion an even more serious problem than the Minister suggested. I refer to the lack of Commonwealth activity in the field of geriatric care. The Minister mentioned the Aged Persons Homes Act. I would like to make a suggestion which I hope the Minister will consider. In the Geelong area Grace McKellar House caters for most of the geriatric patients in need of intensive care. Grace McKellar House has 185 beds but there are 171 persons on the urgent waiting list for admission to Grace McKellar House. Most of these people will die before they can be admitted. At the present rate at which finance is being provided by the Victorian Government, which has refused to accelerate its provision of finance, 12 years will elapse before Grace McKellar House will have sufficient beds to accommodate all the urgent cases awaiting admission. In addition to the urgent cases there are 700 other people on the list awaiting admission. In all probability these people would benefit greatly from the expert care which the home could provide but they have no chance of being admitted unless they are virtually on their death bed.
A number of organisations have provided housing under the homes for the aged programme. T suggest that where an eligible organisation does not wish to accept the Government’s offer of grants towards the provision of intensive care units it should be affiliated with a central regional unit approved by the Government. Grace
McKellar House would be such a unit. Under such an arrangement the Returned Services League, which provides housing for elderly citizens but is unlikely to enter the field of intensive care, could affiliate with Grace McKellar House. The Government could then make a grant to Grace McKellar House for the provision of intensive care units, which could be better provided by Grace McKellar House as it is an institution already providing this type of care. This would enable facilities at Grace McKellar House to be enlarged, thus providing accommodation for a greater number of persons. I hope that the Minister will consider my suggestion when drafting amendments to the Aged Persons Homes Act because this is a matter of serious concern to many people in my electorate. I have had brought to my attention most pitiful cases of people needing intensive care. All T can do is recommend to them a private nursing home, which in many cases will not have the required facilities or skilled staff. In many cases also such a home is beyond the means of the people needing attention.
Mr STREET (Corangamite) [5.431-1 regret that lack of time will not permit me to reply to some of the matters raised by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), in particular the matter of re-training for industry. On page 92 of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1968-69 is an entry of $945,000. This is not a large sum as national account entries go, but it refers to a body exercising tremendous influence on the whole structure of the Australian economy. I refer to the Australian Tariff Board. Probably no economic domestic issue of recent years has created such interest and discussion as has the tariff question. This is not surprising and it brings me to the first point that I would like to emphasise, namely the very widespread effect of tariff policy. Tariff policy vitally affects our export industries, particularly our primary industries, and their ability to maintain a competitive position in world markets, lt affects our secondary industries - not only those which enjoy a high rate of protection for their products but also those which have to pay a high rate of duty on imported raw materials required in their business. We must not forget that secondary industries will have to make a constantly increasing contribution to export earnings and that unwise tariff protection would jeopardise their future prospects. Finally, tariff policy affects the Australian consuming public since it has a most important bearing on our wage and cost structure. lt is important to understand just what tariffs are. 1 thought that the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) gave a good definition of tariffs yesterday. He pointed out that tariffs are a tax on imports. They make an imported article dearer and hence permit local producers of the same article to charge a higher price than they could otherwise charge. The honourable member gave mc a list of typical items enjoying tariff protection - several enjoying protection of more than 100% and one enjoying protection at the almost unbelievable rate of 150%. Any increase in prices gives rise to repercussions throughout the economy and reduces the income of wage earners by reducing purchasing power. In other words, tariff policy affects every man, woman and child in the country and ideally should be considered on a non-party basis. Only under such conditions, free from the emotion and prejudice which seem to be inseparable from party politics, can we expect to reach a true and balanced conclusion on this matter. Probably at no time since the introduction of our tariff policy have conditions been more favourable for such a dispassionate debate than they are now. because early in this Parliament we had a clear indication that the Australian Labor Party has drastically modified its former policy of protection at all costs. On several occasions the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has spoken to this effect.
The Australian Country Party, representing as it does many primary producers, is vitally interested in tariffs, as are members of the Liberal Party from both country and metropolitan electorates. So we have a climate in which it should be possible to make a dispassionate examination of tariff policy. In the old days it used to be a question of free trade versus protection but, of course, this no longer applies. ] do not know of any thinking person who would advocate a policy of free trade today, and I certainly do not, but between a policy of free trade on the one hand and over-protection on the other there must be an optimum level of tariff for every industry, taking into account not only the industry concerned but the Australian economy as a whole. I personally feel that recently our tariff policy has been directed too much towards asking, How much does this product or industry need protection?’ rather than asking, ‘How much does the Australian economy need this product or industry?’ I also appreciate that one has to be realistic about this subject. lt is clearly impossible to dismantle overnight a tariff structure built up over the years but it is possible to stop its undesirable extension in uneconomic areas and to encourage its expansion into those industries which contribute to the national income and in which we have proved our ability to compete successfully on world markets. Everyone agrees that Australian industry needs protection. Indeed, the original terms of reference of the Tariff Board are as sound now as they were when first introduced. Our tariff policy has been a vital factor in building up Australia’s industrial capacity and wisely applied I am sure that it can continue to aid Australia’s industrial development in the future, but over the years it seems that we have lost sight of the original guide lines laid down for the Tariff Board.
The situation today gives considerable cause for concern. At this stage it may fairly be asked. Concern to whom? Certainly not just to me. It caused concern to the Committee of Economic Inquiry, known as the ‘Vernon Committee’. It is causing concern to the former chairman of the Tariff Board. Sir Leslie Melville; to the present Chairman of the Board, Mr Rattigan; to a Board member, Mr Tucker; to many economists such as Dr Corden and Dr Coombs; to many honourable members of this House; and to many members of the Australian public. Indeed, Sir, those who are in full agreement with our present tariff structure may soon, perhaps, be compared with the proud mother watching a battalion march past who proclaims: ‘Look, everyone is out of step except our Johnnie’. There are too many highly competent men of great experience in this field who are expressing serious doubts about our present tariff policy for their doubts to be dismissed or disregarded. I should now like to examine a few of the comments made by some of these men. Sir Leslie Melville, I believe, was the first to direct attention to the fact that a higher proportion of the work force was engaged in secondary industry in Australia than in the United States of America. He made this vital point: Whatever economic or social benefits are to be gained by a genera] growth and diversification of secondary industry and employment, we must by now have gained them. Again, he said:
Our standards of living would be on a firmer basis if we ourselves provided the domestic savings to develop the new mineral and pastoral industries.
Here we come to a sentence that should be marked by every member of this House. Sir Leslie said:
However, our tariff policy is diverting our scarce resources of capital into high cost industries, some of which make little contribution to the national income.
My final quotation from Sir Leslie Melville is this:
Some of our tariffs against Asian imports have now become so high that it is possible to say that they are reducing rather than increasing our standard of living. With a policy of full employment, they are not needed, either to provide or to maintain employment.
Mr Rattigan, the present Chairman of the Tariff Board, makes the very important point that when the lines on which the Board works were first established the main problem was Io find uses for resources not fully employed. Now, the uses for our resources are in greater supply than the resources themselves. He considers that the Board’s recommendations should lead to the growth of industries best able to contribute to our national objectives. 1 ask. Sir: ‘Can this be said of the results of all recent tariff decisions?’ Mr Tucker, a member of the Board, considers that it is highly desirable that any future inquiries into tariff policies or administration should have terms of reference permitting inquiry and report on the relations between the Board and the Government, the nature and extent of the independence that the Board should enjoy in the community interest, and the conditions which should be observed by the Government and the Board to maintain its independence. Any inquiry, he considers, should be nondepartmental in character and should take account of the returns which are obtainable from the use of resources in sections of industry not dependent on the tariff - that is, should take into account the opportunity costs of tariff protection. Dr Cordon made this comment:
One is struck above all by the very high rates of protection afforded in almost all cases. This is so even though 1 have not been able to calculate the implications, in ad valorem terms, of support prices for chemicals.
I may say, Sir, that this is an extraordinary statement for a highly skilled professional economist to make. It illustrates the complexity and the hidden costs of the tariff. Dr Corden stated also:
The chemical industry report tells us a lot about the industry and its point of view. But it is quite devoid of information enabling the reader to assess the impact of its recommendations, nor does it contain a critical examination of the issues involved in protection by support prices.
Dr Corden then made two suggestions. One is that the Tariff Board be attached to the Prime Minister’s Department. The second is that the tariff on products which are important inputs into export industries should in general be somewhat lower than they otherwise would be. Next, 1 should like to quote a short comment by Dr Coombs who, until recently, was Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia. He said:
I think the time has come when we could, with advantage, review the generality of the protection and begin to use it with more discrimination. It must be remembered that when we are fully employed, a subsidy or tariff in one area of industry reduces spending power or raises costs in another.
Finally, I should like to quote Mr L. C. Bridgland, who might be considered to favour fairly high rates of protection. He stated:
There is a necessity for a most discriminatory approach to the fostering of industry if costs and prices are to remain reasonably stable.
I could go on and give innumerable examples like these, Mr Deputy Speaker, but surely those that I have given are enough to prove my point.
– They are very good ones.
– J quite agree with my colleague from Perth. These are the views of men of substance and learning. Whenever a major review of tariff policy is suggested, the claim is always made that a general lowering of tariffs would inevitably lead to a reduction of employment and a slowing down of Australia’s industrial development. The observations that I have just quoted show that this is a fallacy based on outdated economic thinking. It is clear that we now have the ability, by the skilful use of fiscal policies, to maintain employment without recourse to excessive - I stress the word excessive’ - tariff protection. For my part, I believe that the time has come for a careful examination of the rates of tariff protection applying in this country and, perhaps even more important, full consideration of the question of whether the methods currently employed to determine the rates of protection are based on sound economic principles. The Tariff Board itself obviously is concerned about this question. I completely support it in its proposal to classify industries into those receiving high, medium and low rates of protection. Duties payable on more than half the 3,500 items studied by the Vernon Committee have not been reviewed since the end of World War II, and probably not since a time long before that. Although, like the character in Gilbert and Sullivan, we have them on the list, I strongly suspect that further investigations would show that, to quote well known words: ‘They never would be missed; they never would be missed’.
Unless we are prepared to make a thorough objective assessment of our current tariff policies and where they are leading us, the economy of this country, and especially the export industries, I believe, are in for serious trouble, because present tariff policies are a major factor in increasing the costs of export industries, especially primary industries. We have heard the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) say that Australia needs to earn about $5,000m annually in export income by the mid 1970s. We have also been told that for as far ahead as we can see primary industry will have to earn the major part of our export income. But primary producers are finding it increasingly difficult to earn this income, for they are at the end of the line in terms of their capacity to absorb further cost increases. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that while all other sections of the community have recourse to some means by which they can maintain the purchasing power of their incomes, no such means are available to the unprotected primary industries that contribute to our export trade. Manufacturers can appeal to the Tariff Board. Wage and salary earners can appeal to the arbitration tribunals. Industries selling a substantial proportion of their products on the home market can appeal to the Government. But the unprotected exporting industries have no-one to appeal to and are at the mercy of rising costs at home and falling prices abroad.
As I said a little earlier, I congratulate the Tariff Board on its last report. I believe that if its recommendations are accepted we shall be on the point of a real breakthrough on the tariff problem and on the verge of a more enlightened era of tariff policy. The Minister for Trade and Industry has said that the question of the classification of industries into those receiving high, medium and low rates of protection should be approached with great caution. I agree that it should be approached with caution, but for heaven’s sake let us make sure that we not only approach it but also tackle it. We must not be like a frightened horse. It, too, approaches an obstacle with great caution, but shies away at the last moment. It is vital that this classification be made. Here, I am reminded of the old navigation axiom: ‘If you do not know where you are, bow on earth do you know where you are going?’ I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - Last week this House unanimously approved a motion expressing its distress at events in Czechoslovakia and stating its sympathy for the people of that country in their ordeal. Yesterday, you, Mr Drury, asked me whether I could assure the House that the Australian Government will provide maximum facilities to enable refugees from Czechoslovakia to come to this country. In reply I said that, in the event of a refugee situation arising from the circumstances that have been precipitated upon Czechoslovakia, the Australian Government would respond as it has responded in similar situations in the past. I am sure that the question reflected the concern of other honourable members, and of the community generally, that Czechoslovakians wishing to begin a new life in Australia should have the opportunity to do so.
At this stage there is no suggestion that a major refugee situation has arisen. However,I have just received reports from overseas posts that there is a large number of Czechoslovakians temporarily in countries outside their homeland and that there is interest amongst them in resettlement here. We have for many years been granting assisted passages to refugees from countries of eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia. In line with this, I have instructed immigration posts overseas that they are to offer all possible help to Czechoslovakians wishing to come to Australia for resettlement.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask leave to make a short statement.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I wish to support the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden). I assure him that the Opposition supports and appreciates any moves he may make to assist Czechoslovakian refugees. We believe that Czechoslovakians have been very good citizens in Australia. If we can facilitate the passage to Australia - possibly under the assisted passage scheme - of Czechoslovakians who are not living in Czechoslovakia but in other parts of Europe we hope that the Minister takes the necessary measures. We fully support his attitude and the action that is proposed.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting- [Quorum formed.] Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the vital necessity to support the proposal of the Tariff Board to classify industries into those receiving high, medium and low rates of protection. As an illustration of the need for this I used the old navigational axiom: If you do not know where you are, how on earth do you know where you are going?’ I sincerely trust that reference to the Tariff Board of sections of chapter 84 of the tariff covering agricultural machinery is the first sign of the new era of tariff protection that I mentioned before the suspension of the sitting. Another most welcome sign is the reference under section 15(h) of the tariff in March 1968 involving case board and panelling. This reference, which was initiated by the Department of Trade and Industry, is to determine whether a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him. Section 15 (h) has not been used previously so this is one of the most important precedents in Australia’s tariff history. I trust that it will be followed by many more such references that will enable the Tariff Board to fulfil its true function of contributing to the development and strength of the Australian economy. Obviously, it can do this only if it investigates possible cases of over-protection as well as cases for initial or increased protection.
I believe that these decisions are welcome straws in the wind. I. hope that they are indicators of an awareness that economic conditions change, that the relative prosperity of sections of the community changes and that the order of national priorities changes over the years. What was a correct decision 30 or 40 years ago may not be correct today. The Tariff Board has recognised the necessity for a modern assessment of rates of protection. Of course, the decisions themselves have to be made by ‘.he Parliament. I hope that Parliament will be instrumental in formulating a programme to establish a tariff policy in Australia that is based on sound economic principles, with an appreciation of the problems caused by current demands on the rapidly expanding full employment economy and with a much greater appreciation of the wider issues involved than has been evident in recent years.
– In a Budget debate one can cast one’s net over a wide field. That being so, I take the first opportunity I have had since the sad events in Czechoslovakia one week ago to pay my tribute to the gallant Czech people and their Government. I trust that their undoubted courage and determination will prevail in these very difficult days through which they are going. Ever since I have been a member of this House I have believed that members of Parliament should endeavour to maintain good relations with, and develop understanding with, all the nations with which Australia has diplomatic relations. Accordingly, I am one of those who believe that there has been a positive trend in Soviet foreign policy over a period of time. I hope that the happenings of the past week are an aberration and an exception rather than the rule.
I support: the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in his speech on the Budget. It states:
That all words after ‘That’, be omitted with a view lo inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision -
to lighten taxes and health COM. for families and to increase benefits for them,
In plan defence procurement and expenditure,
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities, and
to retain control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources.
I would like to discuss the amendment against the background of the claims made by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and other honourable members opposite. An attempt has been made to make some political capital out of that portion of the amendment that seeks provision to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities. I notice that members of the Australian Country Party have tried to draw the conclusion that in this section of the amendment the Australian Labor Party is turning its back on the people in rural areas. At this stage of the game I would like to give the lie to any such suggestion. The ALP believes in the well being of all sections of the Australian community. It recognises that there are substantial needs in road construction and in other fields in the capital cities, in the provincial cities and, indeed, in all the small towns in rural areas throughout Australia. I propose to discuss the Budget against the background of the Treasurer’s claim that it is a social welfare Budget. The Treasurer said:
Indeed I believe it will be clearly seen that the Government has placed the objective of helping the aged, the sick, and the needy in the forefront of its domestic programme. 1 do not think that the Government’s claims are borne out by the figures contained in the Budget papers. Page 3 of Statement No. 1 indicates that in the year ahead it is estimated that expenditure will increase as follows: Defence Services by 9%; payments to or for the States and State works and housing programmes by 7%; social services and repatriation benefits by 8%; Commonwealth payments to industry, principally primary industry, by 21%; departmental running costs by 7%; and external economic aid, including Papua and New Guinea by 14%. The estimated increase of 8% in benefits is just marginally ahead of the increase in the running cost of the Government. At page 5 of the document entitled National Income and Expenditure 1967-68’ the increase in the gross national product for 1967-68 is shown as 4%, compared with a 6% increase in the previous year. Wages, salaries and supplements are also shown in that document as increasing by 8.3% in 1967-68 compared with 8.7% in 1966-67. We all know that the slight decrease has been caused by the effects of the drought experienced in that year. Therefore, an 8% increase in social welfare expenditure will not keep pace with the increased earnings in all other sections of the community. 1 suggest to the House that when one claims to have made great advances in fields like social welfare it is not merely necessary to do an exercise in figures; it is necessary to show also that the increase being given will keep pace with the increased wages and salaries, the increased prosperity and the increased welfare of all other sections of the community. If 1 might make some comparisons, the income of trading companies increased by 11% in 1966-67 compared with 8% in the previous year, whereas on the other side of the picture we see that company taxes increased by 2.5c in the Si. In other words, company income increased from S2.200m to $2,437m for the year just gone, an increase of S237m, but the revenue from them will increase by S60m in a full year and will be substantially less in the current financial year.
I believe that this is a Budget which has as its only purpose the keeping open of options for a possible early election but not otherwise to rock the boat by risking inflation or disturbing the supporters of laissez-faire economic policies and, therefore, supporters of the Government. I propose to speak principally on the social welfare aspects of the Budget, but before doing so 1 wish to say that J consider that the Government should give earnest consideration to developing ways and means of determining the areas of greatest need, rather than leaving pensioners and others at the mercy of political considerations. I believe that if we took account of the increase made in the pension and other social service payments over the entire period that this Government has been in office we would find that there has been a curious coincidence between the increases and election years : or near election years. Indeed, if one were of a mind to believe these things, as 1 believe them, one would say that any increases in social welfare made by the Government had been motivated by the ballot box rather than the wellbeing of the people concerned.
For example, in my speech on the Budget last year 1 drew attention to the rates of sickness and unemployment benefits. At that time the amount was $8.25, and it is still unchanged. In answer to a question this week I was told that the number of people registered for employment was shown as 61,000. In the Budget the anticipated expenditure on sickness and unemployment benefits will fall from $18,832,000 to $18,400,000, a drop of $432,000. We would all be happy to know that there will be a lesser number of people in Australia unemployed in the year ahead and we hope that the Government’s predictions in this matter arc correct. However, I believe that the reasons why other forms of social service payments and pensions were increased and why the unemployment and sickness benefit was not increased was the small numbers involved and the limited effect on the ballot box. it is a shocking thing to ask people to live on $8.25 a week. The last increase which was made was, if 1 recall correctly, given in February 1962 at a time when the rate of unemployment in this country had very recently shown a substantial effect on the ballot box. I refer to the 1961 election when the Government very nearly went out of office. Not only is the amount of S8.25 for an adult too small but there are great anomalies in amounts payable to persons aged 16 years or over. They receive S3.50 a week. Persons between the age of 18 and 21 years receive $4.75 a week. I believe that this very modest payment takes into account the belief that young people of this age will be living at home with their parents who will be substantially able to support them. It does not take into account the fact that they may have left home or may be orphans or may be young people whose fathers have passed away. The mother may be an invalid pensioner, in which case these young people are in very dire straits. I believe that because of the small numbers involved and their limited effect on the ballot box no attention has been given to the unemployment and sickness benefit in this Budget.
I would like to see the Commonwealth establish an institute for research into social welfare at one of the universities. It could be similar to the Institute of Applied Economic Research at the University of Melbourne or other similar organisations throughout Australia. I believe that the Commonwealth should finance a programme of research into social services, health, housing, education and, indeed, any matter which is involved in the quality of Australian life. There are precedents for this. A programme of this kind should be financed by Commonwealth money. We all know that the Commonwealth provides a great deal of assistance for research in some other fields, including this one, throughout the Australian community and the universities. I believe that such an institute should use the resources of the universities and voluntary organisations to find out where the greatest areas of need are.
A problem which has existed for some time, which exists now, and which will always remain is where to spend the $1 in the area of greatest need. We all know that the Department of Social Services and other government departments accumulate records over a period of time, but the knowledge (hat they obtain is not publicly available. No reports are published which give this information to members of Parliament and the public, and the people who may be needing assistance are left again to the political hazards of this Parliament. If 1 may cite some examples, 1 recall that previous Ministers for Social Services have said in the Parliament that they did not think this was an avenue for the Government and welcomed some of the surveys made by private organisations. A number of surveys have been made in Australia. 1 mentioned one made by the Institute of Applied Economic Research into poverty in Melbourne, but there have also been specialised surveys in other areas, such as those conducted by Robb and Rivett in Marrickville, the Red Cross in Sydney, Jean Aitken-Swan on widows with dependent children in New South Wales, and Appleyard on housing needs of migrant families. My belief is that the Government should finance at one of the Australian universities an institute of research into social welfare in order that proper programmes of research may be undertaken, the knowledge made public and this Parliament given an independent yardstick, apart from the information available on the Government side of the House through its departments. This would enable us to determine whether the people in the community who are in needy circumstances are being properly catered for.
I now wish to refer fairly briefly to the question of health, but before doing so I should like to say that although I have pointed out some deficiencies in the system in making social service payment increases, we on this side of the House welcome the increases which have been made, lt is a great pity that the Government does not programme for increases of this kind perhaps year by year so that the pension and other payments can be built up to a more acceptable rate than they are at present. On the matter of health I would ike I to express my appreciation for the concessions given in the Budget to widows for the period of 12 weeks immediately after the death of their husband in order that they may enjoy the benefit of the married rate pension. I appreciate also the removal of the qualification period of 1 year from widows who have come to Australia and have shown that they intend permanently to reside in Australia. These are useful steps forward. However, there are a number of other fields of health to which I should like to see some attention given.
Elderly people in convalescent homes sometimes decide to get married. The result is that the pension payable to them is reduced to the married rate and, unless their families are able to support them or unless the convalescent home can make concessions by way of reduced fees, the home may be forced to turn them out to live in a flat or some other institution where they might not be cared for as they have been. This is a field of activity that should be looked at but not through the eyes of a government department. I am not attacking the govern ment departments; but the information supplied by departments is available to Ministers and the Government but is not available to the public or members of the Opposition. In fields such as health a proper programme of research paid for by the Commonwealth should be undertaken by the universities. Independent research would, I believe, show the areas of need much better than we know them today. 1 welcome the increased involvement in the field of education. This year the Budget provides for an expenditure of $27m over a 3-year period - presumably $9m per annum - to provide libraries for secondary schools. The section of the Treasurer’s speech which refers to the provision of libraries for secondary schools also mentions the successful programme for providing science laboratories. Every member of the House, certainly every member of the Opposition, welcomes the increased Commonwealth involvement in education. Indeed, it is part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party, if elected to office, to hold a full and comprehensive inquiry into primary, secondary and technical education and teacher training similar to the investigations carried out by the Australian Universities Commission so that we can place money where the need is greatest. Although the Government’s present proposal may be welcome, it is certainly just another case of the Commonwealth not facing up to the realities and of merely playing with education.
I have been to some very fine science laboratories in the metropolitan area of Brisbane where science facilities are provided for four or six teachers. However, in such schools there is sometimes only one trained science teacher. It is not of much use providing fine buildings and equipment if these schools do not have properly trained science teachers to operate those facilities. I know the Government regards this as a State matter. But surely any government that was sincere about wanting to improve education would see that coordination took place. However, I believe people will welcome this gesture because, by and large, library facilities in our universities and secondary and primary schools are a disgrace. The present arrangements are not resulting in the money being put where the need is greatest. Once again the Commonwealth has failed to respond ta pressures from this side of the House, churches and other sections of the community, and I expect from back bench members on the other side of the House. The Commonwealth has felt that it had to make a further gesture to increase Commonwealth involvement in education. But I will be surprised if any person well informed in the field of education regards this as being the best way in which the Commonwealth could become further involved.
As one member on this side of the House who has taken some interest in Aboriginal affairs, I welcome the fact that for the first time we have SI Om allocated for the well being of Aboriginals throughout Australia. We do not have much information on the way this money is to be spent. A lot will depend on this. When we consider the large number of Aboriginals there are in Australia, we realise that this field has been neglected for many years. It has been completely neglected by the Commonwealth because until recently it has not sought to amend the Constitution since the days of the Chifley Government. Expenditure on Aboriginals has been limited also by the financial resources of the States. I hope that the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) will keep the Parliament apprised of how the money allocated in the Budget will be spent. It seems to me that this amount is small. I suppose one should be thankful for small mercies. But at least it is a step in the right direction.
I hope that as far as possible this money will be disbursed through Commonwealth departments rather than through State Aboriginal welfare departments and the like. If we are going to give Aboriginals the opportunity to be assimilated in our community or to be integrated within their own communities, which I believe should be the case, we should not encourage them to be dependent on the State Aboriginal welfare departments. I am not saying this to reflect on these departments, which in some ways do good work but which in other ways adopt a paternalistic and possessive attitude thinking they own the Aboriginals rather than that the Aboriginals own them.
I do not propose to keep the House any longer except to say that I have listened to a number of budgets in this Parliament.
None of them has been very spectacular. Most of them have just jogged along. None has explored new avenues of welfare and none has distributed among the whole Australian community the prosperity that exists among smaller sections of the community. This is the Budget of a government that has been in office for too long; which has run out of steam; which has sought not to rock the boat but to take a minimum return in increased company taxation to make small concessions to pensioners and others. It is keeping the options open for a possible election this year and a certain election next year. The Budget has provided for some welcome steps forward but by and large it will be very disappointing to the Australian community. The House should carry the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition and condemn this most unsatisfactory document.
– I notice that the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) mentioned relations with Czechoslovakia. Before I commence my speech on the Budget I would like to say just briefly that I flew with some very gallant Czechs and as a result of having fought with them in other skies I cannot do other than grieve deeply at their plight and pray, as I know they do, for those who still live in their homeland.
I must say that generally the Budget has been received favourably throughout the country. Of course, there are some who are not satisfied. There are some who never will be satisfied and some who cannot afford to be. Naturally I speak of the Opposition. But I think the man in the street expected an increase in direct taxation to pay for the increases in social service payments and benefits. The man in the street was agreeably surprised when this did art occur. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), in his amendment, which I reject wholeheartedly, said that the Budget failed to plan defence procurement and expenditure. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has stated in this chamber repeatedly that a defence review is currently taking place and that he will make a statement about it later in this session. Therefore, this section of the amendment is an obvious piece of band-wagoning. Speaking to paragraph (c) of his amendment, the Leader of the Opposition made much of the lack of roads, railways and sewerage. He specifically mentioned sewerage and spent some time on this subject. Let me read from the ‘Civil Works Programme 1968-69’. It gives details of the following works:
Darwin - connection of sewerage to hospital; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $54,330.
Darwin - Rapid Creek sub-division - Construction of sewerage, roads and drainage and provision of water supply; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $715,886.
Darwin - Kahlin Oval sub-division - Construction of roads, drainage and sewerage and provision of water supply; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $232,379.
Darwin - Bagot Reserve sub-division - Contruction of roads, drainage and severage and provision of water supply; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $413,723.
Darwin - Casuarina sub-division - Construction of roads, drainage and sewerage and provision of water supply; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $961,265.
Yet the Leader of the Opposition said that nothing was being spent on sewerage. The list continues:
Darwin - Escarpment sub-division - Construction of roads, drainage, sewerage and provision of water supply; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $287,792; to be spent after 30th June 1968, $52,313.
He said nothing was being spent on sewerage in the towns and cities. Did he not look at this document? It continues:
Darwin - Alawa sub-division (stage 2) - Construction of roads, drainage, sewerage and provision of water supply; amount authorised, $1,044,059; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $811,504; to be spent after 30th June 1968, $232,555.
Darwin - Jingili sub-division - Construction of roads, drainage and sewerage and provision of water supply; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $229,630; to be spent after 30th June 1968, $786,301.
Darwin - Ludmilla Creek sub-division - Construction of roads, drainage and sewerage and provision of water supply and associated services; to be spent after 30th June 1968, $429,984.
There are plenty of items here and I will’ continue with them because I think they should be on record. The Leader of the Opposition said that nothing was being done, but this list goes on:
Alice Springs - Construction of sewerage scheme (stages 4 and 5); expenditure to 30th June 1968, $153,521; to be spent after 30th June 1968. $37,864.
Alice Springs - Connection of sewerage to eighty-nine houses; expenditure to 30ih June 1968, $39,328.
Maningrida - Welfare Settlement - Erection of three ablution - latrine - laundry blocks; amount authorised, $62,871.
Hooker Creek - Welfare Settlement - Sewerage disposal and water chlorination; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $40,468; to be spent after 30th June 1968, $51,463.
Delissaville - Welfare Settlement - Erection of dining-kitchen block, ablution - latrine block and associated services; amount authorised, $120,856; expenditure to 30th June 1968, $19,642; to be spent after 30th June 1968, $101,214.
Darwin - Gardens Hill area (Palmerston Park) - Extensions to sewerage and erection of pump station, $80,000.
Darwin - Nightcliff - Provision of water supply and sewerage for private sub-division, $210,000.
Alice Springs- Construction of sewage treatment ponds (stage 2), $1 15,000.
The Leader of the Opposition took nearly as long as 1 have just taken saying that nothing was being done. The statements of the Leader of the Opposition can be refuted by facts such as I have given. As usual, his statements are not backed by the facts and 1 suggest his other arguments are similarly lacking in truthful backing. The Prime Minister made this point when speaking in the House last night.
I come back to the Budget. Provision is made for an increase of 13.8% in Government expenditure in the Northern Territory. This expenditure is now in the vicinity of $40m in addition to the cost of beef roads, which amounts to $8,585,000. Under this Government the Territory is having one of its most exciting and progressive times. This is shown by the figures. The value of buildings in the Northern Territory in the first half of this year amounted to $20.4m, which is more than the total for the whole of last year. Savings bank deposits this year were nearly double what they were 5 years ago. Motor vehicle registrations rose steadily to 17,865 in December 1967. They rose by 2,100 in 12 months. The port of Darwin saw its exports doubled since 1966. The figure for 1967-68 was 282,000 tons valued at $1 5.6m.
The drought bond scheme, which is mentioned in the Budget, is very welcome indeed. It should spell new hope for families that have been battling in the outback for years. I hope that under this scheme pastoralists will be able to insure against crippling droughts and devastating bush fires. They should be able to release their losses by purchasing stock. After the last drought these men had to breed up their herds laboriously again. This scheme will encourage self help and self reliance, as the Governor-General said in his address and as the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) repeated in his Budget speech. Most of the north is enjoying an excellent season, so the more quickly use can be made of this scheme the better it will be for the economy. It should be a self-servicing drought relief scheme. 1 ask that, when these drought bonds are implemented, too strict a limitation will not be placed on the amount at any one time. For instance, an owner who started the dry time with the equivalent of $150,000 in the bank, an unencumbered property and a herd, finished the period with about the same amount in the red and a bare minimum of breeders. He lacked neither the ability nor the will to work. He would have worked about 16 hours a day on his property as I did on mine. Men such as these should be allowed to provide for the future when conditions permit them to do so. They are the men who continue to push back the frontiers of our vast country. Men such as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who is interjecting, do not.
I want to deal now with roads. Because of the shortened time for the debate, I shall leave the question of pastoral, access and town roads until we are debating the Estimates. Bui may I say briefly that the beef roads programme is contributing immensely to the development of the north. I shall mention only two roads. The Stuart Highway, which is a vital lifeline between Alice Springs and Darwin, is falling to pieces and is urgently in need of upgrading. The other road runs from Alice Springs to Port Augusta, lt is another road of great national import. At present it is closed south of Kulgera, close to the border with South Australia. This was caused by rain during the weekend and about 26th and 27th August. Trucks are again bogged and tourism is at a standstill. The tourist industry and transport arc disrupted, not by great floods but by steady, soaking, normal rains. Buses loaded with people are bogged at Ayers Rock. Five aeroplanes arc bogged on the airstrip and the airstrip has been out of commission for some considerable time.
The Alice Springs-Port Augusta Road Development Organisation, known as ASPARDO, has been working hard for the past 5 years to have this road sealed.
Correspondence giving a negative reply to representations has been received from several Commonwealth Ministers and from at least two Premiers of South Australia who held office before the present Government came to power. Many of the South Australian Ministers have given similar replies. Now the present South Australian Minister for Roads, Mr Murray Hill, has come out in support of ASPARDO and recognises the urgent need to carry out work on this road. So I hope something will be done.
The North Australian Railway has been upgraded at a cost of about $2m. It now is carrying FIMCO iron ore for export and cattle for the Darwin meatworks. While speaking of this railway line, may I put in a plea for a speedy turn round of the new passenger coach between Katherine and Darwin. But the Alice Springs to Port Augusta railway is an entirely different proposition. After some very indifferent performances during the past good seasons in the north this line has proved to be an uneconomic proposition. The reason for the high cost of maintenance on the line is the ancient bridging and inadequate track. ( entreat the Government, as I have done on numerous other occasions - and I have been very ably supported by the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) - to heed our presented case for a new standard track from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. This line may well be out of action now as a result of rain which has fallen since the weekend. 1 turn now to the Port of Darwin. Despite the slow turn round of ships in the port, over $ 1 5.5m worth of export cargo passed through it this year. As I said before, in 1967, 282,000 tons passed through the port. The Government which has erected a stacker-reclaimer and an ore jetty at the port is greatly assisting in boosting the export trade through the port. We must not allow the port to burst at the seams. I referred to this matter last year. There is much at stake. A great deal of the development of the north is being drastically slowed up. The whole Territory’s population is being made to suffer hardship. The port of Darwin has its problems. I refer to the lack of manoeuvreability and space, heat on the wharves, poor gear on some of the ships visiting the port and other stevedoring problems. Last week the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) in answer to a question asked in this House stated:
In the long term perspective it is necessary, with increased volumes of goods being shipped out of and into Darwin, for the standard of port facilities to be continually improved. It is into this phase that an inquiry is being made amongst the relevant departments within the Commonwealth Government, each of which has some responsibility for the upgrading of the port.
The Minister went on to say that there was another problem confronting the port. Then he said: lt is one which the people of the Northern Territory themselves can help to alleviate by directing the attention of those who are unnecessarily causing industrial unrest on the waterfront to the cost impost that they are producing for all the other people in the Darwin community.
So, to sum up the problems on the Darwin wharves, we must have new wharf facilities and we Territorians must remove the Communist domination on the Darwin waterfront.
The superphosphate bounty will be increased from $6 to $8 per ton of standard superphosphate. The weight of approved compounds of trace elements incorporated in superphosphate will receive bounty at the same rate as the superphosphate. This has been done to encourage greater use of superphosphate as a means of increasing production for export. Sales of superphosphate expanded rapidly from 2.8 million tons in 1962-63 to 4.2 million tons in 1965-66. This bounty should provide the incentive to bring the superphosphate industry to Darwin.
I turn now to pensions. Pensions are fixed incomes. The Budget has provided for increases in both age and Service pensions. Hospital benefits have been increased and additional assistance has been provided for home nursing services. I repeat that pensions are fixed incomes. When you move 1,000 to 2,000 miles from here things cost more and money does not go so far. This is elementary. Supplies are liable to run short. The benefit of an increase in pensions is whittled away, but there is no taxation zone allowance for people trying to live on the pension. There is a strong case for the provision of a northern differential to equalise this fixed income with those in the south. This comment also applies to war service home loans and to homes savings grants. It must be remembered that one-third of the cost of a home in the north goes in freight. So my previous argument applies to these questions as well.
I commend the Government on the proposal to establish an Aboriginal trust fund. Admittedly the Government is spending $7m on Aboriginal1 affairs in the Northern Territory, but of the $10m which is to be spent as a result of this Budget, $5m will be in the form of non-repayable grants. I gather from the breakdown of this figure that the Northern Territory can expect to receive Sim for special projects, some in respect of individuals and some in respect of community efforts. So we should now see Tim Jabangardi and his miners at Yuendumu, who have been amassing a supply of copper over the years, get their copper show going. They are in need of this sort of assistance. There are many other such ventures. There is a tourist venture at Jay Creek and there are various cattle ventures at Hermannsburg. This assistance will be of great benefit to Aboriginals. For those who doubt what I have been saying I say to them: Come to the Territory. In the last minute or so before I close I would like to read an article from the ‘Northern Territory News’ of 25th June 1968. I think most honourable members would know that this newspaper does not always support this Government. The article states:
A dangerous new game seems to have been developed in which the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal problem’ is the football. Not New South Wales’ or West Australia’s, or Queensland’s Aboriginal problem . . . just the Northern Territory’s. The players are an assorted bag of characters including some quite notable identities, egged on from the sidelines by political agitators, professional do-gooders and a gaggle of illinformed if well-intentioned folk who appear to have become suddenly conscious-stricken at a most inappropriate time. The game could be called Stirremup’.
Further on it states:
It’s difficult to know whether these gentlemen and many others like them are just bandwagoning at a time when the national conscience has been aroused, and Government agencies are well advanced with education programmes and legislation aimed at bringing some measure of equal rights to the Aboriginal peoples of this part of Australia, or whether they sincerely believe they are giving impetus to the cause.
Further on it stales:
They ignore the costly and progressive education programmes that Welfare Branch in the Territory has built up over a number of years until there are now over 5,000 Aboriginal children at schools. They ignore the legislation already introduced aimed at wiping out all discriminatory laws. They ignore the fact that in matters affecting Aboriginal rights and welfare, the Northern Territory is a long way ahead of any of the States.
It concludes as follows:
The players of this game will better serve the people they claim to wish to help, by putting away their bats and scoresheets. They should learn a little more about what has been, and is being attempted by the people in a position to really do something, and then come up with some really practical ideas, on employment for instance, if they have any.
That article was written by the editor of the newspaper. He has lived in the Territory for years. I say again to those who have any doubt about what T have been saying: Come to the Territory, as the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) has done on four occasions since taking the portfolio and as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) will shortly be doing for the second time since June this year. The future of Australia is in the north.
– Tonight the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has listed a long programme of sewerage and other works which are to be carried out by the Government in his electorate. I would have thought that the honourable member might have refrained from exposing the Government for its lack of interest in the Territory over a period of 19 years. It has ‘taken the Government 19 years to recognise the need for the work to be done. I believe that this is an indictment of the Government’s maladministration over a long period.
– You are just against progress.
– This is progress, but it is very late. Despite the plaudits the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has received from bis own colleagues and the acclaim of the Press barons for the 1968-69 Budget, which has generally been praised as being a welfare Budget, I find myself in complete disagreement with the sentiments expressed. I support the amendment moved by my Leader, which I think highlights the Budget’s deficiencies to the letter. I believe that students of finance and all fair-minded people will condemn the Budget for what it is - a crafty, cruel and harsh document, void of compassion, conceived and designed to deceive in particular those people who have to rely on it to eke out an existence. It cons all of us into believing that pensioners are living to a standard much higher than they really are. The truth of the matter is that everybody in the lower income bracket, including the pensioner, is having his standard of living systematically reduced. I only hope that the kissing episode, in which the Treasurer appeared to be keep to participate between himself and some women pensioners on the morning of Tuesday, 1 3th August, will not be taken as a licence by him further to reduce the pensioners’ base standard of living as he has done in I his Budget. It is morally wrong for the Government to give with one hand and to take back with the other, as the Treasurer nas done in this Budget, in the form of sales tax increases on the consumer goods which are used by every man, woman and child in Australia. After the presentation of the Budget it was most noticeable that the Treasurer was being snubbed by even those who earlier had been keen to kiss him.
It has been said in the lobbies that the Budget is an election Budget and that an election will be held before the end of (he year. All I can say is that if an election is held this year it will have been put on before the people who live on fixed incomes feel the adverse effect of increased living costs which must surely follow increases in sales tax and rising costs of living as a result of further wage increases the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is obliged to grant to workers in industry. The Government Statistician has already revealed that in the June quarter of this year average weekly wages rose by $4 to $65.90 a week. In the circumstances the Opposition will welcome an early election, if only for the purpose of ascertaining the extent of the Treasurer’s popularity and seeing whether the people are really satisfied with the Government’s handling of the national economy, especially in the light of increased taxation at a time when the nation’s resources are bursting at their seams and are crying out to be used. In every Budget that the Government has been responsible for, Treasurer after Treasurer has stressed and has continually instilled into the minds of the people the fear that inflation is lurking around some corner or other. This Budget is no exception because it contains a veiled threat or two as to what could occur should the economy become unbalanced. I am sure that this wishful thinking is only being indulged in to keep a Labor Government out of office, just as for years the Prime Minister of the day and members of the Government canvassed the Communist bogy at election after election.
In my view much of the material contained in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech could have been eliminated for it does not make sense to thousands and thousands of people who listened to it. In fact, over the past few years the Budget has been presented to the Parliament in a different form each year. It is becoming much more complicated for members to understand in the time available to them between its presentation and the ensuing debate. The movement of funds through accounting procedures somewhat intrigues me. For instance, in statement No. 2 attached to the Budget, dealing with the estimates of expenditures for 1968-69, one sees the letter (a) beside several of the items. Those items relate to the movement of thousands of millions of dollars; so I do not suppose they are very important after all. However, underneath the figures this explanation appears:
That is all we are told. The amount of money involved is not revealed. But if one looks at the 1967-68 Budget, particularly tables 1 and 2 which contain a summary of Commonwealth receipts and expenditures for the years 1953-54 to 1966-67, an explanatory note of the movement of the funds I have been referring to will be found. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the two tables in Hansard so that my speech will become a little more intelligent to those who study the figures and so that the business of financing the Government may remain continually within the public gaze. They are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680828_reps_26_hor60/>.