26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W.J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr FAIRBAIRN presented a petition from the Council of the City of Wagga Wagga showing:
The petitioner prays that the House will ensure that the Government will:
Petition received and read.
Mr HOWSON presented a petition from certain citizens of the State of Victoria showing:
The petitioners pray that the House will do everything in its power to ensure that:
Petition received and read.
Mr JESS presented a petition from certain residents of Victoria showing that they, along with thousands of other Australians, are deeply concerned at the unchecked, cruel, slaughter of our defenceless creatures of the bush, to the point where they face extinction. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation report, Wild-life Division, has been presented to Parliament and the alarming fact made known of the danger that exists for our unique, inoffensive fauna. But still the slaughter continues, even with the so-called protection laws, as there are nowhere enough wardens to see they are properly enforced. Though our kangaroo is declared protected here in Victoria it is being slaughtered in the other States to provide Victoria with supplies of pet food - 2 million wiped out yearly, 5 million in Queensland in 6 years. We, the electors of Victoria will not stand silently by and see these ignorant, greedy killers exterminate our unique, utterly defenceless kangaroo and all the inoffensive creatures of the bush who are the target of any callous crank with a gun and of spotlight shooters dazzling these helpless, docile. native animals to exterminate them completely without feeling that these graceful creatures are our national emblem and cannot be found anywhere else on earth. In fair climatic conditions the kangaroo can produce only 3 young in 4 years. It prefers different herbs and grasses to sheep and does not damage pastures permanently. It does not roam the land in millions. Its flesh is not safe to feed to pets or humans because of the danger of salmonella.
The petitioners pray that as only Government legislation can save them now, the Federal Government shall immediately ban the slaughter and export of kangaroo meat and fur products and, as a matter of urgency, set up a Commonwealth body to completely and thoroughly protect and conserve our unique defenceless fauna in every State, with enough wardens to see this thoroughly enforced, before one of the most wonderful animals on earth suffers the same shameful fate of so many other species.
Petition received. i Kangaroos
Mr HUGHES presented a petition from certain residents of New South Wales showing that the red kangaroo, Australia’s bestknown tourist attraction and international trade-mark of Australian products, has been reduced so low in numbers by shooting for commerce that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has had to refrain from killing samples for scientific examination and if shooting for commerce is allowed to continue, this the largest marsupial in existence, will be wiped from the face of the earth. The State of New South Wales has insufficient fauna wardens to effectively enforce legislation designed to protect kangaroos in particular and other native fauna in general - instances of kangaroos being wiped out in sanctuaries have been recorded. Often the decision to wipe out kangaroos in a particular area is left to the discretion of persons untrained in kangaroo ecology and in many instances to persons prejudiced to herbivorous native fauna in the countryside.
The petitioners pray that the House will ban the shooting of kangaroos for commercial purposes; ban the export of products made from kangaroos; establish a Commonwealth Government body to co-ordinate, establish and administer laws concerning the protection, and when necessary destruction, of native fauna by persons educated for that role, on a national basis.
Mr HOWSON presented a petition from certain residents of Toorak, South Yarra and Prahran, Victoria, showing that the red kangaroo, largest living marsupial, unique to this country, has been permitted to be slaughtered for commerce to the stage where now, if shooting is not stopped, it faces the threat of becoming extinct. No State has sufficient fauna wardens to carry out any legislation regarding conservation, particularly of kangaroos which inhabit outback regions. Consequently, conservation and des.struction of native fauna are often left to the discretion of persons uneducated for that role. Commerce, the incentive for shooting, has encouraged the violation of boundaries of reserves with the resultant wiping out of kangaroos in those areas. The ‘myth’ that the kangaroo is a pest has, mainly through research carried out by the- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, been scientifically disproved. Signatories on this petition who raise sheep or cattle have proved themselves that kangaroos are not harmful on their properties and in fact, lend an aura to make the land ‘real Australia’.
The petitioners pray that the House will ban the shooting of kangaroos for commercial purposes; ban the export of products made from kangaroos; establish a Commonwealth Government body to co-ordinate, establish and administer laws concerning the protection and when necessary, destruction of Australia’s native fauna by persons educated for that role on a national basis.
– Does the Minister for National Development recall promising in 1967 to establish a national, water resources development programme? Has he since that date received submissions from the State of New South Wales asking that funds be made available for urgently needed water conservation projects in that State? If requests have been received, how much money has been made available to New South Wales for its water resources programme? If funds have not been provided, will the Minister say when it is intended to allow New South Wales to participate in any scheme in operation in Australia?
– Yes, I do recall having made a statement on the setting up of a national water resources development programme under which not less than $50m would be expended in addition to money spent by the States on water development. Already the Commonwealth has made available an amount of $20m to be spent in Queensland and $3.6m to be spent on two projects to reduce salinity in the River Murray. I believe that 1 will be in a position this week to announce a further allocation. The studies have been completed and further decisions will be taken on this matter in the very near future.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has seen a report of a statement made about a week ago by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in which he said that a Labor government would not feel itself bound by treaty obligations entered into by the Gorton Government. Does he consider that this statement might have any damaging effect on our relations with South East Asian countries or with the United States of America?
– I have seen a report along the lines mentioned by the honourable member for Perth. I would like to think that contractual obligations entered into by any Australian government would be honoured in spite of any change of government that might take place in the future. But if by his words the Deputy Leader of the Opposition meant that within the existing provisions of our major treaties he would seek a review or denunciation of these treaties, that is a matter of political and policy difference between the Government and the Opposition. I have no doubt that this will be covered fully in the debate on the Prime Minister’s defence statement. I might add that if this view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition gains currency among the countries with which Australia has friendly relations, this will make it much more difficult for us to see any future stability in our relations with those countries. Indeed, it might have rather serious consequences for the long term security of Australia itself.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. In view of the controversy surrounding the type of operations which are being undertaken at Pine Gap, will he declare an open day for members of this House and scientists interested to inspect the establishment?
– The simple answer is no.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has he seen the statement in today’s Sydney Morning Herald’ that a conference of State Ministers for Labour and for Transport is being convened to meet with him to see what can be done to speed up the processes of the Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration machinery, particularly in relation to the current rail dispute? What does the Minister think will be achieved by such a meeting?
– I did see this statement in the middle of the front page of a newspaper. This is the only news that I have had concerning a conference. It seems that perhaps the news has beaten the event. The position is that industrial relations in the States that have been concerned - New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - are a matter between the workers, the governments and the Railway Commissioners in those States. The Commonwealth Railways are not a party to the current dispute. This is a matter of concern to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission insofar as the railwaymen come under Federal awards in those three States. Com* missioner Neil of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, who is handling this dispute, has acted with commendable alacrity. He has taken the initiative on a number of occasions to bring the parties together. The dispute is already subject to bans clauses and court orders. As far as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is concerned, it could not have acted mors swiftly.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Does the right honourable gentleman still think it important to establish the Australian industry development corporation which he outlined to the Holt Cabinet first in July 1966 and again in March and September 1967 and which he envisaged as securing Australian ownership in ventures associated with the development of our natural resoures? Early last year he told me that the present Prime Minister had agreed that the proposal should be discussed by his Cabinet at an appropriate time. I ask the right honourable gentleman: Has the proposal yet been discussed in the present Cabinet and if so with what result? If not, when does he expect that it will be discussed in Cabinet?
– I hold the view, as I always have done, that it is desirable that there should be maximum ownership by Australia of industrial undertakings in this country. I have always held the view that it is also desirable that industrial undertakings should be brought to Australia from foreign countries when there is a need for the capital involved in the establishment of those undertakings, a need for special know-how that can be found only in other countries, or a need for the overseas market connections which on occasions can be found only through existing overseas commercial or manufacturing undertakings. This is consistent with the policy of the Government which the Prime Minister has referred to. The best means of achieving this progressively is a matter which is always under the consideration of the Government.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. I preface it by reminding him of a statement he was reported to have made to the conference of Young Liberals in Canberra last week. After speaking in glowing terms of Australia’s future he said: Within 13 years our standards of living and our gross national product will have doubled.’ Can the Treasurer explain to the House what is meant by the statement that our living standards will double? Does this statement of the Treasurer imply that he expects that our costs will double with the increased standard of living? What action does he expect to take to protect our export primary industries, which are having great difficulty in competing, price-wise, with other countries today?
– The honourable gentleman inivtes me to make a speech on what is an extremely difficult problem. First of all, I should say to him that what 1 did say to the Young Liberals was that over the course of the next 13 years our gross national product, in real terms, will, if our present rate of progress continues, in fact double. That was the statement that I made. I cannot see - and I say this with very great respect to the honourable member - a direct connection between that statement, which is based upon fact and a projection of trends in the Australian economy, and the subsequent part of the question that he put to me.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to his statement last night that for the purposes of defence Asia and Singapore were indivisible. What are the formal treaty arrangements for defence between Malaysia and Singapore? When were these treaty arrangements entered into?
– To make a small correction to the question asked, I did not say Asia and Singapore’, but ‘Malaysia and Singapore’ when I referred to indivisibility. I would like to have that on the record. I arn not quite sure what the object of the question is. If it is desired to elicit information as to the terms on which Australian troops are in the area, the answer is that they are there because of the BritishMalayan defence association, with which our troops are associated, or under which we are there. If, on the other hand, it is desired to elicit information as to why one says it has been accepted on all sides that the defence of the peninsula is indivisible, then the answer is that it has been accepted by the Malaysian and Singaporean Governments that the defence of the peninsula and of Singapore is to be regarded as indivisible. I know of no specific treaty between the two governments. Indeed, our forces are not there now, nor, as I indicated last night, will we seek in the future that they be under specific written treaties. The two Governments concerned have regarded, and stated that they have regarded, the defence of Malaysia and Singapore as indivisible.
– I address my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the recent crash in Victoria of the Southern Aurora which, it has been stated, might have been prevented had the engine been fitted with some sort of automatic stopping device designed to operate should the driver collapse or die, can the Minister inform the House whether such devices are at present installed in trains under the control of the Commonwealth Railways and, if this is not the case, whether it is practicable to have such devices installed?
– 1 have been informed that all mainline locomotives operated by the Commonwealth Railways have some type of safety device which is intended to halt a locomotive in the event of an unfortunate occurrence such as that which happened to the Southern Aurora. I understand that the effectiveness of the device depends to some extent on the pace at which the locomotive is travelling at the time the accident occurs. Consequently there is always a feeling of uncertainty in trying to ensure that there should be adequate insurance against the type of calamity which happened to the Southern Aurora. The people who use the railway systems in Australia should be aware that every effort is taken to ensure that there is not an accident of this nature. In fact, safety consciousness is necessarily built into the operation of our railway systems, and consequently there is every reason to believe that this-
-Order! Would the Minister mind addressing himself to both sides of the chamber?
– I would be delighted to address you, Mr Speaker.
– Honourable members on the other side of the chamber are finding it difficult to hear the Minister.
– I shall certainly address you, Mr Speaker, as I believe i should. I would only add that on all railway systems it is a matter of continuing concern that every possible safety device be built into the operation of locomotives so that accidents like that which occurred with the Southern Aurora should not again occur.
– I address to the Minister for External Affairs a question which arises from the Prime Minister’s statement that Australian troops will be stationed in the Malaya-Singapore area under existing arrangements, the terms of which are governed by our association with the AngloMalayan defence agreement. I ask the honourable gentleman what are the terms or what is the form of Singapore’s association with the Anglo-Malayan defence agreement.
– f rise to a point of order. Standing Order 144 provides that questions cannot be asked in relation to matters standing on the notice paper for debate.
– Order! A member is entitled to seek information from a Minister in relation to a forthcoming debate. The question is in order.
– The agreement between Great Britain and Malaya was undertaken at a time before Singapore became independent and, of course, before it was separated from the Federation of Malaysia. Prior to Singapore’s separation the Australian Government was associated in a defence arrangement with the British Government and the Malaysian Government. After the separation of the two States the agreement was extended to cover both Singapore and Malaysia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Has Australia made any arrangement for an exchange of diplomatic representatives between this country and the new island republic of Nauru?
– At the time of discussions preceding Nauru’s independence the Government of Nauru expressed a desire that there should be continued Australian representation in Nauru and that Nauru should have representation in Australia. Since Nauru’s independence became operative in January 1968 there has been an Australian representative in Nauru and a Nauruan representative in Australia who is stationed in Melbourne.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that food produc-tion in the laboratory rather than on the land is on the way to becoming a serious threat to sections of our primary producers? Does the Minister know that in America already huge quantities of synthetic milk, which is indistinguishable from cow’s milk, and synthetic steak are being sold to the public? Is he aware that synthetic milk factories are to. be set up in Australia in the near future? Can the Government legislate against this future threat to Australia’s economy, and possibly to the tummies of the Australian people?
– I am aware of the threat posed by synthetic dairy products. I am sure that the industry, too, is conscious of this threat. The Commonwealth has no power under the Constitution to control the production of synthetic products or, for that matter, any type of product. This is a matter falling within the jurisdiction of the States. State governments have been concerned about the infiltration of synthetic dairy products. In the case of margarine, restrictions are imposed on its production. A few years ago a threat was posed by the advent of filled milk and the possibility of its being produced in Australia. The States again took action to restrict the production of filled milk. The production of synthetic milk is being examined by the States. I expect that synthetic milk will be the subject of discussion by the Australian Agricultural Council when it meets in Hobart in about 3 weeks time.
– The Minister for Defence recently indicated that the Government proposed to release about 33 acres of land at South Head in Sydney, held for defence purposes. While the statement referred to the release being for public recreation it did not identify the authority to whom the land would be released or specify limitations that would be placed on its development. Will the Minister give an assurance that this beautiful and very valuable area will not be permitted to be used for residential, commercial or industrial development by private or public authorities?
– For some considerable time the Department of Defence, in association with my colleague the Minister for the Interior, has been giving consideration to the areas of land held for defence purposes in and around Sydney, particularly those associated with the foreshores of Sydney Harbour. As a result of this study we find ourselves able to relinquish, in time, about 33 acres of land at South Head. The relinquishment of this land will necessitate the demolition of some sub-standard buildings, which have been classified as temporary since the last war. I am sure that their demolition will be welcomed by many people. They are mainly at the Gap end of the area. At the same time we will be able to release an access road to the tip of South Head, thus providing public access to the area. This access will be denied only on those occasions when mortar firing is being carried out for naval purposes. The land will be released by arrangement with and to the State Government. Whether the land will ultimately fall under the control of local government or the State Government for incorporation in a scheme which I understand the State Government has in mind for a Sydney Harbour national park I do not know, but the release of the land will be conditional on its being used only for recreational purposes. The Commonwealth will retain the right of resumption of the area in the event of a defence necessity arising. I might also mention that in recent times we have been able to release to the New South Wales Government a number of parcels of waterfront land. In all about 175 acres were released recently for something more than $500,000 but where this land was in areas which may need to be resumed by the Commonwealth in time of defence emergency its release was so conditioned. We are continuing to study the practicability of releasing further areas. I do not have the slightest doubt that in the course of time we will be able to provide additional land for recreational purposes around the foreshores of Sydney Harbour.
– Has the Minister for Defence noted the continual reports that the American installation at Pine Gap near Alice Springs is costing up to $225m? Is he aware of the apparently competent scientific view that this installation is for the direction of American fractional orbital ballistic missiles in the event of an attack on China and for the detection of such missiles which may be aimed at the United States? If this is so, does it not mean that Pine Gap would be a primary target in the event of nuclear war? Finally, have any so called D notices been issued to the Press prohibiting publicity on this matter?
– I will deal first with the last part of the honourable member’s question. No D notice has been issued on the installation at Pine Gap. I have noted the continual guesses as to the functions of the station and as to the possible cost of the installation. 1 can only tell the honourable member in the first place that one must suffer a considerable amount of frustration at the inability to have a direct answer to this question accepted and yet find that all the wild guesses in the community are accepted as fact, particularly those made by members of the Press. The fact is that it cost something like $13m for the physical facilities at the Pine Gap installation. Of this amount $2m would have been contributed by Australia. The station is a space research facility operated jointly by the United States of America and Australia, although America is by far the bigger partner. The cost of the installation and the scientific equipment for the research programmes that will be conducted is unknown, but $200m is a sheer flight of fancy. I have noted of course the guesses as to the function of the station but as I have pointed out to the House before and I can only repeat now, the function of the station is to carry out pure research into those aspects of space phenomena which may have a bearing on the defence of this country and perhaps of the free world. If the Government were to disclose any more than that, it would clearly be indicating a direction of investigation which could be of assistance to this country’s potential enemies. For that reason the project is covered by security, and no further information will be given.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Will the Minister confirm that an announcement can be expected later this week of the Government’s intention to make or not to make a grant towards the construction of the Copeton Dam on the Gywdir River in New South Wales-? Has the delay in making this announcement been caused by the preparation of a benefit cost survey? Does the Minister consider that elaborate benefit cost surveys offer the best means of assessing the value of dams for irrigation, bearing in mind the infinite number of variables associated with primary production in general and irrigation farming in particular?
– I am afraid that it will not be possible to make an immediate decision on the dam to which the honourable member refers, but I hope that the matter will be considered very soon. I have been informed by the inter-departmental committee that has been working on this matter that it has completed its study. The matter will be considered by the Government when it is able to do so. There has been a considerable problem in the national water resources development programme. Because it is a national programme the whole idea is that we should not simply divide the money between the various States but donate it to the project or projects which we believe will have the greatest result in improving agricultural production in Australia. Cost benefit analyses usually are used as a means of comparing various projects. They are not really accurate. On the other hand, much depends on the analyses and on the facts and figures that are put into them. Nevertheless, they are probably the most accurate way of deciding whether a project is viable, but in the Australian Water Resources Council we have had some concern about some of the factors that are used. We believe, for example, that insufficient consideration is given to secondary benefits of water development projects. We are looking at this and trying to get information from other countries throughout the world to see what cost benefit studies they carry out and what results they get from them. I conclude by saying that I hope that it will be possible for the Government to make further decisions on this programme very shortly.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question which is supplementary to the question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Stirling. Is the Hong Kong influenza vaccine being produced in Australia in sufficient quantity to meet any threat of a major epidemic occurring in this coming winter? Was any Australian made vaccine exported to the United States of America to assist in filling the requirements of that country during the recent epidemic? Finally, when does the Minister propose to make the vaccine available in sufficient quantity to the Australian public?
– The vaccine is produced by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. As far as I know, the Laboratories have made none of it available to the United States. They did make a certain quantity available to the United Kingdom earlier this year or at the end of last year to meet an expected epidemic in that country which in fact did not occur. As to the quantities available to meet any outbreak which may occur in Australia, the Laboratories are producing the vaccine at their full capacity now and they confidently expect that sufficient quantities will be available to meet the demand which would result from an epidemic. As regards the last part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman, as I said to the honourable member for Stirling yesterday, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will be meeting on Friday and it will have this matter under consideration. When the Committee makes a recommendation to me I will consider what we will do as regards making the vaccine a pharmaceutical benefit.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Are the reports true that both the Leader of the Opposition and himself have agreed that one man one vote is not suitable in the case of the plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the West Irian people, and that the Indonesian Government’s proposals to do so through chiefs, headmen, etc, are the best means under existing circumstances? If so, why, as Minister for External Affairs, is he supporting the United Kingdom Government’s policy vis-a-vis Rhodesia, where there is a similar age-old custom of consultation and consensus through tribal chiefs of both the Matabele and M’shona African tribes? Finally, if, as reported, the United Nations has agreed to the Indonesian proposals for West Irian, will the Minister instruct our representative at the United Nations to table a motion that sanctions against Rhodesia should no longer be sustained?
– The honourable gentleman is seeking to see likenesses in two widely dissimilar problems. In relation to West Irian, this Government has not expressed either favour or disfavour with any suggested method of ascertainment of the wishes of the people of West Irian.
– Nor have I.
– I cannot answer for the Leader of the Opposition. The responsibility for ascertaining the wishes of the people of West Irian rests on the 1962 treaty between Indonesia and the Netherlands, whereby Indonesia undertook to ascertain the wishes of the people and to co-operate with the representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. There was an obligation on Indonesia to conduct an act of self-determination. No method was laid down in the agreement. As far as I am aware, no method has been firmly announced by the Indonesian Government. In relation to Rhodesia, there was a unilateral declaration of independence by a group of people in a country over which Australia has always recognised that Great Britain has had jurisdiction. There is the great difference. Under those circumstances the Government does not propose to issue any instructions to its representative at the United Nations as suggested by the honourable member.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. In the event of the Queensland Government proceeding with its intention to issue permits to drill’ for oil in offshore areas, including the Great Barrier Reef, will the Minister give an unqualified assurance that the Commonwealth Government will refuse to ratify any permit which allows foreign or other companies to drill for oil in areas contiguous to the Great Barrier Reef, in the light of expert opinion now available to the effect that there is no such thing as a safe oil well, the experience of the ruptured gas well’ in Bass Strait and the devastation to marine life caused by the blow-out of the ruptured oil well off the Californian coast?
– I understand that the Queensland and Federal governments are examining the two recent incidents very closely. The Queensland Government has already announced that it will send a senior geologist to California to have a look at the problem. The Department of National Development will also have a senior officer in the area fairly shortly and he will have discussions on what occurred and what damage was caused there. Insofar as the blow-out of the gas well in Bass Strait is concerned, I understand that an investigation is being carried out at the present time by the company involved and by the administrator, who in this case is the Designated Authority of the Victorian Government. It is hoped that when a report is prepared more will be known of the cause of the incident, which, fortunately, did not appear to cause a great amount of damage. But the broader problem of the search for oil in Queensland is a matter for consideration between the State and Federal governments.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has his attention been drawn to a statement by Mr L. M. Ridd, a member of the Grain Elevators Board, to the effect that anyone knowing the difficulties of borrowing with Loan Council approval will understand what that authority is up against? Has there been any undue delay in this instance?
– I had read the statement to which the honourable member refers so there was no need for anyone to draw my attention to it. I understood that Mr Ridd said that it was the intention of the Grain Elevators Board to refer the matter to the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture and that he went on to say that those who had any knowledge of the workings of the Loan Council would know how difficult it was to obtain money. 1 do not know whether action has been taken so far to refer the matter to the Minister for Agriculture. Certainly no action has been taken - and it may not be necessary for action to be taken - to refer the matter to the Commonwealth Government. In regard to loans for semi-government authorities being raised under the authority of the Loan Council, I am not sure whether the Grain Elevators Board comes into this category, although I think it does. That being so, I assure the House that most if not all the semi-government loans that have been sought have in fact been raised and that the amount of money raised this year for semi-government authorities is considerably in excess of that raised last year.
– I ask the Treasurer: Does he recall that on 26th November 1965 his distinguished predecessor as Treasurer gave me an assurance that when the Government’s mind had been more clearly formed on the details of proposed stamp duty legislation for the Australian Capital Territory he would either give some public indication of it or would give some appropriate representative body from the Territory an opportunity to put its views? Can the Treasurer say whether legislation is being drafted for the imposition of stamp duty in the Australian Capital Territory? If so, will he honour the assurance given by the late Mr Harold Holt and allow representatives of the people of the Territory an opportunity to see the legislation in draft form and to discuss it with him? I ask this question particularly because the Treasurer himself as recently as 14th August last year said that he was having more trouble about this measure than he had anticipated.
– I remember the statement by the former Treasurer that he would give a suitable opportunity to representatives of the Australian Capital Territory to present their views when the Government had a Bill or the elements of a Bil] completed. My colleague, the Minister for the Interior, also has drawn my attention to the statement made by the former Treasurer and has asked that as soon as the Bill is completed I let him have the details so that he can discuss the Bill with the Australian Capital Territory authorities that he regards as most appropriate. As far as I am aware the Bill has not been completed, but it is al the stage when I hope completion will occur within a few days or a few weeks. As soon as this happens the elements will be presented to the Minister for the Interior who, I am certain, will carry out the undertaking given by Mr Holt.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. Will the construction of Dartmouth Dam in lieu of Chowilla Dam ensure a larger quantity of water being available to New South Wales irrigators in the Murray Valley? If this is so, when can detailed information regarding any increased availability of water be made known?
– Studies carried out by the technical committee of the River Murray Commission and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority show that if a dam were built at the site known as Dartmouth the additional regulated water that would be available in the River Murray would bc t.l million acre feet per annum. We have bad some initial discussions and the Commission has decided unanimously to recommend that a dam be built at the Dartmouth site and that it have a capacity of 3 million acre feet and a height of about 600 feet. We have had initial discussions about how the additional water should be subdivided between the three States. What is apparent, of course, is that each State can expect to receive quite considerable additional quantities of water if and when this dam is built. Unfortunately we have not yet come to a final decision on the division of this water although I believe we are close to resolving the problem. Some additional technical studies need to be undertaken but I think that fairly shortly some agreement may be made that will enable this great work to proceed. It should be remembered also that with the opening of the new pumps at Jindabyne recently considerably more water will be diverted into the Murray. This will mean that an additional 500,000 acre feet per annum will be diverted from the Snowy River and Lake Jindabyne into the Murray.
– The Attorney-General will be aware that oil and gas have been dicovered in the Gulf of Papua. In accordance with international law, where is this field situated? Is it on the Australian or the Papuan continental shelf? What equity has Australia or Papua in this field? Should there be no equity, what does the Attorney-General recommend so that equity may be gained?
– 1 understand that gas has been discovered in the Gulf of Papua in two of three wells drilled in this particular area. The area was one granted by the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in 1963, before the joint off-shore oil legislation was passed. When that legislation was passed a line was drawn between Queensland and Papua and New Guinea broadly, although not precisely, on a median between them, and this particular area would fall on the Papuan side of that line. This would be in accordance with international law. Regarding the question of equity in the field, this is an awkward phrase in relation to an area where there is some doubt as to where ownership lies. I think it is fair to say that under the joint off-shore petroleum legislation sovereign rights in relation to petroleum would be exercised by the Designated Authority of the Territory, who is the Minister for External Territories. Under the legislation, the grant has been confirmed. If it terminated by effluxion of time or breach of condition, all rights would revert to the Designated Authority of the Territory. The only other comment I would make relates to the question of royalties if this field proved to be a commercial proposition. Royalties derived from operations off the shores of the States are divided between the States and the Commonwealth, the State receiving 60% and the Commonwealth 40%. In this instance, 100% of the royalties would go to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– I address my question to the Minister for Education and Science. He will be aware of the very high cost of shearing to the wool industry. Can he say whether recent experiments in so-called chemical shearing reported from the United
States of America- I believe that similar investigations are being made in this country - offer any prospects of reducing costs to the producer?
-The Division of Animal Physiology in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been keeping in touch with experiments overseas and has been doing some work on its own account with so-called chemical shearing. The Division emphasises that the work is highly experimental and is being conducted on a sheep to sheep basis. The Division has considerable reservations about the suitability of this method for the large flocks of sheep that are normally found in the Australian industry. As the honourable member would know, the drug interrupts the cell growth causing constriction of the fibre and as this grows through the skin it becomes possible to pull the wool off without using the traditional skills of the shearer. However, there is not a great deal of knowledge of the possible side effects of the drug. It may weaken the resistance of the sheep to disease and to stress and, of course, there is a wool loss depending upon the length of time during which the drug is affecting the cell growth of the fibre.
If this method were to be used instead of traditional shearing, the sheep would have to be handled at least twice, once to administer the drug and once, probably up to a week later, when the sheep were ready to have the wool taken off. But it would be unlikely that the whole mob would be ready at the one time. This would cause considerable difficulty. The mob would have to be watched and when the sheep were nearly ready to have the wool taken off they would be handled constantly for a day or so. There are other difficulties. In a commercial operation the producer would probably want to standardise the dose. Sheep are very sensitive to changes in the dose of the chemical that is used. The dose that may not be large enough for a well grown and good conditioned sheep may be large enough to be toxic to sheep in poor condition or smaller in size. CSIRO is following these experiments, but as I have indicated there is no immediate prospect of a transformation of shearing methods in the wool industry in the short term.
– by leave - I wish to announce details of the Commonwealth’s offer to State governments directed to the development of a comprehensive programme for the care of the aged, particularly the frail aged, in their own homes. This home care programme will comprise a most important part of the comprehensive health and social welfare scheme that the Commonwealth is developing to assist the needy in our community.
The overall welfare programme towards which the Government is working, has stemmed from the Government’s belief, as expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), that :no nation can be great unless it seeks not only materially to progress but also to take care of the weaker within it, the aged within it and the ill within it’. In bringing such a welfare programme into effect we have been seeking to identify those who are most in need so that we can provide them with the extra help they may require whether by way of direct financial’ assistance or by way of services.
The Government’s welfare programme was referred to by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) when introducing the Budget for this financial year. He referred to the fact that the Government is prepared to go beyond established fields of welfare assistance to areas where facilities are not at present available or are inadequate. Mention was made of the need to develop home care and related services, particularly but not exclusively for aged persons, and to discussions with the States that were to be held with the aim of working out a comprehensive and co-ordinated programme of home care.
The Commonwealth-State discussions towards achieving the joint programme of home care have been successful and general agreement has been reached on the desirable components of a home care programme for each State of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government has now endorsed a programme submitted jointly by the States and the Prime Minister has made a formal offer of financial assistance to enable this programme to be achieved. The acceptance of the Commonwealth’s offer by the States is confidently anticipated.
The Government recognises the respective constitutional responsibilities that exist between the Commonwealth and the States but has not permitted these differences to inhibit the development of a mutually agreed programme. The Prime Minister’s offer is based on proposal’s put forward by the States themselves - proposals which include the essential ingredients for a comprehensive and effective programme for the care of the aged, including the sick aged, in their , own homes or, where necessary, in nursing homes. Some differences of approach do exist between States and between the States and the Commonwealth but these differences concern matters of detail and will not prevent progress towards achieving our aims.
The general approach contemplated by the Commonwealth in its offer to the States envisages Commonwealth expenditure of $1,250,000 a year on a matching dollar for dollar basis in relation to the home care programme. In addition to the assistance it is offering towards the home care programme, the Commonwealth is prepared to make available $5m over the next 5 years, on a matching basis, towards the capital cost of providing State nursing homes for the care of the frail aged with little means. Apart from home nursing services which the Commonwealth already subsidises, the major components of the home care programme are housekeeping and home help services, senior citizens centres and paramedical services.
To assist the development of housekeeper and home help services the Commonwealth is offering $500,000 a year on a $1 for $1 matching basis with State expenditure, the total sum to be allocated between the States broadly in proportion to their populations. The existing Commonwealth payments to the States for housekeeper services will be absorbed in the proposed new grant.
The next component of the programme and one which the Government views as very important is the development of senior citizen centres. Senior citizen centres are regarded as central points in the community to which aged persons can turn not only for activities to relieve their loneliness and for services such as meals, laundry and chiropody but also as a centre for the coordination and in some cases the provision of a variety of domiciliary and other supportive services.
The Commonwealth considers it essential that welfare officers be employed at senior citizen centres to ensure the development, co-ordination and continuing provision of the most appropriate welfare services to meet the needs of the aged in the areas served by the centres. I do not wish to imply that the centres will directly provide all services. On the contrary these may be provided by a variety of organisations, the stimulation and co-ordination of which will be a major part of the welfare officer’s activities.
To assist meet the the costs of development and maintenance of senior citizen centres, the Commonwealth has offered to the States $500,000 a year. Firstly, this grant will be available towards approved capital expenditure on senior citizen centres, the apportionment of the cost to be on the basis of one-third Commonwealth, one-third State and one-third local authority and/or community effort. Secondly, for approved centres, assistance will be available to meet half the salary of the welfare officer who will be a qualified social worker or a person with equivalent qualifications or experience. Welfare officers will supervise the centres and their activities and will be key personnel in the overall organisation of the home care programme. Whilst the Commonwealth views the meals on wheels service as important in the home care programme, it is not offering a separate subsidy for this service. However, senior citizen centres will be expected to aid the development and operation of meals on wheels services, and expenditure on equipment for such services may be included in the subsidy.
In regard to paramedical services provided to aged persons in their own homes, the Commonwealth is prepared to assist the States by up to $250,000 per annum on a $1 for $1 basis, allocated broadly in proportion to State populations. The paramedical services will include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, chiropody and the associated social work services. I have already mentioned that tha Commonwealth Government subsidises home nursing. In fact it is providing assistance of $885,000 in the current financial year.
The Government recognises the importance of community participation in the proposed home care programme, and therefore wants to see the State Governments play their rightful part, the municipalities play theirs and, perhaps most importantly of all, the voluntary agencies and groups bring their enthusiasm and experience into the programme.
Institutional accommodation and treatment for the sick aged is also an important element in any complete plan. Therefore, as part of the overall programme for the care of the aged the Commonwealth is prepared to contribute up to $5m over the next 5 years on a $1 for Si basis towards the provision of more State nursing home beds. This offer is made on the conditions that the additional beds so provided will be used only for the sick aged of little means in genuine need of nursing home care and that the States help significantly with the problem of ensuring that nursing home beds in State and other institutions are allocated to the best advantage.
I present the following paper:
Home Care Programme for the Aged - Ministerial Statement, 26th February 1969. and move:
Thai the House take note of the paper.
– I understand the Minister has given an assurance that if the debate is adjourned it will be resumed very shortly.
– What does ‘very shortly’ mean?
– Before we rise at the end of next week.
– We will bring it on next week.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and that in his place the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) be appointed a member of the Committee.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) proposing that a matter of definite public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The system of patronage in Ministerial appointments which the Prime Minister has practised contrary to the national interest.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– In the past year there have been significant ministerial changes involving eleven members of the Liberal Party. A clear pattern of promotion and demotion has now emerged. The key to the pattern is the desire of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to settle all the scores involved in the struggle to attain and maintain leadership of the Liberal Party. Two Ministers have been dropped. One has been removed from Parliament. Another Minister has been stripped of a position of great prestige and influence. Two Ministers have been promoted to the Cabinet. Five members have become Ministers.
To understand what has happened in the struggle in the past year it is necessary to understand what was happening in the few weeks preceding the creation of the Ministry. We are all better able and equipped to do this now there is a book on the subject. The author is none other than the ‘Daily Telegraph’ correspondent in Canberra. The book has been wholly set up and printed in Australia by Conpress Printing Ltd, Sydney, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian Consolidated Press Ltd. An impeccable parentage. This is Mr Reid’s second essay into extended and intensive authorship. His other work was a political novel about the Australian Labor Party. It was ever thus: Facts about the Liberal Party, fiction about the Labor Party.
I will give honourable members opposite one hint drawn from our experience. There is something in Mr Reid’s character or technique which impels him to identify wilh the dissidents, the disaffected. In this book he identifies almost completely with the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). In the light of revelations the Treasurer has made to Mr Reid, what do we find? The very first paragraph in the book deals with a meeting in the Government Whip’s room less than 24 hours after the disappearance of the late Prime Minister - even before he was officially presumed dead. The purpose of the meeting was, according to the book, To make Senator Gorton Prime Minister’. Those attending were Mr Malcolm Fraser, who was then Minister for the Army, Mr Erwin, the Government Whip in this House, and Senator Scott, the Government Whip in another place. In the first Gorton Ministry the Minister was promoted to the Cabinet and Senator Scott was one of the two senators brought into the Ministry. On 11th February this year the Government Whip in this House became Minister for Air. The Deputy Whip was not promoted to take his place. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has suffered the same fate that his predecessor as Deputy Whip of the Liberal Party, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) suffered. Both have made statements outside this House on these promotions and on their own lack of promotion. I do not know whether they have made them in their party rooms or will do so in the Parliament.
The other senator who became a Minister was Senator Wright. Of him Mr Reid writes:
Senator Gorton expected a bloc vote for himself from Tasmania, where his co-senator, Senator Reg Wright, who had an obsession about the importance of the Senate and wanted to see it rank in status with the House of Representatives, would be supporting him and prosletysing on his behalf.
There were two new Ministers from this House - the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch). Mr Reid writes:
In Sydney, a group of Liberal parliamentarians met largely at the instigation of William Charles Wentworth, Liberal member for Mackellar and a Gorton supporter. Wentworth, bespectacled, brilliant but erratic …. had languished in the obscurity of the back benches for nearly 20 years. . The value of his support for
Gorton was unpredictable. There was always the danger that his dedication would antagonise as many votes as it would attract because of its intensity.
In the first Ministry two Ministers were dropped - the honourable members for Fawkner (Mr Howson) and Higinbotham (Mr Chipp). They had promoted the candidature of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) for the prime ministership. Together, they had provided two-thirds of his three votes. The wavelength of the era turned out to be only a three-point plug after all. Now the candidate himself has lost the leadership of the House. The man Mr Holt was grooming has been demoted further. The reason given was his onerous duties as Minister for Immigration. The reason was added as an afterthought to the Prime Minister’s announcement on 11th February. Yet the late Prime Minister held the leadership of the House for all1 the years he was Treasurer, and Sir Eric Harrison for the years before that when he was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. The new leader of the House, the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin), is the most junior Minister ever to hold the position.
The changes as announced to the House yesterday constitute the climax of this spoils system. It is no derogation of the office to which he has been appointed or of his motives in accepting it to say that Sir Paul Hasluck was of more value to Australia as Minister for External’ Affairs than as Governor-General. It signifies no support for his policies to say that he was a most distinguished Minister. He tried to bring some coherence to Liberal Party foreign policy. In this he fell foul of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s preference for off the cuff statements was anathema to Sir Paul. Sir Paul saw all his elaborate efforts to make Liberal prejudices presentable being undermined and eroded by the Prime Minister who defeated him for that position. What a precipitous descent from Sir Paul to his successor! Since the establishment of the Department of External Affairs as a distinct department the Ministers in charge have been Sir George Pearce, one time Deputy Prime Minister; Mr W. M. Hughes, a former Prime Minister; Sir Henry Gullett; the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen); Dr Evatt, who had come from the High Court of Australia; Sir Percy Spender, the only Australian to go to the World Court; the present Governor-General, Lord Casey; Sir Robert Menzies; Sir Garfield Barwick, the present
Chief Justice of the High Court; and Sir Paul Hasluck, the new Governor-General. It is the very honour roll of Australian politics.
The new Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) is the most undistinguished man ever to hold this post. Is he, nevertheless, competent to do the job? There are three available measures of this - the opinion held of him by former Prime Ministers, the opinion held of him by his colleagues, and the opinion we all can form of his past performance as it is on record. Sir Robert Menzies and Mr Holt showed their opinions by leaving him in the outer Ministry longer than any of his contemporaries. Seven Ministers were appointed to the Cabinet above him, and nine members of the Cabinet became Ministers after him. His colleagues never once elected him to the Foreign A/fairs Committee - at a time when that was a coalition preserve. Perhaps he never nominated for it.
As to his own performance, it is impossible to find from his speaking record anything other than a perfunctory interest in international affairs. The only speech of any length which I could find in Hansard is his contribution on Vietnam on 5th November test. He was then still denouncing Labour’s proposals for stopping the bombing of North Vietnam and negotiating with the National Liberation Front - 5 days after President Johnson had adopted those policies. His one recorded initiative in international affairs was in tabling the notorious Hong Kong petition, which was the Holt Government’s last desperate effort to raise the Red bogy before the last Senate election. Sir Paul Hasluck resolutely refused to have any part in this disgraceful affair for it concerned a document which the British Government had sent to the Australian Government in confidence and which bore annotations and initials by British officials.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate, the present Prime Minister, told Senator Laught he would endeavour to table the petition. He never did, but when Sir Paul Hasluck went overseas in the following month and Senator Gorton became the Acting Minister for External Affairs, the petition was tabled in this House by the junior Minister who is now the Minister for External Affairs. This was the first of the two occasions on which, through the tabling of documents, the present Prime Minister was a party to undermining and embarrassing his principal colleagues for the sake of personal grandstanding. This cheap stunt which flopped was the first cooperative effort in international affairs between the Prime Minister and the new Minister.
So much for the new Minister’s record. It has been suggested that the Minister should not be prejudged on his record and that he might grow with the job. But external affairs is emphatically not a matter for on-job training. Our very competent Public Service makes most of our very mediocre Ministers look quite presentable at most times. It is only when they act on their own initiative that they blunder. A Minister for External Affairs is very much on his own at the most crucial times. His mistakes are not just his own; they become Australia’s mistakes. Not that the new Minister has shown any great eagerness to begin learning his job or to do it. He did not even attend his first Cabinet meeting last week. He had an engagement in Perth; he had a meeting in his electorate and a passing-out parade.
This may be in line with the suggestion that the Prime Minister intends to be his own Minister for External Affairs. This is quite acceptable in principle. Increasingly a Prime Minister will be de facto his own Minister for External Affairs. But by retaining nominal separation of the two portfolios, the Prime Minister will achieve a most damaging result. The morale and efficiency of the Department of External Affairs can only suffer further erosion. Already the Department of External Affairs is being ground between the upper and nether millstones of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Treasury. If this Department is not to be totally demoralised and destroyed, it needs a strong, able and articulate Minister. It is being consoled by the assurance that the real decisions will be made by the Prime Minister. That is scarcely reassuring, however.
The Prime Minister has made two forays into persona] diplomacy. At the most delicate stage of the secret negotiations about the cessation of bombing and recognition of the NLF, he came back from the theatre in Canberra and held a midnight Press conference, disclosing that he knew all about the negotiations. The play in Canberra on that night was ‘Marriages Are Made in Heaven’. I gather it is some sort of Liberal Party morality play. It had been essential that neither side to the negotiations should be embarrassed by premature disclosures. Except for the desperation of both Washington and Hanoi for a break-through in the Vietnam impasse the Prime Minister’s vanity and maladroitness might well have wrecked these negotiations and the hopes of the world. Then came the withdrawal from Terendak. No explanation can now repair the damage which has been caused by the maladroitness of the Prime Minister’s timing and the manner of his announcement of the withdrawal from Terendak to Singapore. However one looks at it there is no ordinary explanation for this grotesque appointment - not on grounds of merit, experience, performance or promise. We must seek the explanation in the Minister’s personal relationship with the Prime Minister.
He was not an initial supporter of the Prime Minister. By definition he was not among the ranks of the senators or oncers who provided the bulk of the Prime Minister’s support. He rendered a far greater service. He sabotaged the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). The Deputy Prime Minister had brought the bludgeon crushing down: The Minister applied the stiletto. He announced that he approved of the Deputy Prime Minister’s denunciation of the Treasurer ‘ as unfit to be Prime Minister. Even more gratuitously, he let it be known that he for one would not serve under the Treasurer - his own Deputy Leader. He told the Deputy Prime Minister that. It was a crucial defection. He received his reward - entry last year into the cocktail cabinet and into the Cabinet itself this year. The Ministry’s oldest fag is a prefect at last.
It is true that systematic favouritism is inherent in the Liberal Party’s system. Liberal Party members exercise one act of choice over the executive - the election of a leader. Thereafter the Prime Minister can show his strength or weakness by the appointments he makes. The task has never been so important, so delicate and so difficult. It has never been in such fumbling hands. The appointment of the Minister for External Affairs is deplorable. It is deplorable in the man who made it, in the man who accepted it, in the Cabinet which has acceded to it and in the Liberal Party which has acquiesced in it and in the system which allows it. The fundamental problem is the appalling dearth of talent in the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister compounds it by restricting opportunities to a handful alone of his cronies.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– After listening to quotations frombooks and the advertences to newspapers which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) so light-heartedly threw off in the fictional address he has just given to the House we might perhaps look at the terms of the letter written to Mr Speaker seeking this debate. The Opposition states that it wishes to discuss a matter of great public importance, namely the system of patronage in ministerial appointments which the Prime Minister has practised contrary to the national interest. The first feeling which anyone must have at hearing a statement of this kind made by the Leader of the Opposition is one of some astonishment. Here we are in a country which has many matters of significance and importance bearing on the lives of citizens and which the forms of the House could well allow to be discussed as matters of public importance. I think of roads, transport, education and a number of significant matters - even sewerage, from which at times we were not so far distant during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. But no, all of these matters in his judgment and in the judgment of his colleagues are of less public importance than the discussion of appointments of individual Ministers to the Government. If that is the scale of priorities that the Opposition applies to matters of great public importance then Heaven help this country if the Labor Party ever ceases to be an opposition.
One would scarcely bother to talk at any length on a matter of this kind were it not for the imputations cast upon a number of hard working, effective and efficient Ministers here and in another place, because it is claimed that the appointments that have been made have been made contrary to the national interest. If that allegation is to have any validity whatever it must be shown that those who were appointed have acted contrary to the public interest. The argument of the Leader of the Opposition is not only frivolous in the importance which he attaches to these matters but is also completely unscrupulous, because in order to attempt to denigrate me he has not hesitated to cast aspersions in this public forum on so many other Ministers doing their work. He has not hesitated to denigrate them in order to attack me.
Let us consider the Ministers that have been appointed and to whom the Leader of the Opposition has referred. Let us examine their records. Senator Wright was appointed Minister for Works and Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities. He may well have been - indeed he has been - a thorn in the side of the Opposition in the Senate. That is part of his job. He has held his office for a little more than a year and I have not heard one suggestion that he has not performed his duties with effectiveness or efficiently. No motion has been moved against him. There has been no suggestion that he has not carried out his tasks in a way that is conducive to the national interest. Yet he is one of those accused by this all-embracing motion of the Leader of the Opposition. Senator Scott has held his office as Minister for Customs and Excise for rather more than a year, ls it claimed that he has acted in a way contrary to the national interest? If so why was the claim not made during the period that he has held office? Although the accusations of the Leader of the Opposition are not really aimed at Senator Scott, the Leader of the Opposition has no scruple about making this public accusation against the Minister in the highest court of the land, accusing him of acting contrary to the national interest. Mr Wentworth was appointed to the Ministry. I thought his appointment as Minister for Social Services and Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs received a certain amount of approbation and gained support from the Opposition. But no, apparently not. Apparently he has acted not in the public interest. I wonder why none of these men has been attacked and accused by the Opposition if this is what the Opposition really feels about the way in which they have carried out their duties. Mr Lynch will have gained the admiration of members of this House for the way in which he has worked up to and mastered such a difficult portfolio from such a difficult beginning.
Now we come to Mr Freeth who appears to have been the major object of attack by the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Freeth has held ministerial office for 10 years in a number of not insignificant portfolios - Interior and Shipping and Transport amongst others. Not once has a censure motion been moved against him. Not once has he been attacked for the handling of his portfolio in this House during the whole of that time, although there have been some fairly spiteful and petty remarks directed against him by the Leader of the Opposition when, clearly for State interests and House interests, other people were appointed to Cabinet before he was.
– And coalition interests.
– Well, if you like. The awareness of the Leader of the Opposition that Mr Freeth remained outside Cabinet because other pressures necessitated the appointment to Cabinet of other Ministers compounds the spitefulness of the Opposition’s charges against the Minister. Mr Freeth has stood at the top of the list of Ministers outside Cabinet and has never yet been accused of not carrying out his duties properly. He has been understudy to the former Minister for External Affairs for the last year, closely connected with the Department of External Affairs and acting as Minister on each occasion when the former Minister for External Affairs left the country. Was there ever any complaint about him as Acting Minister, any suggestion that he was acting against the national interest? I do not remember it. If there were one, it could not be substantiated, and yet he is claimed to be incompetent and his holding of a portfolio to which he has been an understudy for a year, to a Minister who has just been praised by the Leader of the Opposition, is claimed to be an appointment which is against the national interest when he has been in office for some 3 weeks and when surely no suggestion can properly be made as to his activities in that time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will cease interjecting.
– He is probably a crony. I come to what is perhaps the most petty and spiteful attack of all, and that is the attack on the newly appointed Minister for Air, the suggestion that his appointment is not in the national interest. A new Minister, after 3 weeks of his appointment, was condemned in this place without even giving him a semblance of a go, without even giving him a chance to prove himself and without being able to point to any indication that he is not worthy of his job. Yet the Leader of the Opposition, in the intervals of quoting from other works of fiction, denigrated all these men. Their appointments were said to be such that they were against the national interest, not because the Leader of the Opposition believes it but because he is unscrupulous enough to drag them into such an attack in order to try to denigrate myself. We have in the coalition parties, and always have had, the prerogative of a leader to appoint Ministers. Unless and until some Minister who was appointed can be shown to have acted wrongly and against the national interest, then these kinds of charges are not charges that should be levelled in public in this House and on such complete and utter lack of evidence.
I do not want to take up the time of the House much longer on this which is considered to be, by the Leader of the Opposition, so important, but perhaps since he was good enough, or bad enough, to suggest that the appointments of these men were made because they were my friends, I should say that they are my friends. 1 say that the members of the Cabinet and the Ministry are “my friends. I say that there are many, many people outside the Cabinet and the Ministry who are my friends, and I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition can so clearly say the same.
– In his notorious address last year on the public servant and politics Sir Paul Hasluck pointed to the hazards confronting incoming Ministers. He said:
Some incoming Ministers sometimes have to learn certain values or even certain procedures rather painfully by a repeated process of falling flat on their faces in public places.
Sir Paul went on to say that some Ministers never learn these values and procedures and are doomed to fall flat on their faces throughout their ministerial careers. From the serene detachment of his new post Sir Paul must be savouring these sentiments in the aftermath of his promotion to glory. The simple truth is that the two appointments caused by Sir Paul’s departure have followed his strictures to the letter. In the few weeks since their appointment, both the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) and the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) have fallen flat on their faces. The prospects are dim that these gentlemen have the capabilities to learn the values or procedures emphasised by Sir Paul Hasluck. The chances are that they will fulfil Sir Paul’s prophecy; they will never learn.
The entry of the Minister for External Affairs into international politics was marked by an extraordinary statement about the need for a policeman on the beat in Asia. This was a statement that the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ described as the unhappiest inaugural utterance since Mr Lynch came from a suburban swimming pool last year to be Minister for the Army. Britain has withdrawn from the region, America is still embroiled in Vietnam, and quite obviously the Minister intended that Australia should fill this role. This is the sort of obsolete gunboat thinking about South East Asia which has stained Australia’s defence and foreign policies for far too long. That the new Minister was echoing the thoughts of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was proved by the Prime Minister’s defence statement last night, when he used an irrelevant and obsolete agreement to justify Australia’s continued presence in Malaysia-Singapore.
The Minister for Air fell flat on his face even more painfully in the first flush of his appointment. He made a statement praising the Fill aircraft in fulsome, almost nauseating, terms. It is many months since any Australian Minister has gone to the lengths that the new Minister for Air went to in praising the aircraft. It was the most remarkable statement on the FI 1 1 since the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), in this House, 2 years ago launched into his great flight of rhetoric about ‘Cadillacs of the air’, hungry ‘battle birds’, and the greatest thing on wings since angels’. Before even a cursory look at the FI 1 1 brief the Minister for Air stated:
On everything I know about it 1 think it is a beautiful plane.
He went on to say:
I have not studied the Fill in detail- that will be one of the first things I will do.
Of course he should have studied the plane in detail before saying that on everything he knew about it it was a beautiful plane. A day or so after the Minister made this statement another Fill crashed. So far it has not been found. To add to the Minister’s embarrassment another structural defect was revealed in the plane by fatigue testing. This is the sort of contagious off the top of the head thinking which has plagued the Prime Minister and which has, in turn, infected his cronies. I want to make it plain that I intend no personal deprecation of their characters or their records. I make my criticism purely on their public statements since they were appointed.
I want to speak now about what I regard as an alarming trend in the development of representative government in this country. This is the accumulation of immense personal power, unchecked and uncurbed, in the hands of the Prime Minister. The growth of this personal power has been remarkable in the past year. At the moment the Prime Minister has at his disposal more power than even Sir Robert Menzies had, and Sir Robert Menzies was not known for either diffidence or self-effacement. The present Prime Minister has in his control more power than any Australian wartime Prime Minister had. He certainly has more than John Curtin, the Labor Prime Minister, had during the Second World War. His power has been fostered by the most blatant use of personal patronage that has ever been employed in this country. It has long been a convention of British constitutional government that a Prime Minister can select his own Ministry. The Australian Labor Party has always recognised the folly of this convention and has insisted that the powers of the leaders be subjected to checks and balances. This has meant that Labor governments have been chosen by Labor members of Parliament, lt has prevented the development of any sort of sharing of spoils or patronage in Labor governments.
It should be pointed out that in the past Liberal Prime Ministers have not abused the convention of appointment of Ministers to any degree. Sir Robert Menzies was not above wielding the axe among his junior Ministers, as several backbenchers and even the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) can testify. However, in the main, he used his powers responsibly and certainly senior members of Cabinet were beyond the reproach of his patronage. There are even examples of former political enemies of Sir Robert Menzies gaining high office in his Cabinets. However, since the present Prime Minister gained office there has been a steady erosion and abuse of this restraint in the use of personal power. It is now part of Australian political history that the four allies who helped the Prime Minister win his post were the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcom Fraser), the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) and the new Minister for Air. All have been most handsomely rewarded. It is true that the Minister for External Affairs was a late recruit to the Prime Minister’s camp, but the fervour and dedication of his conversion have won him the preferment which cannot be justified by his ministerial record. Such has been the fate of the Prime Minister’s friends. How have his opponents fared?
Sir Paul Hasluck has been shuffled upstairs only a fortnight before the greatest vindication of his policies - the MalaysiaSingapore commitment announced last night by the Prime Minister. These were vintage Hasluck. Was there ever a more triumphal vindication of a Government discard? Another of the Prime Minister’s opponents, the Minister for Labour and National Service retains his post. He may count himself lucky. The Prime Minister’s third opponent, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) has been unceremoniously bundled out of his position as Leader of this House. It is quite remarkable that the position of Leader of the House which has been held in the past by senior Ministers, including the late Mr Harold Holt and the present Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), has been downgraded to the very bottom of the Ministry. The spurious excuse was given that the Minister for Immigration was too busy with his Department to carry out these duties. One would think it reasonable that the Minister for Air with the FU 1 on his plate would be just as pre-occupied as the Minister for Immigration.
Quite obviously, there are other reasons for the scrapping of a Leader of the House who was both diligent and effective. The reasons for the demise of the Minister of Immigration can be reduced to one word - fear. The Leader of the House has an extremely influential position. He is in daily contact with all members of the Ministry, Government backbenchers and with senior members of the Public Service. This is an immensely powerful springboard for an able and ambitious Minister. The Leader of the House is in a position to know what goes on in Cabinet and how the business of the House is to be organised. Quite clearly, the Prime Minister was alarmed by the Minister for Immigration’s success and rapidly rising star as Leader of the House. So a former rival and potential future rival has been removed from a position which he could have used to challenge the Prime Minister.
There have been repeated stories circulated in the last few weeks that more blood is to be let in the Public Service. It has even been stated that Sir James Plimsoll, the distinguished head of the Department of External Affairs, is earmarked to follow his former Minister into oblivion. There have also been repeated reports that the Chairman of the Public Service Board, Sir Frederick Wheeler, is slotted for replacement. This can only increase unrest and dissatisfaction in the Public Service. So, in summary, this abuse by the Prime Minister of the facilities for personal patronage at his command introduces a new and harmful element to political and administrative processes. Above all, it concentrates immense powers in the hands of the Prime Minister - powers which were never envisaged by the British system of Cabinet Government.
– The motion that is now before the House was intended to be based on two ingredients. The first was a claim of patronage by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton); in other words, an allegation that he favoured those people who had supported him to achieve the position of Leader of the Liberal Party and then to be Prime Minister of this country. The second ingredient was the allegation that past appointments and present appointments were contrary to the interests of this country.
What happened when we listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was typical of the way in which he debates a motion of this kind or, for that matter, any kind of a motion that is before the House. It was mean and mischievous. It was feline and spiteful. He again committed the error that he so frequently commits of never being able to stick to the truth and relying on rumour rather than on accuracy. One had only to look at the expression on his face last night and again today when he was being challenged by the Prime Minister to see clearly how awkward he appeared and how sensitive he was to criticism and the proof of the fact that he had told an untruth and had been found out quickly.
Let me come immediately to this point about the Leader of the Opposition’s lack of capacity to understand what the truth means. I will illustrate it by reference to the fact that he said that there had been a divergence of opinion on foreign policy between the Prime Minister and the former Minister for External Affairs, now Sir Paul Hasluck, and that as a result of this the former Minister for External Affairs had been shuffled upstairs. The simple fact is that I have sat through every meeting of Cabinet during the course of the last 16 months and I have watched the evolution of the policy that was developed last night. Every part of that policy was in fact endorsed by Sir Paul Hasluck and by every other member of the Cabinet. In other words, far from there being a difference of opinion as to the policy that was announced last night, there was complete accord within Cabinet and I believe that every Minister in Cabinet played a part as a member of the team in producing the policy, though not necessarily the statesmanlike words used by the Prime Minister himself.
The Leader of the Opposition then came to the question of the appointment of the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), who was formerly Minister for Air. It was suggested that the present Minister for External Affairs was one of those people who was given the patronage of the Prime Minister. For what reason? Obviously, it was implied by the Leader of the Opposition that some considerable support - unusual or exceptional support - had been given by Mr Freeth to assist Senator
Gorton to become the Prime Minister. The simple fact was that in the election for the leadership of the Liberal Party Mr Freeth supported Sir Paul Hasluck, as he had every right to do. There was no resentment at all by the Prime Minister or by any other person of the support that was given. So far as I know - I am very close to both Mr Freeth and the Prime Minister and extremely close to Mr Freeth - I do not know of any very special relationship that exists between the Prime Minister and him. 1 believe that the Prime Minister treats us all the same. He has very few preferences. He has one or two particular friends, it is true, but very few people are placed in a special position, and Mr Freeth could not be said to be in one.
Again we saw the tendency of the Leader of the Opposition to fail to check the facts when he referred to a statement by Mr Ian Fitchett, which was published in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, that the Minister for External Affairs, Mr Freeth, said that he would not serve under me. The statement is totally untrue and it was not checked by the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Freeth, as late as yesterday, informed me that that was totally untrue. Let me come to the substance of what has happened in this debate. The Leader of the Opposition who is now trying to interject never bothered to check the facts. That giggle will not do him one little bit of good. What happened today? The attack turned upon two men. Some others were mentioned but they were quickly eased into the background and the concentration of the Leader of the Opposition’s spite was on the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs. He mentioned the Prime Minister’s alleged mistake in foreign affairs. Let me remind the House of two remarkable experiences during the course of the last 3 months. The first was the recent trip overseas of the Prime Minister to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference. I wonder whether any of us who have been in this Parliament for years - I have been here for nearly 20 years-
– Too long.
– I said that about the right honourable member for Melbourne 20 years ago, and I think that the Leader of the Opposition would be saying it today, too. Let us look at the achievements of the Prime Minister. I do not remember any person - and that includes my former colleagues - who has come back from overseas with better public relations than the Prime Minister. I do not know of any person who received such favourable publicity when acting in the nation’s cause as the Prime Minister did on that recent trip. From every report that I have received from overseas, he made his mark on the Prime Ministers Conference and on every one of the delegates who were present. If honourable members want other illustrations of his capacity and of the way in which he has handled our foreign affairs in a most statesmanlike way they have only to recall his statement on the floor of this House last night. In a short, able, articulate and masterly speech he stated Australia’s foreign affairs policy. 1 am certain it will have enormous influence on overseas opinion, particularly in the United States and in South East Asia where people are looking for leadership from Australia and are anxious for an indication of the help we are prepared to give.
Having referred to the achievements of the Prime Minister, I wish to now deal wilh the appointment of Mr Freeth as Minister for External Affairs. 1 think I know as much about this Minister as almost any other person in the House. I know that he did not support me at the time of the election for the leadership. However, that is his business and I have no ill feelings about it.
– lt shows his wisdom.
– That may be so. I feel no rancour for the action he took. Let me speak of the man as I know him. I have seen him in action and have been associated with him as a member of the policy group of the Liberal Party, in which he has played a prominent part. He was my representative on the Welfare Committee of Cabinet. He has done a magnificent job trying to co-ordinate the work and has pulled the various strands of welfare and social services together. I know of the work that he did as Minister for Shipping and Transport. I do not think that anyone could have done a better job in those troublesome times when the
Department of Shipping and Transport was in fact re-formed. But let me come closer to external affairs. On at least two occasions he has stood in for and represented the former Minister for External Affairs during his absence overseas.
I speak with a great deal of regret of the fact that he has relinquished the portfolio of Minister Assisting the Treasurer and gone to greener pastures and more important fields. He was associated with me in that portfolio for some considerable time, during which he earned not only the respect but also the affection of every section of the Treasury. Those who work in these sections have expressed to me their regret that he will not be able to help us prepare the current Budget. I assigned duties and responsibilities to my assistant treasurer which were more important than those assigned to any Minister Assisting the Treasurer before. He carried out every one of them with conspicuous ability. Not only did he handle every task in the office with conspicuous ability but he also handled them on the floor of the House with distinction. Now we find that a man who was gradually fitting in to become a technical expert in economics and finance has gone to the portfolio of External Affairs.
Before I came into this House I firmly believed that it was a maxim of the Australian Labor Party that one should not downgrade a man and irresponsibly criticise him until he has had an opportunity to prove himself. Whenever the Minister for External Affairs has been given a chance he has come out of it well. The Australian maxim is: Give him a go. I am sure that when he has had an opportunity he will be just as successful as those five colleagues who were initially appointed to the Ministry by the Prime Minister. They have all performed with distinction, have acted not against but indeed in the nation’s interest and are adding considerably to our status not only internally but also externally.
– We have just listened to the great survivor singing for his supper. We have just listened to a gentleman who has shown an infinite capacity to survive no matter who the leaders of the country may be. This brings me to my first point. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) suggested that he had a special prerogative to choose whom he so desired for his Ministry. Let me remind the House that the people of Australia also have a prerogative and it is this: Under the terms of our Constitution they have a right to decide who their Prime Minister shall be. These people are ruled and led today by a man who has not yet faced them in his own right. Worse than that, he has no mandate for the policies he has pursued and the antics he has performed.
The retirement of Sir Robert Menzies ended a Parliamentary era. He not only led but also ruled his Party. He was fortified by an authoritarian Party constitution of his own devising. He also chose and trained his successor, who profited by Sir Robert’s example. His successor’s tragic demise ended the line of direct succession with no heir apparent and no heir presumptive. Eighty-one leaderless Liberals chose a new leader from outside the House of Representatives. Apparently, they did not consider that there was a person within the House of Representatives who was capable of being Prime Minister of Australia. What a masterpiece of self-condemnation!
The motion under discussion deals with the serious consequences of their choice - Gortonism cronyism, Public Service preferment and rule by not only a cocktail cabinet but also a kitchen cabinet. The Prime Minister was elected by 42 votes to 38. Three defections would have defeated him. He was elected by virtue of a decisive Senate voting block. He lacked then and he lacks now majority Party support in this House. He is viewed by members of his Party in this House as a usurper, an interloper, a Senator in the House of Representatives and a cuckoo in the nest. The Prime Minister has been running scared ever since his election. To face another leadership ballot would be fatal. Hence, Sir Paul Hasluck’s translation to fields and pastures new. Formerly, potential Prime Ministerial rivals could be safely shunted to an ambassadorship, seduced with a judgeship or translated to the International Court. To conform with current inflation nothing less than viceroyalty is acceptable as the consolation prize in the Prime Ministerial stakes. At least the new incumbent at Yarralumla will have the good sense to shun partisan intervention in coalition feuds - not that the Prime Minister ever had reason to love the departing Governor-General, who actively canvassed against him for the Prime Ministership. So did Sir Robert Menzies, who went further and forecast that the present Prime Minister would wreck the Liberal Party. Ironically, the Prime Minister is using his absolute powers under the terms of a constitution of his Party which was formulated by Sir Robert Menzies and is making commendable efforts to fulfil that prophecy.
Last year, when the Prime Minister might reasonably and decently have faced the people after a period of settling into office - to which no-one in Australia would have objected - he shirked the election and crumpled under well known pressures. He knows full well that one false step in this House and there will be twenty daggers plunged into his back. He is obsessed with his own preservation. The Prime Minister not only lacks support in this House but also in his Cabinet and his Ministry. Hence, the remarkable sequence of ministerial appointments that have been made. Ability and competence are at a discount. An extraparliamentary machine - and this is the Opposition’s main criticism of the Prime Minister - is being frantically created to evade and downgrade Parliament, to sidetrack his Party and his Ministry, to convert the Civil Service into his administrative puppet and to govern by guidelines. The functions of a Prime Minister are being converted into those of a President. I wonder why. I wonder what his inspiration is. He chooses and purges his Ministers arbitrarily, and blatant political manipulation and preferment is already being introduced into the Public Service. The Gorton master plan for autocracy is quickly emerging. Usurping the functions of parliamentary government, every possible rival is put to the sword. Need I remind honourable members that those who live by the sword will surely perish by it. All power is to be gathered into the hands of the Prime Minister and his cronies of the kitchen Cabinet, with the advice, of course, of his grand vizier in charge of the Prime Minister’s Department. I believe that we are on the verge of presidential messages to the House of Representatives. ‘I do not see’, said the Prime Minister, ‘the Prime Minister as simply the chairman of Cabinet. If he insists on something, he must carry the day.’
In his first year of office, the Prime Minister has spoken less in this House and more outside it on modern media of communication than did any of his predecessors. The viewing public have seen plenty of popularity Jack simpering on television screens and this House has heard almost nothing from its nominal Prime Minister. He has, of course, a delightful capacity to talk on anything - to talk first and to think later. We have heard a remarkable series of half baked policy statements outside this House. You name the problem and he will gabble an answer and browbeat the hapless departmental head who falteringly attempts to correct him. ‘Yippie’ economics are his forte. He shoots from the hip. Quickie policies are his greatest delight. We have here the great simplifier who will talk anywhere to anyone outside Parliament. We want him right here in this House.
In the last 12 months the Prime Minister’s average speech in this House has been of Hi minutes duration. Even today the utmost he could muster was a mere 10 minutes. The brutal truth, of course, is that he is ill at ease in this House. After all, he was only a junior Minister when he fluked this exalted position. He knows little, in fact, of the mystique of government. He substitutes Gortonism for it. His speeches are less than inspiring and his perpetual nightmare is confrontation on the television screen with the Opposition Leader. It is in this House that Prime Ministers are made and destroyed and we want to see the Prime Minister here in his place justifying his policies, not pushing something in and refusing to debate it. We want to see him here explaining his policies to the people of Australia and justifying them to the duly elected representatives of the public. We do not want Gortonism. We do not want a form of presidential government with which we are now being threatened and we do not want the Constitution subverted.
– I took the opportunity, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was speaking, of closing my eyes for a moment or two and reaching the conclusion that goodwill had at long last broken out between him and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). Then I opened my eyes and I saw the Leader of the Opposition looking at one moment at the honourable member for Yarra and then at his former Leader, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), and 1 wondered whether or not there was running through the mind of the Leader of the Opposition the words of Burns: ‘His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony’, and which one it was upon whom he was going to append those words. May I trade on my friendship with the Leader of the Opposition - a friendship now of more than 1 3 years standing?
– We are cronies.
– I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition made the admission. I would hesitate to confirm it in the language that he would prefer. Let me say this to him: The Australian Labor Party is in a great deal of trouble but the Leader will not get out of his difficulties by resorting to such strange motions as he has entertained this afternoon. I have never seen a sillier sight, if I may say so, since I saw a man trying to pull a bullock out of a bog by putting a rope around the bullock’s head and the other end around his own waist, getting back on his horse and digging his spurs into the horse. This is what the Leader is trying to do with the Opposition. If my friends opposite speak pleasantly to me I will go over to their side and help them for a week or two to sort out their problems.
We have listened to three carefully prepared speeches this afternoon, and we finished the Opposition case by listening to that stirring Ulster-like speech from the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). Is it any wonder that Ulster has its problems when the honourable member resorts to such extravagant arguments? I take leave to observe that he rejoices in the surname ‘Connor’. What is the gravemen of the Opposition’s case? 1 do not think that the Leader of the Opposition is necessarily irked by the appointments that have been made. I think truth is done a great disservice by suspecting that that is the case. I think that what really irks the honourable gentleman is that the Australian people have consistently dented him the power whereby he could make any appointment, and that is where the Opposition case falls down. The Leader of the Opposition - this former brilliant ejectment lawyer for Woolworths - did not even stick to his own pleading this afternoon. He spoke about the system of patronage in ministeiral appointments. Having said that, he then launched out to attack one who is to be appointed not to a ministerial post but to a gubernatorial post. If that is the argument, why did he not say so? But then he offended me when he referred to the member for Moreton who was formerly the Deputy Government Whip and said: ‘Look at what happened to him.’ For the sake of historical accuracy to which, of course, I pay the most meticulous heed, I point out to the honourable gentleman that I resigned. You see, I wanted to beat the gun. Now, does that satisfy the Opposition?
The terms of this motion are curious in the extreme. This is supposed to be a matter of public importance. The Opposition’s case is that the appointments are contrary to the national interest. This is a strange way of showing solicitude for the national interest. I would have suspected that if there had been any mileage in this politically for the Australian Labor Party members opposite would have been cheering their heads off because where would the Government, where would those who sit on this side of the House, be damaged? It would not necessarily be here in this Parliament. The damage would be felt in the electorate. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to become Prime Minister he must seek to win his battles not so much in this Parliament, although this is undoubtedly a battleground of the first importance, but he must make sure that he wins them outside.
I thought that his attack on the newly appointed Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) carried with it two extraordinary arguments. First of all he said that the new Minister for External Affairs has not spoken frequently on foreign allan. Let me concede that that is completely accurate. This should put the Leader of the Opposition completely at ease. What goes with the honourable gentleman’s argument? I will tell the House what goes with it. All that goes with his argument this afternoon on that ground is that every member sitting on the front bench would have, as of right, a position on the debating list when there was a debate on external affairs. What sort of intolerable position does the Opposition reduce the Parliament to when it says in advance that every Minister, because some day in the future he may or may not be appointed as Minister for External Affairs, must be heard on foreign affairs issues? Those on this side of the House, no matter whether they are private members, and those on the other side have a right to be heard, even though their views may not be received with complete agreement. I put it to my honourable friend that it is a silly proposition to attack a Minister because he has not spoken. Even if that may be the case - and I am conceding it for the purposes of my argument - I put this to the honourable gentleman: How much is it to be preferred to have such silence on foreign affairs issues than to have the shrill cacophony of calls that come from the Australian Labor Party on foreign affairs issues and policies which, in the ultimate, amount to abandonment of every decent commitment in South East Asia?
The last point I want to put to the honourable gentleman this afternoon is that he has seen fit in the course of his attack to refer to the Prime Minister’s concentration of power. Of course, the whole edifice of Anglo-Saxon politics revolves around the fact that there are political leaders. Would the honourable gentleman today attack his Fabian Socialist colleague, the British Prime Minister, on that count? The Fabian Socialist Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr Harold Wilson, does all the appointing. If the honourable gentleman’s argument here today is valid, does it not apply with equal force to the right honourable Harold Wilson?
It is not so much what has happened that annoys the honourable gentleman; it is what has not happened to him. He has been denied the use of power. He has led for years now a party that is riddled with factions. As I have described it before, it is an alliance of malcontents. The most searching ambition of the honourable member for Yarra is to place a cairn over the political life of the Leader of the Opposition. Mark well those words, because the honourable member for Yarra has been steeling himself for years to ensure that that task is brought to fruition. On the count of appointments, let us look at the attempts of the Leader of the Opposition at nepotism within his own Party. He has sought, as well he might, to have his son endorsed as the Australian Labor Party candidate for Prospect. The honourable gentleman is entitled to do that. I am sorry his son did not get the endorsement, because - I say this to the honourable gentleman with no heat - two of them in this place would be an improvement on one of them.
The Leader of the Opposition made an attack on poor Mr Alan Reid of the Sydney Daily Telegraph’. I do not suspect for one moment that Mr Reid will go away and sob his heart out for the rest of the afternoon. But if the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to use the adjective impeccable’ in describing the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’, I hope he will bear in mind that there will be future occasions when those on this side of the House may well be prepared to use the same authority against the Leader of the Opposition. This is a silly subject to raise for discussion. It is, I suppose, an agreeable punctuation mark in what would otherwise be a rather dreary day.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will make provision, additional to that now contained in the two 1968 Loan (Housing) Acts, for the appropriation of the proceeds of Commonwealth borrowings. The additional appropriation is needed because further opportunities for Commonwealth borrowings abroad are expected to arise in the remaining months of this financial year and, in all, loan raisings for the Commonwealth this year will exceed the amount of the appropriation available in the Loan (Housing) Acts.
Since 1950-51, overseas loans have provided the equivalent of more than % 1,050m for borrowing programmes approved by (he Australian Loan Council for State works and housing. Nevertheless, in each year from 1951-52, except in 1962-63 and 1963-64, Commonwealth borrowings in Australia and overseas have fallen short of the full amount of the approved programmes. The Commonwealth has found from its own resources $2, 187m to meet the shortfall in these programmes and has as well financed over $5,400m of Commonwealth capital expenditure from revenue. There are very good reasons, therefore, for the Commonwealth to take advantage of opportunities to borrow overseas when loans are available on acceptable terms.
By virtue of the Financial Agreement and associated Commonwealth legislation, the Commonwealth may borrow in its own name, or on behalf of the States, such amounts as the Australian Loan Council approves each year, apart from borrowings for defence purposes approved by the Parliament which are excluded from the Financial Agreement. This year the Loan Council has approved a borrowing programme for the Commonwealth of $126m to cover advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The Loan Council has also approved borrowing programmes totalling $5 84m for the States for works purposes, so that the total works and housing programme is $7 10m.
Since 1966 all overseas loans raised against the works and housing programme have been allocated to the Commonwealth. This results from an undertaking given by the Commonwealth in 1966 to arrange for the refinancing at Australian market rates of interest of all State debt maturing overseas for the subsequent 3 years - a period in which a very heavy series of loans matures. Most of the maturing loans in the names of the States had had their origins in loan raising operations in the 1920’s or earlier. In 1966-67 and 1967-68 the Commonwealth’s approved programme for housing purposes was adequate to cover its borrowings overseas. This year it will not be sufficient.
While no specific legislative authority Is necessary to raise further loans and credit the proceeds to the Loan Fund, the money cannot be appropriated without parliamentary authority. This Bm will provide legislative authority to appropriate loan funds up to a maximum of $150m to enable the proceeds of any further overseas loans to be credited to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, in which they would then be available for investment in the special loan to be raised later in the year to complete the financing of the States’ share of the 1968-69 works and housing programme approved by the Loan Council. The effect will be to make available to the States the proceeds of overseas loans at Australian rates of interest. The concurrence of all State Premiers has been obtained to this course. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is intended to give effect to the Government’s decision to re-introduce the 50c coin in a new form. It will be a 12- sided coin, made of cupro-nickel, the same alloy as is used for the 5c, 10c and 20c pieces. The earlier version of the 50c coin was made of an alloy of 80% silver and 20% copper. It became evident, after it had been in circulation for a few months, that many people felt it could be too easily confused with the 20c coin. In addition, the price of silver on world markets began to rise steeply around the beginning of 1967 and before long the value of the silver content of the coin exceeded its face value. It was therefore decided to discontinue its issue, and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) informed the House of this decision in April 1968. Up to that time, some 36 million 50c silver coins had been placed in circulation.
The Government, however, felt that the 50c denomination was a useful one, and this was supported by a number of representations from members of the public received after its issue was suspended. The Royal Australian Mint therefore carried out experiments to see whether the coin could be re-issued in a new form which would, on the one hand, avoid having a much larger and heavier coin and, on the other hand, remove the possibility of its being confused with the 20c piece in daily handling.
After examination of a number of possible shapes and alloys, it was decided that a twelve-sided cupro-nickel coin of approximately the same dimensions as the earlier version would achieve these objectives. While Australia has not previously issued a multi-sided coin, such coins are in use in a number of countries and they appear to be acceptable to members of the public in those places. The United Kingdom, for example, has had a twelve-sided threepence for many years, and will be issuing a seven-sided coin as one of its new decimal series.
The present Currency Act specifies the alloy to be used in each of the coins on issue, and it is necessary to amend the Act to allow the proposed 50c coin to be issued. The shape and designs of the coins are prescribed by regulation under the Act. It is intended to retain the present designs, which consist of an effigy of the Queen on the obverse side, and a representation of the Australian coat of arms on the reverse. The regulations will, however, be amended to prescribe the new shape for the 50c coin. The new 50c coin should appear in circulation approximately 6 months after the Currency Act has been amended. The Government has also decided to mint a special issue of the new 50c coin in 1970 to commemorate the bi-centenary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of the east coast of Australia. The commemorative issue will carry a suitable design, and a commission to execute this has been given to Mr Stuart Devlin. Mr Devlin was responsible for the reverse designs of the Australian decimal coins. Regulations necessary to authorise the commemorative coin design will be promulgated as soon as the details have been settled. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Excise Tariff 1921-1968 by raising the maximum strength at which brandy may be distilled from 40% overproof to 45% ovenproof. There are no revenue implications in this Bill as the rate of duty on brandy is not affected. The amendment relates to the production side of brandy only and not to the strength of the product when excise duty is assessed prior to delivery from customs control to go on the wholesale or retail market.
The present maximum strength of 40% was set, in consultation with the industry, in 1918 when the Australian brandy industry was in its early stages of development. In the light of present day operations, the industry now considers that the existing distillation strength should be raised to the limit proposed.
In regard to whisky and rum, the legislation has for many years permitted a maximum distillation strength of 45% overproof. The proposed amendment will allow brandy distillers the same latitude in the distillation of their product. Consequential upon this amendment, changes will be necessary in the Spirits Act 1906- 1968. I will later be introducing a Bill to effect these changes. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be sow read a second time.
The provisions of this Bill are consequent upon the amendments proposed in the Excise Tariff Bill which I introduced earlier.
Section 3 of the Spirits Act 1906-1968, contains definitions of the terms ‘pure Australian standard brandy’ and ‘Australian blended brandy’. The amendments proposed by this Bill will allow brandy distilled at a strength of up to 45% overproof, which otherwise complies with the terms of the definitions, to be described as ‘pure Australian standard brandy’ or ‘Australian blended brandy’, as the case may be. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
The Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to 4 which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966- 1968 and formally place before Parliament, as required by section 273ea of the Customs Act, the tariff changes published by Gazette’ notices on 20th and 31st December last year and 9th January and 21st February this year. As the tariff changes in these proposals, will, in a matter of minutes, be the subject of a Bill to amend the Customs Tariff I shall reserve explanation till that time.
Not included in the Bill is one new matter relating to lawn mowers. The Proposals No. 5 operating from 28th February 1969 deals with changes arising from the Tariff Board’s report on cylinder lawn mowers with self contained power (New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement).
The Board found that duty free entry of New Zealand cylinder type lawn mowers imported complete with engines would substantially disadvantage local manufacturers who do not have access to low cost engines from third countries. Ft recommended the inclusion of lawn mowers without engines in the Agreement and that the duties in respect of such mowers be phased out over a 4- year period. This period was considered an appropriate time for local manufac turers to adjust to duty free entry of mowers from New Zealand. 1 commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Hot water bags.
String musical instruments.
Vegetable fats and oils.
X-ray apparatus and accessories.
Cylinder lawn mowers with self contained power (New Zealand - Australia Free Trade Agreement).
I present also the following reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for any legislative action:
Case board and panelboard.
Printing and writing paper.
I also present, pursuant to statute, a report by the Special Advisory Authority on the following subject:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Customs Tariff Bill now before the House provides for amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1968. It includes changes introduced into Parliament as Tariff Proposals from 10th September to 27th November last year inclusive, and also the tariff changes 1 introduced earlier today as Proposals Nos 1 to 4. Broadly speaking, the first schedule to the Bill covers changes arising out of ten reports by the Tariff Board and two reports by the Special Advisory Authority. I do not propose to reiterate all that was said at the time of the introduction of each of these proposals but with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard particulars of each of the proposals including the pages in Hansard when the tabling speeches were made.
Tn addition Hansard extracts relating to these Proposals are available in my office for any honourable member who desires a copy. The remaining schedules of the Bill relate to changes which 1 introduced earlier today as Proposals Nos 1 to 4.
The second schedule deals with amendments arising from the Tariff Board report on vegetable fats and oils. Except in two areas the recommendations in the report have been accepted. Uniform general rates of duty of 40c per gallon now apply to linseed oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, maize oil, soyabean oil, rapeseed oil and some other oils of minor importance. Nonprotective rates of duty have been applied to palm kernel oil, palm oil, coconut oil, almond oil, castor oil and several other oils of minor significance. However, the Government did not accept the Board’s recommendation that assistance be withdrawn for the local production of olive oil. As Australian olive groves contain a relatively high proportion of trees which have not yet reached bearing age, the Government was concerned that it could well be premature to decide, at this stage, that olive oil production is not worthy of assistance. It decided that the present level of protection on olive oil will remain unchanged and that the question of long-term assistance for this industry be reviewed again in the light of economics of production from mature and hearing olive groves.
In addition the Government has deferred consideration of another Tariff Board recommendation for phasing out the present by-law assistance accorded local production of peanut oil. The Board had proposed the progressive elimination, commencing 1st January 1970, of the present by-law concession which permits producers of peanut oil to import duty-free 3 gallons of oil for each gallon produced from local peanuts. The Government decided that it would require information on the peanut industry not provided by the Board’s report, including the results of an examination of the overall costs of peanut growers, before dealing with this recommendation. Accordingly, the Departments of Trade and industry and Primary Industry will make a survey of the peanut industry and the Government will re-examine the matter later this year.
The third schedule covers a further list of commodities which, as from 1st January, were added to schedule A of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The decision to include these commodities finalised the second of the regular reviews provided for in the Agreement for the purposes of broadening its trade coverage.
The fourth schedule of the Bill is consequent upon the Tariff Board’s findings in respect of hot water bags, X-ray apparatus and accessories and string musical instruments and a report of the Special Advisory Authority on bisphenol A. The Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendations in each of the reports. The Tariff Board inquiry on hot water bags followed the imposition of temporary duties on the recommendation of the Special Advisory Authority in November, 1967. The Board has recommended protective duties of 45% (general) and 35% (preferential) which are above the existing duties but generally less than the existing duties plus the temporary duties. The Board found that the position of the local industry had been weakened by a British producer supplying chain stores at low cost, the devaluation of sterling, and a decline in demand for hot water bags. It considered that the recommended duties were the maximum warranted for production of this type and would provide effective protection, on the processes involved, of not more than 50% against the main overseas source. The Government has not accepted the Board’s suggestion that the recommended duties be removed should the costs of the local industry be such that it could not continue hot water bag production. The Government’s view was that in that event it should be open to the industry to make a further approach seeking a higher level of protection.
The Board has rationalised the rates of duty applying to X-ray apparatus and accessories and reduced duties on some important items. Duties of 25% (general) and 15% or 17½% (preferential) would in future apply to medical X-ray equipment. The preferential rates differ slightly from those recommended by the Board because of international commitments. Alt other equipment covered by the report will in future be subject to minimum rates of duties.
The Tariff Board’s report on string musical instruments dealt mainly with guitars, for which there is currently no protection. The Board decided that rates of 35% (general) and 25% (preferential) were warranted subject to review in 5 years. On the other items covered by the reference it recommended that the present general rates of duty be reduced to non-protective rates.
Temporary duties on the chemical bisphenol A, based on a support value of $655 per ton, were implemented as from 10th January 1969. These duties were recommended by the Special Advisory Authority following inquiry to determine whether urgent action was necessary to protect the industry from import competition. The Tariff Board has been asked to examine and report on the question of whether support value assistance to the production of bisphenol A is necessary as a continuing measure, and if so, the appropriate level of such support values in the general review reference on chemicals. The temporary protection now applied is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Board’s report.
The final schedule covers additions to the Australian system of tariff preferences for developing countries. Honourable members will recall that the system was introduced in 1966 after the agreement of the contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade had been obtained.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9 October 1968 (vide page 1758), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
)- The object of this Bill is to provide additional finance for the Australian Wine Board. The principal provision in the Bill involves an amendment of the Wine Grapes Charges Act so that the maximum rates of levy on fresh wine grapes and dried wine grapes will be increased. Under the existing legislation the maximum rates of levy are $1.50 a ton for fresh grapes and $4.50 a ton for dried grapes. The Act empowers the Australian Wine Board to fix whatever rates it wishes up to those maximum rates, depending on the requirements of the Wine Board for funds. The Bill proposes maximum rates of $2.50 a ton for fresh grapes and $7.50 a ton for dried grapes. Thus the proposal is for an increase of $1 a ton in the levy for fresh grapes and S3 a ton in respect of dried grapes. These are the maxima and the operational levy will depend on the requirements of the Board. If this Bill is passed the Board will have the right to fix whatever operational rate of levy it might want for the forthcoming grape season and for future crops so long as the Act is operative. The Bill also provides for the payment of the levy in two equal instalments, one to be paid by 30th September and the second by 3 1st March following each vintage.
The Opposition opposes this Bill. The Opposition is surprised that the Government is proceeding with the measure, in view of the information that is now available about the financial situation of the Board as set out in its statement of income and expenditure for the 12 months ending 30th June last. When the Minister introduced this Bill this report was not available to the Opposition, and the impression gained at that time was that the Board was short of funds and because of this there was an urgent need to increase the levy. If one studies the statement of income and expenditure one finds that there was an excess of income over expenditure of $43,581 for the 1967-68 season. This is approximately 12% of the total income for the year. A surplus of 12% for a year is a rather big surplus. Coupled with the other factors which I have already put to the Minister that is why the Opposition is not prepared to support the Bill at this stage. I emphasise the words ‘at this stage’.
The Opposition believes in organised marketing as a matter of principle and that the boards in charge of marketing should have sufficient funds to carry out their duties in an efficient manner. In view of the fact that the Board had a surplus equal to 12% of the total income for the year, that there has been an increase in plantings of approximately 10,000 acres with consequential additional income to the Board, that levies on a record crop of 250,000 tons will accrue to the Board, that the domestic market is perhaps at one of its most buoyant stages and any increase in promotion which would stimulate consumption of wines in Australia could lead to an increase in the price of some wines, the Opposition believes that any promotion should be directed towards the export of wine. With a shortage of selected quality wines on the Australian market, further promotion within the domestic arena could lead to an increased demand for the import from overseas of quality wines which could secure a permanent share of the market in Australia.
The Minister did not indicate how the additional funds would be used. No doubt they would be applied to the main functions of the Board - promotion and research. The fact that no absolute direction is given as to how these additional moneys are to be expended is one of the main objections offered by some sections of the industry to this BUI. Certainly one could argue that a significant proportion of the money collected from these levies should be directed towards the promotion of additional exports, which of course would produce valued export income. If the Minister or the Board had given some direction about this, there may not have been the opposition there is.
The Opposition has weighed up the pros and cons of this Bill and it is not, I repeat, prepared to support it at this stage. The Opposition would certainly support the Bill if it believed that a bona fide case had been presented for additional funds. Although the Minister wishes to increase the levy on fresh grapes by SI per ton and on dried grapes by $3 per ton, it is admitted that this is not necessarily the operational rate which will be fixed by the Board. In other words what the Minister is saying is that the Board should be allowed to have some fat so that it has money in reserve at all times. This is a matter of commonsense. But in view of the evidence available since this Bill was introduced, the Opposition does not believe that the time is opportune to increase the levy. The Opposition believes that there would be ample time to increase the levy this year should an emergency arise.
No outstanding contingencies are disclosed in the Board’s report. Everything appears to be on a stable plane - the publicity overseas, export services, research, miscellaneous expenses, payments to Board members and staff, and ordinary operating expenses. There is a definite degree of stability within the Board. When one considers the surplus available to it, the increased plantings of approximately 10,000 acres, and levies from a very large production of 250,000 tons, there does not seem to be any urgency to increase the levy at this point of time. Should the Government believe in the future that there is an emergency and it is necessary to increase the levy, a case could then be made out. It is a fact of life that although a levy is stated to be the maximum it is not very long before that maximum is reached as an operational levy. If money is left lying idle it is only human nature for some brain to work out how it could be put to some use, particularly in research and promotion.
I have outlined the problems associated with stimulating the demand for selected Australian wines. On the best advice that I can obtain there is a definite shortage in Australia of selected quality wines. To stimulate the demand for wine in general could do two things. It could increase the price of wines and could increase imports of selected wines into Australia. If the Australian public gets a taste for imported wines it is possible that preference for imported wines could become permanent. Not being a wine drinker I must admit that I do not have much knowledge of the virtues of selected or quality wines over other wines. However, I am arguing on the facts as I see them. 1 do not think that a case has been made out for increasing the levy. The Bill should be deferred until such time as there is a case for increasing the levy. The Opposition will oppose the Bill.
– I support the Bill. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has faithfully carried out his duties in observing the instructions that have been circulated to most if not all members of Parliament by a certain group of people. Perhaps it is worth while considering the identity of those who are at present complaining. T see a certain amount of logic in some of their complaints. The Australian Wine Board has asked for this legislation to be brought down. At the risk of boring the House let us examine the membership of the Australian Wine Board. All sections of the wine industry are represented on the Board. The Board is composed of representatives of proprietary firms and co-operative firms, including bulk suppliers, who are really responsible for the views that have been advanced today by the Opposition. On the Board are growers representatives and a representative of the Commonwealth. Every section of the industry is properly represented. These are the people who have requested the Government to introduce this legislation. The proprietary firms have been in favour of the legislation. Co-operatives from the dry land grape growing areas have been in favour of it. Three or four - the fourth is a little indeterminate- of the wet land wine producing co-operatives have been opposed to the legislation. The growers, led by Mr Dyer, President of the Federal Grapegrowers Council of Australia, are in favour of the legislation. So I find the views expressed by the honourable member for Dawson to be opposed to those held by people at the grass roots level.
In fairness to the honourable member, some sections of the Australian Primary Producers Union have recently joined in the cry against this legislation. These people have said that the levy will be applied to the grape growers of Australia. I suggest that at some levels there is a lack of understanding of the purposes of the levy and the reasons for the establishment of the Australian Wine Board. The honourable member for Dawson said that the Government should have directed the Wine Board to set conditions for the application of the levy. The Opposition is keen about the word ‘direct’; we heard it yesterday in a certain debate. We on this side of the House are well aware that in agricultural matters the Government frequently wishes the industry to get together and put forward a uniform viewpoint, whether it be a plan for stabilisation of the industry or a matter of other importance to the industry. Wherever possible boards are left to run their own affairs in the interests of the industries with which they are concerned and in the interests of the nation because the Government considers that the people on these boards know more about their own business than do politicians who take an idea off the top of their heads. This is sensible. In this case the Wine Board, composed of all sections of industry, has requested the Government to introduce this legislation.
The Wine Board has suggested that the maximum levy be increased from $1.50 to $2.50. The fact that the maximum will be $2.50 does not mean that the maximum levy will be applied. This is the point that some people have missed. The last report of the Wine Board shows the amount of levy imposed over the last few years. The maximum has not been imposed on all occasions. In 1958 the levy was $1.50. In 1959 it was $1.20. The levy remained at $1.20 until 1962 when, due to the demands of the industry with respect to promotion and research, it was increased to $1-40. In the following year it was reduced to $1.30. So I submit that it is not valid for the Opposition to claim that the maximum allowable levy becomes the operative levy, because the history of the last 10 years suggests that the contrary is the case. In fact, it is only in the last 2 years that the levy has reached the present maximum of $1.50. It is in the light of these facts that the majority of producers and wineries in Australia have requested the Government to increase the levy. Both points of view with regard to this legislation are represented in my electorate, but I come down on the side of a government which will depend on a board of this nature to sum up the issues and to reach a proper conclusion.
One aspect of the last annual report of the Australian Wine Board needs a little explanation. Frankly in reading it last year I found it misleading. Provision is made for the investment of $106,790 in Treasury notes and Commonwealth bonds at cost. If honourable members were to look at the remarks on finance further back in the report, they would find these rather generalised headings a little more explicable. The reports states:
In the balance sheet it will be noted that investments total $106,790. This amount includes reserve funds of $50,000 . . .
Might I pause and say that there has been the time when the Board in a low production year actually ran into debt. This reserve fund is there for the purpose of allowing for the low production year, because any businessman knows that once you start an advertising programme there is no earthly use stopping it, particularly in cases when you can also be over-committed or when the expenditure has not been put forward for the ensuing year. That this reserve fund is essential has been proved by the fact that in the past the Australian Wine Board has not had enough cash to meet its financial obligations in one year. The report goes on: the remaining $56,790 has already been committed on items included in the 1967-68 national promotions campaign. The Board’s financial year ends on 30th June, but the budget for advertising is framed on a financial year ended 30th September.
Another valid point is that the Board’s returns are not always in by the end of the financial year, when reports have to be compiled. Honourable members should bear in mind that a lot of these funds are committed funds which are not truly reflected in the balance sheet or the statement of income and expenditure as set out in the pages of the report. The report goes on:
For this reason too, the Board must have cash on hand at the end of June each year to meet commitments during the 3 months before income is received.
That statement merely backs up the contention I have just made. The report continues:
It will be noted that the cash on hand at 30th June 1968 was $24,956.
Those who would oppose this Bill must see that the financial position of the Board is not as flush as it might appear on the surface. I know, although no specific figures are available, that there is a need for increased expenditure in the ensuing year. There is also the matter of the research carried out at the Waite Institute in South Australia which does invaluable work for the sake of the wine industry. If honourable members look at page 23, they will find the various headings under expenditure. I do not think it takes very much intelligence to realise that these expenses are increasing. However, the honourable member for Dawson said that he thinks that this is not the time to bring in measures of this nature and that there would be time to do so if an emergency were to arise. I disagree with him on both counts. He also said - I hope I am not misquoting him - that the industry is in a buoyant state at present.
If the industry is in a buoyant state at present, surely this is the psychological moment when, on request, the Government should increase the levy which the Board may or may not, in its discretion, see fit to apply. There can be no better time than now, on the evidence of the honourable member himself. He also said that there is ample time to introduce any new allowable levy, but so often there is not time. It is so easy for us to sit back and pontificate from Canberra and say that there is tons of time to do this and tons of time to do the other. In point of fact, frequently there is not time. The Wine Board, in its wisdom, is committed to a promotion programme overseas and draws a $1 for $1 subsidy from the Department of Trade and Industry for this purpose. It is also committed for expenditure to promote wine in Australia, and who would doubt the success of that over the years. Would the honourable member for Dawson suggest that the promotion over the last 6 years by the Board has not been successful? Do not the very figures available show to some degree or other the complete success of these programmes? The programmes are not cheap, as honourable members can see from the details of expenditure on page 23.
Any development programme, in no matter what business, cannot be turned on and off like a tap. It must be planned. I know very well that over the years the Board has planned its advertising programme. It wants a provision for the time when there may be a shortfall in production, when sufficient money may not come in. It wants this provision so that it may be able to act immediately to keep a sensible business project running along the right lines. Primary industry authorities today - and I include in this category boards of the type we are discussing - must be efficient and must adopt proper up to date methods. There is no earthly use in sitting back and saying one minute that there is enough money when 4 years ago there was not. If this Government is to support industries that are attempting to help themselves, there is no question about the fact that we have to provide them with the proper armament with which to carry out their job.
I regard the Government’s action in introducing this Bill, which I repeat does not set a compulsory levy, as being the essence of proper and efficient up to date administration. I hope that the House will take note of these facts and will allow this Bill a proper passage, in spite of the comments of the honourable member for Dawson, because I believe this sort of action is important at all times and even more important at this psychological moment. The wine making and grape growing industry is a profitable industry, quite contrary to some other primary industries with which we have troubles from time to time. I support the Bill and the amendment.
– As the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has pointed out, the amount of levy which it is proposed to impose on the wine making and grape growing industry by this Bill is a maximum levy which will be entirely at the discretion of the Australian Wine Board. Consequently, there is no reason why the Bill should not be passed. I can see no reason why the Opposition should oppose the Bill or why honourable members opposite should vote against it. The one spokesman for the Opposition in this case, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), brought forward no real reasons why the figure that is to be regarded by the Board in its future decisions should not be increased. I see no harm in increasing the levy, but I do think that one or two facts ought to be pointed out. As the honourable member for Angas said, the Board has not made a practice of levying its previous maximum of $1.50. For several years the levy was $1.30, $1.20 and so on. For the last 2 years the Board has charged the maximum. Now it is asking for the right to increase the levy. I want to say a word against this proposal.
I do not think that the Australian Wine Board is justified in increasing the rate of the levy if it intends to use the money in the same way as it has been using it in the past. As my friend from Angas pointed out, the Board had a surplus of $24,000 at the end of the last financial year which was carried forward into this financial year. As the honourable member for Dawson stated, the excess of income over expenditure was $43,581. The Board will find it very difficult to justify any increase in the rate of the levy which it will take from the wine processors.
I do not believe that the growers come into this matter at all, except in a rather minor way. Naturally they are affected by the returns which they receive from the co-operatives. But they supply grapes to both co-operative and proprietary companies. The price that they receive has been increasing steadily over the years to a figure which must be considered as being very satisfactory to the growers. The levy of $2.50 per ton which is imposed on the wine processors comes from the manufacturing section of the industry. It does not come from the growing side of the industry.
Therefore, I do not really think that the views of the grower representatives on the Australian Wine Board would carry any force in whatever actions are taken by the Board.
The Board is composed of representatives from all sections of the industry. Proprietary and privately owned wineries and distilleries in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia have five representatives on the Board. The co-operative wineries and distilleries have only two representatives on the Board. There must be some imbalance on the Board if those two groups of representatives have divergent views on a particular matter. I presume that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) was aware of this fact when he said: ‘The proposals have substantial support within the industry’.
I should like the House to know that there is also some disagreement in the industry. The co-operatives are not really happy about the situation. Most of the material that has been set out in the annual report of the Australian Wine Board is very good, factual and simple information. The Board pointed out that $155,000 has been spent on national promotion campaigns in Australia. That is a considerable sum of money, but it is only a fleabite when compared with the amount which the proprietary companies have spent on advertising. The Wine Board spent this money on advertising in order to promote the sale of wine.
If one looks through the daily newspapers one sees that the various proprietary companies all run their own advertising campaigns. The volume of that advertising is the reason for the buoyant state of the Australian wine industry at the present time. Consumption is rising, and that is a very good thing. We are producing some very good wines, but there is a shortage of any wine that is really good. Overall there is a growing demand for better wines. People are becoming more conscious of the need for better wines. I am quite appalled at the number of foreign wines that are being offered in wine wholesalers’ lists. I happened to receive a few lists. I know that some wines come from Portugal.
– Do you buy those wines?
– No, 1 buy Australian wines. I will not buy wines from Portugal or Germany or any of the other imported wines under any circumstances. We have ample good wines of our own.
– Do you get the wines wholesale?
– 1 certainly get them wholesale. I think that is a wise precaution. Any money spent on advertising by the Australian Wine Board at the present time will undoubtedly have an impact on the public. People will ask for wines, although they may not have done so previously. But if this encourages the sale of imported wines, I am opposed to it.
As I have said, last year the Australian Wine Board spent $155,000 on publicity in Australia and only $83,291 on publicity overseas. The Australian Wine Centre in the United Kingdom does a very good job, from what I have been told by people who have been to it. I have not been to it myself. Last year the Australian Wine Board spent $29,000 on advertising in the United Kingdom, $33,000 on advertising in Canada - they are the two best markets - $3,600 on advertising in Japan and approximately $5,000 on advertising in other areas. This expenditure of $83,000 on advertising was matched by a Government contribution of $71,000 to assist the Board in overseas promotion. The overseas publicity campaign is supported by the Government’s contribution. But the expenditure by the Board on advertising overseas is only onehalf of what it spends on advertising in Australia.
Last year the Australian Wine Board spent only $23,000 on research. It spent $16,500 on research the previous year, so the figure is increasing. Without anyone giving me any evidence I am quite certain that money spent on research in this industry will give us as good a return as money spent on research in other industries. I would expect that the Board should be spending more money on research. I think that it ought to be spending less money on publicity in Australia. To substantiate this view I shall refer to one or two facts that have come to my notice since the introduction of this Bill.
The Bill was introduced at the request of the industry. We have had many requests for assistance in the past. Over the years primary industries have requested assistance from the Government for very obvious reasons which I shall not go into now. It is essential that assistance given to secondary industry should be matched by assistance given to primary industry. The Government’s job is to assist both primary and secondary industry. If an industry has difficulties to overcome then the Government passes the necessary legislation to help the industry. At various times I have been told that the dairying industry has requested assistance. The subsidy paid to dairy farmers has been static for, I think, 13 years. I am told that this is only because the industry requested that it remain static. That is nonsense. The industry did not request this at all.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I point out to the honourable member that we are not debating the dairying industry. I hope that the honourable member is making only a passing reference to that industry.
– That is ail I am doing. This applies also to the wheat industry. Last year the wheat industry was supposed to have made a request to the Government along similar lines and to have been told by the Government what it could do. I believe a certain amount of this atmosphere has crept in here. I do not think it should be allowed. If the industry’s request is reasonable the Government should go along with it and should not try to raise barriers, as it has done here. I may be wrong. If I am, I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) will correct me when he gets an opportunity. The Wine and Brandy Producers Cooperative Association of South Australia is the main source for the export of our bulk wines. This is obviously the’ section of the industry which is in need of help. I received a letter from the association dated 3rd October 1968 - and I have no doubt that the Association also wrote to other people indicating that its members unanimously opposed the proposed increase.
When a deputation from the Association approached the Minister and was informed what was going to happen it came back with a counter proposal which I think could have been accepted. Time will not permit me to go into the matter more fully at this stage, but the Wine Board circulated a suggestion amongst the wine producers that they change from a levy of so much per ton to a levy of so much per gallon. This proposal had a lot of advantages. There should not be a levy on the raw material if it can be placed on the final product. According to the annual report of the Wine Board, approximately 250,000 tons of grapes produced 43 million gallons of wine. So, there would not be much trouble adopting the alternative proposal. It would be only a matter of doing a bit of arithmetic to decide what levy should be set. This proposal was later withdrawn. I submit that it should be borne in mind that a more appropriate means should be determined to impose a levy for publicity, promotion and assistance to the industry. I am not speaking of a Government subsidy to the industry. This is a levy which is paid by the industry out of its own pocket. An amount of, say, 2c a gallon would result in approximately the same amount of money being collected. The co-operative growers would prefer to see this money collected overall and given to them as a subsidy to assist them to sell their product overseas. I do not think that this would cut across the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which Australia has entered into.
The greatest difficulty our exporters experience in the English and Canadian markets is with the price of our product. It is in this area that they want help. Publicity for Australian produced wines overseas can only be really effective in the United Kingdom where we have our best means of promotion. The Department of Trade and Industry has been doing a magnificent job getting the message across for Australian producers in the United Kingdom. In the rest of the world the Wine Board can only ask people to drink more wine in much the same way that we ask them to drink more milk, orange juice or anything else. Our exports have to compete with wines from all over the world just as Australian wine sold locally has to compete with Portuguese, German and other imported wines. Wine is mainly shipped in bulk. The assistance the exporters are after is some method which will enable them to sell their wine more easily in other markets. When a suggestion along these lines was made to the Minister he replied that it could not be adopted because of Australia’s commitments under GATT. As I have pointed out, this is not really so because it would be the industry’s own money that is returned to it and all that GATT objects to is Government assistance.
– No, it objects to assistance by legislation.
– I stand corrected by the Minister. The Minister says that the objection is to legislative action. I apologise to the House if I have spent some time on a point which is incorrect. I regret that I am not quite clear on this point, although my interpretation seemed to me to be reasonable. The proprietary section of the industry is naturally very happy about this increase in the levy. It will not mind paying a higher rate as it will receive some benefit. As the sales of this section are only in Australia it will be getting the benefit of the increase; but the co-operative growers will not receive the same benefits. Less money is spent on their behalf on the overseas section of the industry. It is up to the Wine Board to rectify this position. The Wine Board is out of balance slightly in that it consists of more representatives of proprietary winemakers and growers than of co-operative winemakers and growers. Although representatives of the growers are on the Board, this is not a very important matter to them. As long as either the co-operative winemakers or the proprietary winemakers buy their products they are quite happy. Now that the levy has been increased to $2.50 I hope that the Board will see fit to spend more of it on overseas publicity and research and less on advertising within Australia, which can be more happily left to the proprietary companies themselves.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1966 by increasing the maximum rates of levy on grapes delivered to wineries and distilleries. The measure proposes to increase the levy from $1.50 to $2.50 a ton for fresh grapes - an increase of $1 per ton - and from $4.50 to $7.50 a ton for dried grapes, or an increase of $3 per ton. My colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), gave a sober analysis of this proposal before the suspension of the sitting.
He announced truthfully and courageously that he was not a wine drinker. I equally courageously announce that neither am I. However, as members of the Labor Party’s Parliamentary Rural Committee we sat around the table with representatives from the South Australian co-operatives who discussed this matter with the Committee last October.
This Bill has been delayed over the Christmas vacation until the autumn session. Our interest in it stems from the fact that as a Rural Committee we thought it our duty to analyse the situation following representations from South Australia. We came to the unanimous conclusion that this is not the time to increase the levy. If this industry was floundering and was in serious trouble because the existing publicity and propaganda were not sufficient to increase wine sales in Australia and overseas, then the increased levy would be justified. But the industry is not floundering; it is in a healthy condition. So why should the growers, the co-operatives and others have to face this large increase in the levy at this stage?
Let me quote a few figures from the Australian Wine Board’s report of 1968. The report indicates a healthy state of affairs. Let me refer to sales figures - not production figures - for wine and brandy for the 10 years ended 30th June 1967. In 1963 a total of 12,554,000 gallons of wine was sold; in 1967, 4 years later, the sales rose to 17,476,000 gallons. This was a fantastic increase of about 5 million gallons in 4 years. Wine is not piling up in cellars waiting to be sold. It is not being stockpiled in readiness for sale in the next 10 years. Brandy sales show an increase from 917,000 gallons to 1,029,000 gallons in the same 4 years. On the sales figures alone surely there is no justification for the proposed increase in the levy. The figures prove that the current advertising compaign is successful; they prove that the publicity and propaganda must be first class. So why is more money needed for publicity and propaganda? I watch television when I can, which is not often; I enjoy it immensely when I get a free night at home. But during that night’s viewing I see advertisement after advertisement about Australian wines and brandies. They are advertised as being able to cure piles, sores, corns-
– He would go to a mortician.
– Yes. Putting it frankly and truthfully, there is a clever, subtle and capable advertising campaign on television for Australian wines. However, I have not been convinced that I should start drinking the stuff, and I do not think I will be convinced. Anyway, we are discussing the reason for the increased levy and I say that in view of the way in which the grapes have been sold in the last few years in ever increasing quantities there is no need for this increase in the levy.
From the present levy of $1.50 a ton for fresh grapes and $4.50 a ton for dried grapes between $300,000 and $375,000 is raised annually for use by the Wine Board in advertising, research, publicity and the like. The increased levy will bring in about $500,000 to the Wine Board. I think this represents a gross imposition on an industry which is healthy and progressing. Another piece of interesting information disclosed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in hia second reading speech was that in the decade to 1966-67 there had been quite spectacular increases in sales of both table and dessert wines and brandy in Australia. Exports both of wine and of brandy during that period increased by about 20%. Yet here we are seeking permission, through legislation, for the Wine Board to secure another $250,000 by way of levy. If this industry were struggling and had a stockpile of wine that it could not sell and if its advertising were not successful then, and only then, would it be justified in coming to the Government and seeking an increase in the levy. However the real picture is just the reverse. The Wine Board had a substantial profit last year. Its report discloses that it had an excess of income over expenditure last year of $43,581, yet it is seeking more money for more research. As a matter of fact, I think we are drinking enough wine.
– But you do not drink any wine.
– What did St Paul say? He said: ‘A little wine for the stomach’s sake’.
– That was a different thought.
-Order! The right honourable member for Melbourne will not interrupt the honourable member for Wilmot when he is addressing the House.
– With those few words, I will conclude my speech. I support the honourable member for Dawson and the Labor Opposition in firmly opposing at this stage of our history this very substantial increase in the levy on the producers of wine and brandy.
– It has become obvious in this debate that the Labor Opposition does not have a clue about the purpose of the Bill. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that the Australian Labor Party will oppose it. But it is clear that Labor is opposing the Bill for the wrong reason. The honourable member was an officer of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, but his work was not related to this product. The officers of the Bureau are specialists. Of course the Bill is necessary. Increased funds to promote wine are necessary because very soon the wine grape industry will face a glut. Wine is selling well at the moment, but the figures that have been given to us show that this year we will produce 42 million gallons and sell only 17 million gallons of wine. The honourable member for Dawson thinks that we can sell the surplus overseas. I am sorry that he has not been through the countries of the European Common Market. If he had he would have seen the gluts there and would know that we will not have much chance to sell our surplus overseas.
– Have you ever been in the grip of the grape?
– In the last few weeks I have had much more than a nodding acquaintance with the spirit of the grape, and perhaps more than the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has bad.
– I am a teetotaller.
– I enjoy it. But let us get back to what the honourable member for Dawson said. He said that the Opposition will vote against the Bill because he and his colleagues believe it is not necessary. If he has a good look at the situation in the wine industry, he will see that it is absolutely necessary for the Department of Primary Industry and for the Australian Wine Board to engage in as much promotion as they can. Even if we double wine consumption in Australia, we will not use the wine that is now maturing or the wine that will be produced from the new plantings. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said in his sanctimonious way - if he will pardon me - that he has courageously refused to drink wine. If other members of the Australian Labor Party are like him, they are not with it. These days Australians are drinking more wine than ever before. A very great man in history turned the water into wine for the wedding feast. The honourable member for Wilmot does not seem to remember that.
The increase of the levy is necessary because our wines will face tremendous competition on overseas markets. Some Australians say that we have the best wine in the world. Many Australians seem to convince themselves that all our products are the best in the world; that we have the best cheese in the world, the best cattle, the best wheat and so on. But when Australians try to sell their products overseas they come up against the enormous gluts in other countries. The honourable member for Dawson would do well to remember that this industry also will face a similar situation on overseas markets.
It is very interesting to speak about a primary industry, especially in view of some of the comments that have been made about rural industries. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was quoted on radio the other day as saying that we are subsidising rural industries too much. I know that if Labor had to deal with rural industries it would increase their costs so much that they could not survive. The rural industries at all times have tried to pay their own costs. The grower of grapes is now paying a levy of $1.50 a ton for fresh grapes and this will go up to $2.50 a ton. At the moment this is an affluent industry, but the Labor Party makes the mistake of not realising that in this industry are all the seeds of disaster. Enormous new plantings are being made. In South Australia the new plantings will total 3,400 acres in this year and they will produce an enormous tonnage of fresh grapes. As I said, we will produce 42 million gallons of wine and sell only 17 million gallons this year, leaving a surplus of 25 million gallons to be stored. The prospect of selling the surplus on overseas markets is not good and the increase of the levy is needed.
Let me come back to the statement that we are subsidising our rural industries too much. The honourable members who make such comments represent areas that receive the benefit of huge hidden subsidies amounting to $ 1,000m a year. The miserable subsidies for the rural industries, which we see written into the Budget and which rural industries resist, are so small compared with the enormous subsidies given to other producers that they are infinitesimal. I deny that we are subsidising the rural industries too much. The rural industries are running into a very desperate marketing situation and no subsidy will get them out of it. The subsidy of $27m for dairy products was written into the Budget at a time of crisis by a man who was trying to help a section of the industry that was in a desperate situation. Any subsidy brings to an industry the seeds of its own death. The men who attack the subsidies for rural industries support industries that receive thousands of millions of dollars from tariffs, but these subsidies do not appear in the Budget.
I think the honourable member for Wilmot misquoted the honourable member for Dawson. However, in his dull speech he said he courageously was not drinking wine. Perhaps he would like to know how much wine is consumed in other countries. Australia is a beer drinking country, but we consume 1.7 gallons of wine per head per annum. France consumes 26 gallons per head per annum, and we all know how fascinating the French are. The Germans, in a beer drinking country, drink 3.4 gallons of wine a head a year, which is twice as much as the Australian consumption. The friends of the honourable member for Wilmot are helping keep down the consumption of wine in this country. What a dull country this would be if the honourable member for Wilmot had his way. But I am glad to say that we are not so dull, although in the process of drinking wine we will run into trouble with the Breathalyser, which is giving us considerable worry at this time. The Italians drink 24.5 gallons of wine a year - about half a gallon a week. The French also drink half a gallon of wine a week. Strange to say, the people of the United Kingdom drink .6 gallon of wine per head per annum - they are a bit light on.
– They drink Scotch whisky, though.
– That is a point well taken by the reverend gentleman from the Presbyterian Church. The Spaniards drink 13.2 gallons of wine a head a year, but they have not heard from the honourable member for Wilmot. The annual consumption per head of population is 3.4 gallons in West Germany, 8.6 gallons in Switzerland, 6.6 gallons in Austria, 8.5 gallons in Greece, 5.5 gallons in Yugoslavia and in Hungary, which is behind the Iron Curtain, 4.4 gallons, or three times as much as the Australian drinks. The only Iron Curtain we have here is the friends of the honourable member for Wilmot.
We find that 12 million gallons of fortified spirit, worth $12m, is produced in Australia. I imagine that this is the return to the winemakers, who receive about $1 a gallon. By the time the wine gets to the Summit Restaurant in Sydney the price is up to about $80 a gallon, or $5 a bottle, at sixteen bottles to the gallon. Therefore it can be seen that all of the other costs go into the bottling of the wine.
– That is a bit high.
– I agree that it is way up, but as far as I can remember this is the price. It is very gratifying to know that the Government has moved in before it is too late, because very soon this very affluent industry will run into the same trouble as that experienced by industries in areas represented by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who represents the electorate of Richmond, which is having a little bother or will have a little bother with prices of dairy products. But in this case the Government has shown great foresight and courage in contrast with the miserable approach of the Australian Labour Party. The Government has acted in time to ward off what would be disaster for another great Australian industry.
Producers of our marvellous wine can be proud of the fact that the Rhineland was replanted with vines from South Australia. When the vines of the Rhineland were lost because of phylloxera, South Australian cuttings were sent there. So the varieties of grape that were taken from the Rhineland to South Australia by the Lutherans are now back along the Rhine producing first class wine. It might be of interest for honourable members to know that wine is not called claret over there.
It is very interesting to note that, just as happens in other primary industries, it can take a long time for a new wine producer to make a profit. It takes 6 years from the time of planting till grapes are produced and another 2 years till the vines mature enough for wine to be made. After preparing the soil and planting cuttings, at least 8 years must pass before wine can be sold. It takes 8 or 9 years after money is invested for a person to get something out of the venture. Many of the rural industries are like this. It takes 4 or 5 years for one to get a bob out of an investment in inseminated cattle. This is the kind of investment that rural industries have to make. It is pleasing to know that at the moment - not in the future - the wine industry and wine producing districts are very affluent.
It is interesting to look at the value of wine as an export commodity. We should not forget that the rural industries produce export goods. Australia has a 95% recovery of export income on rural1 export goods. The industry that the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) has spoken about - and I heard him give tongue when he came back from the north - gives only a 49% recovery because of the enormous overseas investment. We have a 95% recovery of export income from rural industries and a 49% recovery from the extractive industries which take huge slices out of Australia. There is plenty there, of course. When we look round for rural industries which can keep up and increase this 95% recovery rate, the wine industry is an obvious choice, because everyone says that wine is doing well. This is where the honourable member for Dawson was caught up. He hears everyone saying that the cost of wine is going up. People buy it at 50c or 60c a bottle, put it away and then sell it at $2 a bottle when it matures. This is called a capital gain. I do not know whether these people pay income tax on this but they certainly make money.
It is our duty to probe every industry when we look for export income. But care has to be shown when dealing with the wine industry. It should not be allowed to get into the same position as the dairy industry and a section of the wheat industry. What care do we need in this situation? First of all we have to look at the kind of plantings being made. It is known now, as a result of surveys, that the consumption of the cheaper wines is increasing and that the growers are planting high class grapes such as Shiraz, Chardonnay and Black Hermitage. The production of the wines produced from these grapes is going up by leaps and bounds. Yet, the big market is for the cheaper types of wine. Who is to look after the situation? Perhaps the body to do this is the Australian Wine Board, which is provided with funds. This is a most important matter. We are boosting the plantings of high class grapes though we now know that the big market is for cheaper wines, as we would expect. The same thing happens with motor cars and other goods: The cheaper product is preferred.
It was only the other day that we were able to determine the types of plantings. We found that the Government did not know what the types of plantings were. I was in touch with the Minister’s office and was told that we have to know what the growers are planting and that we have to be careful that they are planting the right types of vines. People are attracted by a high class wine and they want to plant Shiraz and Chardonnay vines. This is wrong, because it is the cheaper types of wines that are finding the market. This is one thing. The next thing is to avoid a glut. I suppose one can store wine for a long time - much longer than cheese or butter. We can store it for perhaps 10 or 20 years, although I understand that some might be lost. But if we allow this kind of indiscriminate planning to go on we wilt run into trouble. The honourable member for Dawson should be the last person to find fault over this. All of his friends at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics would be wanting funds to spend on feasibility studies and research on the economic position in the wine industry. The honourable member, who was privileged to lead for his once great Party-
– It is still a great party.
– It went down after the right honourable member left it.
– I think the honourable member is putting in a lot of sour grapes.
– As far as sour grapes are concerned, I hope the right honourable member for Melbourne will stay away from them at this stage of the political situation. I suggest that when we are considering this matter we should have regard to all the other rural industries. It may be all right for Country Party members to smile about this, but there are many worries associated with rural production. There are many worries about butter and cheese, for instance” - and about bananas, as an honourable member has just reminded me, and as I agree. It seems to me that the kind of activity contemplated by this legislation is the right kind and that we are bringing in this legislation at the right time.
– If one can fly through the day on a bottle of milk what can one do on a bottle of wine?
– Wine is for mature people while milk is for the younger generation, as I think you would agree, Mr Speaker. I am delighted that the Government has acted in time on this matter and has not been too late. I commend the Government and I commend the handsome young Minister for bringing down this legislation.
– I have enjoyed, as 1 think most honourable members have enjoyed, the discourse by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate), who spoke with a great deal more experience on the consumption and qualities of wine than did my colleague, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I thought that the honourable member for Wilmot, with his biblical knowledge and ministerial experience, would have known quite a bit about wines. Wine is mentioned frequently in the Bible, from the beginning of it to the end. The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) quoted the famous saying of St Paul, which has been also quoted by many people to fortify their position in relation to the consumption of wine. St Paul said:
Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.
The Bible frequently speaks of people being drunk with wine. Whether the wine that was used was unfermented or not, it seems that it was fortified in some way or other. Whether the bees were responsible or not, it certainly seems that wine was put to good use by many people who have been mentioned through the New and the Old Testaments.
The proposal we are discussing today is to increase the rate of levy by up to $1 a ton on fresh grapes. The honourable member for Macarthur, who spoke at length, talked about surpluses. The only information I have is from people associated with the industry who came here and spoke to us about the situation. They have already been quoted by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) and the honourable member for Wilmot. These people told us that there is not a surplus of wine but that there is a surplus of funds for the Australian Wine Board. They pointed out that an additional 10,000 acres will be planted in the coming season. They pointed to the buoyancy of the home market and suggested that further promotion of that market at this time will serve simply to increase the consumption of imported wines. They claim that they have not sufficient supplies at the present time to satisfy the home market and that therefore any further local promotion will simply enhance the sales of imported wines. The honourable member for Macarthur gave us the benefit of his experience of the wine industry, and I think he did agree that Australian wines could hold their own with the wines of most other nations, even though they were being sold by some people at very high prices.
It was also pointed out by the people representing the co-operatives that any increase in the levy now will increase the cost of wines produced for export. They did acknowledge that there would be disadvantages in applying the increased levy only on grapes to be used to manufacture wine for the home market. They agreed that this would be impracticable. 1 think the honourable member for McMillan has already told us that they objected to the taxing of a raw material to promote the sales of a manufactured product, but 1 think that a precedent has been established in this connection, and we have no gripe about paying a levy at a fixed rate per ton of fresh grapes. However, these people did clearly point out that there is no surplus of wine for the home market.
The Wine Board has done an excellent job in the promotion of our wines overseas. On page 7 of its report it pointed out that 10 years ago Australia exported less than 200 gallons of wine to the United States. In 1966-67 the quantity was just under 3,000 gallons, while in the last year it was over 8,000 gallons. I think the Wine Board is doing an excellent job in promotion. It has been striking problems with respect to devaluation and other matters but I am sure that these will be overcome. My point is that if the people associated with the industry say there is no surplus of wine in Australia, and that there will be increased plantings to the extent of 10,000 acres, then we should give consideration to their views. lt should be noted that the increase of 20c in the levy last year improved the financial position of the Wine Board from one of a deficit in the previous year to one of a surplus, at the end of June 1968, of $43,581. I might also point out that according to our information - and the Minister can correct me if I am wrong - the levies on grapes picked and processed in the period between January and March are not paid until the following September. If this is the case, the levy on the 1968 crop would not be included in the amount of surplus I have just cited. The 1968 crop would attract a levy at a rate which would include the extra 20c. With this in mind, and realising that additional plantings would be made, the representatives of the industry have said that a further increase of up to $1 a ton is not warranted at this time. For my part, I would take the word of the people associated with the industry.
It is difficult to justify an additional levy at a time when the industry is struggling with problems such as those caused by devaluation and is trying to develop further markets, particularly in the countries close to Australia where there is not a high consumption of Australian wine - or any sort of wine for that matter. When the industry is struggling with these problems, when there is no surplus of wine and when increased plantings could bring additional funds to the Wine Board I suggest that an additional levy cannot be justified. I join with my colleagues on this side of the House in opposing the increase in the levy.
– in reply - Having listened to the speeches made in this debate, I am sure there will be recriminations within the Labor Party for having adopted such a negative attitude to this Bill. There has been no definite opposition to the Bill by honourable members opposite. They have simply said that the time is not ripe for this measure. The proposal to amend the Wine Grapes Charges Bill was originally put forward about 2 years ago and it has taken some time to mature - as with a good wine. I suppose we all have different opinions as to whether it is sufficiently mature or not. Apparently the Opposition thinks it is not mature and that we should not implement the proposal at this time. About 2 years ago my predecessor, the Right Honourable C. F. Adermann, received a deputation from the Board which is representative of all sections of the industry including the wineries, distilleries, growers and cooperatives. The Board stated unanimously that there was a need to be able to raise more money for research and promotion. The Board could see the need as being fairly imminent, and in fact thought that within 12 months an additional levy would be needed to meet its forecasted commitments.
The proposition put at that time was that there should be an excise levy on each gallon of wine and each gallon of brandy produced. The then Minister for Primary Industry agreed to this, but in the course of time there was a difference of opinion within the industry as to whether this was the most appropriate method by which to raise additional funds. There was already a levy on the production of fresh grapes and dried grapes and this proposal meant an additional levy, which could create some confusion. There was also a belief that this additional levy would be imposed upon the consumers of brandy and wine in this country, and that this would create an undesirable reaction. The Board approached me and recommended that instead of having a second form of charge they should increase the existing charge. 1 accepted this proposal. In fact I complimented the Board. I thought it was wise not to put an excise on the sale of wine in this country, this being something that had never happened before.
There was, however, a small division within the industry which involved representatives of some of the co-operative wineries in South Australia, which wineries produce approximately 18% of our wine output and about 50% of our wine exports. This section of the industry was not opposed to the suggestion that more funds were needed. It accepted this suggestion, which is at variance with the Labor Party’s point of view, put forward today, that there is no need for additional funds. This small section of the industry thought that there should be some provision in the Act to direct the Board to contribute a certain proportion of the moneys collected to export promotion. However, after discussions with officers in my Department and the Board I felt that this would not be proper.
I believed that having set up an industry organisation to raise a levy the Board should accept and have the responsibility of determining how this money will be spent. I believe the Board should determine the proportion that is to go to research or promotion, and of the money spent on promotion what should be spent overseas and what should be spent within Australia. I do not think it right to set any arbitrary amount because circumstances change rapidly from year to year. The Board should be allowed this flexibility in determining how the money can best be spent to the advantage of the industry. It is in a much better position to determine how the money should be spent than is any group of politicians or the Government. Consequently I left it in the hands of the Board.
I was conscious of the concern of the co-operatives in South Australia. They were in the unique position of producing wine which was sold mainly on the export market, and their concern was to see that any money collected for promotion was concentrated more on overseas markets. For this reason I wrote to the Chairman of the Australian Wine Board, Mr Ian Seppelt, and requested that special attention be given to meeting the needs of the co-operatives in South Australia. I informed him that I would not support the request for special legislation to determine exactly the amount that should be spent on overseas promotion but that if there were a need then the Board should recognise this and should spend a reasonable amount of money on overseas promotion. I believe thatthe Board has spent a reasonable amount on overseas promotion. In the last 12 months it has spent $155,000 on promotion of wines in Australia and an amount of$1 54,000 on overseas promotion. Of the amount spent on overseas promotion $83,000 came from the Board’s funds. Such expenditure is matched by the Overseas Trade Promotion Committee to which the Government contributes on a $1 for $1 basis. So there is a balance in the actual money spent on promotion at home and overseas, even though Australia’s exports of wine at the moment are only about 8% of total production.
It is quite unnecessary and undesirable to delay this legislation. At the Committee stage I shall move an amendment which will mean that this legislation will not come into effect until 1st July. This Bill does not mean that the Board will increase charges automatically up to the maximum provided in the legislation. It merely means that, if circumstances require the Board to raise more funds for research or promotion, it will be abte to do so.
A marketing problem is arising in the wine industry. As the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) has clearly demonstrated tonight, there has been a considerable increase in the acreage of wine grapes planted, the effect of which will not be felt for a few years. But it can be expected that the Australian production of wine will be increased considerably in the future and that there could be certain difficulties in the disposal of this increase. This will mean selling a portion of it on the Australian market, and a much greater proportion will have to be sold on world markets. So it is in the co-operatives long term interests to see that there is provision in the relevant Act for the Board to raise more money, if need be, to carry out further overseas promotion. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) said that if there was an increased levy on the gallonage of wine and brandy it could be used to develop market outlets in other countries by more or less subsidising exports. My reply to the industry on this point was that if by legislation the Government were to assist in subsidising exports to certain markets in the world, even if the growers’ own money were used, this would be in violation of the understanding of the General Agreement in Tariffs and Trade and could bring about retaliation from other countries.
In handling this rather difficult question with the industry I have taken all points of view into consideration. I think the Bill is reasonable. It takes into consideration the various interests such as the wineries, the distilleries, the co-operatives and the grape growers. Now is the time to pass this legislation so that the Board may raise more money if there is a dire need in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 2 of the Bill, which reads:
This Act shall come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine.
I propose a small machinery amendment to the clause. I move:
The effective date of operation will be 1st July 1969. This is purely a machinery amendment. The Bill was brought before the Parliament last year and it was hoped that it might be passed during the last sessional period. Unfortunately, due to pressure of work and the fact that sections of the industry wanted more time to consider the Bill, its passage was delayed until this present sitting. However, if we were to pass the Bill with the provision that it come into force on 1st January this year collection of the maximum levy would become operational immediately. This is not the intention of the legislation, so we seek to have the legislation come into operation 1st July 1969. Then by regulation we will determine the operative rate.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) - by leave - read a third time.
– by leave - The Commonwealth is to make a grant of $6m towards completion of the Tailem BendKeith rural water supply scheme in the south-east of South Australia. Funds to assist this project are being made available under the Government’s national water resources development programme. Under this programme a total of about $50m was allocated over a 5-year period for works in the States over and above the States’ normal water conservation programmes. Already $20m has been allocated for the Emerald irrigation scheme, and $3.6m for two projects to reduce the discharge of saline water into the River Murray.
The Commonwealth Government initiated the national water resources development programme late in 1966 and invited the States to submit proposals for consideration. About thirty were submitted and, in addition to the three already approved, six were selected, on the basis of information supplied by the States, for closer study as a basis for determination of possible Commonwealth assistance. The detailed study of the Tailem Bend-Keith scheme has been completed and the others are very close to completion. The Government is pleased to be able to announce assistance under the programme for the Tailem Bend-Keith project.
The Tailem Bend-Keith project is the basis for intensification of rural production in an area where development is at present limited by dependence on unreliable ground water supplies of inferior quality. The scheme, which comprises nearly 90 miles of trunk main and over 500 miles of branch mains, would provide domestic and stock water supplies from the Murray River for an area of nearly 2 million acres of sheep and wheat country, and serve a total of thirteen country towns. An economic evaluation of the project by the Commonwealth showed a very favourable result. Details of the Commonwealth’s offer have been conveyed to the South Australian Premier, and I have been notified today that it has been accepted. I present the following paper:
Commonwealth Aid for Water Resources Development - Ministerial statement, 26th February 1969. and move:
That the Mouse take note of the paper.
– The Opposition welcomes any statement by the Government designed to provide additional water storage and to advance Australia’s developmental programmes. However, we on this side of the House are concerned by the piecemeal parsimonious attitude adopted by the Government in dealing with water conservation generally. The proposal announced by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) is welcomed by the Opposition. We are conscious that it will assist the Tailem Bend-Keith project quite considerably and no doubt will provide some balm for the Government of South Australia, which is concerned by the failure of the national Government to proceed with the Chowilla project. The Opposition does not want to canvass the prospects of the Chowilla project being abandoned or what is to happen to the project at Dartmouth, but we do draw attention to the facts of life. The Snowy Mountains scheme seems to be dying. Plans are being made to close down the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. We believe that there should be a national plan which will enable the nation to consider fairly the problems associated with all water conservation projects.
We have been told by the Minister this evening that the Tailem Bend-Keith project is part of the Commonwealth’s plan to provide $50m over a period of 5 years for the six States. This is a paltry sum. It does not meet the requirements of this nation - the driest of all continents. When we remember that already one State has been granted $20m from the $50m set aside for water conservation purposes there is every reason to be concerned, as some State leaders are concerned at the failure of their proposals to receive anything like speedy consideration from the Minister and the Government. According to the Minister’s statement, thirty proposals have been submitted. Six of these are receiving closer study. But what of the proposals such as those submitted by the State of New South Wales? I asked a question on this matter today, and the Minister has promised to make a statement at some future date.
In New South Wales there is a feeling of indignation that 18 months after the announcement of the establishment of a national water resources programme well documented cases from New South Wales for financial assistance to enable that State to go forward with works programmes have not been approved by the national Government. Does the Minister say that the experts of New South Wales have been incapable of preparing cases acceptable to the Commonwealth? What is the reason for the delay in proceeding with these works? I have in my hand a number of newspaper cuttings. I do not intend to read them all. The Sydney Morning Herald’ of 9th January this year contained an article headed ‘Beale Defends Copeton: The NSW case for Water Aid’ which reads:
In a letter of reply to the Minister for National Development, Mr D. E. Fairbairn, the NSW Minister for Conservation, Mr J. G. Beale has set out his reasons for seeking Commonwealth aid on the Copeton Dam project as part of the Federal Government’s $50m National Water Resources Programme.
The New South Wales Minister is quite concerned. He is irate. The ‘Australian’ on 9th January published an article headed N.S.W. Bitter Over Deal on Water Resources’.
-Order! I think that the honourable member is getting very wide of the statement that was made by the Minister. I have not yet had time to study the statement, but I understand that it concerns Commonwealth aid for water , resources development as it affects South Australia. It does not cover the whole ambit of water resources.
– No,. Mr Speaker, but the Minister has referred to the number of applications received, and among the applications and submissions that he has received have been submissions from the State of New South Wales. That is what I am referring to. The Minister said that he has received 30 proposals and that six of these are to receive closer study. I presume that of those proposals that are to receive closer study the Copeton proposition is one. If the Copeton proposition .is not being considered by the Government, it is time that we moved an urgency motion in this Parliament to deal with this specific case. All I want to do in passing, as I intend to complete my remarks at a later time, is to let the House and the Minister know that while the State of New South Wales does not begrudge the spending of money in other States for the development of the water resources of this nation there is indignation and bitterness because of the attitude of the Government in failing to deal with the proposals submitted by that State.
The Opposition gives its blessing to the Tailem Bend-Keith rural water supply scheme, which is the proposal before us at the present time. We are pleased to see that the Minister has brought forward a proposal to deal with this,’ but we want to emphasise that the amount of money to be made available is inadequate for the work of a national conservation programme and to deal with these urgent national questions. Instead of the $S0m being spent over a period of 5 years for all the States of the Commonwealth, we would like to see emerge a national plan that will enable schemes such as the Tailem Bend-Keith rural water supply scheme to go ahead and that will provide resources, the manpower and the know-how from the Snowy Mountains Authority to get on with the major work of this nation. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27 November 1 968 (vide page 3324), on motion by Mr Kelly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill that is before the House rewrites the structure of one of the Joint Parliamentary Committees, the Public Works Committee. There are a number of Joint Committees, such as the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Works Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, and some other less eminent ones such as the Printing Committee. Each year, during the Estimates debate, we hear quite a number of speakers on both sides of the House suggesting that the parliamentary committees ought to be more active and a more essential part of the parliamentary process. Here in this rewriting of the Act we have an opportunity not so much to talk about the details of the Act as to look in general at the question of parliamentary committees. Before the Act was reviewed in 1953 the sum at which a work could be referred to the Committee was £25,000 or $50,000 in today’s figures. The 1960 revision increased the sum to $500,000 and the proposed sum is $750,000. Ostensibly, if a Commonwealth public works is of that magnitude, unless there is a reason given to the contrary, it is referred to the Public Works Committee to examine.
Here is a severance of what might be called the substance of policy from the details of technical, scientific and other kinds of administration. Apparently it is thought that it would be too much for the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) or his colleague the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) in the other House to be able to explore in detail works of that magnitude. Provided that the money is sanctioned the Government hands the proposal over to a committee such as this to look at details.
The franchise is set out quite clearly. One of the purposes of the Bill is to rewrite the franchise. Clause 17 (3.) of the Bill reads:
In considering and reporting on a public work, the Committee shall have regard to -
The stated purpose of the work and its suitability for that purpose;
The necessity for, or the advisability of, carrying out the work;
Three other matters, including the wise use of finances that are made available, also are listed. Clause 17 may occasionally raise some fine distinctions as to whether there is a conflict of policy. I find it a little difficult to know what clause 17 means, particularly the words ‘the stated purpose of the work and its suitability for that purpose’. Candidly, I find a little conflict between what might be called policy on the one hand and details on the other, but I take it that the words are regarded as a clarification of the situation. This evening the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor), who is the Deputy Chairman of the Public Works Committee, handed me some correspondence between himself and the Minister for Works. I do not want to deal with the clause which has been marked in the letter. I want to deal with another clause. But in part the letter states, referring to the existing Public Works Committee Act:
In the first place, the Act displays a general intention that the Committee is established as a means of assisting the House of Representatives to carry out its function of declaring, in relation to a work referred to the Committee, either that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work or that it is not expedient to carry it out.
The Public Works Committee is a joint committee. There seems to be some difference of opinion about the role of the Senate in relation to the Public Works Committee but I do not want to argue that question. The Senate itself can best state its position in that regard. But the situation in relation to the Public Works Committee seems to be different from that in relation to the Public Accounts Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, where at least there seems to be equality, so far as the two Houses are concerned, as to what might be called the ‘powers of initiation’. I suppose that there is some difficulty in the case of the Public Works Committee because originally a sum of money is involved. I am one who stands firmly on the side of this Committee as far as money rights are concerned. Nevertheless, I think there is some clouding over of the functions of a committee when it is composed of members from the two Houses. The initiatory powers lie mainly in this place. I think that a Minister in this place has to start the procedure of referring a work to the Public Works Committee, even though at times the Minister for Works may be a member of the other place. However loud his voice may be in that place, he has to speak with a kind of second grade voice in this place as to what it is that he intends to do. 1 think there is general agreement on both sides of the House that the Bill which is before us will result in the making of a better Act. I do not want to go into great detail about this matter. But there still seem to be one or two areas in which there is some difference of opinion as to what the Public Works Committee ought or ought not to do. I understand that one particular situation has now been resolved. Whether it has been resolved satisfactorily to the Committee, I do not know. An interesting little side argument took place as to whether the Committee had the right to look at works that were not carried out in Australia, even though the money was sanctioned in this Parliament. It has been resolved that the Committee is now confined to examining works, in the sense of physically looking at them, only in Australia or in the Territories of the Commonwealth. Apparently if an embassy were to be built in Iceland or in some other country the Committee could not go to that country to see whether the work was being satisfactorily carried out.
– You might be able to go there.
– If the Committee were allowed to do this I might even be interested in sitting upon it in my declining days. At the moment this is not the case.
– How would you fix that point of time?
– It would be some years ahead. I think that my best years are ahead of me. I am not one of those people who believe that we reach full fruition at 40 years of age. I am well past 40. The other one or two matters that I wish to raise concern what are called ‘statutory bodies’ as distinct from Government departments.
Again I should like to put my own view on record and maybe in the 10 or 15 years ahead somebody might resurrect it. I find that one of my most brilliant moments occurred when I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee. Something that I said quietly on that Committee when I was a very junior member of it seems to be much more the holy writ than what has been said by people who have reached greater eminence than I. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) would be aware of the point to which I am referring.
On this question of public corporations I still prefer a parliamentary department to a separate corporation, as far as general administration is concerned. This matter might interest the Postmaster-General because I know it has been- suggested that the Post Office should be turned into a statutory corporation rather than operate as a government department. A point has been raised regarding a statutory corporation engaging in building activity.’ I think that a distinction was drawn between the Snowy Mountains Authority and some other bodies. It has been stated that the Snowy Mountains Authority was a constructing authority and best knew its own business. But let us suppose that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation decided to construct a building. If it decided to construct a building which cost more than $750,000, probably the construction would be better, carried out if it were subjected to the scrutiny of the Public. Works Committee than if the Corporation were left to its own devices. The Government seems to have ruled against that contention because unless moneys are separately appropriated by. Parliament rather than out of the day to day resources of the Corporation, the work is not subject to examination by the Public Works Committee.
There is another matter on which I know there are some differences of opinion. My colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), has some views on this matter. Where large sums of money are expended on works by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States, apparently at the present time this sort of expenditure falls outside the purview of the Public Works Committee. I think that there are some nice arguments about the constitutional rights of the States as against the
Commonwealth in this regard. If the Commonwealth gives $3m to Western Australia or to South Australia for some work to be carried out in Western Australia or South Australia, no doubt the respective State governments believe that even though the money comes from the Commonwealth, they have adequate resources to police properly the quality and nature of the construction. These are matters on which there are some differences of opinion between the two sides of the House, but I do not think that they are primarily political matters.
The Public Works Committee is one of the few parliamentary committees which allows both sides of the House to come together to examine what are primarily technical and confined sorts of questions. In my experience on the Public Accounts Committee I remember that occasionally we had to take a vote on a question and that more often than not the vote was not decided on how the members were constituted politically, but on how they thought a particular technical problem should be resolved. I think that this is a fair enough approach in these matters. Quite often, they are matters of opinion in the long run. When the problem is resolved, very often the decision has very little to do with the political views of the members concerned.
It seems to me that there is broad agreement on the measure before us. It has received the scrutiny of the existing members of the Public Works Committee. I commend the past Committees for the work that they have done. Sometimes I do not think that people realise just how much work is involved in these committees. The only criticism that I have to offer relates to the degree of work that now comes before the Public Works Committee. It is true that the Committee has simplified the process by appointing sub-committees to consider particular works. But I think that some day there might have to be two Public Works Committees. Maybe the second committee will take under its wings the matters that at the present time are excluded. I refer to statutory bodies and so on. I am not one to condemn private enterprise, but I think I should be critical of the very narrow concept which divides the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia and the Reserve Bank of Australia. It is carried to such an absurd extent that those two organisations are not allowed to be situated in the same building. I certainly do not think that the Reserve Bank needs the palatial buildings that have been erected in its name. A case may be argued for a large building in Canberra, but it is certainly not necessary for the Reserve Bank to have the type of building it has erected in Sydney and Melbourne. As I have not visited the other States in recent times, I do not know of the position that exists there. To my mind this is an example of the need for some scrutiny by other than the Reserve Bank. I think that the same situation applies with buildings such as the Wentworth Hotel. However, as I do not know sufficient about the merits of these propositions, I will not criticise them any further.
Where large sums of public funds are being expended there is a case for a wider scrutiny than is given at present. With due respect to the Public Works Committee, I doubt whether it would have been able to cany out this scrutiny on all projects. I believe that there is a need in Australia, as there is in the United Kingdom, for a committee to be set up to scrutinise expenditure by statutory corporations on public works. It might even look at some of the constructional activities of the Post Office. I fully appreciate the argument that a statutory corporation should not feel that some parliamentary committee is breathing down its neck all the time. Nevertheless, it is hard to draw a distinction in terms of parliamentary responsibility between what are called day to day matters and matters of politics. I think that to some extent there is a bit of a melting pot as far as large scale public works are concerned. The Public Works Committee has its hands full at the moment. Perhaps it will have to be more perfunctory about some of the works that it examines. If there is too much work for it to do we may find it necessary to set up a second committee or to sever certain types of work for separate consideration.
I understand that an amendment to the Bill is to be moved by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney). I do not wish to debate its merits but, having consulted those honourary members on this side of the chamber who are members of the Committee, I simply state that the Opposition is prepared to accept the amendment. I welcome this improvement in the structure of the Act. I hope that it makes for more effective scrutiny by the Committee and through it by the Parliament of public works which I understand aggregate $200m a year. I believe that if the Post Office is taken into account close to 1% of the gross national product is expended directly and indirectly on the type of public works which fall within the purview of this Committee. At least the Bill modernises the framework of the Act. The cost limit below which public works need not be referred to the Committee has been raised from $500,000 to $750,000, which is understandable. Otherwise the Committee would be bogged down looking at every small project costing $50,000 or $60,000. The amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Perth seems to be a reasonable amendment. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition, 1 indicate its support of the measure.
– 1, too, rise to support the Bill. It is difficult to gauge the value of a parliamentary Public Works Committee or for that matter a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. I should imagine that their greatest val’ue lies in their existence rather than their operations. In 1968 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works examined about twenty proposed projects which were referred to it by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) and which, from memory, involved an expenditure of about $100m. I do not recall whether there was much criticism of these projects by members of the Committee. I think that there is a very high degree of co-operation between the Committee and the Department of Works. The Department operates on behalf of client departments which must follow certain guidelines simply because there is such a thing as a parliamentary Public Works Committee. I suppose that if the Committee suddenly began reporting grave abuses or grave discrepancies to the Parliament one could immediately say that the whole Public Service structure was at fault. Therefore, one does not expect to find this sort of thing all1 the time. The Committee is in much the same position as auditors of a company in as much as when the company knows that the auditors are there it has to dot a few I’s and cross a few T’s
I have been a member of the Committee for only a short period. Therefore, these amendments are none of my doing. They have been introduced as the result of a request to the then Prime Minister from the Committee, which in those days was chaired by the former honourable member for Maranoa, Mr Brimblecombe. In the main, the Government accepted the Committee’s recommendations except in three main respects about which I will comment at a later stage. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports said that the cost limit below which Commonwealth public works need not be referred to the Committee had been raised from $500,000 to $750,000. My’ understanding of the Bill is that it is possible for any work at all, even a project” costing less than that ‘amount, to be’ referred to the Committee. I know that the. Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who’ is at the table, will correct me if I am wrong. Clause 1 8 (I.) of the Bill states:
A Minister, who is a member of the House of Representatives, or. any other member of that House, may move a motion that a public work be referred by that House to ‘the Committee for consideration and report.
The clause just says ‘a - public work’. Therefore, 1 believe that it is possible for the Minister to refer any particular work,to the Committee or for a member to move in the House that a certain public work about which he has some doubts or wants some information be referred to the Committee. That is how I read Clause 18. In 1966, a tetter was written to the then Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, by Mr Brimblecombe on behalf of the Committee setting out areas where the Committee felt action should be taken. 1 think it was summed up by the Minister for the Navy, representing the Minister for Works, in his second reading speech when he said that the Bill was concerned with the establishment, powers and functions of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. He went on to say that a full review of the provisions of the Act was made, that the current Bill emerged from that consideration and that its purpose was one of general consolidation and amendment. Of all the recommendations that were made to the Government at the time only three were not agreed to. Two of the proposals were set out clearly in that letter and the other was the subject of negotiation and discussion with two AttorneysGeneral.
The first recommendation to which the Government would not agree related to overseas buildings. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports commented on this. Although 1 joined the Committee long after these recommendations were made I believe there is some value in the Parliament having some supervision, through a parliamentary committee, over what is done by the Government in respect of buildings overseas. 1 know that the first criticism offered is this: “Well, of course, the members of the Committee will be slipping overseas on a nice pleasure trip to look at projects’. 1 have been a member of this House for 14 years and I know that one of the things a member does not seek is travel, because he gets enough of it in his ordinary daily life. In a year 1 travel a distance equal to about ten times around the world in coming to work, so I am not looking for travel. The point I make is that if the Commonwealth is spending $2m or $3m on a chancellery or other building overseas the cost of enabling a committee of this Parliament to have an overriding supervision of that project would be a small proportion of the total cost.
If we believe in the right of the Parliament, which is composed of members representing the people, then on an all party basis the representatives of the people should have the right of supervision and of reporting back on such projects. If mistakes are made subsequently then the Parliament must accept the responsibility for those errors. Two very worthy Attorneys-General of this Parliament have expressed varying views in interpreting the Act as it relates to the powers of the Committee regarding works other than those inside Australia. One of those AttorneysGeneral is the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) and the other is now Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. The present Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) must agree with one of his predecessors but we do not know his views. I believe in the responsibility of the Parliament in supervising the overall expenditure of the Commonwealth Government. A sectional committee of the Public Works Committee could examine an overseas pro ject and report back to the full Committee. Most of the evidence could be taken in Canberra, as is done now with so many other referrals.
The next matter on which the Government did not see eye to eye with the recommendations of the 1966 Committee was the role of the Senate. Like the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, I have no desire to comment on this matter because there are members in the Senate who will put their views rather forcibly.
The third area where there was a difference of opinion and where the Government could not see eye to eye with the Committee was in respect of the Committee’s request that it should review some of the works of some statutory authorities. I have often looked out of the windows of the party rooms in this building and at work which has been done and I have wondered whether the Public Works Committee would have agreed with it. I look around Canberra and wonder whether some of the works of the National Capital Development Commission would have been undertaken on exactly the same lines had those works been referred to the Public Works Committee. Because the hospitalisation of the people is undertaken by the Commonwealth Department of Health the building of hospitals is referred to the Public Works Committee. This was so with the proposed new hospital for the Woden Valley.
At this stage and for the benefit of the House I shall read from two documents. First I read from the letter from the Public Works Committee in 1966 concerning statutory authorities. The letter, which was addressed to the Prime Minister, stated:
From a reading of the debates on the 1960 Bill, it will be seen that members expressed concern that the public works of the various Commonwealth statutory authorities should be exempted from scrutiny by the Public Works Committee. In its most recent examination the Committee considered this point at some length and concluded that where a statutory authority is created primarily for the purpose of constructing public works, such as the Snowy Mountains Authority, their works should continue to be exempt from Committee examination. We considered, however, that the works of statutory authorities whose primary role was the management of Commonwealth enterprises, were different and that these works should be examined by Parliament as (he authorities concerned are generally not as experienced in the economic use of public funds for public works as authorities whose primary role is construction.
The Committee therefore asks that when consideration is being given to the creation of management-type statutory authorities, provision be made in the enabling legislation for the application of the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act to these works. The precedent for a provision such as this is in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924 which brought under Public Works Committee scrutiny the works of the Federal Capital Commission.
In 1958 this situation was changed by the establishment of the National Capital Development Commission and from that time these works have not come under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. The reply to that proposal appears in the second reading speech of the Minister representing the Minister for Works where he said:
In- relation to the powers of the Committee to examine the works of statutory authorities, the Government’s view is that it should preserve the principle that statutory authorities are established with the express purpose of preserving an autonomy of operation and a degree of independence from the legislature and the Executive. Accordingly, it has been made clear that where a work of a statutory authority is carried out by the Commonwealth or its agent - and this can be taken generally to mean the Commonwealth Department of Works - and also where the money to pay for that work is appropriated by the Parliament and placed under the control of the Department of Works, then that project is subject to examination by the Public Works Committee. On the other hand, where the money to pay for a work carried out for a statutory authority is drawn from funds vested in the authority itself and not under the control of the Department of Works, that work is not subject to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee.
My point is that regardless of whether the money comes from that source or not it does come from the taxpayers of Australia and we as the representatives of the taxpayers should be given the right to have these works referred to the Public Works Committee even though those works are under the auspices of a statutory authority. I should hope that at some future date when the Public Works Committee Act is being examined - and this could be even now - the Government will have a further look at this aspect. I believe that no harm could come from such a scrutiny and perhaps a fair amount of good could arise.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports said that the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor), had spoken to him about some misgivings that the Committee had about section 17 of the Act. I thank the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) who, in a close inspection of the Act, found that the wording of that section could be construed to lessen the powers of the Committee when works were referred to it. Having been acquainted with that opinion, the Committee decided to seek the Government’s advice as to whether it had intentionally or unintentionally written into the Act sections which would lessen the powers of the Committee to look at a project. We received every co-operation from the Minister for Works (Senator Wright). He gave us an opinion which the Committee considered was not sufficiently authoritative and which it referred back. The Committee had from the Parliamentary Draftsman a suggested amendment to overcome the Committee’s objections. The Minister for Works took the proposal to the sub-committee of Cabinet and approval was given for an amendment to be moved in the House to overcome the objections. The relevant cl’ause of the Bill is clause 17 and during the Committee stage I will move that after work’ in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (1.) the following words be added: and concerning any other matters related to the work in respect of which the Committee thinks it desirable that the views of the Committee should be reported to the House.
I cannot speak in this House for the Public Works Committee because its members come from all parties and from both Houses. But for myself I pay a tribute to the 1966 Committee which did a considerable amount of work in framing the recommendations to the Government, most of which were accepted. I also pay a tribute to the Minister for Works, who incorporated most of the requests and included in the Bill provisions which, we hope, will enable the Committee to operate more efficiently for the benefit of the nation.
– The attitude of the Opposition has been stated by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who has authorised me to say that the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) is acceptable to the Opposition. The Bill can be said, from a machinery point of view, to accomplish much, but in other respects, especially on the question of control, it fails to give to the Public Works Committee powers that the Committee has been seeking for many years. This failure of the Government results in the Bill being negative in some respects. The machinery provisions are being brought up to date, but it is worth pointing out to the House that the Committee has been attempting to reach this stage since 1960. The proposition was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister of the day in 1966 and tonight we are considering proposals that have been made over a period of 8 or 9 years. This shows how difficult it is to have machinery provisions brought up to date.
The failure of the Government to give the Committee authority to examine the expenditure of public moneys by statutory bodies is to be deplored. After all, the money comes from the taxpayers whether it is being spent by a statutory body or any other body. I do not think that any undertaking should be above the scrutiny of this Parliament The interests of the Parliament should be paramount and should take precedence over the interests of the establishment, of Cabinet or of any departmental head. The Australian Labor Party during the years it has been in Opposition has always come up against an inbuilt resistance that emanates principally from Ministers and heads of departments. Some Ministers and departmental heads seem to be over zealous in upholding their standing and authority. We have found down the years that some Ministers are all too prone to accept the views of their advisers against those of other people in the Parliament. The resistance that exists has made it exceedingly difficult for the Committee to operate and to see that its views, which we believe are in the public interests, are brought to the proper notice of the Parliament. I am afraid that while the Parliament has such Ministers this situation will not be overcome. No Minister should believe that his first responsibility is to his departmental head when he is dealing with a matter that affects the Parliament. The Committee reports to the Parliament. It does not report to anyone else and the obligations of the Committee to the Parliament are paramount.
We have tried to get the Government to make some move on the question of statutory bodies. Let me give an example of what happens. Qantas Airways Ltd decided to build a hotel costing $8m in Sydney. I suppose that the $8m spent on that project is just as much taxpayers’ money as S8m spent on any other project is. But because Qantas is a statutory body the Committee was precluded from inquiring into the building of the hotel in Sydney. On the other hand, a different attitude was adopted when the Australian Broadcasting Commission wanted to build a studio at North Sydney costing, from memory, $4m. The ABC is a statutory body, but the Government decided that the proposal to build the studio at North Sydney should be referred to the Committee. However, it would not refer to the Committee the proposal by Qantas to spend $8m on the construction of a hotel in Sydney. It is this kind of anomaly and this kind of contradiction that bewilders not only the members of the Committee but other people as well. I am certain that anyone who set out to examine the references to the Committee would be bewildered by these contradictions. 1 am concerned about the attempts that are made periodically to have works exempted from examination by the Committee. Until recently, when the cost of Government projects, particularly in Darwin, reached a certain figure, they came under the scrutiny of the Committee. This was so with the development of “the wharf in Darwin. Over the years a considerable sum of money has been spent on the development of wharf facilities in Darwin. But somebody decided to set up a commission in Darwin to deal with the development of facilities in a particular area, and under this scheme money was spent on the wharf. We questioned whether the authorities were entitled to do this, but the provisions requiring the work to come before the Committee had been overcome because the commission was set up as a statutory body. I am concerned because this development in Darwin will affect other activities in the Northern Territory. What is to stop the Government, if it so desires, from setting up a commission, such as a beef roads commission, and keeping from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works all development works relating to beef roads? Perhaps the House should be reminded that only a small number of the proposals to spend money on the development of beef roads have come before the Committee. Most of the proposals have been exempted from examination by the Committee. If the recent trend that was revealed with the development of the wharf in Darwin continues we will find that very few projects will come before the Committee.
Many works have been exempted from examination by the Committee that should not have been exempted. This has been done in a way that should cause those who have been responsible to be criticised. The Committee has not been able to inquire into defence works simply because somebody wanted them kept away from the Committee on the grounds that they were urgent works or that it was not in the national interest for the Committee to examine them. That point of view is hard to sustain when we take into consideration the fact that there are hundreds of civilians running around these places and building these projects. Yet the Minister tells the Committee that it just cannot go into these places on the grounds of security.
These are the kinds of reasons that have been periodically trotted out to the Committee by the respective Ministers from time to time. I am pleased to say, however, that this trend has disappeared in recent times. I think it was Sir Robert Menzies who issued an instruction to all of his Defence Ministers that, wherever possible, work that was needed by the armed forces should be referred to the Committee. Consequently, I am glad to say, the trend that was exhibited from the defence point of view has disappeared. I do not think that the reluctance of departmental heads to have the Committee examine their work is a very good feature. There is a reluctance displayed by Ministers to allow the Committee to operate. Believe me, the Committee has had an unrelenting struggle down the years to reach the position it is in today. This struggle has not been an easy one. The result has not been achieved very quickly or easily.
I hope that the day is not far distant when this Parliament, irrespective of the government that might be in power, will realise and face up to the fact that public, money - the taxpayers’ money - is being spent. No matter who is spending this money this Parliament has a right to super vise such expenditure and there is no body better equipped to do this than an all party committee.
– This is a long expected Bill, as has been emphasised by previous speakers. The Bill has taken a long time to get here and it is something that everyone should be very’ pleased to see. Those of us who have had some experience on the Public Works Committee realise the difficulties that the Committee laboured under with the old Act which was passed in 1913 and subjected to very little amendment. At one time the Act was suspended. Its wording was antiquated and involved the Committee in a lot of trouble.
In 1966 the Committee made a very close study of the conditions under which its members were working, based on their experience in handling matters that came before them. After thoroughly thrashing out a lot of the points that have been mentioned, with respect to statutory authorities and examination of works overseas, the Committee made a very comprehensive report and I for one am extremely disappointed that the Government has seen fit to reject some of the recommendations made in the report. There seems to be no valid reason why these recommendations were not accepted. I am speaking tonight to emphasise the fact that there is a body of opinion in this place that believes that the Committee should have been given a little wider power than it is being given.
Most of the Bill is quite satisfactory. As I checked through the various clauses I found that the Committee’s suggested amendments to the Act have in the main been very well accepted. In some instances, the very words suggested have been accepted. Members of the Committee who made a study of the Act in 1966 went to the trouble of trying to bring its language up to date. We were able to put some of the archaic phrases into terms which I am pleased to say have been accepted now as suitable wording in the new Bill. But there are one or two cases where wording other than that suggested has been substituted. The Committee’s separate suggestions concerning the necessity for carrying out work and the suitability of the work for the purpose envisaged have been combined for some reason or other. I believe that the new
Bill has narrowed the interpretation of the economic use of the funds required. The Committee did follow the practice of taking into account the revenue which might reasonably be expected to be produced when the work was of a revenue producing character. That is very good. It will now have to consider the present and prospective public value of the work. I submit that consideration of the prospective public value of the work at some future time has never been really necessary. But this requirement was suggested and has been accepted in this Bill.
Clause 17 (1.) (b) provides that the Committee shall ‘make a report to the House of Representatives concerning the expedience of carrying out the work’. Clause 17 (2.) states:
The Committee may, In its report on a public work, recommend any alterations to (he proposals for the work that, in its opinion, are necessary or desirable to ensure that the most effective use is made of the moneys to be expended on the work. 1 do not think that the Committee really has any right to suggest alterations to the proposals for work. I agree that it has a right to make a recommendation in regard to the expediency of doing the work. Even the provision in clause 17 (2.) that the Committee may recommend any alterations to the proposals for the work which the Committee thinks desirable may - and I repeat the word ‘may’ - be interpreted by some, people as meaning that the Committee may comment. It is desirable that its views should be reported to the House. But I submit that clause 17 (3.) should contain a sub-clause (f) which should provide that the Committee should have regard to any alterations that it thinks desirable to ensure the best use of public money. I think that this would make the Committee’s function a lot more clear and a lot more sensible.
Clause 18 deals with the provision that a Minister shall furnish to the House of Representatives a statement in relation to public work including an outline of its purpose. He has to submit plans, specifications and other particulars. But this clause does not mention anything about the Minister having to furnish details of the estimated cost. I would have thought that the estimated cost would have been quite important. But no such requirement is set out in. the Bill. While I am on the question of cost, I point out that there is no provision in the Bill - this may be a little irrelevant - for any re-examination of the proposals at some future time if necessary. The situation could arise where the estimated costs have been accepted by the Committee but the final costs are a lot more. There is no provision in the Bill for any reopening or reconsideration or any explanation to the Parliament of why the extra costs have been involved.
The section of the thirtieth general report of the Public Works Committee concerned with airport development gives a very clear picture of what is happening with civil aviation references. Most of the references listed show considerably greater amounts for current estimates than for original estimates. One listed here showed an original estimate of $18m and a current estimate of $24m. Admittedly there is one listed originally at $16m and currently at $12m. There was a saving in cost in that case. But out of eight examples given in the report seven show a very serious increase.
Then sub-clause (5.) of Clause 18 says:
After the receipt of the report of the Committee concerning a public work, the House of Representatives may pass a resolution that -
This matter of referral back to the Committee has never been clarified. The Committee’s report comes to this House and it is open for discussion in this House. If the Committee says it is expedient to carry out the work the House may pass a resolution either that it is expedient to carry out the work or that it is not expedient to do so. But this Bill provides a third course of action. The House may pass a resolution referring the work again to the Committee. Under what terms? The Committee has already examined the whole thing. Where is it to obtain fresh evidence in order to make a further examination? Then subclause (6.) says:
A public work the estimated cost of which exceeds Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars shall not be commenced unless -
Then it lists various requirements. I think that when the Public Works Committee was first established the minimum estimated cost of a work which would be required to be examined by the Committee was £25,000. For several years now the minimum has been $500,000. Now that a revision is being made of the terms of the legislation it has been decided to fix the minimum at $750,000. If honourable members take the trouble to examine the last two reports they will find that very few of the works examined cost less than $lm. The ones costing less than $lm were pretty minor things. There was, for instance, the rebuilding of Melville Rehabilitation Centre in Western Australia-Purely not a major public work which would go before the Public Works Committee of necessity. As the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) has stated, it is always possible to refer any work to the Committee, even if it is to cost only $50,000. 1 submit, however - and I will not go through the figures but merely point out that they are available in these reports - that most of the works examined cost well over Sim, and I think that $lm is the minimum figure that should be set out in the Bill. Returning to subclause (6.), the provision is in these terms:
A public work . . . shall not be commenced unless -
the work has been referred to the Committee in accordance with this section;
That is fair enough. Then it goes on:
This is very good. This was thought out to overcome one of the troubles that was particularly mentioned by the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor), who referred to defence projects being withheld from the Committee’s examination because the Department concerned said: ‘This is urgent. We do not want to waste time while the Committee carries out an examination of it’. This is really no excuse for-
– Sidetracking the Committee?
– Exactly. It is no excuse for sidetracking the Committee. Of course there is a possibility that on some occasions there will be an urgency which makes it desirable to proceed without the
Committee’s examination, but that urgency should be fully explained to this Parliament. Then the sub-clause goes on:
I recall that this was one of the items to which we gave a great deal of thought. I remember doing a fair amount of research on it. The suggestion made by the Committee in 1966 was that this provision should be in these terms:
The Governor-General has, by order, declared that the work is for defence purposes and that the reference of the proposed work to the Committee would involve the publication of information prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth.
To leave the matter up in the air with the vague words ‘would be contrary to the public interest’ provides an opportunity for anyone who wants to avoid referring something to the Committee to say: ‘It is not in the public interests’. If that person had to show that the reference would involve the publication of information prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, then we would know that it was definitely the kind of work that should be carried out without any public inquiry. The phrase would be contrary to the public interest” is too weak altogether to be acceptable in a Bill which is designed primarily to ensure that huge sums of public money are not spent unwisely.
That brings me to the question: What is a public work? In the original legislation there was no definition of a public work. I presume it was left to the various Attorneys-General to work it out for themselves. So the Committee asked that included in the Bill that we are now discussing should be a definition in these terms:
A public work is a work carried out by tha Commonwealth or any Government department, and for and towards the carrying out of which money is provided by the Commonwealth.
Instead of that we get this definition: public work’ means a work -
That has already gone a long way towards meeting the wishes of the Committee. Then it goes on:
This puts an entirely different interpretation on the definition of a public work. I submit that it would be accepted by anybody who did not want to hide something, or did not want to evade the normally accepted interpretation, that a public work is, as the Committee suggested, a work carried out by the Commonwealth or any government department. Whether or not it is within the Commonwealth or a Territory has nothing to do with the matter. It is a public work if it is carried out by the Commonwealth or any government department and if, for and towards the carrying out of it, money is provided by the Commonwealth. The terms are nearly the same as those used in the Bill, although the Bill does use the word ‘appropriated’. But it has been deliberately framed in this way to make sure that no works carried out in overseas countries will be examined by the Committee. It is my view, as I think it is the view of other honourable members, that there is no difference at all, so far as the requirement of examination by the Committee is concerned, between a work carried out in Perth or Brisbane and a work, such as the building of a chancery or some other piece of Australian property, in some foreign land. If it is necessary to go to Paris to have a look at a chancellery or embassy building, it should be done. It is just as important to the people of Australia for their money to be protected when it is spent on something like that as it is when it is spent on a building within Australia. It should be borne in mind that there, would not be many of these trips because Australia would not be spending $750,000 on such a building every week. Such trips would be necessary only occasionally, and if the Commonwealth Government was so miserable that it could not send a full committee then surely a sub-committee could be sent. As the honourable member for Perth said, most of the inquiries would be completed in this building, as they are now for so many projects.
I would, give similar reasons for requesting that the supervision of statutory bodies be reconsidered. It is very salutary for a department to know that it is responsible to some other authority. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) mentioned the Reserve’ Bank building. This is a most extravagant building which is entirely unnecessary for the efficient functioning of the bank. No doubt the facilities within the building are a dream for the people working in it, but it is out of step altogether with the standards provided for other people in the community. Surely money spent on such a building is public money just as much as is money that is appropriated directly for the purpose. Comment has already been made on this point, and I do not want to labour it.
I believe we are quite right in adopting the viewpoint which was expressed back in 1960. I think that the present Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) was at that time chairman of the Public Works Committee. He put forward a view that work undertaken by the National Capital Development Commission should come under the scrutiny of Parliament. Even in those days the NCDC was suspect because of things done in Canberra that we all know about, such as putting up buildings before it had the people to occupy them. The NCDC had the money available to spend so it put up buildings. Eventually these buildings were occupied, but of course that is not the point. This is not in the spirit of the Public Works Committee’s charter, which is to ensure the economic use of money that is entrusted to various people. In 1960 the present Minister for Defence informed the House that as one of the persons responsible for the formation of the NCDC, he having been the Minister for the Interior, it was not his intention that the Commission should escape the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. The NCDC has gone ahead and has spent money without any supervision because no such provision was made in the Bill which set up that body. It is not subject to any discipline, because it does not operate and administer the buildings which it erects.
There are many kinds of statutory bodies. Qantas Airways Ltd might be excluded, because after all it has to. administer and operate the buildings it puts up, and presumably it has to make the buildings pay. The NCDC is not concerned with this because it is a building authority only. I think it is right that the Commission should be held responsible for the architectural design of buildings and other aspects of. development in Canberra to ensure that they fit into the landscape. It should ensure that somebody does not erect an awful dark brick building on one corner and a nice bright marble building next door to it. However, as I have already said, the expenditure of money by the NCDC should be under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. In this way details of expenditure would come back to the Parliament and honourable members would have an opportunity to assess whether the Commission is doing the job that it is expected to do. It is doing the job that it was set up to do, but is it doing the job that we expect of it?
The Federal Capita) Commission was in existence before the NCDC came into being, and in many respects it did a similar job. The Seat of Government (Administration) Act includes the following section:
The provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21 shall apply in relation to works and buildings proposed to be constructed by the Commission in like manner as they apply in relation to public works proposed to be constructed by the Commonwealth.
This is the thought that the Committee had in mind when it suggested including a provision of this type for statutory bodies. It is quite right that this matter should be aired in the House tonight in the hope that when statutory bodies are being set up in the future these provisos will go into their charters and that this inequity will be corrected.
– Finish on that note.
– No, not quite. I have 4 minutes left. Mention has been made of references to the Public Works Committee initiated in this House. Although it is a joint standing committee, the Committee reports back to this House. In the report to the Prime Minister ki 1966 the Committee did use words to the effect that the Senate should also come into the picture in some way, because after all the reports are tabled in the Senate now. There was a great deal of discussion on this point and the Committee was far from unanimous in its decision. I have always considered that the Senate should not have any actual say in the proposals after they have been cleared by this House. The position is quite clear.
There is no need for the Senate to come in on this. The Committee has been entrusted with the obligation to inform Parliament whether the proposed works comply with the requirements of the Parliament. It has been entrusted to ensure that the proposal is expedient and should be put into effect.
If one examines the circumstances surrounding the birth of the Public Works Committee one will find that it was formed for the convenience of Parliament. It was not formed as an extension of the legislative arm of Parliament. It is important to recognise this fact. The Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee are not extensions of the legislative function of this Parliament. Although the expenditure of money is involved in the proposals that come before the Public Works Committee, the Committee itself plays no part in the appropriation of money. Much of our Public Works Committee Act was borrowed from the Victorian legislation. The Victorian Public Works Committee does not have to obtain approval from the Parliament before beginning the investigation of a project. All it has to do is inform the Governor in Council - that is, the Cabinet - that it proposes to undertake the investigation. I believe that our system is the better one. We let the Parliament know what the Committee proposes to do. Under the Constitution the Senate cannot initiate a money Bill and cannot alter an appropriation. So it would be inappropriate for the Senate to deal with a decision to carry out work. The role of the Senate is only to advise. It cannot amend the money Bill, and references to the Public Works Committee must always be considered in the same light as a money Bill. I am very happy that at last after so long we have obtained this revision of the Public Works Committee Act.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
– I have received a message from the Senate intimating that it concurs in the resolution of the House of
Representatives extending the time for the bringing up of the report of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House.
– I have received a message from the Senate intimating that it concurs in the resolution of the House of Representatives that the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory be empowered to move from place to place and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Very briefly I desire to stir the dying embers of the past and deal with the winds of change that are passing over the Gorton Government. Twenty odd years ago the Labor Party appointed Sir William McKell to the position of Governor-General. He has now been followed to that high office by an illustrious recent member of this Government, but the reaction more than 20 years ago to the appointment of Sir William McKell was far different from the reaction to the appointment of Sir Paul Hasluck. When Sir William McKell was appointed Governor-General Mr Menzies, as he then was, moved a motion of no confidence in the Labor Government for its action. Only a few days after the appointment of Sir William McKell a Liberal Party Speaker of the House of Representatives refused to attend Government House and Sir Eric Harrison, who was. Leader of the House in the Menzies Government which came to power at the end of 1949, went on strike against all official functions. But despite the behaviour of members of the Liberal Party in those days we have seen this Government follow the pattern of the Labor Government by appointing Sir Paul Hasluck to the position of Governor-General. This takes me to another change that has come over the Government-
– Order! I remind the honourable member that the GovernorGeneral designate enjoys the privileges that are accorded to the Governor-General. Any restrictions applying to statements that are disrespectful of the Governor-General or critical of his conduct apply with equal force in respect of the Governor-General designate.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have finished with that matter. 1 merely wanted to pay my respects to the appointee and to congratulate the Government on plundering Labor’s policy of many years ago.
I want to deal tonight particularly with the winds of change moving through the present Government with respect to bank mergers. Strange as it may seem I commend the ‘Daily Telegraph’, whatever its motives may have been, for almost single handedly pointing out the dangers inherent in the change that has come over the Government and those who control the private banks. Let us remember that the Government was elected in 1949 with the financial support of these organisations. If the proposed mergers are approved these free enterprise banks which are said to believe in competition will be reduced in number from seven to four. Having voted in this Parliament for bank nationalisation and recalling the campaign at that time and the claim of the Government parties that more banks meant more competition and that free enterprise had to be maintained at all costs, I find it interesting to note that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who was elected to Parliament with the support of the private banking institutions, is now giving effect to the policies of bank nationalisation. I suppose you might say that he is doing this by stealth. One of the banks involved in merger proposals is the Bank of New South Wales. In 1947 the Bank of New South Wales published a document headed: ‘A Personal Message to Customers and Shareholders. Bank Nationalisation Still an Issue.’ The document read:
In September, 1947, when the Bill to abolish the trading banks was before Parliament we said in a’personal message’ to our customers and shareholders that the issue was’whether we are to be at liberty to bank where we wish and do what we like with our money or whether we are to be dragooned into a government monopoly bank which will have a strangehold on all our financial affairs. Bond or free?’ That is still the issue and the danger is no less real.
The English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd is about to amalgamate, if approval is given by the Treasurer, with the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd. In September 1949 Mr E. G. Wilson, who was General Manager of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd, said in a newspaper advertisement headed ‘Banks in Danger of Destruction if Government Returned’:
Should this bank fail to please you your great safeguard today is that you can go shopping for service and financial help among our trading bank competitors, including . the trading bank section of the Commonwealth Bank.
This protective, democratic framework of healthy competition is in danger of early destruction.
An article in the September 1947 issue of the ‘NSW Banker’, which was the official organ of the United Bank Officers Association of New South Wales, under the heading ‘E.S. & A. Voices Virile Views. “Nationalisation Atomic Bomb” Declares Bank President’, stated:
The unrelenting struggle against the signing away of our liberty and freedom grows in intensity as daily the voice of public opinion is raised in vigorous protest.
Mr Wilson, to whom I have already referred, is reported to have said:
My fighting blood is up and I am going to fight.
Having regard to the propaganda of more than 20 years ago about the banks facing destruction and the need to maintain them, notwithstanding that they had dwindled in number over a period from seventy-six to seven, I find the arguments of Mr H. McE. Scambler, General Manager of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd, in support of the proposed merger, as reported in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 7th February 1969, rather strange. He goes on to say:
One of the main complaints seems to be that the mergers by which six banks may be reduced to three will ‘halve the competition’.
That is really bright banking knowledge, of course. It means that if you divide a thing by two you have half as many. He goes on: This is strange arithmetic - it ignores the existence of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation (which claims the largest business in the combined total of Australian trading and savings deposits) the Bank of Adelaide and of several State banks. The competition of larger banks with greater resources is expected by the banks themselves, who have to face the competition, to be even stronger than before.
The General Manager of the E.S. & A. Bank, whose predecessors campaigned against the reduction of banks by nationalisation, says today that by splitting the banks in half there will be twice as much competition. I have never heard anything so silly in my life. As a matter of fact, it proves that the banks’ arguments against nationalisation were phoney through and through, because there has never been competition among the trading banks. These mergers exemplify it and indicate it for all concerned. The bankers who campaigned vigorously against nationalisation and the members of this Government who condemned this Socialist intrusion on the liberty and the right of people to bank everywhere, today are considering the practical reduction of banks by half and trying to tell the Australian people that in this free enterprise society it means more competition to halve the number of banks.
What will be the logical outcome of this? What is to stop the Commonwealth Bank from making a takeover bid for all the other banks? The banks, if they only know it, are in real danger under this Government, because this Government’s policies change like the wind from day to day. If the private banks can take over each other, why could not the Commonwealth Bank take over what is left? The real fact of the matter is that the present Government is going to rationalise banking, from what I can see. Do these mergers mean that like Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia we are shortly to have two banks, the Commonwealth Bank on one side and one private bank on the other? It is only another step before those that remain will be taken over by the other bank and we will be left with the rationalisation process that I mentioned in respect of TAA and Ansett Airlines.
I rose tonight to point out to the people of this country and to this Parliament the hypocrisy with which this Government was associated when it used the propaganda to defeat the Labour Government in 1949. On 18th February the ‘Daily Telegraph’ took the unusual step of printing an article from another newspaper. The article read:
Twenty years ago widespread popular resentment and skilful propaganda against Labour’s attempt to nationalise the Australian banking system helped to swing the Liberal Party into power. . . .
Does it mean that the Government believes in bank nationalisation now? Does it mean that Government believes that by halving the number of institutions competition will be increased? The Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) has not spoken here for years, but 1 would like to hear him on this. Will he explain to the Parliament how this means more competition and that the public will not suffer under the proposals? Will the Treasurer explain some of those speeches that he made in 1949 when he spoke of the free enterprise banks? What about free enterprise banks? I have been dazzled night after night by television advertisements about the seven free enterprise banks. If a person does not like one he can go to another. Does it mean now that we will have to change it to the four free enterprise banks and later on to the two free enterprise banks? Does it mean that we can then say: Go where you like because they are rationalised anyway’?
AH this proves that the Government jus does not know where it is on these issues, but it also proves that the Government is prepared at this stage to support policies which it condemned a few years ago as Socialist and policies that would destroy completely the freedom and enterprise ot banking in this country. For my part, 1 support the Commonwealth Bank. I supported the nationalisation of banking and I make no apologies for it, but I do complain when a Government that viciously opposed nationalisation as being opposed to all that free enterprise stood for is today considering the amalgamation of these banks and saying that it increases competition. To me nothing is sillier. I thought it should be raised tonight. Strange as it may seem, and as sorry as I am to do it, I commend the ‘Daily Telegraph’ for highlighting this matter for the public of Australia, whatever its motives were, because the people should be awakened to what this Government is doing and how its policies are constantly changing, particularly on this important matter.
– Tonight I desire to draw attention to the problems of local government. I recognise that traffic problems in the larger cities will have to be overcome. They must be relieved, but to starve shire councils in an endeavour to rectify these problems is a very wrong and shortsighted approach and would not provide sufficient funds in any case. I suggest that a special fund should be provided for this special purpose and that Commonwealth aid roads funds should be continued to be applied as in the past, with 40% of these funds applied to rural roads as specified at present. Shires have become very dependent upon Commonwealth aid. Even though it has been provided in increasing amounts over the years, many shires are still left desperately short of funds for essential works. To emphasise this factor perhaps more effectively than I might do in my own words, I would like to quote from a letter that I received recently from a shire councillor in my area. The letter reads:
This council is gravely concerned at the plight of country ratepayers. Increased rates are unavoidable due to increasing costs and are creating hardship for these people.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that a crisis point must soon be reached in rural shires unless there is a radical alteration in the method of obtaining finance for local government.
When first introduced, property rating was the only feasible means of obtaining the finance for provision of roads in rural areas, roads which were almost exclusively used by, and of benefit to, the landowner who was paying for them. Indeed the landowner in those days was the only person able to pay, and as almost every penny he contributed was spent on roads, he was getting good value for money.
Contrast this with the position of the landowner today.
Faced in many instances with depressed prices for his commodities, whilst paying continually higher prices for materials; labour and services required to provide those commodities, and all of this greatly aggravated in recent years by drought. Then add the most significant cost of all - property rates.
Here is a discriminatory, inequitable tax, levied on those unfortunate enough to have land as a basis of their means of making a living. Unlike earlier generations, the rural landowner is no longer the only person in country areas capable of providing the finance for local government. Neither is the finance he provides expended almost exclusively on projects of benefit to him. Today he is also responsible for providing public amenities such as swimming pools and public halls (of which the cost to ratepayers in this shire is met 93% by rural landowners), amenities which, according to his remoteness from the town in which they are constructed, he may have little or no opportunity to use.
Also, an increasingly large proportion of tha rates collected are spent on administration and when his rates increase each year he can be pretty sure that the majority of additional money be is obliged to pay, is required to cover increased administration costs, so that his higher rate bill seldom results in fewer potholes in his road.
However, the most potentially disastrous aspect of property rating with regard to the future of rural shires and their residents, is the fact that the rate is levied without regard to profits, or the individual’s capacity to pay.
Surely, in the light of the steadily worsening cost/price squeeze affecting primary producers today, it is ridiculous to expect them to continue to meet the lion’s share of local government’s finance requirements.
Whereas the primary producer has perhaps 80% of his capital tied up in land, which is rateable, and only 20% in buildings, machinery, etc., in secondary industry a factory may have only 20% of its total capital in land, and 80% in buildings and machinery, and can also, unlike the primary producer, pass on its costs to some degree. Rates therefore are a sectional tax, operating in effect, as a penalty on land ownership.
Despite the plight of producers as individuals, however, primary products are still a keystone of the nation’s economy, so surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that a little more of this wealth be retained in the areas from which it originates.
Councillors, under the present system, are faced with a choice of two basic courses of action when deciding how best to act in the . interests of the community they represent. Either they go ahead with costly capital works and amenities in an attempt to at least partially duplicate those available to the city dweller, and thereby increase the discriminatory burden of costs which is for many already beyond the level. which can tolerably be borne, or, curtail as far as possible all further expenditure which would lead to increased rates, with the inevitable result that conditions for those who live and work in rural areas would become even less appealing than they are already.
Various methods of supplementing local government finance have been suggested, such as residential or poll tax, development or betterment charge, tourist and entertainment taxes, but it is felt that these are not the answer for two main reasons:
We are firmly of the opinion that Federal Government grants are essential and are the only feasible means of supplementing local government finance, especially in country shires.
The Council seek your urgent assistance and ask that you bring this matter before the Federal Parliament in an endeavour to alleviate the hardship being experienced by our rural ratepayers.
This is a very earnest appeal from a shire council. Every line in the letter which I have read breathes sincerity. The point I want to make in this regard is to refer to the campaign that is being waged by so many organisations in this country today to cut back the 40% of the Commonwealth aid roads grants that is applicable to rural roads. Shire councils receive the greatest benefit from these funds. In my own State of Queensland where these funds are spent on secondary roads, as they are classified by the Department of Main Roads in that State, there is a matching grant of equal amount. There are many shires which are in a similar position to the one to which I have referred, but I believe that this shire has set out a very well worded letter and has placed the case pretty clearly for the Parliament and the people of this country. In spite of this, there is a campaign to cut back on the amount of the Commonwealth aid roads grants which is applicable to rural roads.
As I said earlier in my remarks, there is a need to overcome the problems in the cities. There is a need to overcome the traffic congestion problems in the cities. But surely a special way should be found in which to get funds for this particular purpose. As this letter points out, funds should not be taken from these rural areas in which they are needed. This shire claims that even further Commonwealth funds should be made available in rural areas, and it backs its claim with a sound case. If we are to maintain balanced development it is essential that these shires should receive at least the money that: they have been receiving; that the proportion should continue to be increased, as it has been increased over the years. Over the last 5-year period there was an increase of 50%, from $500m to $750m, in the Commonwealth aid roads grants. Even with this increase the strain has been serious on shire councils.
I travel in the south-western areas of Queensland as much asmost people do. 1 do not find that there is any great difference in the progress being made between trunk roads and other main roads and roads that come under the control of shire councils. Any lessening of the funds that are made available to shire councils will have very serious consequences. Surely in this prosperous Commonwealth it should be possible to make provisions for the problems that arise, as regards traffic congestion and development, by means other than by taking those sorely needed funds which the shire councils are using today. In conclusion, I point out that in my own area, and in many other areas, land development is still taking place. This development requires the construction of new roads which places a greater burden on shire councils. With brigalow development, shire councils are assisted in the construction of roads, to some extent. However, only last week the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and I visited an area in which land was being developed and a considerable number of roads will need to be constructed in order to cope with the problems which confront closer development. Surely we all favour closer development. I urge the Government to give earnest consideration to the very real and serious problems which confront shire councils throughout Australia today.
– Tomorrow this House will be honoured by a visit from Edward Lancelot Mallalieu, Q.C., M.P., of the House of Commons. He will be acting in his capacity as liaison officer from the World Association of World Federalists. He has been a member of Parliament since about 1931. He has held many prominent positions in the House of Commons. He was Chairman of the InterParliamentary Union Executive from 1965 to 1967. He has had international honours. He is a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour 1957. The movement which he is sponsoring is concerned with world federation, which briefly means an organisation based on the United Nations in such a way that it will become more representative of the people of the world; that it will become a more democratic parliament than it is today, lt is now more a diplomatic club than a parliament, lt will give the United Nations more judicial powers, more legislative powers and more enforcement powers to carry out the job for which it was established - to enforce the peace.
The world has become more interested in this issue. There are now twenty-seven parliamentary groups for world federal government. I invite honourable members to think seriously of the possibility that this might be the time to set up such a group in this country to study this only known antidote to war - that is, the rule of law in world affairs. It is not only in parliament that this issue has been raised. The ‘New York Times’ editorial of 11th October 1968 refers to the Security Council’s veto and the lack of peace keeping and revenue raising machinery as vital defects in the United Nations which need urgent remedy. At the 23rd General Assembly several Foreign
Ministers supported this principle, when opening on this subject. I will quote briefly what some of the Foreign Ministers said. The Foreign Minister from Brazil said:
We favour a worldwide convention, a step beyond the Charter of San Francisco.
The Foreign Minister from Sweden said:
Our dependence on one another requires new methods to create a stable and just world order.
The Foreign Minister from Japan said:
World order should never be sought in force, but in law and justice.
The Foreign Minister from Finland said:
Security of nations cannot be improved through treaty or other arrangements outside the United Nations.
The Foreign Minister from Italy said:
The United Nations must be strengthened, and we must indicate without delay how this can be done. How can any one say the United Nations is unable to fulfil its duty if, whenever there is a need to intervene in order to settle a conflict, the instruments to do so are lacking?
The Foreign Minister from Denmark said:
The Foreign Minister from Canada said:
It is our aim to strengthen the United Nations and its agencies. We regret the absence from this Assembly of Slates that play an important part in world affairs.
The Foreign Minister from Norway said:
The Norwegian Government has consistently advocated a gradual expansion of the authority of the United Nations.
The Foreign Minister from the Netherlands said:
The United Nations might be raised into action if a group of middle powers were to take common initiatives. My country is ready to join other nations in efforts to strengthen the United Nations.
There was nothing from Australia.
– Those statements do not imply the abandonment of sovereignty.
-Order! I remind the honourable member that all interjections are out of order.
– My plea is not for the abandonment of sovereignty. But sovereignty in matters where a man asks to be the judge and the executioner in his own cause is more than we can alford. Nations will have to be prepared to limit their sovereignty in matters where they have no moral or international legal jurisdiction.
Sovereignty must be limited in the matter of arms if we are to survive. On 19th September 1968, U Thant said:
Unfortunately, no government is willing to be told by an outside body what it should do or to have its sovereignty and freedom of action impaired in any way; member governments have refused to accept the authority of the United Nations in relation to their own policies, but cite the Charter in order to call other nations to account. Human beings are still unable to think beyond their national interests-
Like the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who interjected a short while ago - and the only thing that can save the world is the vision of a human race as one family inhabiting an indivisible world.
Finally, I wish to refer to Pope John’s Encyclical on Right Order in Human Society. He supported Pope Pius XI in the principle that man should strive to create a national and international judicial order, embracing public and private institutions, in which those engaged in economic activities will be able to reconcile more easily their own interests with the demands of the common good. I agree with the remarks of Pope John and TJ Thant.
I commend to honourable members the need to rethink their national sovereignty ideas and to realise that it is a way of society that if sovereignty is demanded in matters which are not within one’s province to decide, that is, in matters of international dispute, a supranational authority is the only one that should have legal authority to decide. We should have a court, a judiciary, a legislature on a world scale which the people of every nation will respect as they respect their own national parliaments in national affairs, State parliaments in State affairs and local governments in local affairs. Until we have a rule of law at all levels we will have anarchy and chaos at those levels at which we do not have a rule of law. I shall be grateful if as many honourable members as possible will meet Mr Mallalieu tomorrow. He should arrive at about 2 p.m. and will be here until the finish of business tomorrow. Two honourable members have already indicated that they desire to meet him. It would be helpful to me if those honourable members who are interested contacted me.
– I wish to express my complete dismay at the result of the recent Ulster elections. I had imagined that an electoral programme which offered political and social justice to a large minority within any western community would be welcomed in the second half of the 20th century. Both groups in Ulster are of similar ethnic and cultural backgrounds. So, there was not even a problem of racial or cultural conflict. The arch opponent of a liberal approach to Ulster’s problems is a minister of religion. He appeared on television in this country, so we all had the opportunity of seeing and hearing him and of making some judgment of the man and his programme. It was quite clear that all the so-called man of God had to offer was a neurotic disposition, time worn demagoguery, bigotry and hatred. I listened in vain for this creature to offer an argument, even an excuse for his stand, but there was none. The minority was to be deprived of any normal rights or consideration for one reason only - they were ‘papists’. No reason was advanced as to why as ‘papists’ they should receive any different consideration from their fellow citizens who are not.
In the eyes of this man and his supporters, being a ‘papist’ is enough to place a man beyond the pale of any humanitarian consideration. I know that feelings on this matter run very deep in Ulster, mainly for historical reasons. But I thought, as Captain O’Neill evidently thought, that the utterly changed conditions of the present day - improved education with its resulting enlightenment - would result in overwhelming approval for a more liberal approach to the solution of Ulster’s problems, which have aroused well supported and powerful demonstrations throughout the country.
The results of these elections must make any fair minded observer despise the smallminded bigots - Catholic and Protestant alike - who gave such a check to Captain O’Neill’s liberal proposals. More than that, these election results must make one almost despair of mankind. If the well educated citizens of a fairly prosperous western country cannot bring objectivity and fair mindedness, even commonsense, to a consideration of their fundamental problems, what can we hope for from the less well educated and less sophisticated peoples of other parts of the world? Can we ever expect tolerance and understanding between Moslem and Hindu, Arab and Jew. or Communist absolutist and protagonist of western laissez-faire? Of course, it is the herd instinct which makes people of similar race or belief, even followers of the same football team, band together and look with suspicion upon the rest of the world.
What makes one despair so much is that the people of Ulster are of similar race and cultural background. They have the same interests fundamentally and they are sophisticated in most things. Both the majority and minority share the same system of ethics and from the point of view of comparative religion their differences are infinitesimal. Nevertheless they allow the unhappy occurrences of past centuries and a few differences in theological argument which very few of them even understand anyway to rend their country asunder and blind its citizens with hate. Some who by normal standards of judgment are indistinguishable from their fellows are second class citizens, politically and economically. Thank God these feelings are minimal in Australia, though they are still present. In fact, they seem to be a norm of human behaviour.
What can one do when unscrupulous people continue to emphasise the differences between the diverse members of the human race and to encourage the belief that these differences should be the concern of enmity and suspicion as between the various groups? Surely at least the leaders of the religious communities, if they are really men of God, will in this latter scene of time completely condemn bigotry and any doctrine which will set one group of mankind apart from his fellows. If the religious leaders throughout the world are sincere, surely they will emphasise the essential, close similarities and the community of interest of the human family and turn their faces against anything which will make for this suspicion and hatred. I would like to think that they will. I completely condemn those people of Ulster who have taken a step backwards into narrowness, bigotry and darkness of mind.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 February 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690226_reps_26_hor62/>.