26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I have to inform the House that in reply to the address of condolence of this House on the occasion of the death of Princess Marina, Her Majesty the Queen has sent the following message:
I sincerely thank the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia for their kind message of sympathy.
Mr COURTNAY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth in the Division of Darebin praying that the Commonwealth break off diplomatic relations with and initiate economic sanctions against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and her co-aggressors in the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Petition received and read.
Mr PEARS ALL presented a petition from certain members of the Czechoslovakian community in Hobart praying that this House call on the people of the world, through the United Nations, to bring economic and other sanctions to bear on Russia, Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria until such time as Czechoslovakia regains her freedom.
Petition received and read.
Mr JESSOP presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the House take any action necessary to ensure that the Commonwealth does not implement the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations imposing economic sanctions on the Government and people of Rhodesia.
Petition received and read.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES presented a petition from certain electors of the Division of Chisholm, praying that the
Government convey as urgently as possible its belief to our American allies that all aspects of the war in Vietnam should be intensified while pursuing a policy of no compromise at the current Paris talks.
Petition received and read.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr McEwen, left Australia on 7th September to have discussions on shipping matters in London and to lead the Australian delegation to the resumed International Sugar Conference in Geneva. He expects to return on about 18th October. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Sinclair, is acting as Minister for Trade and Industry.
The Minister for Labour and National Service. Mr Bury, left Australia on 2nd September to attend the First Asian Regional Conference of the International Labour Organisation in Tokyo. He will return on 15th September. The Treasurer, Mr McMahon, is acting as Minister for Labour and National Service and will represent the Minister for Housing in this chamber during Mr Bury’s absence.
The Minister for Social Services, Mr Wentworth, left Australia on 30th August to attend the United Nations Conference of Ministers for Social Welfare in New York. He will return to Australia on 16th September. During his absence the Minister for Housing, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, is acting as Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Sinclair, will handle matters relating to social services and Aboriginal affairs in this chamber.
– Will the Prime Minister table for the information of the House the contract and all documents related to the purchase of the F111 aircraft?
– I will consult with the Minister for Defence and the relevant departments to see whether this should be done. 1 am not at all clear at the moment in my own mind that it is something that should be done.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the incessant demands of the States for more money to carry out their individual programmes and to meet their financial commitments, and of the national responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to protect the nation’s economic stability and security, will the Prime Minister call together, as early as practicable, a convention of the States and the Commonwealth to discuss, first, means by which the resources of the nation can best be applied to the orderly development of Australia as a whole and, secondly, how within the framework of this national objective the States can operate on a formula to give equity to each State and at the same time preserve its sovereign rights in the federation?
– I think the question brings into relief and highlights two very important points. One of them, which was contained in the preamble, referred to the overriding responsibility of the Australian Government to see that the economy of Australia as a whole is managed so that there will be the greatest possible amount of national growth with the least possible amount of inflationary pressures. The other point which was highlighted in the question is the necessity for the determination of some kind of national priorities for development. This is what I took the question to mean by orderly development, no matter in what part of Australia such development may take place. I am glad to see that these very important points were brought out in this question.
In relation to the second part of the question, the tax reimbursement grants at present being made available to State governments by the Commonwealth are made available on a formula which was agreed upon between the Australian Government and the State governments to last for a period of 5 years and which has this financial year and next financial year still to run before that period of 5 years is completed. The formula provides for very considerable increases each year in the amount so made available. At the last Premiers Conference, which was held in public,I informed the
State Premiers that we would expect the agreement entered into to be continued until its termination. In those circumstances, Mr Speaker, I see no need for an early gathering of the kind suggested by the honourable member.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The right honourable gentleman doubtless heard the Minister for Defence say on television last night that there might well be some legal overtones’ to the cost of repairing the fault which has been found in the F111 aircraft. The Prime Minister doubtless would contemplate that in the case of litigation the contract between the Australian Government and the company or the American Government would become public property. I ask him: Failing litigation, how soon will he inform the House about results of the consideration he promised the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the question of whether the documents will be tabled?
– Quite clearlyI would wish to have time to consider this request for the tabling and making public of a contract or documents or arrangements made between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States or between the Government of Australia and the United States Air Force acting as the agent for the Government of the United States. There has been no litigation. There may well never be any litigation. The question based on that suggestion is therefore entirely hypothetical and I can only repeat what I said to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, thatI will take the matter under consideration to decide whether this is something that could at this stage, or indeed possibly at any stage, be made public in this House.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. Has he seen Press reports that wool shipments will be made on Russian and Polish vessels and not on conference vessels as in former years? Is it a fact that the conference intends to penalise any shipper who does not agree to confine his shipments to conference vessels by charging him a higher rate?If this report is correct, what is the attitude of the Government?
– As most honourable members will have noted, in the last few days, as a result of discussions between the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee and the Oversea Shipping Representatives Association, freight reductions on wool and refrigerated cargo have been announced. The reductions will be at4½% less for wool and 2% less for refrigerated cargo. On this basis, I understand that the conference lines have asked that preliminary contracts for a 2 months period be executed by intending shippers.I am told that most intending shippers, of wool in particular, have taken advantage of this offer. However, for those who have not at this stage indicated their intention to accept the offer but who use other ships plying to Australian ports, there will be a surcharge of 30% on any cargo they find it necessary to send on conference line vessels if sufficient space for their cargo is not available on those other vessels. It is normal practice to have two rates, one of which is a penalty rate applicable to cargo carried by conference line vessels for shippers who do not send all their goods by conference line. The Government supports closed conferences, and consequently has been able over the years to establish a regular pattern of vessels. It is partly as a result of the utilisation of conference vessels to a greater extent through the rationalisation programme that the announced reduction in freights has been achieved. If as a result of the introduction of Russian or Polish vessels there should be an effect on the availability of shipping space and an overtonnage in the trade, the Government obviously must take account of the position. At this stage I would expect that there would still be a substantially greater proportion of shippers from Australian ports using the services of the conference vessels.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. Was he informed of the fault in the F111 aircraft before he accepted delivery on behalf of the Government? If he was informed, how long before he accepted delivery was he informed of the fault? If he was informed of the fault, why did he say in his official speech of acceptance that the aircraft was free of any faults and that all the bugs had been ironed out?
– Yes, it is true that I was informed of the fault in the F111 aircraft discovered in recent days. The information came to me, I think, on the night prior to the handing over ceremony at Fort Worth. But if the honourable gentleman is worried about that, as he appears to be, let me tell him that in fact the aircraft is accepted from the contractor by the United States Air Force on behalf of the Australian Government. The clause of acceptance of that contract provided that we retain the right to claim for any correction of deficiency. So if any deficiency shows up in the aircraft after acceptance, Australia is still covered for its modification. I believe this ought to relieve the honourable gentleman’s concern on that point. As to the second point, which poses the question of why, in my official speech, I said that the aircraft had been cleared of fault,I really must ask the honourable gentleman to be vastly more careful of what he puts before the House as fact. I have a copy of the statementI made at Fort Worth and it carries in it no comments of the kind suggested by the honourable gentleman.
– Has the Minister for the Interior seen in a recent issue of the Canberra Times’ an article which claimed that the National Capital Development Commission had prepared a plan for the possible extension of the Australian Capital Territory into New South Wales? Does the planned extension include a number of small towns and villages in New South Wales? Has the State Government been made aware of the proposed extension into its territory and, if so. what is the attitude of the Premier and the Government of New South Wales? Further, is it correct, as stated in the newspaper article, that the proposed extension of the Australian Capital Territory would range up to 40 miles and, if so, does the proposed plan include the progressive and substantial New South Wales town of Yass, situated in my electorate?
– The National Capital Development Commission is responsible for the planning of Canberra. The authorities of the surrounding shires in New South Wales are always very interested in what is going on in Canberra as it affects their own areas. It has been the practice of the Commission to join in unofficial talks with representatives of the shires simply for the passing of information between the Commission and the shire authorities. At various times plans for the future development of Canberra have been considered by the Commission and there have been projections of what might happen or might not happen in the future. All these have been unofficial. Any official step for the extension of the Australian Capital Territory or Canberra into New South Wales can be taken only after talks have been held between the Prime Minister and the State Premier.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Has the honourable gentleman noticed that several Press reports of the handing over ceremony of the F111 aircraft at Fort Worth attribute to him the very words used by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his question? I ask whether, for instance, the honourable gentleman noticed on the front page of yesterday’s ‘Age’ the statement:
In officially receiving the plane Mr Fairhall said that on the word of his advisers ‘the aircraft is free of any fault. All the bugs are now ironed out.’
Does the Minister say that this quotation was inaccurate?
– I will obtain for the honourable gentleman, if he wishes, the verbatim text of the statement I made at Fort Worth.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that current seasonal conditions throughout the Eden-Monaro electorate, both on the tablelands and on the New South Wales south coast, are protracting the drought which, in some areas, is worse than has previously been recorded? Has the right honourable gentleman received any request from the Premier of New South Wales for Commonwealth finance for an extension of the grants to local government bodies to provide employment beyond the present terminal date for this arrangement, which is 30th September? If he has received such a request, will he give it serious consideration in view of the fact that all the reasons which justify the present payment of these grants will now continue to apply with even greater force until at least 30th October, on the basis of present seasonal conditions in these areas?
– I have no recollection at all of receiving any approach by the Premier of New South Wales to extend into the electorate of Eden-Monaro drought relief of the kind suggested by the honourable member. I have heard that the drought position in that area is still difficult. I have not noticed that it has been declared a drought area. I understand also that not only haveI not received any request specifically relating to Eden-Monaro but I believe the Treasurer also has not received any request so far.
– My. question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. The Minister will remember that in the last sitting week he assured the House that the Royal Australian Air Force committee bad come away from its inspection of the F111 completely satisfied after the most careful scrutiny that all areas of doubt had now been eliminated. I ask him whether anybody in the Royal Australian Air Force, or anybody on behalf of Australia, was informed that there was a faultbefore he himself was told, and what was the nature of that fault as disclosed to any member of the RAAF or any person acting on behalf of Australia. I also ask him, again: Is the ‘Age’ report correct or incorrect?
– The ‘Age’ report is incorrect. As for the other question raised, let me deal at a little more length with this problem. It is quite true that before the House rose for the last recessI did say that as a result of an investigation of a series of crashes the cause of those crashes had been positively identified and corrected. I also said that we had sent a high level RAAF team to the United States; that team had been instrumental in making a thorough search and a thorough check over every aspect of the aircraft’s construction and operation; and it was quite satisfied that there was no fault in the aircraft at that time. The honourable gentleman must understand, when we get into the subject of fatigue testing, that fatigue testing is not a particularly precise science. Indeed, it is one area about which aeronautical scientists will tell you that they know something less than all there is to know. As a result of this, of course, there may be a fault of this kind which will develop during the life of the aircraft. It is for this reason that intensive-
– What about-
-Order! The honourable member for Lang wilt cease interjecting.
– All the honourable member does is to disclose that he knows nothing about the subject in question. But it is for this reason that aircraft structures-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– It is for this reason that aircraft structures are subject to long periods of fatigue testing.
– It is 6 years now.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will cease interjecting.
– The period of fatigue testing is usually heavily divided to give you something like the effective life of the aircraft. When a fault of this kind develops it indicates that the aircraft must be expected to give something less than a satisfactory life.
– Will it fly?
– Under those circumstances, the part which failed under fatigue testing must either be modified or replaced. This is precisely what is happening in this case.
– Why don’t you get a boilermaker?
-Order! The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith will cease interjecting.
– It does not mean for a moment that the aircraft is not capable of giving long periods of satisfactory service. It does mean that there may not be built into the aircraft that period of additional safety which we would like to see. Here is the situation and today at Fort Worth a very intense investigation is going on into the cause of the failure of a piece of the aircraft under fatigue testing. I would refer the honourable gentleman to the article which appeared on the front page of yesterday’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ taken-
– Is that correct?
– Yes, it is correct. It was taken from a Press conference given by Brigadier-General Esposito of the United States Air Force. It deals with this question of fatigue testing. It also deals with a number of possible causes for the failure of this particular item. I did not deny last night, and I do not deny now, that this could be a quite serious matter. On the other hand, it may turn out to be a particularly simple matter. But until this investigation has been completed it will be quite impossible to ascribe to any one factor the cause of failure under fatigue testing.
– Will the Minister guarantee that this will not be a failure?
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Oxley.
– When the cause of this failure has been isolated modifications will be made and we will have on our hands a first-class aircraft.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. In a recently reported statement a visiting United States astronaut said that there were under consideration many United States space projects that would involve the Woomera rocket range and a joint effort with Australia. Can the Minister say whether the Australian Government is negotiating with the United States on such projects? What progress has been made? Is there any possibility of other countries such as Japan using the facilities available at Woomera?
– As I understand it, the statement attributed to astronaut Alan Shepard a few days ago did mention some proposal about the use of “ the Woomera rocket range. I think the report was incorrect and that he meant that some experiments were planned for the space tracking station a: Island Bend, which is part of the Woomera complex but not part of the Woomera rocket range as such. J can tell the honourable gentleman that there exists in the United States and elsewhere a very high appreciation of the level of technical competence of Australian operators at Woomera and within the space tracking networks. As the work at Woomera tends to fall off the Department of Supply will certainly make every effort to find contractors who can make use of the extensive facilities and experienced operating personnel there. During my stay in Washington I had the pleasure of discussing one or two projects which may at some time, although not in the immediate future, be considered for establishment within the Woomera complex. I am not able to say at the moment how those projects will develop.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House when the outside of the Sydney General Post Office was cleaned by any method at all? Who was the contractor who performed that work? What method of cleaning was used? What was the contract price for the cleaning? I am informed that it is 30 years since the GPO was cleaned, although the PostmasterGeneral has told me it was cleaned 6 years ago.
– We have dealt with this matter in the House on several occasions. I have nothing to add to what I have already said.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. By way of preface I refer briefly to a question I asked him recently about Czechoslovakian refugees and to a statement he made to the House in which he said he had instructed the migration offices overseas to offer all possible help to Czechoslovakians who wished to come to Australia. Will the Minister inform the House what has happened since? In particular is it known how many Czechoslovakians wish to come vo this country? If so, when can the first of these be expected to arrive?
– A relatively small number of people of Czechoslovak nationality outside Czechoslovakia wish to resettle outside Europe. 1 emphasise that it is a relatively small number. However, applications have been made to Austraiian officers, particularly in Austria. Wc have already approved applications by 260 persons to come to Australia. To get them here we have chartered a special Qantas Right, which will leave Austria on Thursday next and which will arrive in Sydney at about 5 p.m. on Friday next. That aeroplane will contain approximately 150 persons. I would expect that a week or so later another special charter flight will leave from Austria in order to bring those who are not able to get on the first flight but who have been approved. I am unable to say how many more people will want to come here. At the present time the great majority of people of Czechoslovak origin who are outside Czechoslovakia seem to be waiting to make up their minds whether they want to seek resettlement outside of Europe. We would be very anxious to receive as many as wished to come here as migrants. Of course, there are people in other countries who apply to our individual offices in those countries. We are handling these applications as expeditiously and as kindly as possible. We make individual travel arrangements for those people to come to Australia.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Territories a question. In view of the fact that the accommodation of the Papua and New Guinea House of Assembly, which was originally designed for a small legislative council, is now seriously inadequate, would the Minister consider the gift of a house of parliament by the Commonwealth on behalf of the people of Australia to Papua and New Guinea as a perpetual testimony to the Australian people’s friendship for, and interest in, the people of Papua and New Guinea?
– The honourable member for Fremantle has suggested a considerable departure from our thinking in this regard. I agree with him that the present House of Assembly was designed for a smaller number of members than the number who presently occupy it, but we have made additions to the present House of Assembly to give what we believe to be adequate accommodation. I think the honourable gentleman would agree that we are in quite a difficult position ourselves regarding the erection of a new and permanent parliament house here. Before the Government could agree to the kind of proposal suggested by the honourable member it would have to consider other pressing needs in the Territory, such as development and education. I would agree with the honourable member that possibly the present accommodation is not adequate, but I can assure him that we are doing everything we can to make members of the House of Assembly as comfortable as possible under present circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the reported refusal by the United States of America to send delegates to the International Sugar Conference, which is about to reconvene in Geneva. In view of the tremendous importance of the Conference to the Australian sugar industry and to the Australian Government, will the Prime Minister make a personal plea to the President of the United States of America, urging participation by his country in this combined world conference which is about to take place and at which this country will be represented by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry?
– I have the utmost confidence in the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry to do everything possible to ensure that all relevant nations appear at the Conference and that the decisions of that Conference are, from Australia’s point of view, as successful as they can possibly be made to be. He will be representing us and I think representing us well.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Was he the first officer, official or Minister from Australia to have been informed of the fault in theF111 aircraft which was disclosed by the fatigue testing? I also ask the Minister: What senior members of the Royal Australian Air Force are at present in the United States of America? Will he ensure that these officers are present at all remaining tests of the F111 aircraft?
– I want to advise the honourable gentleman that the moment it was known that a fault had been disclosed in the fatigue tests this fact was conveyed to the project manager of the Royal Australian Air Force team, who in turn conveyed it to me. I must also tell the honourable gentleman that we have a very considerable team of top engineers, pilots, navigators and fitters at Fort Worth working on the project. They are unanimous that this is a first class aeroplane to fly in. The honourable member will be delighted to know, having flown in the aircraft, which he classed as satisfactory - indeed, 1 think he was a little more eulogistic than that - when recently in Fort Worth, that the first of the F111C aircraft was flown away by our test pilot, who assures the honourable gentleman, through me, that because of its extended wing tips it is an even more smoothly riding plane than the one in which the honourable member flew.
The Australian technical team at Fort Worth has complete access to any tests being done on the aircraft. After the handing over ceremony I had the experience of sitting in for 2 hours at a briefing with the top United States Air Force officers, the top engineers and scientists of the General Dynamics Corporation and our own thoroughly competent people, considering what this fault might disclose, and we decided that it might be wise to wait until the tests were completed. So the honourable gentleman has less cause to worry than he thought. May I assure him, in conclusion, that we have accepted at this time only one aircraft, subject to the stipulation I referred to earlier. We do not propose to accept any further aircraft until the position is much clearer.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Does the Government consider that it is fulfilling its promises of 100% support for the Australian troops sent to Vietnam by allowing Russian ships which have carried supplies and war material to Haiphong to call at Australian ports for cut price back loading of Australian exports?
-I have no detailed knowledge and have not been given any facts about the ships referred to by the honourable member. If he has lists of ships which have delivered war material, and if he can indicate that they have done so, then, I think, the matter should be considered, but that is all I would be prepared to say about it at the present time.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. I regret that I cannot check with the text of his remarks made at Fort Worth, for I have been informed through his office, since he answered my last question on this matter, that his statement is still being typed out.I ask: When will the first of the six faultless F111 aircraft now arrive? If he cannot answer this question at this stage, when does he expect to be able to announce the arrival date of the aircraft?
– The honourable gentleman is the master of innuendo. The text of my statement at Fort Worth is not being typed out, it is being photographed from the original. Let there be no doubt about that. I mentioned a moment ago that at this time we have accepted one aircraft. We have accepted it subject to claims for modification, which in turn, as the honourable gentleman surely realises, must depend on the tests now being conducted. If he reads the article in the newspaper to which I referred him. he will see that the tests are likely to take another 8 or 10 days. We do not propose to accept any further aircraft until the outcome of those tests is known. The honourable gentleman will well understand, therefore, that it is quite impossible for me to say when the faultless aircraft will arrive in Australia. I assure him. as I have assured others, that delivery will not be taken, or rather that these aircraft will not be sent to Australia, until we are satisfied that they are perfectly airworthy.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Chisholm. Have any ships that have participated in or are participating in the Australian overseas trade proceeded direct to this country from Hanoi? If so, which ships are they? What arrangements has the Government made or what arrangements does it intend to make concerning the future participation of Russian ships in the Australian trade? Further, as Russian penetration of the Pacific region, including the western hemisphere and Cuba, becomes an economic proposition through Russia gaining entry to the Australian market, will he indicate which ships came from Cuba to Australia via Japan?
-I am afraid that I cannot provide the honourable member with information about ships coming to Australia from Cuba via Japan. However, as regards ships travelling between Haiphong and Australia, I am advised that the records available in Australian ports indicate that of approximately six Russian vessels that have visited Australia in this calendar year only one came direct from Haiphong. I am told that of a possible equal number of Polish vessels coming to Australia none is shown as having come direct from Haiphong.
As to the capacity of the Australian Government to deny right of access to such vessels, under the Convention and Statute on the International Regime of Maritime Ports, negotiated in 1923, international obligations provide for the free use of the ports of the world. These rights are available on a non-discriminatory basis to all ships of maritime nations with the exception of fishing vessels and warships. Whilst Australia is a party to that Convention, I am informed that Russia and Poland are not parties to it. Although I am advised that legally it may be possible for Australia to deny access to certain vessels, the doctrine of the freedom of the seas is so well established that it would be extremely difficult to do so. As the honourable member will be aware, there have been some instances of nations denying to vessels of other nations right of access to their ports, but these actions have been generally regarded with disfavour. Australia being an island continent and a major trading nation, any proposal to take such action would have to be considered very seriously.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. In a television interview last night Mr Punch, MLA, New South Wales, representing Mr Askin, Premier of New South Wales, said that the Commonwealth is robbing New South Wales of its proper share of tax collections. Is this a fact? If not, could the Commonwealth initiate legal action against Mr Punch for defamation and misrepresentation or is it a matter that should be referred to the Privileges Committee?
– If the honourable member wishes to refer this matter to the Privileges Committee he may do so, but if he were to take such action I am afraid that he would appear to be a somewhat ridiculous figure. As regardsthe statement by Mr Punch, I have this morning taken out some figures to illustrate the generous way in which the Commonwealth has treated the States. Over the period of years that I can recollect the States have been taking a continually increasing portion of the gross national product. In other words, since 1959-60 the State governments have together increased their proportion of the gross national product from 11.6% to 13.2%. So nobody can say that the State sector has been starved.
As to the Commonwealth’s expenditure, including expenditure on defence, I point out, as the Prime Minister has already pointed out this afternoon, that our Budget was designed with various purposes in mind. First, we knew that we had the difficulties of continued cost inflation. We were not prepared to add demand inflation and so cause greater difficulties for people on fixed incomes, primary producers and exporters. Secondly, we knew that we had to reduce the deficit between revenue and expenditure in our Budget. We wanted to reduce that amount by$100m as compared with last year, and we very nearly reached that goal. Thirdly, it has to be remembered that we have a state of full employment. Consequently, if one government is to spend more we must ask this question: Which other government is to have its activities reduced, or are we to reduce the activities of the private sector? The Commonwealth has reduced the rate of increase in its own expenditure from 11.1% last year to 8.2% this year.
To come to the implication in Mr Punch’s remarks - that is, that the Commonwealth is squeezing the States - if we compare the various returns, and exclude drought expenditure as a whole, we find that State expenditure has gone up. I think most of us will agree that drought expenditure has to be excluded when we examine the amount of revenue that we make available to the States in order to establish worth while comparisons. In 1968-69 as compared to 1967-68 there was a drop from 8.6% to 8.4% in the rate of increase in the allocations to the States. The increase in the Commonwealth’s own expenditure was reduced to 8.2%. In other words, in terms of the growth of expenditure, we find that the Commonwealth has taken a lower percentage than has been taken by the State governments.
I mention two other facts. They will help the House to understand that we were attempting to give the semi-government and local government areas opportunities for expansion. In the current year the larger authorities have increased their borrowing programmes by 10%. This represents an increase of 30% compared with 2 years ago. In the current year the smaller local government authorities have increased their borrowings by 34%. What we can deduce from those figures is that the Commonwealth is doing what it knows is in the best interests of the economy. We know, too, that we have been permitting the Stales to expand at a much greater rate than the rate of growth in gross national production. For these reasons the claim cannot bemade that we are squeezing the States so that the Commonwealth may increase its expenditure and activities.
- Mr Speaker,I seekthe leave of the House to make a short statement on the Government’s compliance with the resolution of the United Nations Security Council regarding Rhodesia.
-Is leave granted?
– We will agree to the Minister for External Affairs making a statement so that we all may speak on it.
– Is the honourable member for Moreton granted leave?
– Leave is not granted.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. On 29th August the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) referred to one of two quotations I had made in my speech on 28th August and drew attention to the fact that this particular quotation was from a speech that he had made. I was unaware at that time that this was so, and this was conceded by the honourable member for Dawson. So it is a clear case of mistaken identity. The honourable member for Dawson also commented on remarks I had made following this quotation, but obviously these remarks did not apply to him; yet his comments left some doubt in this regard. I bear no ill will towards the honourable member for Dawson but I certainly do not regard him as eminent in any way, and I make this statement to put the record straight:
– by leave - It has been confirmed in Basle that an arrangement has been made between the Bank of England and a number of other central banks for the provision of a new $US2,000m stand-by to offset fluctuations in the sterling balances of sterling area countries. This facility is to be implemented immediately. The fundamental purpose of this facility is to give further substantial support to sterling over a period of years ahead. It will enable the United Kingdom to recoup losses of reserves due to moves out of sterling into other assets by some sterling area countries in recent times. It will also be available to be drawn on by the United Kingdom over the next few years in the event of any further fall in the total sterling balances of sterling area countries through balance of payments adversities.
An announcement about the Basle offer was first made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 8th July. The Basle offer made at that time was conditional on the United Kingdom and sterling area countries working out together some method of avoiding significant diversifying moves out of sterling in the period ahead. In this way, potential drawings on the Basie facility would be minimised and the credibility of the facility as a ‘Safety Net’ for sterling would be enhanced. In the interim, the United Kingdom has held consultations with the sterling area countries and sufficient agreement has been reached to bring the Basle offer into operation.
The United Kingdom authorities have had the complex task of negotiating arrangements with some thirty-eight widely different countries. Although these arrangements will broadly follow a common pattern it may be some little time yet before details can be made known. In broad terms, the position is that the United Kingdom will be undertaking to maintain the United States dollar value of the bulk of each country’s official sterling reserves. The sterling area countries on their part have given the United Kingdom assurances about the future stability of their holdings of sterling.
In Australia’s case, provisional agreement has been reached that we will work towards maintaining the present proportion of our reserves in sterling. For this purpose reserves are defined to include super gold tranches with the International Monetary Fund. Our present proportion is about 45%. We have said further that we would not run down the proportion of our reserves held in sterling below 40%. In return for this undertaking about 80% of our official sterling balances will have a dollar guarantee. We will receive United Kingdom rates of interest on our balances and no charge will be made for this dollar guarantee.
In particular circumstances there will be some flexibility in the observance of the 40% minimum proportion. For example, in the case of Australian loans maturing in London, to the extent that and for so long as re-finance or conversion of such loans is not practicable, any short-fall will be taken into account in assessing the minimum proportion of sterling to be held in Australia in terms of the agreement.
If the United Kingdom imposes further restrictions on the flow of capital from the United Kingdom to Australia there will be immediate consultation between the parties. Australia will continue to have opportunities for access to the London market to convert or refinance maturing loans, subject to the state of the market and the United Kingdom balance of payments at the relevant time. The present intention is that this arrangement would continue for a period of 3 years with provision for possible extension for another 2 years.
Over the last 20 years, there has been some redistribution of Australia’s reserve assets away from sterling, and into dollars, gold and credit positions with the International Monetary Fund. This diversification has followed changes in the patterns of our overseas trade and debt structure. However, Australia still has a very real interest in the balance of payments position of the United Kingdom and in the strength of sterling. Our concern involves both our sterling balances - of which we hold some S600m - and movements on capital account from the United Kingdom to Australia. We have substantial amounts of Commonwealth Government debt maturing in London over the next few years and we have been receiving significant amounts of capital on private account from United Kingdom residents.
Beyond this, we have a considerable interest in the stability of the international monetary system. The support which the Basle facility of $US2,000m will give to sterling, one of the two international reserve currencies, will help to increase stability. The United Kingdom needs a breathing space to allow its devaluation and its budgetary measures to do their work. Cooperation between sterling area countries and the Basle countries to give the United Kingdom time to restore confidence in sterling makes real sense at this time. I commend this statement to the House.
– by leave - This statement announces a new 5-year programme for the development of Papua and New Guinea. A similar statement is being made today in the Territory House of Assembly by the official leader of the House. A document prepared by the Administration outlining the proposed programme is being tabled in the House of Assembly and 1 will table this document for the information of honourable members at the conclusion of this statement.
This year’s Budget provides for u grant to the Papua and New Guinea Administration of S87m, an increase of 12% over last year’s figure of approximately $78m. The increased grant reflects the Government’s policy on the development of the Territory. The Government will continue to help towards accelerated economic growth and the development of greater economic self reliance in the Territory.
With these objectives in mind the Government has been considering a new development programme, covering the 5 years from 1968-69 to 1972-73. It follows on a programme for the 5 years from 1 964- 65 to 1968-69 recommended in the report of the 1964 survey mission of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or World Bank. In May 1965 the Government endorsed the objectives of the mission’s programme, accepted the proposed production programmes as a working basis for planning and accepted numerous other proposals in the report as guides for policy and action. The new programme, which envisages the expenditure of nearly $ 1,000m by the Administration over 5 years, takes into account many developments in the Territory since 1964. Its objectives are in harmony with those proposed by the bank mission. The basic aim is to develop the Territory for self determination and to ensure that when this stage has been reached the Territory will, to the greatest extent feasible, be able to stand on its own feet economically.
Emphasis will continue to be put on increasing production in the Territory, on advancing Papuans and New Guineans through secondary and higher education and vocational training, and on the acceptance by Papuans and New Guineans of greater responsibility. Major aims will be to build up the capacity of the local people to develop and manage their own enterprises and also to provide greater opportunities for employment in private industry and in administration. Allowing for the modifications that will be needed from time to time in the light of changing circumstances, the Government endorses the proposed objectives and targets of the new programme as a basis for planning, subject to a similar endorsement by the Territory House of Assembly.
The programme envisages substantial progress over a wide range of industries, lt is planned to increase annual plantings of tree crops by Papuans and New Guineans by more than 50%; to increase fivefold the number of beef cattle raised by indigenes; to expand timber production and exports almost threefold; and to more than double manufacturing output. It is planned also to increase substantially expenditures on roads, bridges and other transport facilities. Rapid growth in telecommunications will take place under a $14m programme now under way which will be financed partly by the recently negotiated loan of $6.3m from the World Bank. In education, priority will be given to secondary and tertiary education with special attention to technical and vocational training. In health emphasis will continue to be given to preventive medicine such as malaria control. The achievement of the proposed objectives and targets will require steadily increasing expenditure by the Administration. It is estimated that Administration expenditure under the programme will increase from $155m in 1968- 69 to $235m in 1972-73 and average about $200m annually over the 5-year period.
The Government recognises that the development programme now proposed will require increased Commonwealth financial contributions to the Territory over the period of the programme. On the basis of mutual co-operation between the Government and the House of Assembly and the people of the Territory, the Government is prepared to assist in this way the achievement of the programme if the House of Assembly indicates that it is prepared progresively to increase the Territory’s financial self reliance by raising the level of
Territory revenue and loan receipts as much as practicable over the period of the programme.
The actual financial contribution by the Government to the Administration Budget in any one year will of course be subject to the Commonwealth’s own budgetary situation and also to any special circumstances arising in the Territory that may reduce the need for the Commonwealth grant. The endorsement of the objectives and targets of the proposed development programme as a basis for planning docs not rule out the possibility of changes in future years in the method by which the Government’s contribution to the Administration Budget is made. Nor does the Government’s attitude towards the revised development programme mean that there is any change in the Government’s policy on constitutional development in the Territory.
The achievement of the proposed objectives and targets will also require greater private investment, assistance from international sources and recruitment of skilled people from overseas. Overseas investment will continue to be actively encouraged. Assistance from the World Bank and its affiliate, the International Development Association, will be sought for suitable projects. About 4,500 overseas officers will need to be recruited from Australia and other sources for professional and sub-professional positions in the Administration over the 5-year period. These officers will be required for about 1,450 new positions and also to replace professional and sub-professional people completing service with the Administration. Additional skilled overseas officers will be required for administrative and other positions. This is in line with the Government’s policy to supplement locally available skilled manpower with expatriate recruits where necessary in the interests of Territory development and until the accelerated local training programmes have produced sufficient numbers of people with specialist skills to provide for the Territory’s needs. The programme provides for a fivefold increase in the annual out-turn of Papuans and New Guineans from tertiary educational institutions which will allow a rapidly increasing proportion of professional and technical posts in the Territory to be staffed by local people.
The programme does nol at this stage take into account the development of the large deposits of copper on Bougainville which are being invested by Bougainville Copper Ply Ltd, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto. The company expects to decide during the second half of 1969 whether it will proceed with its proposals to develop the deposits. If the project goes ahead and is successful it could make a dramatic contribution to Territory revenues and export earnings in the final year of the plan period.
Much of the new development proposed for the next 5 years will not make its full impact on the Territory’s export earnings and revenues until after 1973. The agricultural programme is largely concerned with the expansion of plantings of slow maturing tree crops. Much of the public investment envisaged is on new capital works designed to encourage new industries in areas where development has been hampered by inaccessibility and high transport costs.
Similarly the substantial investment in education, especially secondary and tertiary education, in training programmes, in preventive medicine and in the employment of skilled overseas staff in the Administration, will bear fruit over a period rather longer than the 5-year programme period. By planning for the future in this way the programme aims at significant progress towards the stage of self-reliant economic growth. The programme also provides for an increasing measure of self-help avid for a growing share of the Territory budget to be financed from internal revenue and loans. More and more the pace of progress in the Territory will depend on the efforts and the enterprise of Papuans and New Guineans and on private investment both from within the Territory and from overseas.
With Administration expenditure of the order of $ 1,000m over the programme period and continuing Commonwealth support the 5-year programme should provide a climate of heightened opportunity for private investment. The new 5-year programme represents a major step forward on the Territory’s road towards economic self-reliance. For the information of honourable members I table the document:
Programmes and Policies for the Economic Development of Papua and Nsw Guinea*. and move:
Thai the House take note of ihe paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - The Immigration Planning Council, which was established in 1949 to advise the Minister for Immigration on economic aspects of immigration planning, each year submits to me its recommendations on the immigration programme for the ensuing financial year. These recommendations are based on its assessment of the capacity of Australia to absorb migrants and upon a realistic assessment of our ability to attract them. They are short term recommendations and therefore are, of necessity, conditioned by immediate economic and other circumstances.
With this in mind, the Immigration Planning Council was asked to project its enquiries further into the future and to investigate longer term economic and demographic trends both within Australia and abroad with a view to advising on total and net immigration requirements and possibilities several years ahead.
The Council has now presented to me a report covering the period 1968 to 1973. This report will be reviewed and refined each year and projected another year further forward. Lest there should be any misunderstanding, the Planning Council report does not purport to make specific recommendations in concrete terms about the actual numbers of migrants that Australia should seek in total or from individual source countries. Recommendations for each prospective year’s programme will continue to be made to me by the planning Council in the light of circumstances actually obtaining at the time, and the Government will continue, as in the past, to determine the immigration programme from year to year.
What the Planning Council’s report does do is discuss, in realistic terms, what various alternative rates of immigration are likely to mean in terms of actual population growth and what action should be taken in relation to those economic and social factors within our control, if we wish to achieve established population goals. While the language of the report is generally moderate it nevertheless opens up some new lines of thought which 1 commend to policy makers and administrators in all spheres of activity, not only in Governments at all levels but also in industry, the professions and trades, the universities and the community as a whole. For this reason, the Council’s report will be given a wide distribution and will be freely available to all those who may wish to use it for reference.
I am personally indebted to the members of the Planning Council under the chairmanship of our colleague, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), and to officers of my own and other Government departments who assisted the Council. The members of the Planning Council are all very busy men who occupy positions of leadership in a variety of spheres of activity. They have devoted a great deal of time to the preparation of this report and they have produced a document that adds considerably to our knowledge of the problems we must face and solve if immigration is to continue to be the vital force in our national development that it has been during the last two decades.
In its report, the Council has expressed the fullest confidence in Australia’s continued prosperity and economic growth and has submitted its recommendations in the knowledge that,s ince its inception, the immigration programme has received the unqualified backing of successive governments as a national policy. In tabling this report, I commend it to honourable members for their serious consideration. I present the following paper -
Immigration - Report of Immigration Planning Council- Ministerial statement,10th September 1968. and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hulme, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Speaker, the purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s intention, as outlined in the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to increase the fees payable for broadcast listeners’ and television viewers’ licences. There will not be any change in the licence fees currently applicable to pensioners, and the licences for blind persons and schools will continue to be free.
The Bill proposes that the fee for a television viewer’s licence including a hirer’s or lodging house licence, be increased from $12 to $14. In the case of broadcast listeners’ licences, including hirers’ and lodging house licences, the fees are to be increased from $5.50 to $6.50 in respect of Zone 1 and $2.80 to $3.30 in respect of Zone 2. The fee for a combined receiving licence will be increased from $17 to $20.
Licence fees generally have remained unaltered since 1964 when the Government decided to remove the $12 excise payable on cathode ray tubes, which was difficult to administer, and to offset this loss of revenue by raising the television licence fee by $2. The broadcast listeners’ licence fee was not changed. At the same time, a combined receiving licence was introduced applicable to people who operated both broadcast and television receivers. The fee for the combined licence was set at $17, or 50c less than the total of the fees payable for separate licences.
In effect, therefore, Government revenues from these licence fees have not been increased since 1956, when the television viewers’ licence was first introduced. At that time, in addition to the television viewers’ licence fee which was set at $10, broadcast listeners’ licence fees were increased from $4 to $5.50 for listeners within an approximate range of 250 miles from any broadcasting station (Zone 1) and a lower fee of $2.80 was applied in the case of listeners outside that area (Zone 2).
Since 19S6, Mr Speaker, annual capital and operating expenditure for the national broadcasting and television service have increased by 200% and technicians wage rates have risen by 80%. The wage rates for Australian Broadcasting Commission employees have increased by a similar margin. Stage 4 of the extension of television throughout Australia has to date involved an expenditure of $10m and a further $2m will be required for its completion. The programme of installation of translator stations has already involved capital expenditure of close to Sim. The capital cost of installing all the national television stations in Australia was nearly $60m. In view of the continued need for substantial amounts of capital and the increased operating costs inherent in each new station opened, it has been considered appropriate that the fees for licences be adjusted to a level more in keeping with the cost of the national service.
In 19S6, the cost of operating the national service was $l8m. At that time, there was only radio and two television stations - in Sydney and Melbourne. Today, the national service operates 39 high powered television stations, plus nearly 20 low powered relay stations, together with 89 medium frequency and short wave broadcasting stations, including Radio Australia transmitters. The estimated expenditure this financial year on operating all these services and providing for capital development will not be less than $59m. Revenue from viewers’ and listeners’ GrIn.. will fall short of this by about SI 8m. A government could decide to make up this leeway by a taxation increase which affected everyone - that would hardly be popular - or by the obvious course of asking for a contribution from those who use the service. Even so, the revenue from the increased fees will return the Government only S5m of the deficit this financial year and only $7m in a full year. The Government will carry the remainder of just over $ltm. I know of no business undertaking in this country, or anywhere else for that matter, which would carry this type of loss.
There is talk of inefficiency in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but it is easy to make a sweeping generalisation such as this when one is never called upon to substantiate it. Any one organisation that can operate more than 50 television stations and more than 80 broadcasting stations simultaneously, with a number of separate networks and with split second timing and precision in programming - particularly over a large land mass such as Australia- can hardly be labelled inefficient.
It must be remembered that the return from licence fees in many areas is quite small by comparison with the return in other areas. For example, a radio or a television station in a capital city potentially can serve several million people. In a country centre similar installations, costing almost as much to establish, may have a potential audience measured only in thousands of people. Therefore, revenue from licence fees is much less. In fact, the deficit situation in the operations of the national service can be traced directly to the time when television was extended to the less populated country areas. The Government knew this would happen but naturally took the view that people in the country were as equally entitled to television as those in the cities and more populated provincial areas.
The ABC provides many services in the interests of the community generally that perhaps would never be available otherwise. I refer particularly to the Commission’s sponsoring of the various symphony orchestras throughout the Commonwealth, its youth concerts programme now in its 21st year, the annual production for radio from its own resources of about 250 plays of an hour or more, and the annual production for television from its own resources of about 50 drama or feature items the majority of which are written by Australian authors. Its educational television programmes are now received by more than 4,000 schools throughout Australia. Its news coverage is the most comprehensive in Australia. These are merely a few examples of the outstanding services provided by the Commission - services which cost a great deal of money to produce and put on the air.
In addition to its home broadcasts and those it operates in Papua and New Guinea, the ABC operates Radio Australia, which is acknowledged to be one of the finest international broadcasting services in the world. Operating from nine transmitters which are shortly to be augmented by a multi-million dollar booster installation at Darwin, Radio Australia operates around the clock. Over 100 stations around the world broadcast selections from its programmes. It teaches hundreds of thousands of people in South East Asia to speak English. It broadcasts in eight languages and transmits nearly fifty news bulletins daily, the first of which beings at 4 a.m. and the last of which concludes 23½ hours later, just in time to begin the process all over again. Radio Australia, in several international polls, has been voted the most popular short wave radio service in the world. This is borne out by the fact that the service receives from listeners a quarter of a million letters each year. For over a quarter of a century the voice of Radio Australia has reached out to every corner of the earth, and today it has an audience of millions. Everywhere it makes friends for Australia. Radio Australia’s dependability is a byword.
In all these circumstances, I do not think that the cost of maintaining the national broadcasting and television service is excessive. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Australian Universities Commission has been operating with the assistance of staff employed under the Public Service Act and occupying positions in a Commonwealth department, originally within the Prime Minister’s Department and now within the Department of Education and Science. However, the Government believes that it would be more appropriate for the statute which governs the operations of the Commission to provide for the employment of its staff.
The Bill provides for the staff necessary to assist the Commission to be employed under the Public Service Act and for the Chairman of the Universities Commission to be given powers under that Act in relation to the Commission’s staff similar to those exercised by a permanent head in relation to the staff of a department. This follows the legislative pattern that has been adopted for a number of statutory authorities - for example, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the National Library. In line with the provisions that are contained in the legislation establishing those other bodies, the Bill also provides for the Chairman to delegate his powers in relation to staff where it is appropriate for him to do so. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Mr Speaker, the Customs tariff proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1 966- 1968. These amendments will operate from tomorrow morning, and arise from the Tariff Board’s reports on wrapping machines and earthmoving, excavating and materials handling machinery and equipment.
On wrapping machines the Board found that the Australian industry had, without the assistance of protective duties, obtained a substantial share of that part of the market for which its machines were suitable, and had earned reasonable profits since manufacture commenced. Quality and technical performance, the Board considered, were much more important than price in this particular field, and the gains from any reasonable level of duty would not be commensurate with the burden it would impose on users for whom wrapping machines are an aid to manufacture. The Board therefore recommended that all goods under reference be dutiable at minimum rates of7½% ad valorem General, Free Preferential.
Other amendments covered by this proposal provide for implementation of the board’s recommendations in respect of dump trucks, rock buggies and heavy duty (rucks designed as dredging and excavating machinery and mobile cranes. The implementation of these recommendations was deferred pending international negotiations. I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on wrapping machines.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Proposed expenditure, $4,719,000.
– Before we proceed with this debate, I would like to explain to honourable members the various changes that have been made this year in the form of the Appropriation Bills. They are as follows: First of all, the separate Part 2, Business Undertakings, has been eliminated. Honourable members will recall the progress that has been made in recent years in removing these special sections. For example, last year the separate ‘Territories’ section was eliminated. Previously the ‘Miscellaneous Services’ section and the ‘War and Repatriation Services’ section were eliminated and brought within the appropriations of the controlling departments. The main reason for this action was that these sections never really succeeded in their purpose of showing the Commonwealth’s total expenditure in the designated areas.
This year there was the added reason that the changes in the financial arrangements for the Post Office, that is the creation of a Post Office trust account and a one-line appropriation in Appropriation Bill (No. 2), left few items in Part 2. These remaining appropriations are now shown under the relevant departments and can be readily identified. The new lay-out should be more convenient for honourable members, both in general reference and in the debates.
The second change is the removal of the schedule of salaries and allowances from the Bill proper and its appearance, in improved form, as table 16 in the document Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’. The old schedule had several weaknesses. It showed created positions, whether occupied or not, and it gave no details whatever of temporary staff. The new table shows numbers of permanent and temporary staff actually employed both for the previous financial year and the estimated numbers for the coming financial year within the approved establishment at 1st July. In addition, the table shows how the staff is distributed among the major functional groups of each department. It is hoped that the information now provided will be of considerably more interest and value to the Parliament, the Press and the public.
In the Appropriation Bill itself the salaries of both permanent officers and temporary employees are included in the one appropriation item, thus allowing departments more flexibility where the ratio of permanent officers to temporary employees varies from the estimate. The salary of each First Division officer has been appropriated separately to give effect to section 30(1) of the Public Service Act which provides that officers of the First Division shall be paid such salaries as the Parliament provides.
The third change is the consolidation of the appropriations for the running costs of our posts overseas into one division in each of the Departments of External Affairs, Trade and Industry, and Immigration. The previous practice was to have one division for every post, and where two or three departments were represented at a post, there were two or three divisions.
The rapid growth in the number of overseas posts led to a proliferation of appropriations, many of very small amounts, and also led to certain administrative difficulties. It was accordingly decided to consolidate the appropriations in the manner I have indicated. In order that Parliament should continue to be provided with detailed information about our overseas posts, the following action has been taken: (a) The running costs of each post, dissected into salaries and administrative expenses, are set out in tables 9, 10 and 15 in the document Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’; (b) details of staff employed at each post are shown under the relevant departments in table 16 - Salaries and Allowances - of that document. This table shows, for the first time, the number of locally engaged staff, as well as the number of Australia based staff, at each post; (c) details of capital works and services are shown in the usual way in the No. 2 Bill. There is a separate item for each individual post where the amount is significant.
At this stage I should like to mention that the three changes to which T have referred have been discussed with the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Indeed, the Committee may take credit for initiating certain of the improvements to the table of salaries and allowances.
This year for the first time there will be one-line appropriations for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Post Office. This follows major accounting changes for these two organisations which have already been approved by the Parliament. In the case of the CSIRO details of expenditure estimates are given in table 8 of the document ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’. In the case of the Post Office details of plans and prospects are set out in the white paper entitled ‘Post Office Prospects and Capital Programme 1968-69’ and details of transactions in 1967-68 will be shown in the annual report.
The final change relates to the financing of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. This year the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) provides for the payment to the Reserve of such sums as the Treasurer determines. The history of this matter is as follows: The Reserve was established in 1 955 and for the first 2 years of its existence payments were made to it by means of an appropriation in the same manner as will be done this year, that is, of such sums as the Treasurer determines.
In its 34th report the Joint Committee of Public Accounts suggested that these open ended’ appropriations should be discontinued and that they should be replaced by specific appropriations in the annual Appropriation Acts. This suggestion was adopted by the Government and each Budget from 1957-58 to 1967-68 contained a specific appropriation for payments to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
In practice, this procedure did not work out at all satisfactorily. In order for it to have been satisfactory it would have been necessary to estimate with a reasonable degree of accuracy and confidence the amount required to be transferred to the Reserve and to make provision accordingly. Even at the time of the additional Estimates, however, this has not been found to be possible. This arises from the fact that the payment to the Reserve is a residual balancing item and therefore reflects all other variations from the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund - not the least of which can be in the amount of defence expenditure charged to the Loan Fund under the authority of a Loan Act passed during a financial year. In order to secure an adequate ‘margin of safety’ it has therefore been necessary to seek authority for payments which, at the time of the additional Estimates, are considerably in excess of those which appear to bc required to cover the then estimated Consolidated Revenue Fund surplus for the year. This procedure still left open the possibility that the Consolidated Revenue Fund surplus might exceed the upper limit specified. It is also relevant that the payment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve is a purely internal machinery transaction which involves no final expenditure by the Commonwealth. The use of funds in the Reserve is governed by specific legislation passed by Parliament.
In the light of these circumstances, it was considered that there would be advantages in reverting to the procedure of seeking open ended appropriations for the transfer of funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. It was felt that the procedure of appropriating specific amounts bad been given a very fair trial and that it had been found to be unsatisfactory. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts has been given prior notice of this change.
– At present the Committee is dealing with the proposed expenditure in relation to the Parliament itself. I wish to refer to some of the procedures of the Parliament. I think that the matter has to be raised here so that in future an incident similar to one related to the by-election in Higgins will not occur again. In my opinion the members of the Parliament should decide whether a writ should be issued by the Speaker. Since the Estimates were discussed previously the Speaker, under the Forms of the House and no doubt in accordance with the Constitution, issued a writ for the Higgins by-election. Sections 33, 37 and 38 of the Constitution relate to the conditions in which writs may be issued. The Speaker may issue a writ in the event of the death of a member of Parliament or if a member has submitted his resignation in writing to the Governor-General or to the Speaker. In the event of a member of Parliament being absent from the Parliament for a period of two consecutive months without the permission of the House his place shall become vacant.
I want to deal specifically with the circumstances surrounding the issue of the writ for the by-election of Higgins early this year. We all know of the unfortunate incident which led to the issue of that writ. Whilst we may debate whether or not the former honourable member for Higgins is deceased, the matter should be left to the courts of the country to decide. The declaration of death is a matter that is governed by the laws of the State in which the person concerned died. There is no doubt that legally the former honourable member for Higgins has not been declared to be dead. In my humble opinion, the Speaker erred in issuing the writ. It is for the courts to say whether or not a person is legally dead. I do not believe that there should be one law for the rich and another for the poor. I believe that everyone should have equal rights. Irrespective of a person’s station in life, he should be governed by the laws of the State in which he resides. The only information concerning the unfortunate incident is contained in a police report. Probably the report was submitted to the officials of the Parliament and of the State concerned. As a result of this report a decision was made. I do not think it was the right of such officials to make the decision. The investigations did not prove conclusively that the former member for Higgins was dead.
The other two reasons for the issue of a writ are not valid in the circumstances. No resignation was presented to the Parliament. The powers of Parliament become involved, under the Constitution, in that members of the Parliament have the right to make a decision in the event of a member being absent from the Parliament for two consecutive months without permission of the House. A vote has to be taken. We in the Parliament have to make the decision. Yet, in relation to the incident of which I am speaking, the Parliament was not assembled. We were not informed. Nobody knew exactly what was happening. The byelection look place during the parliamentary recess. I do not know why the Parliament was not assembled to discuss this important matter and why we were not given an opportunity to place our views before Parliament. We ought to have been permitted to make the decision. Members of Parliament have had some of their powers usurped. The decision was removed from the jurisdiction of Parliament. The Speaker is responsible to Parliament. When a new Parliament is constituted he is elected by the members of Parliament. We vote for or against him and if we have the numbers, our candidate is elected. The Speaker is responsible to us. If a vote of no confidence in him were carried he could be removed from office. I think that the Speaker erred somewhat in the issue of this writ.
– I point out to the honourable member for East Sydney that he is not in order in criticising Mr Speaker in regard to the issue of the writ. I suggest that the honourable member give careful consideration to his remarks and to the point that he is making in relation to Mr Speaker.
– But is not the Speaker responsible to the Parliament? Have we not the right to criticise his actions in the Parliament? He is not a supreme person.
– I point out to the honourable member that he may criticise Mr Speaker only on a substantive motion. He may not criticise Mr Speaker in the way he has been criticising him, particularly when we are in Committee.
-I suppose I have to abide by your ruling. Mr Chairman, but I feel it is an unjust ruling.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member that his remark was perhaps not very well worded. I do not want to restrict him in any way, but I point out that the ruling I have given has been based on a consideration of the procedures, rules and Standing Orders of the Parliament. That is the only basis of the decision I have given concerning the comments made by the honourable member.
-I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. We are discussing the estimates for the Parliament, and the honourable member has raised the question of the declaration of the seat of Higgins as being vacant. Surely the debate on the estimates for the Parliament is the appropriate time at which to discuss such a matter. I do not think there was an implied attack on Mr Speaker. Rather was there an attack on the procedure involved.
– When I rose and spoke to the honourable member for East Sydney, he had just made a direct criticism of Mr Speaker.I did not make any ruling on the general comments of the honourable member or the opinions he expressed. The ruling I gave was on his direct criticism of Mr Speaker, and that is the only ruling that I have given.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. I did not intend to criticise Mr Speaker so far as his office is concerned, but I did criticise the action that was taken. I believe that this criticism is justified, and I believe I should be able to discuss the matter at this time.I can assure you that I am not reflecting on Mr Speaker because, after all, he gets his advice from the officers of the Parliament and probably from the Attorney-General’s Department. ButI believe that the decision that was made should have been made by the Parliament. While I may have mentioned Mr Speaker in particular in offering my criticism, I had no intention of reflecting on him. I merely state that I am opposed to the procedure which was followed on this occasion. I believe, andI think many other members also believe, that our powers in this Parliament are being whittled away by rules and regulations, and that the Parliament is not given the opportunity to make decisions which it should make. The particular right of the Parliament which is involved in the case of which I speak is one which should be jealously guarded.
I raise this matter because I believe similar circumstances could arise in the future. I know that this was the first occasion on which any such incident occurred, but the fact remains that similar circumstances could arise again. I believe that we as a Parliament have the right to make decisions when they do arise. We have certain constitutional powers which we should be careful to safeguard. I do not believe in one law for the rich and another for the poor. All persons in this country should be treated equally, irrespective of their station. If anybody believes I am wrong and that I have not stated the case properly, let him stand up in this Parliament and say so. There is no doubt in my mind that the former member for Higgins is not legally dead. He was lost within the confines of a State and we must abide by the laws of that State. I do not believe that even we as a national Parliament, or any individual in the national Parliament, can overrule the laws of a State. We know that the Constitution provides for the protection of State laws if they conflict with Commonwealth laws. My argument is that no one person should have the power to make a decision such as was made on this occasion. If a decision has to be made it should be made by the Parliament. We all would then accept it.I believe that when people exercise powers they do not possess, we in this Parliament have a right to criticise them, or at least to mention the matter. That is the main reason why I have spoken today.
I am aware that probably nothing can be done about the matter now, but I think my remarks should be recorded in Hansard so that if similar circumstances arise in the future the Parliament itself may be given the opportunity to make the necessary decisions. I have felt, as probably many other honourable members have felt, that this matter should have been raised in the Parliament. I can assure the Committee that it has been discussed by members of the Parliament.I have raised the matter so that honourable members may be made aware of their rights. We should ensure that those rights are not whittled away.
– 1 must say that I was astonished to hear the comments of the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine). I do not challenge his right to make such comments but I feel they were a little ill considered. I shall say no more about them than that perhaps they may best be answered by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) or someone with equivalent legal standing. My understanding is that a coroner in Victoria issued a certificate a few days after Mr Holt’s presumed drowning, and I should have thought this would have been legal ground for the presumption of the vacancy of the seat and the issue of the writ. But. as I have said, I do not presume to deal with this on a constitutional legal basis: 1 leave that to those better qualified to do so.
The appropriation we are considering is about $490,000 more than expenditure for 1967-68. In this financial year the people of Australia will be asked to pay about 38c each towards the upkeep of the Parliament, and I suggest that by any standards this is not excessive. As one looks through the Estimates for the current financial year one sees that the estimates for the Parliament arc the lowest of all, with the exception of those for the Department of the Cabinet Office. So I do not think anybody should complain about the cost of Parliament. The value of our Parliament and our parliamentary institutions is especially borne in upon one when one travels overseas, lt is especially borne in upon one following the recent happenings in Czechoslovakia, I remember reading some years ago in a booklet a foreword written by Mr Herbert Morrison, later Lord Morrison - a leading figure for many years in the British Labour Party - dealing with the inside story of the takeover of Czechoslovakia by Communism in the early post-war years. It is a story that might well be read and taken to heart by parliamentary democracies in all parts of the world.
As a member of a parliamentary committee I recently visited various countries, inspecting parliamentary buildings. In Berlin we looked from the Reichstag across the Berlin Wall into East Berlin. The affluence and general state of activity in West Berlin contrasted most markedly with the drab, dismal appearance and lack of activity on the other side of the wall. As far as we could see the wall is guarded along its length by armed Communist guards, in sentry boxes and on patrol. On the other side of the wall we could see where the mines were laid, designed to kill persons attempting to escape to the West. These experiences help me to appreciate more than ever the value of a parliamentary heritage and parliamentary institutions such as we enjoy in this country.
I would like to remind honourable members of the excellent foreword written some time ago by the Presiding Officers of the Parliament to the booklet entitled The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.’ 1 think it would be worth while to quote three or four paragraphs of that foreword. It reads:
Our Parliamentary or democratic form of government is a priceless heritage from the Mother of Parliaments, England, lt is a form of government which cherishes the principles of liberty, freedom of speech, the rule of law and the rights of minorities.
In these days of conflicting ideologies, i: is timely that stress should be given to the importance of these common principles of democracy.
Our rights and liberties were not easily won. Parliament, in ils forms and practices, perpetuates certain ancient traditions as reminders that those rights took centuries and great courage to gain.
Such traditions remind us that democratic rights are more easily lost than won, and that we all have a duty to guard and sustain those precious privileges which have won for the British Parliamentary system the admiration of the world.
It behoves you, therefore, to know your Parliament, know what a free Parliament symbolises, and know that while you respect and preserve it you have the surest safeguard against tyranny.
I make no apology for saying, as I have said before in this place, that I hold firmly to the belief that Parliament and the law courts represent the main bulwarks in a democratic society against anarchy and the law of the jungle. I sometimes doubt whether we as a nation fully appreciate and sufficiently value our free democratic processes, especially the secret ballot, which many people in other countries would give their right hands to have. 1 think it was the late Sir Winston Churchill who made the observation that parliamentary democracy is the worst form of government until one looks at the others. Recent events in Eastern Europe have impressed this fact upon us.
I have been very pleased to read in the Press from time to time some very thoughtful articles about Parliament and the workings of Parliament. In some cases suggestions have been made for the better working of Parliament. In looking through my files I came across an editorial in the Canberra Times’ of 15th October 1965, headed ‘In Search of Parliament’. It reads in part:
Parliament is the very rock on which our democratic system is founded.
This is the point I have been trying to make. The article makes a very constructive suggestion.
So much needs to be done, so many improvements need to be wrought, that the only proper way for Parliament to deal with it all is to appoint a select committee to look into chosen aspects. Its chief job might be to recommend what joint committees the Parliament could most usefully sei up to help it in its work.
There is much more in the article which offers food for thought, but time will not permit me to quote further from it. The article adopts a very constructive approach and is well worth considering. We cannot afford to sit back and be satisfied with the system we now have. Over the years in the debates on the estimates for the Parliament the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and other honourable members, including members of the Opposition, have made suggestions for the better working of Parliament. After all, we are here as the representatives of the people: lt is our task to do our best in the interest of Australia. If our Parliament can be improved it is up to us to see that this is done. I believe there is a need for the status of Parliament to be increased. There is a need for parliamentary life to be made more attractive so that men and women of calibre and capacity will be attracted to serve in this field. At Westminster recently I heard the suggestion - I do not necessarily endorse it - that a Press relations officer should be appointed to the Parliament because in so many instances the wrong impression regarding the work of members of Parliament and what they are trying to do is conveyed to the people through newspaper columns and other means of communication. Naturally we cannot please everybody: This is impossible. Nobody would expect to be able to please the entire community.
The community must take an active interest in its Parliament. This is the Parliament of the people. I am always pleased to see visitors in the Speaker’s Gallery and in the visitors’ galleries. Over the years I have noticed an increasing interest on the part of the public in the proceedings of Parliament, and this is jolly good. Of particular interest to me has been the fact that groups of school children from time to time attend our sittings. True democracy is based on a participation by the citizens of the country.
I would like to see some thought given to the provision of a few seats or chairs in King’s Hall to be used in cases of emergency by persons who may be ill or who have been waiting for a long time to enter the galleries. At least temporary seating should be provided for the elderly, the disabled, mothers with young children and people who may be tired or not well. I hope that some thought will be given to my suggestion.
As 1 have said on other occasions, I am strongly opposed to late sittings of the Parliament. The other place, as we call it, adopts much more sensible sitting hours than we, and we should bend our minds towards improving our sitting hours. Any time after midnight is too late for members, officers of the Parliament and staff to be working. I am not thinking so much of members of Parliament as of the staff of this place, who must be back on deck at 9 o’clock next morning. I would like to see more though given to the streamlining of parliamentary procedures, particularly the introduction of Bills. There has been an improvement in recent years, and for this I must give due credit to the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). I know that he has made great efforts towards this end. But as time goes on we can and should make further improvements in this direction. I am not averse, and I am sure others are not, to sitting on Fridays. This would be preferable to late night sittings. I hope that the time will soon come when we will adopt a more sensible proportion of the membership as a quorum in this chamber. 1 have not time to give a comparative table, which I prepared with the assistance of the Clerk some years ago and circulated to honourable members at the time, but we share with the Indian Lok Sabha the doubtful honour of having the highest quorum of any parliament in the free world. I believe it would be sensible, no matter which government is in power, for the quorum to be reduced. I am not suggesting this on a party basis at all. I think, too, we could have some modification of time limits for speeches. If there were some slight modification it would be to the general advantage of members, and more members would be able to speak.
I should like to have had time to expand considerably my thoughts in relation to committees. We discovered in Ottawa that the Parliament there was thinking seriously about the increased use of the committee system. By comparing our committee system with the systems that operate in Ottawa, Westminster and elsewhere we can perhaps glean some ideas which would be useful and which we could put into practice. The Senate has made a valuable contribution over a period of time in appointing select committees on specific subjects. I believe that the Senate is admirably equipped to make a contribution in this particular way.
In conclusion I draw the attention of honourable members to a report which, no doubt, we all have received and which some of us have had the opportunity to read and perhaps others not. but which is well worth reading. It is the report of the Thirteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference which was held at Kampala from 26th October to 1st November 1967. I refer particularly to pages 5 to 8 of the report. Under the heading ‘Parliamentary Institutions* and the sub-heading ‘Erosion of parliamentary authority by the executive and through subordinate legislation’, it stated:
Parliamentary democracy was the one form of government which maintained the rights of the individual citizen.
This is a point thatI have made already. The report mentioned the Press and, under the sub-heading, ‘The Press in a parliamentary democracy’, stated:
Freedom of the Press was a safeguard of the parliamentary system. Certain countries bad enshrined this principle in their constitutions. At the same lime the Press had a duty to protect the public interest and to serve as a link between government and people. In pursuing this aim, the Press must display self-discipline, integrity and responsibility, ensuring impartial and accurate reporting at all times.
– I agree with the sentiments that the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) has expressed, and I agree with the sentiments that have been expressed continuously by the honourable member for Brad field (Mr Turner); but when the chips are down, to use the vernacular, what do those honourable members do about it? If the Government is trampling upon the rights of members by applying the gag, do they vote against it?If the Government is extending sitting hours until past midnight, do they do anything about it? One of the perils that we face here is the very tight party discipline that obtains and which is applied more, I think, on the other side of the House than on this side. My impression - I am open to correction, I suppose - is that the members on the other side take uncritically the management of the Ministry in this regard. At least I can state my views, even though I am often in the minority. As honourable members will understand, in my Party we observe the principle of one man one vote; each member counts for one and each member can participate to that extent.
Failure of honourable members opposite to control the Ministry in their own party room is making this Parliament fail in its task of being a participating chamber and of carrying out its affairs in a properly organised, decent and considerate manner. Let us consider the question of late sittings. Surely to goodness the 60-odd members opposite should be able to control the 26 members who form the Ministry and the 12 members who form the Cabinet. Why do honourable members opposite not do something about it? Why is it not in their power to do something about it? There must be something wrong with the party apparatus of which they are a part. I become a little impatient of the remarks that one hears about this matter from members opposite. I hope that later in this session when the gag is applied against members on this side of the House honourable members opposite will remember what they have said.
I am appreciative of the effort to make the appropriation papers more coherent or easier to follow. I am not yet convinced that this result has been achieved. I am not sure that I approve of one line appropriations, but as these Estimates continue and as one studies the papers more closely we might be able to find out whether or not this has been a satisfactory change. Our problem is that we are still inflicted with the final trappings of the feudal system. We are still executive people. The Australian community is executive dominated. This applies equally to organisations of which I am a part as it does to the Parliament itself and the way we regard it. There is a general acceptance in the Australian community of authority; people do not challenge it in the general way. Somehow this Parliament has to be geared to challenge executive authority in the appropriate manner. We have to be able to challenge the operations of members of the Ministry no matter who they are and whatever office they may hold for the time being. We have to set up some apparatus which will enable us all to participate more effectively in the discussions before the Parliament.
I have no great faith in institutions as such. In the final analysis the atmospherics, the standing traditions and the attitudes of people are the protective devices. Southern Rhodesia has a parliament and it has law courts, but it does not seem to protect anybody’s rights. South Australia has a parliament but nobody can say that it represents the people of South Australia. There are plenty of law courts in South Africa hut they do not protect anybody’s rights. It is our task to keep the atmospherics straight and to make it a continuing theme of our society that our rights are precious and that minorities will be protected no matter who they are. The Government is shortly to bring down legislation to provide for the redistribution of seats in this Parliament, but that redistribution will be offensive to the very attitudes of democracy about which we talk.
In this place we accept the financial initiative of the Crown. This is a piece of feudal jargon, as I see it. It is out of order for any member on this side of the House, or on the other side, to move an amendment to appropriate more money. The Parliament itself can appropriate money only as a result of a message received through the appropriate channels. Why could we not have a provision in the Standing Orders to allow the Parliament to tell the Ministry to tell His Excellency the Governor-General to tell the Ministry back again, if we have to go through this routine? The present procedure is quite inappropriate. It shackles this Parliament’s consideration of national affairs. I hope that in considering the Standing Orders we will be able, in the near future, to face up to these problems.
I understand that during this year two rather disturbing assumptions of authority will have occurred. One was mentioned by my colleague, the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) - namely, the declaration of the vacancy of the seat of Higgins as the result of the tragic loss of our former Prime Minister. There is a strong presumption of death. It would be unreasonable to presume that death has not occurred. But we are not dealing with an ordinary institution, nor are we dealing with ordinary rights. The Constitution says that a member may resign in writing or his seat may be declared vacant upon known or proven death, or the place of a member shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament he, without the permission of the House, fails to attend the House. Several things could have been done in the case I have mentioned. In my view the Parliament should have been reconvened and it should have passed some resolution about the situation. It should not be possible in our system for any person to assume this kind of authority.
The declaration of a vacancy in this Parliament is an important and fundamental power. It is the ultimate power, we might say. We should give serious consideration to this aspect, and we should examine some of the precedures that we have adopted in the past. Let us hope that such a tragic occurrence will not be with us any more; but it is possible in, say, a state of war. I do not think any sitting members of this
Parliament were prisoners of war during toe last war, but it is quite possible that some State members were. One former State member who is now a member of this House was missing, and his seat could have been declared vacant under these terms. 1 honestly believe that we have to establish procedures which, without giving offence to the people who presently exercise the authority and do what they think is right, place the authority in the collective view of Parliament. I think this is an important tradition.
– A former honourable member (or the Northern Territory, Mr Blain, was in that position during the war.
– That is right, lt is all right for us to do this in the atmosphere of today. We can say that we trust this person or thai person. 1 even trust some members of ihe Government. Generally speaking they seem to exercise their authority reasonably well. Their judgment may be incorrect, but they are probably correct in their opinion, lt is by the traditions we establish that we will protect Ihe parliamentary institution and all that surrounds it. I would hope that there will be no further assumptions of such authority. Frankly i would have thought that in the tragic circumstances of 9 or 10 months ago it would have been an appropriate tribute to the former Prime Minister for the Parliament to have been re-convened and itself to have made some decision.
That is the first point. The other point is this: 1 understand that some people are considering a dissolution of the Parliament. What people are considering the dissolution of the Parliament? I do not quite know ihe machinery by which these decisions are made. However, 1 have looked at the record of the former incumbent of the position of Prime Minister, the Lord Warden of Ihe Cinque Ports. I wish bini well and I hope he recovers from his present indisposition. We had a double dissolution in 1951. Eventually ihe documents were tabled and there was a considerable constitutional crisis. At the time I agreed that it was no province of the Governor-General to say yea or nay to the proposition that the Parliament should bc dissolved, that the decision should lie with Ihe Parliament and no other person should have any authority in the matter. As a result of the dissolutions in 1955 and 1963 we have reached the stage where this practice has become almost habitual. Someone decides: ‘We have had enough of this Parliament. Now is the hour. We will strike. We will throw the Parliament on the mercy of the electors and let them decide.’ Personally I believe that we should not tolerate the use of authority in this way.
Perhaps it is the Prime Minister who makes this decision. I presume that thc twelve people who make up the Cabinet are ordinary Australians who are unlikely to be trampled on unduly most of the lime. A decision to hold an election is probably the result of the use of the collective wisdom, if that is not an incorrect use of thc word ‘wisdom’, of the members of thc Cabinet. Some six or seven may decide to hold an election and others may decide not to do so. But in fact a small group of nien have taken to themselves the authority to dissolve the Parliament whenever it suits them. 1 do not think we should tolerate this situation. I do not care whether we are likely to win or to lose the election. The long term protection of the parliamentary system and the parliamentary institution is the important issue and we should not tolerate any use of authority that impinges on this.
I do not quite know what formula could be adopted to prevent the early dissolution of the Parliament, it is interesting to note that this use of authority has arisen only in the last 10 or 12 years, but it has become part of the system in that time. Thc Constitution provides:
Every House of Representatives shall continue Cor 3 years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General.
Authorities such as Quick and Garran and Sir Charles Duffy have made statements on this subject. Their views can be found in the books, if honourable members care to look them up. However, some of the reasons for dissolving the Parliament are given as:
None of these criteria applies at the moment. In fact, if we have an election in the very near future, the dissolution of the Parliament to enable that election to be held will be an assumption of power and authority that is, in my belief, quite wrong. It will be damaging to the parliamentary system. It will turn the Parliament into the private property of the senior members of the Cabinet or into a piece of party apparatus of the government of the time, and r do not think we ought to tolerate it. There should be some protective device somewhere - in the Electoral Act, the Constitution or somewhere else - that will ensure that the Parliament runs its full course unless some vote of the Parliament says that the Parliament shall be dissolved. We cannot talk about the power and authority of the Parliament in a meaningful way unless . we are prepared to protect its rights. The dissolution of Parliament is the ultimate power and it ought not to lie with a small group of men, no matter how they are selected.
I would like to place on record my views on one or two other matters before I conclude my speech. With the honourable member for Ryan and other honourable members I visited parliaments overseas in the course of considerations related to the new Parliament House. The discussion in this House and the other place of the site of the new building has been one of the most refreshing parliamentary experiences I have had since I came here. The decision as to the site was thrown to the collective wisdom of the Parliament, and the members on both sides are divided on this issue. They have made their own individual judgments. We should have many more opportunities to make our own judgments. There must be many opportunities to discuss matters that are just not political in the deep sense. In other words, the honourable members on the other side who happen to be in the chamber at the moment and I could well agree on some point about Aboriginals, Papua and New Guinea or any other subject. All Parties should give serious consideration to relaxing some of the current tight Party discipline. However, I will say that the tight Party discipline in this Parliament has perhaps given it a little more intensity than 1 noticed in some of the parliaments overseas.
I disagree with the honourable member for Ryan about the size of the quorum. I believe that we should keep the quorum at a reasonably high level. It is one way to ensure that members of the Parliament attend Canberra. In some countries, some members of parliaments are dilatory about attending meetings of their parliament. 1 will not mention names, but support for my view will be found from a study of the records of some of the places we visited. The Commonwealth Parliament makes more demands on its members than other parliaments do, and I think that on the whole members here have a closer tie with the Parliament. We must stay around this place more than is required of members of some parliaments overseas. I think this is what Parliament is about; we have to be around.
I would like, as other honourable members would, to see an expansion of the committee system. A great talent is lying waste in this Parliament. Recently in discussing the new Parliament House the Melbourne ‘Age’ referred to ‘ignoring the experts’. In matters parliamentary, we are the experts. My calculation is that some 100 of the 180 members of this Parliament have had active military service and some 40 to SO are university graduates. Members of this Parliament have had experiences ranging from Lord Mayoralty right through the whole field of human endeavour. There is a great deal of expertise, knowledge, understanding and collective wisdom here and it could be garnered for the benefit and well-being of the nation by the use of a more highly developed committee system such as that in use in the United States of America. However, I do not agree with some of the technical ways in which the United States handles the question. Here in this Parliament is a great collection of human beings with considerable experience and a good deal of integrity that could be applied to the study of any subject. I hope that in the course of the next few years we will be able by some effective means to make this not only a participating democracy but a participating Parliament.
– I do nol propose to deal with the legal and constitutional matters that were raised by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I do agree with some of his remarks. I believe that the rigidity of the Party system on both sides of the House in respect of trivial matters has become quite ludicrous in its operation and that the management of the Parliament has been quite derisory. 1 have before me. but I do not propose to read it. a table showing the sitting times, for example, of the House of Commons. lt sits for 34 weeks a year as against our 24 weeks or thereabouts and it sits for 5 days a week where we sit for 3 days a week. I say no more, except that the rushing of business at the end of a session has no justification when more sitting weeks would settle the matter.
I do not propose to speak of the small matters, except for one that does concern me, and that is the reading of lucubrations from lecterns in this place, read badly to a thin sprinkling of disinterested and usually semi-recumbent figures. This, of course, has utterly destroyed debate. The abolition of thc Standing Order that prohibited this practice has obviously been a great and total failure but, of course, 1 do not expect that to be altered. I pass to the big thing, the thing that really matters, and that is the quality of the Parliament itself. Why does it matter? I suggest it matters for two reasons. Firstly, the situation of Australia is totally different from what it has ever been before. We have seen the departure of our great and powerful friends, the British, from our part of the world; and the Americans are in some disarray. We have to paddle our own canoe in this part of the world. In fact, having been a colony until the other day, as it were, we now have to become a nation. Australia is a nation struggling to be born, as the figures in Michelangelo’s famous statuary seemed to be struggling to be born from the stone. The second reason why the quality of Parliament matters is that the quality of a government reflects the quality of the Parliament. Under our system, unlike the American system, Ministers have to be chosen from the Parliament. If the Parliament is of poor quality, so also is the government. At a time when a nation has to be born, we cannot afford to have a government that is less than the best we could have. We cannot have a better government until we have a better Parliament. I am not speaking about a particular government; I am speaking in general terms.
Three questions have to be answered. Firstly, we must ask ourselves: ls this national Parliament of the quality that the nation we are striving to be would find acceptable? Secondly, if not, why is it not? Thirdly, we should ask ourselves what can be done about it, in the long term and in the short term. I quote, because it will bear quotation, a statement by Dr David Butler, a political scientist who was a visiting Fellow at the Australian National University about 12 months ago. He is a very highly trained political scientist and a man of mature years who had observed the English political scene for some time. He was here long enough to form some judgments about the quality of politicians in Australia. I am expressing not my own opinion but the opinion of an objective observer who was in a position to form a true judgment. Dr Butler is reported to have said:
The people I have met - the top civil servants and academics - are from the same level of talent as in Britain. I think they are just as talented.
He went on to say:
The politicians are quite a bit farther down the scale … the number who seem fairly able men, compared with others in other walks of life, is very small. lt is disheartening when you look at them by international standards.
Referring to Australians, Dr Butler went on to say:
They are not blunt-spoken in private, but politics seem to be conducted rather more in namecalling or personal terms.
This is the opinion of someone else. I do not propose to prove that this assessment is correct. I have sat and watched for some time in parliaments in this country and Dr Butler’s comments conform pretty much with my own judgment.
You could probably count on the fingers of one hand the people of quality on the Government front bench. And you could probably find another five or six on the front bench on the other side of the House. When you look for people who might replace these, you would probably be battling to find five or six on this side of the House and five or six on the other side. Is this good enough for the Parliament of the nation we must become if we are to survive? We must look at the lack of representatives of various facets of Australian life, such as industry, commerce and the professions, except the law, which is well represented here. From the ranks of the academics, we had Professor Bland earlier and at present we have the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) was formerly a senior public servant. Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, who was for some years a member of this House, was a former senior officer of one of the Services. There is no former senior Service officer of that quality here now. We are pitifully short in all these fields. Of course, the Parliament has in its ranks plenty of farmers, graziers, small businessmen,trade union organisers, and odds and sods with no particular qualifications, like myself.
– Oh! The honourable member would not be a sod.
-I am glad to hear that interjection. We should compare this situation with that of the United Kingdom where the Parliament has among its members important company directors from the city. There would be steel masters from Sheffield, mill owners from Leeds. The head of the Coal Board in Britain, who holds what is a tremendously important executive job, was a member of the House of Commons. Mr Aubrey Jones, Chairman of the Prices Commission in England - another tremendously important executive position - was also a member of Parliament. So we could go on through a long list. It seems that the Australian Parliament is lacking in the proper representation which could be filled by so many able and successful people in this country. Of course, at the moment we have an Opposition which is demoralised for various internal reasons. It is not doing the job that it should be doing in an effective parliament. Public debate has been taken over by television, radio and newspaper. Television programmes such as Four Corners’ and newspapers such as the ‘Australian’ and the ‘Bulletin’ demonstrate this. Debate on major issues has reached a deplorable standard in this Parliament. Decisions are made by the Executive, which consists of a handful of senior Ministers advised by a few very able public servants. Parliament has tended to become what Bagehot called a ‘dignified’ part of the Constitution. By that he did not mean dignified in the ordinary sense of the word. He meant that proceedings in Parliament have become simply formalities. Parliament has become merely a rubber stamp.
Parliament has failed as the great forum of the nation. Even in the scrutinising of government policies, whether they are put into effect by legislation or by administration, Parliament has abdicated its responsibilities. What is the reason for this. It is due partly to history and tradition. Here the image of members of Parliament is important. Why do not people of quality come here? It is partly because the image of a member of Parliament is that of a roads and bridges man. This goes back to the days of our colonial past. We confuse members of the national Parliament with members of State parliaments - provincial parliaments. A person of quality does not want to do a job that requires himto attend meetings of progress associations and the like. Again, all members of this Parliament have to be present at its sittings at all times, because it is part of the Australian tradition that we conduct politics as though they are part of a total war. A man who might be able to attend Parliament quite a lot of his time, but who also has business or professional activities to attend to, cannot become a member, because, according to our tradition, he has to attend Parliament all the time. So this type of person is excluded from our councils.
Again, it is the duty of a back bench member to look after his constituents and to vote on the correct side of the House when the division bells ring. When proposals are brought forward by the Government, members on this side of the House are expected to say: ‘Yes, yes’; and on the other side: ‘No, no’. This is not the kind of occupation that appeals to any man of ability. We also have the problem of geography. The Parliament at Westminster can command people on a part time basis because there are plenty of members of Parliament and because members may also earn their living in the City, in the Temple or where you will in the vicinity of Westminister. But this cannot be done in Canberra; geography makes it impossible. Our numbers are small, and this means that members have to be present at all times. People of quality cannot afford to do this.
I have ignored the question: What is a good member of parliament? Take the case of two of our most notable Prime Ministers. One was an umbrella mender in Balmain and the other was an engine driver. But they were first class Prime Ministers. I am the first to admit that one does not need a university degree to be a worthwhile member of Parliament. There are many men with natural abilities and talents who faithfully represent the people in this place, and they ought to be here. The lack is in those able people who should be available in greater numbers for the Ministry.
What are the long term answers? First of all, the Parliament needs to be larger for the reasons I have already indicated. If this means an increase in Ihe number of senators, so be it. The Senate of late has established some committees of great value to the nation. If the Senate as well as this House were larger, and more select committees could be established, this place would be a great deal more interesting to many able people. This would be of immense advantage to the Parliament. However, we do not have the numbers. I believe that in the long term - heaven forbid that it should be now - the Parliament must be televised in the same way as has been proposed for the House of Commons by a select committee of that House. This is not to say that the whole of every debate should be televised. Perhaps half an hour could be allocated at the end of each day in which there could be shown a few selected pieces as part of a programme called, say, ‘This Day in Parliament*. I will not go more deeply into this matter. The suggestion is in the report of the select committee. The House of Commons almost adopted the experiment. The proposal was lost by one vote. If Parliament chooses to remain as it is we will find that other organs, such as the ‘Four Corners’ programme and that kind of thing, will take over debate on great issues affecting the nation. This debate will not take place here if the Parliament chooses to fade into oblivion. This, however, is in the longer term.
In the short term, let me say, my friend the honourable member for Warringah, (Mr St John), has suggested that if we increase pay for members of Parliament this will solve all our problems. I do not believe that this is so. 1 think salaries do form an element but I would not advocate a flat increase. I suggest that we need committees to carry out effectively the work of the Parliament. We need committees which would interest worthwhile people and influence them to become members. A better way of increasing salaries would be to pay reasonable fees to members who work on committees. This might influence people of ability to come here and earn something extra. We do not want an all round increase.
Another short term matter relates to seats in the Senate. These are in the gift of the political parties. Political parties have not done enough to induce people of merit to come into the Senate. This is within the control1 of the parties if they choose to exercise thc privilege that they have in this respect. Also, there should be more liberalisation in the granting of pairs on both sides of the House so that people of ability can attend to their businesses and at the same time be here to give of their special experience and expertise.
Finally, if we are really going to improve the quality of the Parliament, this will involve altering bad traditions. The lawyers have done well in this respect. We have some senior counsel here but of course we do not use them. We would rather pay some outside lawyer or judge to conduct a royal commission. We have in this place lawyers of quality who could be chairmen of select committees and carry out this kind of work but, no no, we do not use them for this purpose. However, the lawyers have set an example. It remains for people of quality in other facets of our national ilfe to follow that example and come into this Parliament. I believe this is absolutely imperative. I believe we cannot move safely into nationhood and accept our responsibilities in a changed world unless the quality of governments, and with this the quality of Parliament, is greatly improved. These are fundamental things.
– I want to say a few words about Parliament. I have spoken on this subject on about every occasion that it has arisen in the last 20 years.
– You have not made much improvement.
– As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith says, there has not been much improvement. The same problems persist. Chiefly when speaking on this subject, I have brought up the same propositions. We have just heard the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and 1 would like to comment on a few of the things he said. He does not think it is in the best interests of the Parliament for members to use lecterns. But what difference does it make where their notes are if they read most of their speeches? Of course the honourable member for Bradfield is famous for this. What difference does it make whether you use a lectern or not? Some members may have the ability to read passages from prepared speeches placed on their benches and then make a few comments before reading again. When honourable members stand and speak in this Parliament they represent certain areas. They should, with some exceptions and when referring to quotations, be able to speak without reading speeches if they know their subjects.
The honourable member for Bradfield went on to say that the wrong people come into the Parliament. He said there was a very small percentage of what he called quality men in the Parliament. The honourable member forgets that this is a democracy and that the people elect members to represent them in this Parliament. This is the big question. Does the honourable member want some handpicked people here or does he want the people to select them? It is a tremendously fantastic thing to say. If the people envisaged by the honourable member stood for certain seats, which he might allocate for them, they would not be elected anyhow. The honourable member spoke about men in business and said what they could do and what should be done for them. He said that there should be more liberal arrangements regarding pairs so that they could attend to their business elsewhere. But a few minutes before the honourable member said that every member should always be present in the Parliament. Now, members cannot be absent and present at the same time. Let us consider his suggestions with reality. After all, who would do away with the party system? The honourable member quoted the thoughts of some gentleman about this Parliament? It is noi my opinion and I am not saying that I support it or not, although 1 think a lot can be said in support of the proposition he advanced.
– I said I agreed with the proposition.
– The honourable member said that to a large extent he agreed with this gentleman but he did not offer one suggestion to improve the condition of which he complained. So, we arc back where we started so far as the speech of the honourable member for Bradfield is concerned. I admire the research work that the honourable member does but, after all, when one speaks of this Parliament one has to realise that this is a great democracy. Of course, I know that the honourable member for Bradfield looks with disdain upon members who represent the great primary industries of Australia. That is his main theme. He also looks with disdain upon people who go about attending to certain things affecting a constituent. He regards these things as details which should be swept into oblivion. He wants to deal with the gigantic and spectacular things. I cannot see that his argument has borne any fruit at all so far as what has to be done in this House.
The honourable member for Bradfield referred to committees. He said that members serving on committees should be paid more money and that there should not be an increase of salary for members. He said that specialists could sit on committees and bring forth all sorts of things for the benefit of the Parliament. But those people would be no different from the men who are here. If they had no common sense or were not of the superior quality of which he spoke, then what good would they be on committees? The honourable member’s speech was a conglomeration of denials of what he said a few minutes before. Therefore, I do not take his remarks very seriously.
We are privileged in Australia to have a democratic Parliament. Any amount of ways of running a parliament have been tried throughout the world but no legislature will be a real success unless it is based on those things that have uplifted and sustained mankind over the years. Other forms of legislature have always eventually passed into oblivion. Democracy is what we stand for. I would like to hear more people in this country speak about democracy because, after all, we practise it. This Parliament is an illustration of the democratic state of the people. Some people say: But what about the party system?’ I say: Can we do away with it?’ Of course, we cannot. We stand for the party system and it will continue because no-one has suggested a practical way of doing away with it.I met a person some time ago who said that all members of the Parliament should always have a free vote. But what would happen if this came about? The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) would support a proposition to double the present age pension. Someone else would support a 50% reduction in taxation. The country would be bankrupt in 24 hours. That is the true position.
I want to deal with one or two other things.I agree with the remarks of the honourable member for Bradfield about members reading speeches in this House. This practice has done away with oratory and debate of the quality he referred to. I have described this practice before as representation by proxy because no-one knows the author of the speech. Of course the honourable member concerned would immediately say that he wrote his own speech. Well, if he did so why does he not make a speech rather than read it?
– Who wrote this speech?
– Am I reading my speech? Of course not. BecauseI advocate that members should not read speeches, people say that I am reading a speech when I read a quotation. This is what happens. I now want to refer to a few other things. This affords an opportunity to give praise to the officers of the House. I do that wholeheartedly. In all the time I have been here never has the courtesy of the officers failed. Their helpfulness in every possible way has been something to be admired.I appreciate what every officer has done - in the chamber, outside the chamber, in regard to transport and everything else. Honourable members must realise the benefit of their help. Their help gives members a great advantage in their representation of the people, and it is something of which this Parliament may be proud. I do not mention any names for the simple reason that if I mentioned fifty or sixty I would be sure to omit one that was worthy of some statement of praise.
However,I do want to speak about Hansard. I have already included Hansard officers in the officers of the House. I want to make a couple of quotations; but let it not be said thatI am reading my speech. As I move around the electorate of Mallee I advertise and conduct electors meetings, asI describe it.I cannot call a meeting in the middle of my electorate, have people come from about 4 or 5 miles away, and have them all there at the one meeting. In some places they would have to come 200 miles. Therefore, 1 have to have a lot of meetings in many places to encompass the people I represent. I generally try to go to these meetings with a member of the State Parliament, for the simple reason that if someone asks me a question about a State subjectI can refer it to him. IfI say it is a State subject it is like passing the buck, but it is all right to pass if to the State member.
The work of the parliamentarian in this House would be helped if more people were to read Hansard. They would know the case that their representatives were putting up in this House on their behalf and consequently would know the answers to certain questions. When one goes to a meeting somebody asks about a subject - perhaps it has to do with agriculture, dried fruits, wheat, or something else - that one has spoken about in the House for perhaps years, the constituent apparently thinking that one does not mention the subject at all. All sorts of organisations should have Hansard, note references to their particular industry, and acquaint their members with what is going on in the Federal Parliament. Then the people in Australia would be more familiar with what their members are doing.
If we pick up a copy of Hansard and read the first page we will find that on application to the Speaker of the House of Representatives parliamentary debates - that is what we call Hansard - for the House of Representatives will be supplied free to public libraries, schools of art, mechanics institutes, debating societies and similar institutions having no fewer than fifty members. This of course would cover service clubs such as Apex. Lions and Rotary. I believe - I am to be corrected if I am wrong - that it would cover pastoral and agricultural societies, lt would cover primary industry associations with more than fifty members. A lot of these organisations are already getting Hansard. I say to those who are not getting Hansard and who happen to read in Hansard or hear what I am saying now, that they should make application to the Speaker. This is the way this democratic Government lets the people know what is going on in the Parliament. Hansard costs nothing for these associations if they have fifty or more members.
What is the position of a person who is not in an association at all? If we turn to the back page of Hansard we will find that the price, including postage, per calendar 5’ear is 60c for the House of Representatives report and $1.20 for the combined reports of the Senate and House of Representatives. Surely. 60c per annum is not too much for a constituent to keep in touch with what is going on and what his elected representative is doing. We should try to get people to get Hansard and read it. 1 know that to read it is pretty wearying. The secretaries of organisations could pick out the salient points that have to do with their organisations and when people come to meetings they could point out that the member for Parliament has said something or has asked a question about their industry. This would acquaint the organisation with much of the news of the day in Parliament and the things that are very definitely favouring the members of that organisation.
Speaking of Parliament generally, I cannot let this opportunity pass without saying that I have always been opposed to late sittings. T have spoken in session and out of session, and in government and out of government, about this. When Parliament sits until after 12 o’clock I find that nothing much is gained by it. A few more speakers may be fitted in, but the next morning a lot of the members feel the effects. I notice thai the first ones to collapse are the young members. I have seen in this House half a doz.cn or more young men who could not stand the late hours. They get cushions, put them up in the corner of the seal and lie clown there. They are lost to the world; the world is forgotten, lt is the older members who stick to their guns in this Parliament during the late sittings. But if these young members went to a dance they would dance till old Sol looked in the window and told them it was time to go home with the girls in the morning. 1 know that it gets pretty dry here for young men who have not been closely associated with the subject being debated.
If someone who wanted to come to Canberra said to me: ‘I want you to let mc know when to come because I want to hear a good debate’, 1 could not tell him. On the other hand, if a person came to the House and asked: ‘What is on in the Parliament?’ I may say: ‘lt is a pretty dry debate. You will not hear much there’. He would then say perhaps: ‘I would like to come in and hear a debate’. In this way he could strike one of the very best debates. I have seen that happen. If you asked a person to come up some day when you thought things were going to happen you could find thai it was one of the dullest days that this House has known. Therefore, I agree wilh the honourable member for Bradfield.
I disagree with (he suggestion about pairs being more liberal; members should be here all the lime. As the late Archie Cameron said, if you are not here all the time, when you come in to vote you do not know what the vo’e is on. You go to some part of the chamber where you see your colleagues but they will not tell you what the vote is on. You say: ‘What are we voting on?’. You perhaps find out later. Therefore, one has to he here as near as possible all the time. If you are not here all the time you are not in a position to represent the people who elected you, nor are you in a position to represent the people of Australia in the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
– The provision made for Parliament in the Estimates is surely amongst all departments the most exiguous and the least generous, having regard to its great responsibilities and the key role which it plays in our national life - the equivalent, as the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) has pointed out, of some 38c per head. It is very true but very fit, some might say, for a rubber stamp parliament and a parliament of party hacks. This jibe is not, and never was, entirely mie and it is becoming less true than it was even a short time ago. No impartial reader of Hansard or the Press could deny the increasing evidence of independence in the thought, speech and action of members, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. The promotion to the Ministry of men such as the Honourable W. C. Wentworth and Senator the Honourable R. C. Wright, both noted for their independence as well as their loyalty to their party, marks a new era - I say it hopefully - in Australian political life, indeed a new era in Australian history.
But much remains to he done if we are to restore Parliament to the role for which it is in theory intended - the great national forum in which big issues are really debated and really decided. More and more in all countries governmental power tends to concentrate in the hands of a small executive and a growing public service. The necessary steps to reverse this situation will need all thc skill, patience, courage, eloquence and advocacy we can summon for the task. But it must be done or parliamentary government, our parliamentary institutions and parliamentarians themselves will fall more and more into disrepute, even into public hatred, ridicule and contempt. There arc possibly short term disadvantages to the Government - any government - in taking steps to encourage increasing independence on the back benches. But there are longterm advantages to be gained for the nation, for Parliament itself and, yes, I fully believe, finally for the political party which has sufficient foresight to discover those advantages and to take the necessary action to hasten the coming of that renovation, for come it must if democracy is to survive.
In the brief time available to me I should like to outline some of thc things which in my view will need to be done if Parliament is to undergo that renovation, that bringing up to date which is now so necessary. In a true sense nothing is so important to our future as this, for by restoring and rejuvenating Parliament we shall be restoring and rejuvenating the organ by which our national life will be led and directed in the dangerous and difficult years to come. The more critical or contemptuous the Press or public may be of Parliament as it is, the more sympathetic it should be to the steps and the expenditure, small as it will be, relatively speaking, to make it into a Parliament such as it should be.
The reform of Parliament must therefore begin with a look at the position of the private member. Unless he has the status and possesses the necessary ability, character and independence of thought and action, and the necessary time, staff and facilities to enable him to exercise those qualities to the full, then Parliament must continue to be largely a rubber stamp Parliament. These requirements are not mct at present, for a variety of reasons.
First is the number of members. Contrary to popular myth, we have in the Federal sphere far too few politicians rather than too many. We need more members, for several reasons. For one thing the parliamentary back bench is far too small in numbers when compared with the size of the Ministry. This alone makes it more difficult for the relatively few Government supporters outside the Ministry to feel, or to show, much independence. But quite apart from that, if we are to have worthwhile debates, or a properly functioning committee system, which I regard as the final fruit rather than the root of parliamentary reform in Australia, then it i> vitally necessary to have more members here. We need more men covering a broader range of specialist qualifications. We need business executives, professional mcn, farmers, trade union officials, teachers, academics, mcn interested or proficient in the arts and sciences, and so on. We need mcn with more time at their disposal to read, to think, to discuss, to prepare material for debate and to serve on committees. As it is, the work for constituents and commitments in the constituency - invaluable <>nd indispensable as it is - makes increasingly insistent demands upon thc private member to the point where he has little time or energy left to prepare himself for debate on the great national issues which should be his principal concern.
There is an optimum number beyond which the number of members should not go. Probably it is in the vicinity of 400 members. Beyond that limit the problem must be solved by other means. But up to that optimum, which we have not begun to approach in Australia, there is much to be gained by increasing the number of members in this House - and I believe in the Senate also - and this is something which can and should be done by Parliament itself in the sure knowledge that what it is doing will be proved right, regardless of the perhaps inevitable criticism which may be expected.
I now turn to the question of staff. If we had not been accustomed for so long to look for inspiration and guidance to the United Kingdom we should have realised, long since, how much we have to learn from the American system which, although far from perfect, has much from which we may learn. In particular, we should have realised that it is quite impossible in this day and age for some 184 men - very little, very human men as we all are - even to pretend that they are leading or ruling this country, or even exercising a proper supervision over its Government, without any sort of staff or help other than a stenographer for constituency work and some assistance from the staff of the Parliamentary Library. If it were not so serious in its consequences it would be laughable that we should have taken so long to grasp what I believe to be this simple truth.
Faced, as we are, with ever-increasing numbers of constituents, with an expanding legislative programme, a range and complexity of subject matter never previously contemplated, a new world of ever more rapid change and an entirely new situation in Asia and the world at large with the consequent need to rethink our defence and foreign policy, the work of a member of this great Parliament is surely more onerous and more deserving of the full time thoughts and energies of our best men than ever before in our history. And yet how painfully inadequate we are to exercise those responsibilities. Speaking for myself, I find myself, as a full time professional politician, busier than ever before in my life yet wilh virtually no time left for the reading, study, reflection, recreation or discussion which are essential if one is to make a worthwhile contribution to the solution of the great problems which now confront us daily.
It is vitally necessary that we take the first step at least to remedy this situation. This should be the provision of a personal assistant for each member to assist him with research, constituency work and secretarial duties which now consume, quite needlessly, the time - what should be the precious time - of parliamentary members. When we compare this modest demand of one personal assistant per member with the staff or assistance provided for, say, Ministers, judges, heads of departments, professors, business executives and so on, it almost seems - and indeed it is - ludicrously inadequate provision for the men who in theory, and potentially in practice and sometimes in actual fact, have and exercise the responsibility for legislating for this country, choosing its leaders and exercising control over its policies. And it is ludicrously inadequate; but it would be a beginning.
This brings me to another important matter, and that is accommodation in the present Parliament House - probably the only Parliament House which many of us here today will ever occupy. The physical accommodation is grossly inadequate even for present needs let alone for the needs of the future. None of the things of which I have spoken so far can be provided without further accommodation in this House. We have insufficient space for present members and certainly no space for an increased number, or for staff - staff for members, staff for the Parliament or staff which is already needed for Senate committees and which will be increasingly required for committees of both Houses if Parliament is to function effectively in the years to come.
We learn from the Press and other sources that plans are now under consideration for further extensions to this House. We would hope that they will be adequate both for existing and the probable future needs which 1 have adumbrated. Unfortunately, the information at my disposal would tend to indicate the contrary, unless present proposals are to be drastically revised. Let me take one simple criterion - the accommodation provided for members. A minimum requirement is a separate office for each member. Indeed, 1 would go further and suggest that each member needs an office and a separate adjoining office for a secretary or a personal assistant - no better, but surely no worse, than what is provided for, say, a business executive, a headmaster, a professional man or a shire clerk. But at present most members are compelled to share an office with another member. This situation should not have been allowed to arise and it should not be tolerated any longer.
It is absurd that this great country, which can afford to erect multi-storey buildings for industry and office accommodation for the Public Service and for the universities should think itself too poor to provide a building adequate for the obvious needs of its Parliament, or should be so concerned to knock the politicians that the forefront of the news of this extension to the present Parliament House is taken with the lead line that we are to have a sauna bath, at the cost of a few thousand dollars. Let the critics come and live as prisoners in this House, from morn till midnight or into the small hours for days on end and then let them see whether they, too, would not ask for a few amenities, such as they accept quite willingly as natural and proper for any class of employees, but never for the despised race of politians whom they have elected to govern their country.
The parliamentary committee which recently toured abroad came back, so I am told, with one outstanding impression. Everywhere people had built too little and had failed to foresee the need for increasing space. Let that lesson be applied not only to the new parliament house but also to the extensions to this House which are of immediate and practical importance - indeed, of vital importance as the condition precedent to all our schemes for reform. This matter should be debated in this House. We should have an opportunity to consider the plans for the extensions to the House and to indicate where we, the Parliament, regard them to be inadequate.
Finally, let me say a word about the parliamentary salary of $7,000 per annum. My good friend the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has misquoted me as saying that if we increase the salary, all will be well. That is only one matter, but not an unimportant matter connected with parliamentary reform. I refuse to give any weight to the parliamentary allowance. Most of us spend every cent of it on postage, running of a car and so on. Many spend much more out of their own pockets. 1 have said, and I repeat, that this salary is grossly inadequate and unless something is done about it more and more of the most promising men in the community will be deterred from coming into Parliament, and membership will be confined to wealthy men or men who feel compelled to continue some part time business or employment, whilst it becomes increasingly obvious - and here 1 disagree once again with my good friend, the honourable member for Bradfield - that membership of Parliament is or should be full time job; the most onerous, important and exacting office in the community.
If we judge by the Canadian example, which affords a good basis for comparison by reason of Canada’s similarity to Australia in many respects, the salary should be double what it is today. I would like to see an independent and highly qualified tribunal appointed to decide or recommend the appropriate level of salary, sufficient not only to compare with what able men can earn in industry, in universities, the professions, as trade union officials, as public servants or as the case may be, but with a loading added sufficient to compensate for the insecurity, the continual travelling and absence from home, the lack of leisure time or recreation and, may I say, with some dirt money added for what the politician has to suffer individually or as a member of the class from Press and political opponents. Australia is indeed fortunate to be as well served as she is now by her politicians, but if present attitudes prevail she certainly has no right to expect the present situation to continue.
As the end result of these reforms I see a parliament which will truly function as the great forum in which national issues will be debated and decided, in which parliament is able to exercise a proper supervision over legislation, both original and delegated, as well as Government policy and its implementation and administration.
I believe this dream cannot be realised except by a many-pronged attack along the lines I have suggested, leading finally to an expanding committee system which provides probably the only means by which such control can be exercised effectively over wide areas of our national life. It would be quite futile to attempt to extend our committee system, at least in this House, at the present time. Most members work assiduously and have long since passed their Plimsol mark. We lack the men. Again contrary to popular myth, the men we have lack sufficient time, staff or energy to undertake anything beyond their present commitments. It behoves all members of Parliament, of whatever Party, to take the steps necessary to reassert the authority, status, dignity and independence of parliament in which each one of us has a common interest, whether or not he occupies for the present a seat on the front bench or the back, in government or in opposition. This can be done only by looking first at the position of the private member and what is needed to ensure that he is able to exercise his functions properly and effectively. As a Government member I look with confidence to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in the first instance to give the lead and to take the necessary action in this regard. There is no more urgent task than this in Australia or any other democratic country if the parliamentary institution is to survive and if Australia is to be given the parliamentary leadership which it so urgently needs in the difficult and dangerous years which lie ahead.
Finally, in all humility, I make bold to ask my fellow members, midst the press of business, to remind themselves continually, as indeed I remind myself daily, of the great and difficult responsibilities we have assumed, our present inadequacy to fulfil them, the urgent need for reform and the personal obligation which lies upon each of us to do our best for the time being whilst working consistently and earnestly to create a better and more effective parliament for the future. Let us work and pray constantly for success in these endeavours.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) for another very worthwhile contribution to a debate. I did not hear the speech of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), but if it was up to his usual standard when he attacks the executive power of the Government and the attitude of governments in the last 19 years - I can speak for that period - in treating the Parliament as a mere rubber stamp, I congratulate him in advance of reading what he said. The honourable members who are making the greatest contribution to Australia and to parliamentary democracy are the private members on the Government back benches who occasionally have shown the courage to stand up and assert that Parliament is the supreme body and that the Government and the Executive ought to be the instruments by which Parliament asserts its viewpoint. Parliament is seen at its very best whenever there is an absolutely free vote. The way that the Parliament behaves when there is a free vote is something which would do credit to any democracy. The people of Australia would not have such a poor opinion of Parliament as an institution if they could see it working during a debate that is to culminate in a free vote. We saw this in the recent debate on the site for the new and permanent parliament house. There we had an example of the executive deciding, as soon as it appeared that this House would refuse to be a rubber stamp of the Executive, that this House of Parliament would not bc allowed to make a decision. The debate was adjourned - ad infinitum, I fear - because the Government knew that if a vote were taken its viewpoint would be defeated. It is not prepared, even on a subject such as where parliament house is to be sited, to allow the Parliament, which is the body most vitally interested, to determine where the parliamentary building shall be situated in the future. Those who took part in that debate were not advocating the construction of a new parliament house tomorrow. They were advocating the construction of the parliament bouse on the hill or by the lake, as they though, best, whenever it is decided that the new building shall be constructed, so that the planning can go on in the meantime. The Government, sensing that the numbers were against it, decided that there would be no vote. In another place it did its level best to prevent a vote from being taken. To the credit of that place it insisted upon a vote and overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s point of view. After one member of the other place had announced that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), no less, had telephoned him telling him that it was urgent that a decision be reached by Parliament on the matter, as’ soon as the numbers went against the Government in the other place the urgency vanished almost overnight.
I recall one other occasion when Parliament was seen at its best. I refer to the debate on the ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission, which was not an open debate. We saw the action of a handful of courageous, capable and dedicated men on the other side fighting for justice and making a plea for decency. I refer to the honourable member for Warringah and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). I do not remember whether the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) joined them, but he usually enters this kind of debate. I think possibly the honourable member for Bradfield spoke also, but certainly the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Warringah made magnificent contributions. So telling were their remarks and so compelling was the logic of their case that the Government, though not exposed to the effects of an open vote, finally, reluctantly and grudgingly gave way and allowed what those honourable members sought to be implemented.
– Does the honourable member advocate that the Caucus rule should not apply to the Opposition?
– That is an entirely different matter. I will explain why that is so. In Caucus there is always an open vote. I am glad that the honourable member has mentioned this matter. Each member of Caucus is free to vote according to his conscience or according to the way in which he believes the Party ought to act. Once the vote is decided upon, the Party votes accordingly in the Parliament.
– Does a member represent the Party or his electorate?
– He decides to carry out and honour the majority decisions, which is the kind of thing we all have to do in a democracy. I am glad the honourable member interjected because I want to contrast government by the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party with government by the Australian Labor Party.
– This will be good.
– Yes- good for the Labor Party. It will emphasise the vast difference between the democratic freedom extended to members of the Labor Party and the control which they exercise over Labor governments, with the lack of control which members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party have over their governments. First of all, the Labor Party elects the whole of the Ministry. There is no room for sycophants and yes-men in the Labor Party. A member has to be able to obtain the support of the whole caucus before he can get into the Ministry. No Labor Prime Minister can go along and hand pick pets, stooges and yes-men to put into his Cabinet.
Not only have we the democratic right to elect the Ministry, which members of the Liberal and Australian Country Parties have not. When Labor is in office our caucus has the democratic right to reject government legislation if it disagrees with it; government legislation has first to be approved by elected representatives in the caucus before it can be brought in and listed in the orders of the day. Contrast this with the situation in the Liberal and Country Parties. The first knowledge of Government legislation that the average member of the Liberal Party or the Country Party has is obtained by him when the legislation is announced in the party room on the day on which the Government intends to introduce it. Here is the vast difference between the Labor Party’s procedure and that of the Liberal and Country Parties. The members of those Parties do not have any right to determine at their meetings what is to be in particular legislation. This is the reverse of the Labor Party’s procedure.
My time is getting on, and before I forget the trend of what I was going to say I want to state that I agree with what the honourable member for Warringah says about the Parliament. Members of the public arc entitled to expect more from their elected representatives than they are now getting. This is undenied. But the elected representatives cannot be expected to give more than they are now giving because in the main they are stymied by lack of facilities. For example, there ought to be an up to date library in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in every capital city. I do not know what there is in the other capital cities but all that we have in Adelaide are a few copies of Commonwealth Hansard for about the last 20 years, together with the Votes and Proceedings of this House and the Journals of the Senate, which nobody looks at - and this is not to wondered at, because they are of no value. We should have a skeleton library in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in each capital city.I do not mean a library covering everything and I do not mean a large library, but I believe that an adequate library should be available for members because it is in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices that they do a good deal of their work between parliamentary sessional periods. It is only when the Parliament is silting and we are too busy to carry out research that we have readily available to us the kind of material we need for research purposes. This is the material that should be available in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in the capital cities.
I believe, moreover, that there should be better library facilities even here. The more I delve into the activities of the National Library the more I am appalled to discover what it has taken from the Parliamentary Library. It amazes me to find that over in Mr White’s building are all the documents that we need here. If we want to look at a newspaper more than 6 years old we have to go to Mr White for it. If we want copies of State Hansard dealing with the dim, distant past we have to go to Mr White and say: ‘Please, Mr White, may I have this copy of Hansard?’
– Where would the honourable member put the new parliament house?
– It seems to me that what is needed in a parliament house, when it is built, is much floor space for a library of our own. If we find that some of the books are missing we ought not to worry about trying to find them elsewhere in the world, but we should go to Mr White and say: ‘Thank you for looking after these books for us; we now want them back. They must all be returned to the Parliament where they will be more convenient for our use.’
I want to say something else about the relationship between the elected representatives of the people and the people who elect them. I do not believe that we are given the proper opportunity to let the people know what we are doing. Why on earth can we not adopt the system that is used in the United States, where members of the parliament are entitled to secure free of charge from the government printer - within certain limits, of course - copies of their speeches in pamphlet form for distribution in their electorates? If we make speeches in this Parliament and set out to represent the views of the people in our electorates, we should be entitled to a proper opportunity to let the people know what we have said. Likewise the people have the right to know what we have said. But what happens now? If I want to order 10,000 pamphlet copies of my speech in the Budget debate-
– Ha, ha!
– The honourable member for Angas laughs about this, but I can tell him that the people in my electorate like to get copies of my speeches. If I want to order 10,000 copies of a speech it will cost me between $10 and $14 a thousand. We just cannot afford this. I think a member should be allowed to order each year enough pamphlet copies of one of his speeches - the speech to be selected by the member himself - to make it possible for him to send a copy to every house in his electorate.
– Members of the Queensland Parliament can do this.
– I am obliged to the honourable member for that interjection. I did not know that this method was followed anywhere in Australia, although I know it is followed in many of the more enlightened democracies of the world. There is nothing wrong with allowing a member to send a copy of a selected speech to every house in his electorate once a year. The speech should be properly printed in pamphlet form with a suitable title on the front cover. I have made this suggestion before and I hope people will not treat it lightly now that I am putting it forward again. The member should also have a photograph of himself on the cover page. I believe, moreover, that when a member makes a speech which covers more than two pages of Hansard a thumbnail photograph of the member should appear in Hansard at the commencement of his speech. This is not as impracticable as it may sound. It is already done in other countries. One of the faults of Hansard is that it is too dreary. There is nothing wrong with the reporting; the gentlemen who look after that side of it do not fall down on the job. But it is a fact that it is too dreary. It is just pages and pages of print. How much more interesting it would be if one suddenly came upon a picture of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), complete with moustache and neatly parted hair. How very exciting it would be to see another mustachioed gentleman, the honourable member for Moreton, suddenly leering at the reader. I suggest that these are things that should be looked at as matters of urgency.
– The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Billbe now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to the Government’s repatriation Budget proposals. The Government, in its Budget deliberations this year, looked closely at what could be done to improve repatriation pensions and benefits, especially for the more seriously disabled, and for war widows and children. In consequence the Bill now before the House provides increased rates for totally and permanently incapacitated and intermediate rate pensioners, and introduces a new allowance called the special compensation allowance for more seriously incapacitated general rate pensioners. Increases in attendants allowance are also provided. Pensions for war widows and war orphans are also to be increased, in accordance with the overall intention to assist families without a breadwinner. A number of changes in the service pensions area, which parallel those being made under social services legislation, are also made in this Bill. In what follows I shall explain these changes in more detail.
The Bill provides for an amendment to the Second Schedule to the Repatriation Act to give effect to an increase of $3 per week in the special TPI rate of pension which will henceforth be $33.50 per week. This rate of pension is payable to those who, because of war-caused incapacity, are prevented from earning more than a negligible percentage of a living wage, and to the war blinded. It is payable also to ex-servicemen who are temporarily totally incapacitated, and to certain sufferers from tuberculosis. In accordance with usual practice additional amounts payable under the first six items of the Fifth Schedule for serious amputation and loss of vision are also being increased by $3 per week so that the total war pension payment to pensioners with these disabilities will continue to equal the TPI rate of pension. The intermediate rate of war pension payable under the First Schedule to those who, because of warcaused incapacity, can work only part time or intermittently, will also be increased by $3 per week to a new rate of $24.25 per week.
The Bill also provides for the introduction of a new benefit which I believe will be welcomed by ex-servicemen as a worthwhile addition to the repatriation war compensation structure. This is the special compensation allowance, which is intended to provide additional compensation for those who, although able to work, are none the less seriously incapacitated by war caused disabilities. The allowance will be payable to those general rate pensioners whose actual incapacity from war caused disablement ranges from 75% to 100%. The amount of allowance will range from $3 per week for the eligible 100% pensioner to $2.25 per week for the eligible 75% general rate pensioner. Thus, for example, a 100% pensioner whose pension is $12 per week may receive in addition an allowance of $3 per week, making his total payment $15 per week, and a 75% pensioner who now receives pension of $9 per week may receive in addition an allowance of $2.25 per week, making his total payment $11.25 per week.
All general rate pensioners in the 75% to 100% group, whose assessment does not include some element for tuberculosis, defective vision or defective hearing, will automatically qualify. However, as a result of specific legislative provision or longstanding practice, assessment of these three disabilities for war pension purposes can be higher than would be the case if the assessment were based on the degree of actual incapacity. For pulmonary tuberculosis, the Repatriation Act itself requires that the rate of pension may never fall below 100% although the pensioner’s actual incapacity may be less; and defects of vision and hearing are assessed for pension purposes before they are corrected or alleviated by the use of glasses or hearing aids. For this reason general rate pensioners whose assessment includes some element in respect of tuberculosis, or defective vision or hearing, will not necessarily receive the new allowance. Nor will they necessarily be excluded. Their cases will be individually reviewed and their eligibility for the allowance determined in the light of their present actual incapacity. Their assessment for pension will not be affected by this review. The usual rights of appeal to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal from an unfavourable determination of the Repatriation Commission or a Repatriation Board will be available if a pensioner is not satisfied with his assessment for the allowance.
It will not be necessary for general rate pensioners assessed at 75% to 100% to apply for the allowance. Individual cases will be examined and payment of the allowance to those eligible will be made progressively as quickly as possible after assent to the amending legislation. Arrears will be paid where appropriate to the operative date of the legislation. Those who do not qualify for the allowance and those whose assessment for the allowance is less than their assessment for pension will be advised so that they may exercise their right of appeal in relation to the allowance if they wish to do so. Introduction of this allowance is a valuable innovation in the war compensation field and the Government believes it will be well received by the ex-servicemen’s organisations and individual ex-servicemen.
Turning now to war widows and orphans, the Bill amends the First Schedule to the Act to provide an increase of $1 per week in the war widow’s pension, which will become $14 per week. Pensions for orphan children are also to be increased by amendment to the Third Schedule. The pension for a war orphan who has lost one parent through war service will rise by Si per week. New rates will be $5.40 per week for the first child and $4.25 per week for other children. For a double orphan the pension will rise by $2 to $10.15 per week, increases in the rates of attendants’ allowance payable under the Second Schedule and the Fifth Schedule to those who are so disabled by war caused incapacity as to require the services of attendants are also provided. These allowances are at two separate rates. The lower rate will be increased by $1 per week to $7.50 per week and the higher rate by $1.50 per week to $12 per week.
The Bill also makes a number of changes in the service pension area, in parallel with social services changes. These are in addition to changes which will flow automatically to service pensioners in consequence of changes being made in the social service legislation. Benefits to flow in that way will be increases of $1 per week for single service penisoners, making the new rate $14 per week; 75c each for married couples, making the rate $12.50 per week each; and provision for payment of service pension at the single rate to a pensioner whose spouse is receiving unemployment or sickness benefit.
I now refer to the service pension changes to be made under the present Bill. First, there is to be an increase of $1 per week in the pension payable in respect of the first child of a service pensioner. The new rate will be $2.50 per week. Concurrently with this increase in the rate a change will be made to accord with changes in the Social Services Act, in relation to payment of the child’s pension. That Act will henceforth provide that the pension in respect of a first child who is in the father’s care, custody and control will be paid as an addition to the member’s pension. In the case of the comparable repatriation child the same practice will be adopted. Two changes which are necessary to preserve thc rights of first children under the repatriation legislation because they have hitherto been paid pension in their own right will be made at the same time. First, provision will be made to ensure that the pension is payable to a child who is not in the member’s care, custody and control; and secondly, there will also be an amendment to preserve the right of a service pensioner’s first child to receive pension at the child’s rate if the member dies. These changes, which make no difference to the total amount of payment, can be explained in more detail at the Committee stage. The maximum rate of service pension payable to the wife of a service pensioner will be increased by $1 to $7 per week by amendment to section 83.
The Bill also includes a new service pension benefit in parallel with social service changes. It is proposed that where a married couple are both means test pensioners and one of them dies, the surviving partner, if a service pensioner, will continue to receive for six instalments the amount that would have been payable to both partner had one of them not died. This will be of considerable assistance to many pensioners in the distressing and difficult period following a death. There can, however, be some circumstances in which a surviving partner would receive a higher amount of means test pension if this provision were not applied. The Bill includes a clause to ensure that the higher amount of pension will be payable in that case.
The Bill also appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary to provide during the current financial year the additional benefits to which the Bill gives effect. All the foregoing amendments will come into force from the date on which the amending Act receives royal assent. A table which sets out in full the repatriation Budget details, including those made by this Bill, has been prepared. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorportabe the table in Hansard.
The measures I have outlined represent a further advance in the development of repatriation compensation measures, and i commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill relates closely to the Repatriation Bill. It is to give effect to such of the Budget decisions being implemented by the latter Bill as are relevant also to seamen’s war pensions and allowances. This Bill has two main purposes - to increase certain pension and allowance rates, and to introduce a special new allowance to be known as a special compensation allowance.
Under paragraph (a) of clause 4 the intermediate rate pension is increased by $6 to $48.50 per fortnight. Paragraph (b) provides, in respect of children whose father, having been an Australian mariner coming under the Act, is dead, for an increase of $2 in the fortnightly rates of pension, making the rate for the first child $10.80 per fortnight and that for each other child $8.50 per fortnight. Paragraph (c) provides for an increase of $4 in the fortnightly rate of pension payable for each child where the mother is dead also, bringing that rate up to $20.30.
Clause 8 replaces the existing First Schedule and Second Schedule with new schedules. In the new First Schedule the fortnightly rates of pension in column 2 payable to a widow on the death of an Australian mariner covered by the Act are all increased by $2, to a minimum of$28 per fortnight. In the new Second Schedule the existing $13 allowance per fortnight for an attendant needed by a mariner pensioner is increased to $15 and the $21 allowance, payable where both arms have been lost, to $24. The increase of $6 per fortnight in the rate of the TPI pension and related special pensions, bringing the rate to $67 per fortnight, does not have to be effected by this Bill, as the amended rate under the Repatriation Act will apply by virtue of section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
Clause 5 inserts a new section 22bto provide for the special compensation allowance. This has been explained in detail by my colleague the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation in his second reading speech on the Repatriation Bill, and there is no point in repeating those details. Briefly, as honourable members are aware, the new allowance will provide additional compensation for those general rate pensioners under the Act who, although able to work, are nonetheless seriously incapacitated by war caused disability. The maximum rate of allowance will be$6 per fortnight for the 100% rate pensioner, scaling downwards proportionately to $4.50 for the 75% rate pensioner. Eligibility for payment of the new allowance will be determined by a Seamen’s Pensions and Allowances Committee and a right of appeal against such an assessment will, under section 7, lie to the Repatriation Commission.
Clauses 3, 6 and 7 make necessary amendments in consequence of the insertion of provision for the special compensation allowance, to ensure that the allowance is included in the meaning of pension and excluded from the rate of pension in the sections concerned. The Bill, then, provides for further increases in pensions and allowances for Australian mariners coming under the Act, and their dependants, and for the introduction of the additional benefit of the special compensation allowance. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Proposed expenditure, $4,719,000.
– I know that it is not fashionable these days for people to read Edmund Burke, but Burke was a very distinguished Englishman. He was a very great parliamentarian, he was a very great humanitarian and he sought, during his lifetime, conciliation with the American colonies. This was one of the great challenges that existed in his lifetime. He warned, and he warned prophetically, about the dangers that emerged from the revolutionary days of France. But it is impossible to read Burke without coming back to one conclusion about him, about his life, about his principles and about his convictions, and that is that he was at the very beginning and at the very end of his public life a great parliamentarian. When in 1774 Burke spoke to the electors of Bristol he said of Parliament: ‘Parliament is a deliberative assembly’.
– He is dead now.
– But his principles survive. One would gather the impression, despite the tremendous challenges and vicissitudes that our people have passed through since 1774, that there are those who no longer take the view that the authority of Parliament does survive. I have been refreshed this afternoon to listen to my colleagues on both sides of the chamber assert the principle of the authority of Parliament, and I want to put to the Committee this evening the simple proposition that, the way things go today, this Parliament is in danger of losing its authority.
– That is right.
-I know now how Lazarus must have felt when the dogs licked his wounds. On the 2nd of this month the Minister for Externa) Affairs (Mr Hasluck) announced that the Australian Government had decided to agree with resolution No. 253 of the Security Council concerning measures against Rhodesia. I mention the date merely to lend but gentle emphasis to it. On 29th May of this year the Security Council passed that resolution. Of course, it would be inappropriate for me to argue the resolution and I do not seek to do so, save to seek the indulgence of the Committee to this extent, thatI still believe history will wonder at the incredible fury of those who insist upon dogma to the dismissal of compassion and humanity.
In paragraph 18 of the resolution of 29th May of this year was a call by the Security Council upon every member state of the United Nations to notify the Secretary-General by 1st August of this year as to what it proposed to do. This Parliament came back after the recess on 13th August and we went through 3 weeks of sittings. Nothing was said about it. At least on 15th August the matter was under active consideration by the Government. No announcement was made after that.I can tell the Committee that, on the documents compiled by the United Nations itself, as at 29th August this country had not signified its agreement. That date, 29th August, was the day the House rose. It was a Thursday. On 2nd September came the announcement from the Minister, although with great respect to the right honourable gentleman I observed that the dribbles of information commenced on Friday, 30th August. I would, at least on my information, say that Cabinet did not sit on Friday, 30th, on the Saturday or on the Sunday. So the only inference and I think it is a reasonable one, to be drawn is that the Government made this decision while the Parliament was sitting.
I hold powerful views on this.I do not intend to argue them now. I hopeI have expressed them intelligibly before, but this is a matter of the first order. This is the first occasion since 1945, when the United Nations was formed, that there has been a vote by the Security Council for complete mandatory sanctions against a country, and it involves matters of profound international law and of profound political consequence. Why was this Parliament not treated to the courtesy of a statement on the matter? I disagree with the approach of the Minister for External Affairs and the Government to this. But this is an argument for another day, and for what it is worth I now give the assurance that I will argue it on another day.
I want to talk now about the authority of this Parliament to insist upon the Executive, particularly when the Parliament is meeting, to give information to it. It may be argued by my right honourable friend that there was a tremendous urgency about this in terms of Article 25 of the Charter. This is the article that says the member states agree with everything the Security Council says. I will not give any preemptive study of my views on that, butI want to say to the right honourable gentleman and to the Government that when this Parliament rose on 29th August there were but 57 of the 124 states that make up the United Nations that had signified their compliance with the resolution, and there were three members of the Security Council that had not signified their compliance. SoI ask the Government: Where was the urgency? Could not this matter have beenleft until this week? Or, more properly, when the decision was taken by the Government surely it would have been in the nature of a courtesy to the Parliament to have informed it that this had taken place.
It is a matter of great pity for me to say this, but it deserves to be said. There are some Ministers who take the view that the less they have to do will the Parliament the less likelihood of catching distemper. There are some Ministers, whose motives I can understand, who take the view that if Parliament can be ignored then it can be tranquillised. I want to say to those Ministers and to those who may yearn to take their place: If you seek to transquillise Parliament by ignoring it, you will destroy it. So 1 say to the Minister for External Affairs in this matter that this Parliament is entitled either to an apology from him or to his resignation. They are hard words. I repeat them. Either an apology from the right honourable gentleman or his resignation. The Parliament sat on 29th August and that night, at least in terms of the Security Council’s compilations, Australia did not notify the Secretary-General. Why the rush? Was it that the right honourable gentleman took the view - the whole Government and not one Minister must answer for this - that Parliament was out of the road for11 days and that as a result all would be well? That may be the cynical view; I do not know. 1 am a little tired of this talk about the authority of Parliament as I am tired of the talk about the intervention of the Soviet in Czechoslovakia. There is a lot of talk and prayer. Prayer, no doubt, may mobilise us to a more splendid position of advantage than can the medium of talk. But on this occasion I am demanding a little action. 1 have listened to honourable members talk about the authority of Parliament. Here is a classic illustration of Parliament being bypassed and treated as though it were some municipal council on the verge of facing an election. I go back to where I began: Parliament, according to Burke, is a deliberative assembly. What form of deliberation was afforded to this House and the Parliament by the action of the Government? The answer is none. The Parliament was given no opportunity to consider the profound consequences of the Security Council’s action in terms of cither the country concerned or the continent in which the country resides. No opportunity was given for Australia to consider in terms of international law the propriety or the legality of the assumption of jurisdiction by the Security Council. No opportunity was given for us to reflect upon the future consequences to Australia of a country being condemned unheard.I know these are matters of great argument, but not to have given to this Parliament the opportunity of arguing them is, to my mind, to turn to the Parliament and to say: ‘Your authority counts for nothing’.
I want to make it perfectly clear where I stand. In the 13 years that I have been in this place neither promise nor threat has had the slightest effect on me, nor will it have in the future. That is why I say to members of this chamber whose company I enjoy on both sides: ‘The authority of this Parliament to me is preeminent among all things, and insist upon it I will’. On this occasion I ask all members of the Parliament to seek not merely to vindicate the whole of the parliamentary institution, but to maintain their own honour.
– I believe I have some advantage in speaking in this debate because not only am I young in years but I am young in experience in this chamber. I think my lack of experience here is an advantage, because I have not been affected by the archaic traditions, many of which are illogical and quite superfluous to the efficient running of this place. On the other hand, I have not as yet been subject to many of the go-go ideas, if one may describe them in that way, which have seeped into this chamber.
The first matter to which I would like to refer is accommodation. We had the experience not so long ago that one of our Ministers retired and there was a general reshuffling of accommodation. As a result, one of my colleagues found himself in a room which could best be described in this way: If he were to stretch himself out on his sofa, his two very large feet would be out the window in the cold, brisk air of Canberra. If he put his typewriter in the room he would have to move out. This is indicative of the accommodation situation in this House today. We are told time and again that additional typing facilities would bc made available to as if accommodation could be found for typists. I suppose some honourable members would have a few suggestions about this proposition, but I do not think it would be fitting for me to repeat them. I think it is obvious to all of us that we do our job under most trying circumstances of accommodation.
Reference has been made on at least one or two occasions today to the reading of speeches in this chamber. I could not agree more that it is most regrettable that many honourable members do this. I believe that there are some classic examples of members who, when they did not refer to notes, were orators of quite some national reputation. I was not here in the days when they made their speeches without notes. Unfortunately, those honourable members now read their speeches and they do not appear to have the same status that they had previously. My maiden speech in this House was nicely typed out. I remember that I spoke on the Address-in-Reply debate. To read the speech I put on glasses that I had been wearing for only a couple of months. Not only could I not see my notes, because my glasses fogged up, but I could not see you, Mr Chairman. So I admit that difficulties can arise, particularly in the case of elderly honourable members who no doubt pretend they are reading but in fact are not.
A previous speaker made reference to this House deteriorating to the status of a municipal council. 1 am not sure that he really meant this. I believe that the tone of the debates that take place in these sacred precincts sometimes leaves much to be desired. Some of my colleagues are among the most outstanding interjectors in this chamber. I suppose this is part of the deal, and one would be very loath to see the practice of interjecting disappear completely from the parliamentary scene. But there are one or two people in this place who have the reputation of constantly bringing up personalities. I do not think anyone on either side of the chamber appreciates this practice, and I can assure the Committee that the public of Australia does not appreciate it either.
– Name the members concerned.
– I do not want to name them; if I did 1 would be doing the very thing I am now speaking against. I have been here for only a short while but I will not fall into traps like that. We recently had a non-party debate in this place. Let us be honest about it. I think everyone in this chamber was delighted with the feeling of camaraderie that existed. I am not suggesting for a moment that we throw everything to the winds and become one big, happy party. This would be very trying for many of us in this chamber. But there are many questions that come before this place that I believe should be dealt with on a nonparty basis. It was delightful to hear the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), for instance, claim that a certain eminent member of his Party was behaving like a larrikin. Of course, the behaviour on the Labor side of the Parliament was much worse.
– Order! It would be a lot better if those honourable members who are interjecting allowed the honourable member for Kennedy to make his speech without their assistance.
– I do not mind the interjections, Mr Chairman. Honourable members are in a bright mood this evening. The spirit of this debate may perhaps be bright, but the conduct of this place, 1 believe, is a very serious matter.
I come from an electorate which covers well over one-third of Queensland and, in the future, it will probably extend from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Gayndah. So I suppose I can speak with some authority on the hazards of travel.I do feel that we could consider a suggestion which has been made by honourable members who have been here much longer than I have, that is that we sit for two 5-day weeks and then have one week off. To me this appears to be a pretty sensible approach and a logical proposition, particularly for us people who have to travel such great distances. Let us face it: After 10.30 at night none of us think straight. As a matter of fact, many of us do not think straight before 10.30 at night in any case. Once again, I am not going to mention personalities. As one who has to travel up to 1,000 or 1,500 miles to attend the sittings of this ParliamentI would like to see introduced the system I have mentioned.
Another matter I want to touch on very briefly relates to the groups of school children and students who come here and attend sittings of this Parliament. We have an expert on this here, the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt). He should be here sitting on this bench beside me. He is an absolute expert in the art of bringing school children to this Parliament, entertaining them and in letting them see our operations. I have a particular grouch in relation to this matter in that the children of my area are deprived of this possibility of attending the sittings of the Parliament or of even seeing the city of Canberra. I have often given thought to the possibility of some such scheme being conducted, perhaps by the Young Australia League. Perhaps it could be subsidised by this Government, in conjunction with the State governments, on some basis or another. We know that the State governments are in a particularly generous mood at the moment! They would be only too ready to co-operate with the national Parliament and to assist in bringing some of these children from remote areas at vacation times to visit Canberra in order to see something of this great city, to have a look at Capital Hill and to have a look at the lakeside site, so that they can follow far more intelligently the debates that take place in this place, and, what is more, to see such things as our wonderful Australian war museum.
I hope some solution can be found to the problem of bringing these children here. It is rather galling to know that young children living in the remote areas are deprived of the opportunity of visiting Canberra and of attending the sittings of this Parliament, particularly when we see perhaps half a dozen groups of children here each day from adjacent areas.
Before concluding my remarksI would like to pay tribute to the officers of this House. About one o’clock or two o’clock in the morning it is quite remarkable to find that the attendants are just as courteous and just as friendly as they were much earlier. After all, we really look for a bit of friendship at about that hour in the morning, particularly when we have been obliged to listen to repetition. Certain honourable members are particularly able in the art of repetition. Therefore I pay tribute to the attendants. I am sure every honourable member would agree that they are a group of people quite apart. They seem thoroughly to enjoy their job. They look after us very well and I for one thoroughly appreciate their contribution.
I do not know whether the present rules for the conduct of this House are to remain for all time and whether we are to adhere to the old traditions. Perhaps one day someone will take a look at the procedures and come forward with new ideas. I think we are terribly reactionary in this regard. None of us wants change. I do not propose to stand here and attempt to speak with authority on this subject after being a member of this House only for about 20 months but I think that many of the suggestions made during ray time here are full of merit and should be closely examined.
- Mr Chairman, I am not the Minister in charge of this section of the Estimates but certain remarks have been made by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) about myself and about the attitude of the Government which seem to call for some explanation to the House. You, as Chairman, would not permit us, I am sure, to canvass the merits of the Rhodesian dispute or any of the matters relating to it. The only point before us is the assertion made by the honourable member for Moreton, I think with some exaggeration, that there has been an affront to Parliament in the way in which a certain public announcement was made. I would like to put quite precisely what that statement was. As it has not been very accurately recorded in other places, perhaps I may read it so that it may be accurately recorded in Hansard. The statement that was issued on 2nd September read as follows:
The Minister for External Affairs . . . announced today that he had now been informed by the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York that the Secretary-General of the United Nations had received the report made by the Australian Government on action taken in response to a resolution passed by the Security Council on 29th May 1968 calling on members of the United Nations to extend the range of measures applying to Rhodesia. Accordingly, he was releasing the text of the report,-
I refer to the report to the SecretaryGeneral - which reads as follows:
The Australian Government is taking the fallowing measures to implement resolution 253 of the Security Council.
The entry into Australia and the export from Australia of imports from and exports to Southern Rhodesia will be controlled within the terms of paragraph 3 and 4 of the resolution. No licence for export to Southern Rhodesia wilt be issued unless the item in question fulls within the exceptions specified iti Ihe resolution. The Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations provide for control over the transfer of funds to Southern Rhodesia. There arc no vessels of Australian registration engaged in trade with Southern Rhodesia.
Applications for permission to travel to Australia of holders of Southern Rhodesian passports or by residents of Southern Rhodesia will be considered with duc regard to paragraph 5 of the Security Council’s resolution. In particular, a visa system - nol previously applicable to holders of Southern Rhodesian passports as such - will now be introduced.
The Australian international airline. Qantas, does not call at airports in Rhodesia.
Complementary action to implement resolution 253 will also be taken in respect of Australia’s external territories.’
That is the end of the report to the Secretary-General. The Press release continued:
The Minister added that the report, together with other reports, would be circulated by the Secretary-General to Ihe Security Council.
The first point 1 want to make - and it will be patent to all honourable members - is that the announcement was an announcement that a report had been made to the Secretary-General: that the report had been receival and was being circulated as a
United Nations document; and that for the convenience of people who would not have ready access to United Nations documents in New York, it was being published in Australia. That announcement could not possibly have been made on Thursday, 29th August, while the Parliament was still sitting, because at that date we had not been informed that the report had been received by the Secretary-General. We were not in the position to say that this was the report which we had sent to the Secretary-General. As soon as we were informed, governmentally, from our Mission in New York that the report we had been required to make to the Secretary-General had been received by the Secretary-General and was being circulated, we made it available to the Australian public in the most convenient way possible.
Although you, Mr Chairman, quite properly will not allow discussion of the substance of this matter. I would point out that in the terms of that report there is very little that is new. Sentences such as those which say that there arc no vessels on the Australian register engaging in trade or that the international airline Qantas does not operate there virtually say that the Security Council resolution does not require action on Australia’s part. There are two sentences in the report - I will noi elaborate on them - that do indicate the action that Australia has taken in response to this new resolution.
There remains Ihe question as to whether there has been an affront to Parliament. I think I have established quite clearly to all members who approach this matter reasonably that I could not possibly have made that statement to Parliament up to the time of the adjournment on 29th August. It was not until some clays later that we were informed that the report had been received, lt just happens that that information was received when Parliament was having a week of recess. But there is this fair question: Has the Government made new decisions or made some great change in policy without giving this Parliament the chance to discuss it or to express an opinion on it? I submit no. Honourable members will recall that first of all, when the United Kingdom itself took the responsibility of requesting sanctions, statements were made in this Parliament by the former Prime
Minister. Sir Robert Menzies, about the policy of the Government in relation to the British request. Subsequently, when the matter was taken to the Security Council by the United Kingdom and a call for mandatory sanctions was made, again an announcement was made to this Parliament on our policy in respect of sanctions. It was made by Sir Robert Menzies and subsequently by the late Mr Holt. It was made in explicit terms to this Parliament then, and in subsequent speeches by myself. The whole nature of our approach to this very difficult and very sad situation was made clear to Parliament. There has been no change in policy. What has happened is that the Security Council has carried a new resolution. In responding to that resolution we have applied the same policies and followed the same line of thinking as had already been explained to this Parliament.
One must recognise that executives as well as legislatures have their responsibilities. Burke, whom I studied when the honourable member for Moreton was still in napkins, recognised that point. Executives also have their responsibilities as executives. If the Executive had been deciding to make a complete reversal of the policies which it had already explained to this Parliament, if it was saying, in response to the Security Council resolution, that we were not going to continue on the line of policy and on the line of conduct that we had hitherto followed, then it might reasonably have been expected that the Executive would have come to this Parliament and would have said: ‘We are going to make a change and we want to tell Parliament we are making a change.’ But the decision was made by the Executive strictly in accordance with lines of policy already announced to this Parliament and, we had assumed, accepted by a majority of this Parliament. There was no new element in it at all. Indeed, if one comes to examine very carefully the actual context of the report we made to the Secretary-General, one will find that there was not a great deal of change in substance, in action or in the performance of any obligation because, in truth, so much of the interruption of communication with Rhodesia had already taken place.
So I submit that there has been no affront to Parliament. In making a report to the Secretary-General we were discharging an obligation that we had as members of the United Nations. We were required to make that report on 1st August. For reasons mainly related to administrative pressure and the pressure of Cabinet consideration, it was not possible for me to submit the terms of that report for approval by Cabinet until a few days before it was despatched towards the end of August. No acknowledgment of that report had been received until after this House had gone into the customary week’s recess.I submit that there has been no affront. Certainly no affront was intended, and I would be very surprised if the majority of members felt that any affront had been received. The issue, I submit to honourable members, is this: In the matter now under discussion it is not simply a question as to whether you are in favour of this or that action against Rhodesia. The question is: Do we discharge the obligations that we have incurred as a member of the United Nations? That obligation was to respond, on the lines of the declared policy of the Government, to a new Security Council resolution and, having responded to it, to report, as I have indicated we have reported, to the Secretary-General on what we had done. If any apology is needed it is an apology to the Secretary-General for having been late in making that report.
– The House is discussing the estimates for the Parliament. My contribution will be confined to that and it will be quite brief. I am not at this stage discussing the propriety of the Government’s decision on Rhodesia. I support it, and I am certain that all members of my Party support the decision which the Government made and which has now become public knowledge. I do think, however, that it would have been appropriate for a statement to have been made before the House rose for the winter recess. This, I believe, was the view of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen). On 1 3th JuneI asked this question:
In directing a question to the Acting Prime Minister, I point out to him that the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, made a statement on Rhodesia 4 days after the Security Council passed its first resolution on that subject ami thai ihe House debated Ihe statement the following day. I would also point out that the Security Council passed a further resolution over a fortnight ago now and called upon all member states to report to the Secretary-General by 1st August, which date will fall before this House resumes for the Budget period. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether the Government’s failure to make a statement on this occasion indicates any want of support for the last Security Council resolution to which i have referred. I also ask him when honourable members and the public will be informed of the methods by which, and the extent to .which, the Government will comply with its obligations under the resolution.
The Acting Prime Minister replied:
I am sure there will be. no avoidance by the Government of disclosures to the House- ] repeat ‘to the House’ - and to the public of its own attitude and its own actions in this connection. The absence of the Prime Minister and of the Minister for External Affairs is relevant to the course of action, but the matter has been under consideration by the Government and appropriate steps will be taken.
The House rose for the winter recess that day. Yet the House was in session for 3 weeks before the statement was made to the Press the day after the House rose.
– Three days after the House rose.
– It was 3 days after the House rose, but the House had been in session for 3 weeks. I would have thought that it would have been appropriate during that 3 weeks for the Minister for External Affairs to have made a statement on this subject to the House. No-one knows better than the Minister that there are a great number of members of his Party who would have welcomed an opportunity to debate the Government’s attitude on this matter. One only has to listen to questions without notice, speeches on the adjournment debate and, I apprehend, speeches tonight on these estimates to realise that there is, I believe fortunately, a minority of members of the Liberal Party who were very anxious to debate this matter in the House.
My Party supports the Minister and the Government in the course they have taken on Rhodesia. However, I believe that the Minister has himself to blame for what has been said about him tonight through his not having more promptly made a statement on this matter in the House during the 2 or 3 months since the Security Council decision was made and not then facilitating a debate on the matter. I believe that the substance of the matter is not appropriate for debate on these estimates; maybe it is so on the estimates for his own Department; but still more would it be appropriate for a debate on a substantive ministerial statement which, speaking for my party, we would welcome.
– Briefly, J want to support the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) in the gravamen of his charge, because 1 think that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) - and I have a very high respect for the Minister - made a very grave mistake in the first place, and I think also that be increased that mistake by the statement he made tonight. You, Sir, very rightly allowed him to tell the House in detail of the report that was made to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, but we cannot discuss that report under these estimates. Quite frankly, some of us want to discuss it. But the Minister, having made in the debate on these estimates a statement on the report, it is not likely that he will make another statement, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Unless the Minister makes a substantive statement on it, what chance does this House have of debating one of the most important international decisions that this Government has made for a very long time? lt will have no chance at all. Some honourable members may say that the matter can be debated when we are discussing the estimates for the Department of External Affairs, but that debate is a disintegrated, dissecting debate in which one honourable member refers to the Ambassador’s residence in Cyprus, another honourable member refers to Rhodesia and then another honourable member refers to something else. That is not the atmosphere in which to debate an important international question of this nature.
I believe that the Minister has erred. I ask him still to make an official statement to the House regarding what is a hardening, if not a change, of policy in respect of something with which many other nations have not fallen into line and which I think is of vital importance to this country. People outside this House - in fact the majority of people outside this House - feel that something is wrong. 1 think the matter should be debated. I ask the Minister to heed the honourable member for Moreton and not to be satisfied just with making a statement, which we cannot debate, during the discussion of these estimates. I ask the Minister to make a substantive statement that can be debated in the House.
– I am at least delighted to say that I have learned with pleasure that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) read Burke at a time when, as he put it so felicitously, ‘the honourable member for Moreton was in nappies.’ I congratulate the right honourable gentleman upon the retentiveness of his memory. But far from exculpating himself from the charge that I laid tonight, the right honourable gentleman has inculpated himself. I will show him where this lies. My argument was that this Parliament had been bypassed. What was the central theme of the Minister’s reply? It was simply this: He said: ‘We were waiting for an acknowledgment from the Secretary-General of the United Nations that he had received our report.’ This does not improve the Government’s position. It worsens it, and it worsens it considerably. Let us start at the beginning, because these dates need to be observed. The Minister will not contest, I hope, that resolution 253 called for a report by 1st August. The Australian Government’s report, according to my charge, which is based on the compilation of the United Nations documents, had not been received in New York on 29th August. I do not want to resort to an undergraduate debating style, but some of the arguments which the right honourable gentleman advanced are deserving of an undergraduate reply. It does not take 29 days to get a report to the United Nations. I remind the right honourable gentleman that his loyalty is not to the Secretary-General of the United Nations; it is to this Parliament. He derives his authority and his position from this Parliament. Let every Minister who sits on the front bench reflect on the fact that if he did not have the numbers sitting behind him he would not be sitting on the front bench.
The fact of the matter is that I want to know when the Government physically took this decision to comply with resolution 253.
Did it or did it not take the decision when this Parliament was sitting? Is there any honourable member who feels there is any ambiguity there, who does not understand the question? Hands up if there is. Does the Minister understand the question? I repeat it. When, physically, did the Government, sitting as a Cabinet, decide to comply with resolution 253? What an imperious display of persiflage for the Minister to say that no change is involved. Oh, tut, tut, tut! I point out to the right honourable gentleman that under the previous resolution Colin Bland, the cricketer, was not prevented from coming here. I will not go on with this, because it will wait for another day. But the Minister’s argument this evening was pitiful. I take the view that the Government’s ignorance of what has happened in Africa is as massive as Mount Everest, but that argument too will wait for another day. I am giving notice to the Minister now that if I catch the Speaker’s eye tomorrow I propose to ask the Minister on what date did the Australian Government decide to comply with resolution 253 of the United Nations Security Council. I believe that the authority of this Parliament has been challenged. I do not retract one syllable of the charge I made. Indeed, if the Minister persists in his attitude I will renew it with increased vigour.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department nf the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $62,812,000.
Advance to the Treasurer
Proposed expenditure, $20,000,000.
– If the Government’s ignorance of Africa is as high as Mount Everest, I think its ignorance of internal affairs is at least as high as Mount Kosciusko. I propose to say something in the next few minutes about one of the central problems of our situation as a federation. We are discussing estimates of approximately $63 m for the Treasury. But the bare figures of those estimates really do not indicate the implication of the Treasury in the Australian system. If honourable members look at the document entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ which was circulated with the material presented when the Budget was delivered, they will find that the Treasury is responsible for expending $1 5,045m. Of that sum, $1,285m, or nearly $1,300m, represents payments to or for the States.
This evening 1 want to talk about the lack of understanding, lack of sympathy,lack of tolerance and lack of co-operation that exists throughout the federation at the moment in regard to Commonwealth, State and local government relationships. Each year - and this year in particular - something like $6,000m is collected by way of taxation. Nearly $5,000m of that is collected by the Commonwealth. Approximately $ 1,000m is collected by the States and the local government authorities. In addition a sum of approximately $700m is collected by way of excess charges by public utilities and public financial institutions. The Post Office and electricity and gas undertakings in the various States charge more for their services than those services cost. In aggregate, thoseexcess charges amount to something like $703m. The Commonwealth collects a shade under $5,000m. Last financial year$3,100m was in the form of direct taxation and $1,800 in the form of indirect taxation. The Commonwealth, if it wants to, can smugly regard itself as having a good pattern of taxation.
One does not get the true picture of the federal system in Australia unless one looks at the total collection of taxes plus this new form of taxation by charging more for public services than those services cost to provide. When one looks at the total situation one finds that the Australian taxation pattern has become a very regressive one. When one takes the Commonwealth, State and local picture together, as well as the surplus charges by public utilities, one finds that less than half the total taxation is direct. The rest is indirect. Because of the lack of proper, sympathetic understanding of the needs of the States, the States are continually being forced to have recourse to indirect taxes as the form of raising additional revenue. The Commonwealth sometimes rather glibly gets away with its fine performance so far as the States are concerned. One can easily become confused with the mysticism of large numbers in the system. The Government is able to say quite honestly that it is giving more money to the States than ever before. So it should be, because the States have more responsibilities and more people to look after. At least in 1968 there is a recognition that we ought to have different attitudes from those held in 1868 - although sometimes I doubt it very much so far as some Government supporters are concerned.
One has to took at the totality not only of what is collected but also of what is expended. If for a moment one took out of the field the two biggest single items of Commonwealth expenditure - andI do not suggest they could he excluded from the field - namely defence and social services, one would find that the Stales have far more responsibility than is sometimes acknowledged in relation to the residue of total expenditure. The ultimate expenditure on defence this year will be something like $1 , 300m, about $1,000m of which will be spent internally. Social services will cost about $1, 000m also. The States are responsible in such significant fields as education, health, public transport, power, irrigation and roads. In a modern community that claims to believe in economic growth, these are things which we broadly describe as part of the infrastructure. Yet, in nearly all of these great fields responsibility is in the hands of the States.
One gets the picture much more starkly by looking at what is called capital expenditure in the Australian system. In a federal system as large as that in Australia, the tests applied to private enterprise to differentiate between capital and annual expenditure do not apply in the totality of government. An individual buys a motor car and hopes that it will last 5 years. If he is prudent he looks at the cost of the motor car over its life. The tests as between capital and non-capital expenditure do not apply to Commonwealth, State and local government activity that each year is providing hundreds of schools, hundreds of locomotives in the railway systems and other public facilities. Each year in Australia non-private capital expenditure on Government activity is of a magnitude greater than $2,000m. I think in the last completed year it was $2,300m. Of that, $1 , 700m was in the State and local government authority fields and only$600m in the Commonwealth field. That is why I suggest the Government is reaching a very inefficient stage as far as the operation of federation is concerned.
It is easy enough for the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who has recently visited some of the northern parts of Australia, to suggest that he will give priority here and there. What he was talking about was comparatively small in the totality annually of capital expenditure. What is not being done in Australia at the moment is to have any systematic planning year by year. Indeed, it ought not to be year by year but on a programme basis several years ahead.I repeat that the States and local authorities are responsible for something like threequarters of the public capital expenditure. They are not able to plan ahead. Until the annual wrangle at the Loan Council takes place and what is called the gentleman’s agreement is reached in respect of the nonState authorities, they do not know how much will be available for all their endeavours. Instead of having priorities for planning and forward programming year by year there is this wrangle as to how much they can have and how much we can have.
The other evening in the course of the Budget debate I contrasted expenditure either 3 or 4 years ago in two State fields, education and public health, with expenditure in two Commonwealth fields, civil aviation and the Post Office. At that time, total capital expenditure on civil aviation and the Post Office combined was roughly the same as total capital expenditure on education and public health. For the last completed financial year total capital expenditure on civil aviation and the Post Office was$1 00m greater than total capital expenditure on education and public health. It apparently is easier to equip a telephone exchange than it is to equip a school; it apparently is easier to build an international airport than it is to build a public hospital. This is the question I ask: If a rational choice were being made - if we could say:’ We have only a certain annual total sum available’ - would telephone exchanges and international airports have a higher priority than school buildings and hospitals?
At the moment the Commonwealth is able to use its position of financial dominance to create this kind of physical distortion in the Australian economy. We have three levels of government in Australia, and we should acknowledge it. I am in favour of uniform taxation. I think it is the most logical system for collecting income tax from both individuals and from companies.I believe the Commonwealth Government should control the total volume of money. I believe it should control the charge at which money is allocated - the interest rate, if you like. But we must recognise that in Australia, much as my side of the House might not like it. we are a long way from having a unificationist system, and the constitutional responsibility in fields such as health and education will for a long time have to be exercised by the Stales.
I do not think people care much who collects their taxes, but I think they do care how much they pay, and I think they also care about the things on which their money is spent. I think that if they had some choice they would establish priorities for one form of expenditure as against another. This is a choice that is denied them at the present time. We have this wrangling between the Commonwealth and the States and we have at the other end the stupid historical survival of local government authorities which exist by undemocratic franchise and by inequitable methods of raising finance, and which have inadequate sources of finance. We must get the three levels together, and we must bring them together on a basis of tolerance, of recognition of need, and of co-operation. The only level of government that can properly give the lead in this direction is that of the Commonwealth Government, which is negating its responsibility in the matter.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I shall devote my time to a discussion of the Appropriation Bill, with particular regard to the Treasury estimates. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) say that he was a confirmed federalist. I also am a federalist. I am a great believer in the three tiers of government - municipal, State and Federal. I also should say, before I go on to the particular items I wish to talk about, that perhaps there is a good deal of merit in the complaints that the States have made against the Commonwealth with regard to the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. I point out to the States, however, that we have a condition closely approaching full employment in Australia. The level of unemployment is now only 1.3% of the work force, and I am wondering what the States would do with the extra money they hope to get from the Federal Government. It seems to me, in retrospect, that the Premiers and the Treasurers of the various States would like to get all this gold bullion into their treasuries and keep it there for all time. Statistics presented to us by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), dated 15th July, show that the level of unemployment over the whole of Australia was 1.3%, and the level in New South Wales was only 1.1%. Therefore I ask Mr Askin what he would do with the money that he hopes to get from the Commonwealth. There appears to be no labour available to enable the money to be used’ for any new developmental works in New South Wales.
I rose tonight to talk particularly about taxation itself, that is income tax on the individual. During the debate on the Address-in-Reply in March of this year I pointed out that the Government faced seven dilemmas.Icalled them then the ants in the jam. These were the problems that the Commonwealth Government faced in the ensuing months and years. One of these dilemmas was associated with the taxation structure itself. The variation in tax so tar as the individuals is concerned has not come about because the rate of tax has been increased in recent years. It has not. The ratio of tax to income has remained steady for10 years or more. Admittedly, there have been variations at certain Budget times. On occasions the rate of income tax has been increased by 24% and on other occasions it has been reduced by 21%. But by and large the formula for collecting tax from individuals has remained fairly steady. However, because of decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission most workers have been lifted into new wage brackets and consequently have also been lifted into new tax brackets.
In 1953 the majority of male workers In Australia - 58.4% of them in fact - received an annual wage between $1,000 and $1,999. On this income these workers - plumbers, electricians, clerks or whatever they may be - paid income tax of between $60 and $117 a year. However, because of decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission these plumbers or electricians in 1966 received average salaries between $2,000 and $3,999. In other words the income of the plumber or electrician had doubled since 1953. But when we look at the rate of tax payable we find that the plumber or electrician did not pay double the amount of tax because he was getting double the income. In fact his tax had quadrupled. On an income of $2,000 he paid tax of $234 in 1966, while on an income of $3,999 he paid tax of $406. The point I am making is that the average male worker has had his wages doubled because of decisions of the Arbitration Commission, but his actual contribution to the Commonwealth has been quadrupled because there has been no change in the scale of taxation. So the Commonwealth gains because of decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I believe that in a federation such as ours - I confirm what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has said - the Commonwealth should be and is the most efficient tax gatherer that we can have. The central government should be the tax gatherer for ordinary income tax and for company tax. The federal government has the responsibility of sustaining full employment not only of labour but also of finance, so it should have the authority of collecting this tax. Because of this responsibility on the Government and because of our tremendous immigration programme we have experienced an upsurge of inflation in Australia greater than honourable members on this side of the chamber could have expected and, I hope, greater than honourable members opposite could have expected. This has allowed the work force and its representatives to pressure the communiiy for higher and still higher wages.
I come back to the nub of the problem as I see it: The pressurisation of the work force, through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, has resulted in increased wages and, in turn, increased costs. I do not mind increased wages or increased costs, but each of us must realise that they have a tremendous effect not only on the cost of goods in Australia but also on the ability of Australian industries to compete overseas. As a result of increased wages on the one hand and increased costs on the other, some of our industries are now becoming uncompetitive on world markets. Now where has the Government diverted its additional revenue?
In 1962 subsidies paid to the great rural industries amounted to $71m, but by the end of 1966 this figure had increased to $ 145.5m. From the Budget papers we see that subsidies paid to the great rural industries in 1968-69 will amount to $179m. Friends of mine who have examined the matter of subsidies have found that subsidies other than direct subsidies are paid to rural industries. I would like to refer to some of these subsidies, not because they are significant so far as the rural industries are concerned, but because they indicate a trend in this country. Total Commonwealth assistance to rural industries in 1967-68 amounted to$221.8m. Estimated expenditure in the current year is$243.4m. So over a period of 12 months Commonwealth assistance to these industries has increased by more than $20m because they are uncompetitive on world markets. They are uncompetitive not because they are inefficient. I believe that the great wheat industry has a wonderful record of efficiency and productivity. The same can be said of other rural industries about which we have heard in this chamber. But due to increased wages and costs, these industries have had to appeal to the Government for assistance.
Last year the Government allocated $403,000 towards dairy research; this year the amount is $390,000. It is the wheat industry that is really suffering. Last year Commonwealth payments towards stabilisation of the wheat industry amounted to $15.5m; this year they are expected to amount to $43m. Last year phosphate fertiliser bounty payments amounted to $23. 5m; this year they will amount to $37m. Last year payments to the petroleum equalisation fund amounted to $16.5m; this year they will amount to $17.7m. Last year the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy amounted to$1 0.3m; this year it will amount to$1 4.4m. Protection of this kind is needed by secondary industry. We as members of Parliament are constantly aware of the clamour from secondary industry and primary industry to be kept in business. The dilemma to which I earlier referred must be examined by the Treasurer and the Government a good deal more intently than in the past. 1 have said that it is the people of Australia who are supporting the dairying industry.
State governments should examine the type of support which the people are called upon to give to industry, particularly the dairying industry. I have noted that in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 16th August last Sir Henry Bolte has advertised the availability of thirteen dairy farms at Heytesbury. It is my impression that the Commonwealth has decided to devote $25m to ensure that the dairying industry is efficient; to ensure that the unproductive and unprofitable units in the industry are eased out. Yet we find that in Victoria at least thirteen new dairy farms are to be established. Others have been established over the years. The new farms will be provided with a three bedroom house, complete with hot water service, septic tank and all essential shedding. The farms will be made available under the Land Settlement Act. We should get the message across to Sir Henry Bolte and the Victorian Government that we are endeavouring to reduce production in some primary industries because they are a charge on the people of Australia. I find it impossible to believe that we must continue to support primary and secondary industries so that they may export to countries like China, enabling those countries to reduce their cost of living so that they may more advantageously export manufactured products to Australia. We should try to make China’s consumer price index, if that is a term used in that country, as high as possible so that it will not be able to export to Australia at such a competitive advantage. The same reasoning applies in respect of our exports to Japan. We are giving more and more support to our rural industries and to our manufacturing industries. Within a few short years we will be giving support to the mining industries of which we all are so proud. This practice stems from the decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Commission should be provided with economic guidelines to ensure that its decisions do not upset the balance of Australia’s economy.
-I understood the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) to say that we were being priced out of world markets because of our high wage structure.I hope that he did not intend to apply that argument to our manufacturing industries. The wage structure in our manufacturing industries is not so high having regard to world standards. The real reason for our inability to compete is the small volume of our manufactures. Wages in America are two or three times greater than they are in Australia, but American industries can compete on world markets because of their huge volume output. Costs in these industries in Australia will not be reduced until such time as we have a greater population and a bigger domestic market. I hasten to tell the honourable member that in most of what we call our big manufacturing industries the methods of production and the skill of the workers are just as good as anywhere else in the modern world.
Be that as it may, my purpose in speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Treasury is to draw attention to the deduction sections of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Before doing so I want to refer to a pledge given by the Government to the people of Australia and which received wide publicity and aroused great hopes of a new deal for the physically handicapped and the needy. This pledge, or promise, was made first by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) immediately he took office. It was repeated by His Excellency the Governor-General when he opened this Parliament on 1 2th March last. Finally it was repeated by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) very early in his Budget Speech. The words used by the three spokesmen for the Government were:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while, at the same time, not discouraging thrift, self help and self reliance.
I emphasise the last few words - ‘while, at the same time, not discouraging thrift, self help and self reliance’. There can be no doubt what such words were meant to convey. Because of the favourable publicity that followed the first pronouncement by the Prime Minister they were later used as the keynote of the Governor-General’s Speech and the Treasurer’s Budget speech. However, as we now know, the Government, after having received the plaudits of the Press and the people for what was to be a new approach to social welfare, completely disregarded that approval when framing the Budget.
To show how the public has been completely misled by these noble words I propose to refer to a matter that I took up with the Treasurer on 14th February this year, well before the Budget was finalised. It concerned a constituent of mine who no-one could doubt comes completely within the category of the Government’s promise. This man, who had been in illhealth for 4 years prior to 1968, spent 8 months in hospital and 12 months in a convalescent and rehabilitation home. During this period he had both legs amputated. His complaint is such that he cannot use artificial legs or crutches and, as a result, he is confined to a wheel chair. He was in receipt of an invalid pensionof$ 1 3 a week plus the fringe benefits, while his wife received the wife’s allowance of$6 a week. Late in 1967 this courageous Australian, acting on his own initiative and despite his terrible affliction, sought and obtained employment with a company in Port Adelaide. He receives $42 a week, out of which he contributes $4 in income tax. Due to his disability he cannot use the normal transport systems to get to and from his place of employment and, consequently, is forced to travel by taxi at a weekly cost of $7. The normal weekly return rail fare for the journey is 48c.
My appeal to the Treasurer was that in this case an income tax deduction should be granted for the amount of fares to and from work in excess of the normal transport costs. On 19th March this year the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Freeth) replied to my representations in the following manner:
You will appreciate that the Commissioner, whilst fully appreciative of the particular circumstances, is unable, under the present provisions of the income tax law, to allow a deduction for the expenditure in question. An amendment to the law would, therefore, have to be passed by Parliament to meet your request.
The possibility of such an amendment was. in fact, one of the many taxation proposals examined by the Government during the 1967-68 Budget discussions. It did not findit practicable, however, to amend the law in this particular direction, the taxation concessions for the current financial year being limited to those recently passed by Parliament.
Nevertheless, this matter is one which has been listed for further consideration by the Government when the income tax deduction provisions are again under review.
One can only conclude from these remarks that the case I raised is not an isolated case and that there are others who, due to physical disabilities, are caught in similar circumstances. Whilst these people, because of their courage and fighting spirit, most certainly apply self help and self reliance, they get no encouragement from the Government; in fact they are completely ignored.
In the caseI have referred to there can be no doubt that the man involved could go back on an invalid pension, and his wife on the wife’s allowance, any time he so desired. No doubt there are others in similar circumstances.I suggest to the Treasurer that even if he lacks the basic elements of humanity, justice and fair play he should, as Treasurer, at least recognise that as a simple economic proposition, even after allowing for these excess fares as a tax deduction and thus encouraging such people to continue working, the Treasury would in fact be far better off financially. In other words, even if he is so hard he does not like to help anyone, let him look at the situation from the financial aspect. By giving this small measure of help by way of taxation concession the Treasury would be better off in the final analysis. Accordingly, even at this late stage, I again request the Treasurer to amend the legislation without delay to give some discretionary powers to the Commissioner of Taxation to arbitrate in cases like this. It is a power that I understand he already has under some other sections of the legislation. The exercise of this discretion under those sections involves millions of dollars as against the very small amounts that would be involved in the kind of situation I have mentioned. WhileI firmly believe that all fares to and from work should be treated as an allowable income tax deduction, I know quite well that the Government has rejected and will continue to reject such a proposal because in the main it would help the ordinary worker. However, no reasonable person would even suggest that the proposal I now make in connection with the physically disabled should not be treated as a matter of urgency.
While I am discussing tax deductions I want to refer to section 74 of the Act. It provides that expenditure incurred in the year of income by a taxpayer, on being elected as a member or in contesting an election for membership of the Commonwealth Parliament or of the Parliament of a Slate, shall be an allowable tax deduction. This is a reasonable provision as far as it goes, but I believe that it should he extended to cover persons who contest local government elections. I find it difficult to understand why, in a country which has three recognised and essential forms of government - Federal, State and local - our income tax laws differ in their treatment of candidates for election. If any taxation preference is to be extended I believe it should be in the area of local government, because elected members of local government bodies usually receive no remuneration for the many hours of service they give in the interests of the people at large. I raise this matter, which has been raised many times in this chamber, in the hope that continuity will eventually weaken the Treasurer’s hard line attitude in this particular field.
MrDOBIE (Hughes) [9.49]- As we discuss the estimates of the Department of the Treasury and the Advance to the Treasurer I would venture to suggest that only a small proportion of this responsible House has the slightest idea of the purpose of the Advance to the Treasurer vote or how it is utilised; yet we debate it year after year without any real say as to how, or if, the Parliament should control the public purse. What means are at the disposal of honourable members to see that the revenue and expenditure of the Commonwealth are being undertaken in a right and proper manner? What interests does the House have or can the House have? There is not the time in this debate to encompass this whole subject or to discuss the forms of the House that presently exist. Standing Orders are known to a far greater degree by others more senior in this chamber than 1. But it must be obvious to all that there must be an awakening of the need for greater parliamentary interest in the spending of the public purse and in assessing the proficiency of the Public Service in carrying out this duty on our behalf.
Realistically k is most important for honourable members to discuss Government policy, especially those aspects which touch upon their personal and electorate interests. Yet even within such specialised spheres I suggest that there is little chance for individual members to study in sufficient depth the spending of public moneys. Departmental finance officers have become all-important, while Treasury officers have become their most formidable and, perhaps, too influential critics. Nobody would deny the degree of professional excellence that pervades the Department whose estimates we are now discussing. Nobody would deny that we have gathered in the Treasury a galaxy of stars whose reputations are wellfounded and deserved. Performances in the recent devaluation crisis indicate a sophistication and skill that was not surpassed throughout the financial world. But this is no reason for officialdom to assume the right to a doctrine of infallibility. Yet with the shroud of secrecy that surrounds their actions, plus the disinterest or is it the inability of the House to examine them effectively, it is no wonder we hear the cry that we are not being governed by Parliament but rather that we are being dominated by the decisions of the Department of the Treasury, whose appropriations are before the Committee now.
Indeed, control of the public purse by Cabinet and Parliament has become only marginal and it is time we realised that the right of the House to exercise an effective control over the public purse is as precious as any of the rights we so often defend. I repeat that the Executive and the Public Service have effective and literal control and, if we continue to leave this situation unchallenged, the .very democracy we proclaim so proudly will slowly wither away.
How can we assert the supremacy of Parliament? How can we illustrate to the professional arbiters of matters financial that we are aware of their activities, that we are scrutinising their efforts, that we can assume the responsibilities of Parliament in this regard? There have been individual members of the Parliament whose specific talents and background have allowed them to make meaningful contributions. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) are two such. But we do not all possess this talent and furthermore, with overworked research Library staff and with no personal staff to assist, the job is very difficult. If ever there was a case for honourable members to have personal assistants, as in the United States of America, it is in the area of financial review and examination. Sooner or later members of the Parliament will need personal staff to make it feasible for them to perform their basic task of governing the country. But we do not have such staff and I would not venture to guess as to when we may have them. But it must come about if we are to perform our duties with some degree of honesty and efficiency.
For example, what is the attitude of the House to the various forms of contracts that are undertaken by departments? Mas the House ever regarded this as appropriate for discussion? If it has, what has been done? Is it to be left to the Executive alone? Or should honourable members have the opportunity to examine and discuss such matters? Quite obviously there are limitations on the time available to the House and there would be certain dangers in altering the forms of the House too greatly in any regard. But I do commend the thought to the Committee that we must make better use of the joint committees that exist. We have the Public Accounts Committee and there are enough members and former members of this Committee sitting in this chamber to know how effective this form of control can or should be. The work load on the present secretariat and its members is heavy, while the time commitment for members of the Committee is not insignificant. However, as the present Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who was himself a former chairman of that country’s Public Accounts Committee, once said, membership of the Public Accounts Committee ‘was one of the few ways in which a member can acquire a detailed insight into the problems of departmental administration and management’.
This is true of our own Public Accounts Committee. There is little doubt that the work of successive Committees has had its effect on Government departments, some more so than others, and the Committee’s reports are certainly known throughout the Public Service. Nevertheless, these reports are losing strength through not being debated in the Parliament and it is my firm contention that the House should begin the practice of so debating them, lt is done in ihe British House of Commons, where 3 days per session are made available for debating reports of its financial committees of Public Accounts, Estimates and Nationalised Industries. I am sure that such a forum would do much to give teeth to the reports of all committees that are presented to this Parliament, lt must be that Government departments are made to realise that full publicity will bc duly given to irregularities in the administrative control of public finances, lt must be that the Parliament will follow through and not easily abrogate its responsibilities to Treasury officers. Of course, the Auditor-General gives protection against malpractice, but his report doss not inform the Parliament enough nor does it have any educative potential.
To debate ihe reports would give to honourable members a far greater understanding, a far greater interest in public finance and consequently greater control of thc public purse than is at present the case. So my first recommendation is that we give a greater airing in Parliament to the findings of the Public Accounts Committee. Most publicity about the Committee depends on the daily Press and then only what it sees fit. Secondly, the secretariat of the Committee must be expanded and upgraded so that the quality of their research will not suffer from pressure of work, and then we should increase the membership of the Committee itself so that it may divide the more easily into sub-committees to enable an effective division of labour and interest to take place.
In conclusion, I would suggest that without personal assistants for individual members of the Parliament, better working conditions and a high quality through diverse type of member, no committee system can ever hope to work. In no way do these suggestions attempt to understate the professionalism of the Public Service. Rather, if they were carried out, I believe that the status of the Public Service would be enhanced. The real purpose behind my brief speech in this debate is to try to improve the awareness, the interest, the concern of honourable members so that they may rightly assume the control over public finance they should enjoy and, perhaps by next year, understand what the vote for the Advance to the Treasurer is all about.
– The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) was, I feel, making a speech that was directed more to the estimates for the Parliament than to the estimates for the Treasury. However, I agree that we do need assistance. Parliamentarians particularly need expert assistance. After ali it is very difficult, particularly for Opposition members, to combat the arguments of some of the Cabinet Ministers who have large staffs to obtain information for them. The ordinary backbench member must delve for his information, obtain it from the Library or do his own research. Of course, the activities debated in the Parliament today are so diverse and so broad that we find it difficult to keep up with aK the trends.
The estimates for the Treasury are particularly interesting. This is a most powerful Department. The Treasurer wields considerable strength, so much so that even his own Party can suffer. Five of the six State Premiers are anti-Labor Premiers and they have now decided to rebel against the policies enforced by this Government since 1950. I will give some statistics to show the great hurden that thc States are carrying. This Federal LiberalCountry Party Government has carried out a policy of centralism that has nol provided a basis of co-operation with the State governments or government at other levels. If we are to develop this country, we must have a basis of co-operation between the Federal Government, State governments, semigovernment bodies and local government authorities. They must work together on a basis of co-operation and planning. The States have decided to rebel. Mr Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, has called a meeting of State Premiers on 4th October to try to solve their financial problems. It has been said that Mr Askin has been formulating his Budget and that, even though he has pruned many estimates, he finds himself about $20m on the wrong side of the ledger.
Let us examine details of the debts of Commonwealth and State governments, local government authorities and semigovernment authorities as at 30th June of each year from 1950 to 1968. The Commonwealth securities debt as at 30th June 1950 was $3,730m. This had been reduced to S3,133m in 1965.
– What year was that?
– The first year was 1950 and the second was 1965. This is the last year for which all figures are available for Commonwealth and State governments, local government authorities and semigovernment authorities. I repeat that in 1950 the Commonwealth debt was $3,730m and that it had been reduced to S3,133m in 1965. In 1950 the debt of the State governments was only $2,367m. By 1965 it had risen to $7,090m, about three times as much. Therefore, while the Commonwealth debt decreased in this period the debt of the States increased very greatly.
If we go still further and examine the figure that is available for the States for 1968 - 3 years later - we find that there has been an increase to $8,300m. The State debt has increased by more than $l,200m in 3 years. The debt of local government authorities in 1950 was Si 88m. In 1965 this figure had increased to $820m - more than four times as much. Semi-government authoritiy debt was S593m in 1950, and it had increased to $4,532m in 1965 - more than seven times as much.
Let us examine the costs involved in the servicing of this debt. It cost the Commonwealth $105m in 1950 to service its debt. In 1965 it paid $119m. It can be seen that there was a slight increase in service charges to the Commonwealth over this period. But if we look at the cost to the States per year, we find that interest cost them $7 5m in 1950 and $322m in 1965. I may say that interest charges paid by the States rose to S402m in 1968. Since’ 1950, and during the administration of this Government, the annual interest cost to the States has increased from $75m to $402m. Local government in 1950 incurred an interest liability of $7.8m. This increased to $42m in 1965. Unfortunately figures are not available for later years. In the case of semi-government authorities, which provide water, sewerage and electricity undertakings, the interest cost was $23m in 1950 and $217m in 1965.
The imposition of this burden has resulted from the policy of the Commonwealth Government. This burden has been thrown more and more on the States by the use of (oan moneys. The Commonwealth Government makes allocations to the States each year and charges interest on this money. The States, local government authorities and semi-government authorities have to pay for this. This method of financing really imposes a type of indirect tax on the mass of consumers who have to pay increased local government charges and water and sewerage charges, and electricity charges. Of course, the States have to meet the increased costs by raising fares on trains, buses and other public transport, licence fees, stamp charges and other indirect charges. This burden has been placed on other levels of government by the central government. The Federal Government has forced the State governments, local government authorities and the semi-government bodies to use these indirect taxes.
At least 68.30% of taxpayers in Australia earn less than $59 per week. This is indicated in the latest series of Budget papers. These are the people who are earning under $2,999 per annum, which is about $59 per week. These are the people who most use public transport and electricity and water supplies. It is these people who have to pay these indirect taxes. This is why this Government is a sectional government. It has looked after the wealthy combines and monopolies and the wealthy sector of the community. This Government starves the States and local government of finance. It is criminal in 1968 that in the city of Sydney a great sector of the outer suburbs is unsewered. A large part of the outer areas of Melbourne is unsewered. For how many more years are we to have this state of affairs? How much longer are we going to have this inefficiency on the part of this sectional government that is using indirect forms of taxation? This is a sectional government that represents monopolies and will not tax equitably. This is the policy of this sectional government. It has continued in this way and it has thrown more and more of the burden onto State governments, local government and semigovernment undertakings. This is why 5 of the 6 States have rebelled; they are of the same political complexion as that represented in the federal arena. This type of government has been in power since 1950, and particularly as it has been in office for that time there should have been some planning and co-operation with governments at all levels.
The only way we can make Australia progressive and develop the country so that the people share in its prosperity is to pl’an on a basis of co-operation. This basis of co-operation can be brought about only if there is some planning group which can bring together the Commonwealth Government, the State governments, local government representatives and representatives of semi-government concerns. We cannot throw greater and greater burdens onto semi-government concerns. State government debts alone have increased, because of the interest burden, from $75m to $402m a year. Imagine this enormous wealth. Imagine the debt. I have quoted only the figures up to 1965. Because of the interest burden the debt of semigovernment concerns which handle water, sewerage and similar matters has increased from $23m to $2 1 7m a year. The situation may be likened to a dog chasing its tail. These semi-government concerns have to pay this enormous interest charge before they can commence new developments such as sewerage works required in the expanding cities, ls it not time that this Government started to plan on the basis of cooperation? It should ensure that it operates in the best interests of the masses of the people and not the sectional interests that it represents.
– J wish to say a few words about the Estimates for the Department of the Treasury which are now before the Committee. I believe that our three-tier system of government - the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and the local government authorities - is a sound method of government. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) stressed his concern about the financial difficulties of certain sectors, referring mainly to the State situations and not so much to the Commonwealth itself.
I am somewhat concerned, not so much for the State governments, because the State Premiers have the opportunity of coming to Canberra for money and do so, but for the local government authorities.
Because of our system of financing, the local government authorities shoulder the burden of providing their services with the dearest money, in that they have to pay the highest interest rates for their loans. The State governments do receive loan moneys, which is long term money and is probably the cheapest money in Australia today. However, local government authorities are in a different situation altogether. Because of their system of borrowing, the interest they have to pay is somewhat dearer than that which the State governments are obliged to pay for loan moneys.
From the Commonwealth point of view, as we know from figures we have received and also from figures quoted this evening, the Commonwealth uses in the main revenue to finance its purposes. When it puts its revenue into the operation of such enterprises as the Post Office, for example, they are charged interest on the moneys. Thic is of assistance to the Commonwealth. People who use the telephone, people who post letters, people who need some other service provided by the Post Office, pay the interest on that capital and this in effect provides revenue for the Commonwealth.
I am most concerned about the local government authorities. Like every other form of government in Australia, they are faced with increased responsibilities from year to year. Because of the size of Australia local government authorities are tremendously important in respect of the work they do. Australia embraces 3 million square miles and cannot possibly be administered and controlled from Canberra. Nor can the State governments exercise the necessary control. Consider Western Australia, for example, which takes in one-third of the Commonwealth. Development and control are a job for the local government authorities because they are much closer to the scenes of activity and the problems involved. They are in a much better position to do the job which they set out to do. In my view, it is these local government authorities, which are in real trouble. Yet they are the authorities which receive the dearest money. They are building up this tremendous debt, for a number of reasons, in country areas more than in city areas.
Everything that one sets out to do in a country area costs more than it does in a city area. This relates to homes, to schools and to other projects. Honourable members will immediately say, quite correctly, that the provision of schools is a State responsibility and that they are financed by loan moneys. Hospitals are in the same category. Electricity is sometimes a State government matter and sometimes a local government matter. Water supplies are the same. But whatever one does in a country area is dearer than the same project in a city area. At Kununurra in Western Australia,I believe, it costs twice as much to build a house than it does at Perth. That is an exceptional case but it is a fact that local government authorities in country areas are faced with the greatest costs and that these are the areas which are suffering the most.
I say, without shadow of doubt, that in framing any Commonwealth Budget today the facts of life in country areas cannot be ignored if we are to have a planned economy. We should be encouraging the establishment of industry and settlement of people in country areas and the only way we can do so effectively is per medium of the Commonwealth Budget. It can be done without a shadow of doubt. The movement of our population today is not from the cities to the country areas. The movement is in the opposite direction and this trend will continue. If people study figures relating to costs throughout Australia, through the mediums I have mentioned or any other mediums they like, they will find that this trend will continue while our present monetary system continues.
Freights in Australia are tremendous, in the main, freight charges are the responsibility of the State governments and they have to accept the burden. The greater the distance to be travelled the greater is the cost and the greater is the difficulty of getting skilled manpower to move from the densely populated city areas to the country areas. In my book these things certainly cannot be ignored by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) when he is putting forward Budgets of this nature. If the present trend continues we will reach a situation which we have seen in many other countries in that there will be great congestion within the major cities. Costs are starting to soar because of congestion. This point is being raised by the State governments. They have said that they require a greater proportion of the money made available under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act for roads in the cities. They want to take money away from the country areas and use it in the cities in order to try to relieve some of the traffic congestion. But the result will be further congestion and the retarding of the development of country areas. Without shadow of doubt we should not alter the system under which 40% of the money made available for made is to be used for roads in country areas other than main roads and trunk roads. If we alter the present basis the country areas will suffer and more people will be attracted to city areas. No doubt the cities have their problems but the country areas have far greater problems today. This can be seen if one goes anywhere today. In the country areas this cost problem is real. You pay freight on almost everything you buy, and you still pay freight on everything you sell. You pay freight both ways and the costs are rising. I would say to the Treasury, as I said in this House some 2 years ago - the position has only worsened since that time - that local authorities want a fair go. They do the work they are charged to do almost free of charge. They do it because they want the job done within their areas. They do a magnificent job, in my book. But they cannot go on doing it unless their position is recognised by this central Parliament of Australia, unless they get a fair crack of the whip, unless they get revenue moneys and cheaper money than they are getting at the moment, and unless they have some of the debt removed from their shoulders. If the position continues there can be only one outcome. The burden will have to come down on the people who are paying rates and taxes in the local authority area. This can only increase the burden that I am suggesting should be removed from these people.
– Consideration of the estimates for the Treasury raises the general matter of the Constitution of Australia. It was Alfred Deakin who said - his forecast was correct - that the States would ultimately be tied to the financial chariot wheels of the Federal Government. That is precisely the position that we are in today. Prior speakers for the Opposition have referred to the humiliating charade of the annual Loan Council and Premiers Conference, the wrangling, the posturing, and the degrading and divisive events which have occurred with frequency over the years to the po a where it is taken to be generally a get together for the purposes of political propaganda, where the Federal Government is arrogant and the States are told: ‘There it is. Take it or leave it. Go away if it does not suit you’. This matter ought to be approached on a better basis. It ought to be approached on the basis of what is best for Australia.
We are saddled, of course, with an archaic Constitution. We are saddled with a Constitution under which the States have major functions, which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) correctly described as providing the infrastructure of the national economy, and have minor financial powers. To complete the paradox, the Commonwealth Government has the major powers financially and the minor powers in relation to the provision of the economic infrastructure. We are saddled with a Constitution that goes back to the horse and buggy days. I do not know whether honourable members have ever looked at the Constitution dispassionately, particularly sections 86 to 95. When the Constitution was drawn up the main source of revenue was not income tax; it was customs and excise. In the Constitution there is constant reference to customs and excise. I would say that more sections of the Commonwealth Constitution are devoted to customs and excise duties than to any other matter.
I do not speak in this matter as a centralist. It is not a question as to whether the State governments ought to be abolished. The people of Australia have indicated up to date that they want State governments. They have indicated, and they know, that there are certain functions which can only be discharged by State governments. The question to be considered tonight is whether the State governments are getting an adequate amount of the national revenue, to which they are entitled, to carry out their share of the responsibility of Australian government and development. The same question arises in respect of some governmental authorities and also in respect of local government. What are the needs of Australia? What are the needs of the component States?
This brings us to the real defect of the uniform taxation legislation. The idea of the collection of income tax by one authority is undoubtedly correct; but there is no machinery whatever other than a formula that is agreed on after considerable haggling and bargaining and by - let us be frank about it - the invoking of the support of the lesser States in return for certain bribes that are given to them. No doubt they need additional assistance. That formula is thrust upon them for a period of 5 years. Then the shutters are up. The situation has deteriorated to the point where today there is open revolt in the various States by governments of the same political persuasion as the Federal1 Government itself.
In New South Wales, which is the major State of Australia, the deterioration has gone to the point where each Liberal and each Country Party member of the State Parliament has written to his Federal counterpart asking him to see that a fair deal is given financially to the State or States and has issued an open threat that if he does not no assistance will be forthcoming from the State members to their Federal colleagues at the forthcoming Federal election. The Federal1 Government does not offer any alternative. Today we heard the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), in answer to a question, give the usual barrage of figures, which in this case means nothing. The States are desperate. Some of the subterfuges which have been adopted by the Commonwealth would in business be considered to be very sharp practices indeed.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said, we have come to a point in Australia when 60% of lbc Australian people by choice are living in the cities. If you take it a stage further and include the major provincial towns as well as the capital cities, nearly 70% of Australians choose to live in cities to enjoy the amenities and the public utilities which they are entitled to expect. In passing I might add that they provide the market for the purchase of primary produce and foodstuffs at prices greater than the cost of production so that the surplus can be dumped abroad. I put this proposition to the House, not that 1 would agree with it: New South Wales is a State which is so big and so strong that it is capable of functioning in its own right independently of the rest of Australia. Perish the thought that it would happen. Today New South Wa es is tied down by pigmies and by a government which truckles to other interests to the detriment of that State. New South Wales produces 85% of Australian steel and 85% of Australia’s coal. It is the biggest producer of wool, it is the biggest producer of wheat, and it is the centre of the main industrial conurbation in Australia; but it is getting the lousiest and the rottenest deal that any State has had since federation I am no apologist and I am no protagonist for the present Premier of New South Wales, but this is a matter which concerns me. And I am sure every representative of Victoria too is concerned about the raw deal which is being provided. In the Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong areas about 3 million Australians are living at the present time. By the end of this century there will be between 5 million and 6 million. In the city of Sydney alone there are more people than in all the rural areas of Australia. What happens in this region matters more to Australia than what happens in other regions, because in human terms and in economic terms this region is the largest and most important part of Australia. Now this is to the disgrace of the present Government. There are 700,000 people without sewerage. Within my own city, out of 170,000 people there are about 130,000 without sewerage. How does the Federal Government manage this? How is it shortchanging the State Government - and shortchanging is the word? The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) is trying to interject, but he can make his contribution later.
– You were a member of the State Parliament for a long time.
– Yes, and New South Wales, under a Labor Government, was the best financed and the best run State in Australia. That was generally recognised, even by the Federal Treasury.
– So it has all changed in 3 years? Why did not you get your sewerage when Labor was in office?
– I got my electorate sewered. I made sure of that. Can the Minister say the same for his area? There is an old saying that the bottom of Diogenes’ tub would not bear inspection. The Minister should go and have a look at his own electorate. If honourable members want the real story of Commonwealth and State financial relations - and this is from no partisan - I refer them to an article by Mr W. J. Campbell, a former New South Wales Auditor-General. There is a rort, a snide financial practice, going on today. We have the spectacle of States being forced further and further info debt while the Commonwealth can finance its capital works, in the main, out of revenue. Worse than that, through the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve the Commonwealth can choose to channel, and has in fact channelled, $ 1,089m into Commonwealth bonds. Mr Campbell goes so far as to suggest that at the present time, through the operation of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, the Commonwealth is holding, literally, through its own investments from revenue and from trust funds, the biggest part of its own bond issue. Let the Minister for the Interior deny that if he can. if he wants to come into the argument. What a lousy state of affairs it is when revenue, a fair share of which ought to be going back to the States, is being channelled into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. If we take last year as a case in point, approximately SI 70m extra has gone into that Reserve and there is interest revenue of S34m a year.
– Did this happen when Labor was in office?
– You people started this in 1955. Your Country Party Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, by legislation in that year introduced the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, lt has been used for that purpose ever since. Is this the state of affairs that you would expect in Australia? Is this the state of affairs that the founding fathers of federation would have ever contemplated? They would never have put their pens to paper had they thought that this situation would exist and could be perpetuated, where the finances and the financial relationships of the Commonwealth and the States could be distorted as they are at the present time.
How far are the States being pushed into debt? The States are receiving less than one-third of income tax revenue. The Slates today have a total debt which is two and a halftimes that of the Commonwealth. In other words, the Commonwealth, with two-thirds of income tax revenue as its share, has a total debt of $3,700m. The States have a total debt of more than $8,000m. At the present time local government has a total debt of $4,532m. Ability to pay does not count with this Government.It is going on its own wilful way and the Country Party is riding on its back. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) referred to the exodus of people to the country. Of course there is an exodus by everyone who wants to be in the racket. All the Pitt Street farmers and their counterparts in other parts of Australia are going to the country because of the income tax concessions that can be obtained. When they have some spare money they buy a piece of land, develop it, sell it and pocket the capital gain. I say that the present Commonwealth and State financial relationship is a scandalous one. The State governments are entitled to support. They are entitled to clemency. They are entitled to consideration. But they will never get it from this Government because it is prepared to brazen out the situation. It will have to answer for it, and we will flog the Government with it, on the hustings at the forthcoming election.
– I wish to support the estimates now before the Committee, but at the same time I would like to draw the Committee’s attention - and in particular the attention of honourable members on this side of the chamber - to some provisions of the income tax code which I consider to be very much overdue for a complete reappraisal. I say ‘honourable members on this side’ deliberately, because we are supposed to believe in the development of this nation by private enterprise, by fair competition and by providing suitable incentives to those who are prepared to study and work so that they may achieve increased efficiency and enjoy the financial rewards of their efforts. I believe that some sections of our income tax laws are seriously retarding our progress and are contrary to the political beliefs we are supposed to stand for - and on which we are elected. They are removing initiative and incentive and bringing us nearer to the doctrinaire policy of Socialism, which is supported by so many honourable members opposite and which is followed in the same tide wave by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). 1 wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to two completely unjust provisions of our income tax laws which I believe illustrate the point. I have compared some of the tax rates operating in Australia with those in the United States of America. In each case the calculations apply to a taxpayer claiming deductions for his wife and two children - that is, claiming at the maximum rate - and each allows for $1,000 additional deductible expenses, which on the lower scales is probably far in excess of the average. Such a taxpayer in the United States pays no tax at all until his income exceeds $3,000 a year. The Australian taxpayer on $3,000 a year - and there are over 500,000 such taxpayers in Australia - pays at least $90, and, with the more likely deductions of say $500 a year, pays approximately $140 tax. If this Australian taxpayer is able to increase his income to $4,000, with the same $1,000 additional deductions - and these figures are unfavourable for my argument - he is taxed at least $280, and most such taxpayers would be paying a great deal more. It seems to me that there is little incentive for this Australian taxpayer to lift his income by onethird when the result is an increased tax slug of 300%.
The position is even more unfavourable in the higher categories. The Australian on $6,000 a year pays $880. In America he would pay $500. The ‘Year Book’ shows that there are another 500,000 Australians on this income. The comparison is worse in the middle to higher categories where, when the American taxpayer is able to increase his income by, say, one-half he finds that he is doubling his tax. His Australian counterpart who increases his income by one-half finds that he is quadrupling his tax. In Australia there is little incentive for the ambitious taxpayer to work harder. The reason why so many taxpayers play golf for 2 days a week and why so many of their wives go to work is to produce a low tax income. In addition, in America - and no one can say that Americans do not spend their fair share on defence, foreign aid, social welfare, etc. - interest on house mortgages is deductible, personal exemptions are higher and provision is made for a husband and wife to lodge joint returns if they wish. The booklet issued by the United States Treasury Department Internal Revenue Service indicates the many deductions which are available to the American taxpayer. He can deduct interest on personal notes, mortgages on homes, life insurance loans, delinquent tax, real estate tax, State and local gasoline taxes, general sales tax, State and local income taxes and personal property taxes. He cannot deduct payments to political organisations or labour unions.
– That is bad luck for the Libs.
– This would be of no use at all to the representative of the Boilermakers Union whom we have here. The American citizen can deduct losses on property or clothing or a motor car destroyed or damaged by fire. He receives an allowance for any property, including cash, which is stolen, lost or damaged by flood, lightning, storm or explosion. The second example to which I refer is what I believe to be a savage restriction placed upon private working companies. A private working company producing $20,000 net profit is subject to company tax of $7,000 and almost immediately half the balance is taxed by a further undistributed profits tax. Of $20,000 the company can plough back into its reserves only $6,500. This so-called reserve eventually will be taxable in the hands of the shareholders or when the company is wound up. A private company cannot build up its reserves in the way that a public company can. I wonder why such a penalty is imposed on private companies. Private enterprise is being prevented from developing and private companies are being prevented from expanding. The very system, which we on this side claim to represent, is being discouraged. I believe that the income tax laws should be overhauled completely and injustices of this type removed. We need the revenue, but let us not whip the willing horse to death.
Several years ago legislation was passed to control the soliciting by private companies of public interest bearing funds. This was aimed only at small private companies. Today they can claim deduction only on interest payments up to a maximum of $20,000 a year. They are not permitted to seek these funds, but only to accept them if they are offered. None of these restrictions applies to public companies. 1 realise that there are good reasons behind the legislation, but 1 point out to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) that it is the small, hardworking private company which suffers. In my opinion, in these companies one finds much of the energy which is maintaining our economy, but they are paying a totally disproportionate amount to the Treasury for the privilege of doing so. It seems to me that there should be a greater distinction between a working private company and an investment private company, particularly in the field of depreciation. Consider the rate of actual physical depreciation on a building housing a steam laundry, a motor repair shop or a paint manufacturer. Such working companies receive no allowance for depreciation. The cost of this depreciation to working companies is very often a major consideration and should not be compared with the cost to investment companies which more often than not is simply an entry in a book in someone’s kitchen. The United States system recognises this and Part IV of the US Treasury Department Internal Revenue Service booklet dealing with depreciation states:
A reasonable allowance for the exhaustion, wear and tear, and obsolescence of property used in the trade or business, or of property held by the taxpayer for the production of income shall be allowed as a depreciation deduction.
That is what I would like to see incorporated in our taxation set-up. The important word there is ‘property’, which means buildings. In supporting the measure before the House I hope that the Government will recognise the type of savage discrimination which has grown up in its tax laws in recent years-
– We have been telling it of that for years.
– I hope that it will take early steps with the help of the best brains available to it - that excludes the honourable member who has just interjected - both inside and outside the Treasury, completely to rethink and reconstruct the Income Tax Assessment Act. I urge the Treasurer to give serious consideration to spreading the tax bill more evenly throughout the community, perhaps using the American system as a model.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The following answer is now supplied:
My Department knows of no provision in Commonwealth legislation . prohibiting:
The minerals subject to export prohibition and the authorities which may approve export are:
Minister for Customs and Excise - Goods capable of being used for purposes of war, including minerals, ores and mineral concentrates; petroleum .
Department of National Development - Iron ore, beneficiated iron ores and iron concentrates; mineral sands, whether treated of untreated, and concentrates of mineral sands, containing zircon, rutile or ilmenite; manganese ores; beryllium ores and concentrates.
Department of Primary Industry - Phosphate rock.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission - Minerals, raw and treated, including residues and tailings, containing more than 0.05% of uranium or thorium, singly or together.
At present no Commonwealth Government authority arranges for the disposal or sale of any of the abovementioned minerals on behalf of private persons. All gold mined and refined in Australia is compulsorily acquired by the Reserve Bank of Australia under the Banking Act, but since 1951 arrangements have been in force under which Australian gold producers have been permitted to sell newlymined gold on overseas premium markets. As announced by the Treasurer on 12th May 1968 gold producers are now also permitted to sell newly-mined gold for bona fide industrial use in Australia. Gold for industrial use had previously been made available by the Reserve Bank, the amount required being deducted from the gold made available for premium sale overseas.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The following answer is now provided:
In the course of a TV programme with Mr Dugald MunroI suggested that it was unlikely that Commonwealth expenditure on water conservation would decrease inthe immediate future. There has been no decision by the Government regarding long term financing of water conservation, but such projectsashave already been accepted make it appear likely that Commonwealth spending on water conservation will continue for some years at least at around the current level, in spite of declining expenditure on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Recent decisions for additional conservation of water include a grant and loan of$48m to the Western Australian Government for the Ord River scheme, and an announcement of grants of up to$50m in 5 years for additional water conservation over and above the States’ level. In addition, the Commonwealth will have commitments in connection with the next major storage for the River Murray Commission, and a decision on this can be expected fairly shortly. Thus, it appears that even without any new decisions on additional water conservation projects, the Commonwealth contribution towards water conservation will not decrease in the immediate future.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
How many (a) men and (b) women were receiving sickness benefits in (i) each State and (ii) Australia att he latest date for which this information is available?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table gives the number of males and females receiving sickness benefit in each State and the Commonwealth as at 3rd August 1968:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1964 - ‘New Guinea Trader’; 1965- ‘New Guinea Trader’; 1966 - ‘New Guinea Trader’, Pacific Carrier’; 1967- ‘New Guinea Trader’, Pacific Carrier’, ‘Sarang’, ‘Saidor’; 1968- ‘New Guinea Trader’, ‘Pacific Carrier’, ‘Sarang’, ‘Saidor’, Arasjo’.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Offsets should be allowed against these costs in respect of people of pensionable age who are already in receipt of service pensions from the Repatriation Department, widow’s’ pensions from the Department of Social Services or who are mental hospital patients. A reasonable estimate for the total offset would be something of the order of $30m.
An estimate of the cost of abolishing the means test for invalid pensions has not been attempted, as there is no information available regarding the number of persons currently outside the pension field who might qualify on medical grounds for the invalid pension.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The following answer is supplied:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
– In replying to a question without notice which the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Da vies) asked on 14th May, I undertook to find out the proportion of girls among students in the final school year in Australia, and the proportion among those going on to higher education, as compared with the situation in the United States of America. The following information is now supplied:
In 1966, the latest year for which we have statistical information on this subject, there were some 18,000 boys in the final school grade in Australia and almost 12,000 girls, or, expressed proportionately, of every 10 final year students, 6 were boys and 4 were girls. For the United States of America the comparable figures were 5 and 5. In considering these figures, however, one must not overlook the differences between the two education systems. In each of the States of Australia we have a system of education which leads after 3 or 4 years of secondary schooling to an examination variously named the Junior, School Certificate. Intermediate or Schools Board Examination. This examination marks the completion of a stage of general education and in that school grade in 1966 some 48% of the Australian school students were girls. At that point, in the Australian system, opportunities open out for the students to leave school and go on to further training in specialised fields. At least two of these fields, secretarial work and nursing, attract large numbers of our young women who cannot be regarded ‘as ‘drop outs’ in the sense that the term is used in America. As to tertiary education, women form about 42% of all new entrants to American institutions of higher education. Our statistics do not provide one single figure to set beside thispercentage but in Australia in 1966 women represented 35% of the new university enrolments aged 19 and under, undoubtedly a smaller percentage than this of new tertiary technical college enrolments, but 75% of first year trainees in non-university courses at State teachers colleges and a large proportion of the new entrants to tertiary level paramedical, librarianship, music, art and drama courses. Of all the enrolments in institutions of higher education, women form about 39% in the USA and about 30% in Australia. While there is undoubtedly a difference between the two countries, it is not such a wide one when all underlying factors are fully considered.
Diplomatic Representation (Question No: 366)
DrJ. F. Cairns asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. The protection of United States interests in Cambodia and of Cambodian interests in the Republic of Vietnam involves part of the time of the Australian Ambassador, as well as of members of his staff, in both Phnom Penh and Saigon. An accurate calculation of the cost of these activities is not possible. In the case of the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh, the United States Government meets the cost of the salary and allowances of one Australian-based clerical officer and one locally-engaged staff member, which total approximately$A20,000 per annum, and it is considered that this covers the additional costs to the Australian Government incurred in representing United States interests. There is no similar arrangement with the Cambodian Government for the Australian Embassy in Saigon. 3 and 4. The Australian Embassies in Phnom Penh and Saigon have conduced the normal range of diplomatic and consular representation activities as requested by the Governments whose interests they are protecting.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What changes, if any, have been made in the basis and administration of the subsidy to Burns, Philp and Co. Ltd, as a result of the World Bank’s recommendations in September 1964 (Hansard, 22nd August 1967, page 328)?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The views expressed by the World Bank were kept in mind by the Government when it decided late last year that the subsidy payable to Burns, Philp and Co. Ltd, in respect of the vessels it operates in the Australia/Papua and New Guinea service should be progressively withdrawn and terminated from the, 31st December 1968.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The information requested in relation to overseas voyages made by vessels of the Australian National Line and the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd during the 12 months ended 30th June 1968 is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Commonwealth, however, under the National Health Act pays public hospitals $5.00 a day in respect of each eligible pensioner classified as a public ward patient on condition that no fees are charged in respect of such patients.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What considerations other than the overseas selling price are taken into consideration in determine the Australian price for drugs made available under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The prices for drugs are determined by manufacturers. However, my Department negotiates with manufacturers in regard to the prices of drugs listed as pharmaceutical benefits. In these negotiations consideration is given to all factors relevant to the price of particular drugs. Apart from the overseas prices these factors include such matters as costs of importation and duty, prices of therapeutically equivalent drugs listed as benefits and other matters affecting the size of the market such as restrictions, if any, on the prescribing of certain drugs as benefits.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Some of these applications could be for dwellings provided by other than State housing authorities.
Purchases under the Home Builders’ Account were mostly of new dwellings.
South Australia provides concessional rentals in necessitous cases, but not according to any given formula.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Commonwealth Railways in South Australia (Question No. 449)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner reported in June 1966 on the proposed construction of a standard gauge railway between Port Augusta and Whyalla, and in 1967 he authorised a detailed survey of the route. This surveyhas been completed. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is at present preparing a report on the result of this surveyand a design study undertaken for a bridge over Spencer Gulf.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answersto the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
How many of the companies registered in Norfolk Island have a preponderance of (a) Australian and (b) New Zealand shareholders?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information required by statute tobe furnished to the Registrar by companies registered in Norfolk Island does not include particulars of the citizenship of shareholders. The provisions of the legislation in force in Norfolk Island in this respect are the same as those in other Australian jurisdictions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members questions is as follows:
The Department of Works has received a claim by unions for a special allowance to compensate for a number of alleged disabilities; including noise, affecting day labour employees at the Williamtown R.A.A.F. Base. There has been a number of extended lunch hour meetings and halfday stoppages of work associated with this claim. The claim is being investigated by the department and the Public Service Board.
Public Service: Rental Subsidies
– In answer to Question No. 252 asked by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) concerning Regulation 97 of the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations, I said that I would provide a supplementary answer to parts 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the question.
The answers to these parts are as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
What are the names and locations of the twentytwo water conservation projects submitted by the State Premiers which have been excluded from consideration under the National Water Resources Development Programme?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The names and locations of fourteen water conservation projects submitted by the State Premiers which are not included in the list of projects selected for detailed examination under the National Water Resources Development Programme are listed below. These details have all been made public by the relevant State Government, but projects submitted by the State of South Australia, other than the Lock-Kimba Scheme, have not been made public.
New South Wales
Carcoar Dam. on the Belubula River, 40 miles south west of Bathurst.
Toonumbar Dam, in the Richmond Valley, on Iron Pot Creek, 23 miles north west of Casino.
Lostock Dam, on the Paterson River, near Lostock, 45 miles north west of Newcastle.
Millewa Development, near Mildura in north west Victoria. (A scheme to replace an open channel stock and domestic water supply with a piped reticulation system.)
Lake Mokoan, 6 miles north east of Benalla, fed by a diversion channel from the Broken River.
Buffalo High Dam, 12 miles south of Myrtleford on the Buffalo River.
Kolan Irrigation Scheme, 30 miles north west of Bundaberg, on the Kolan River.
Burnett-Isis Irrigation Project, west of Bundaberg.
Bowen-Broken River Scheme, north west of Makay near Collinsville.
No reports were submitted in respect of the Burnett-Isis and Bowen-Broken schemes.
Lock-Kimba Pipeline Scheme, on the central Eyre Peninsula.
Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme, extensions in the York-Corrigin area.
Jordan River Valley Scheme, on the Jordan River, south east of Kempton.
Huon Regional Irrigation Scheme, in the Huon Valley, south west of Hobart.
Craigburn Irrigation Scheme, on the Coal River near Colebrook, north east of Hobart.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
On what date was each of the 28 water conservation projects, for consideration under the National Water Resources Development Programme, submitted by Slate Premiers to the Prime Minister?
– The answer to the honourable members’ question is as follows:
Thedetails of correspondence between the Prime Minister and State Premiers are confidential, unless it is mutually agreed to make such details public. No such agreement has been made in the cases covered by the question.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
New South Wales
Booroorban D. & S.W.S. - Riverina electoral division
Gwydir River Dam - Gwydir electoral division
King River Dam - Indi electoral division
Mitchell River Dam - Gippsland electoral division
Tailem Bend-Keith Pipeline Scheme - Barker electoral division
Cressy-Longford Irrigation Scheme - Wilmot electoral division
Riverina - Mr A. A. Armstrong, Country Party
Gwydir - Mr A.I. Allan, Country Party
Indi - Mr R. McN. Holten, Country Party
Gippsland - Hon. P. J. Nixon, Country Party
Barker-Hon. A. J. Forbes, Liberal Party
Wilmot- Mr G. W. A. Duthie, A.L.P.
asked the Minister for National’ Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable members questions are as follows:
askedthe Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Water Conservation (Questions Nos 286, 287, 288, 291, 293)
asked the Minister for National Development: 286. As definite priorities must have been established for determining the six priority water projects to be investigated under the National Water Resources Development Programme, what is the order of ranking of these six, and what are the names of the seventh and eighth priorities which were excluded? 287. To what degree was benefit cost analysis used in determining the six water conservation projects to be investigated under the National Water Resources Development Programme and for excludingtwenty-two projects? 288. Which Commonwealth departments were consulted in arriving at the Government’s decision to exclude all projects from Queensland and Western Australia from investigation under the National Water Resources Development Programme? 291. What werethe reasons for the Government establishing a priority, for the Mitchell River Dam in Victoria for investigation under the National Water Resources Development Programme higher than the Kolan-Burnett and Burdekin Projects in Queensland? 293. (1) Is it a fact that the principal criterion used for excluding all Queensland and Western Australian water conservation projects from investigation . under the National Water Resources Development Programme was political in that the Ord River and Nogoa projects had been approved? (2) If not, what technical criteria were used to choose for investigation six priority projects in New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia andto exclude all projects in Queensland and Western Australia?
– The answer to the above questions is:
The basis on which projects were selected for closer study at this stage was set out in my statement to the House on 16th May last.
Natural Gas (Question No. 433)
MrHayden asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
At which centres has natural gas been discovered in commercial quantities?
What steps have been taken to distribute that gas commercially?
When was the distribution commenced or when will it commence?
To which centres will it be distributed, and what will be the charge at the distribution point tothe consumer taking delivery?
In each case what is the expected volume of annual supply?
In each case what royalty rate will be paid to (a) the Federal Government and (b) the State Government concerned?
– The answers to the honourable members questions are as follows:
Until arrangements for the supply and sale of gas to a market have actually been effected the question of whether a discovery of gas is in commercial quantities must often be a matter of opinion. The locations in relation to which such arrangements have been made and the commercial character of the deposits thus clearly established, are:
In answers which follow (a) (b) and (c) refer to the above centres respectively.
Contracts have been let for the construction of trunk pipelines as follows:
Announcements have been made that distribution will commence:
The centres to which it will be distributed are:
The charges to the consumer at these points have not been announced.
The expected volume of annual supply in the fifth year after commencement of distribution is:
The royalty rates to be paid as a percentage of wellhead values are:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable members questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680910_reps_26_hor60/>.