26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. What stage has been reached in negotiations between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth for funds to enable the commencement of the Kolan-Burnett-Isis irrigation scheme?
– The stage reached is that the report of the Snowy Mountains Authority which was appointed as an economic investigations team for the project has been forwarded to the Queensland Government. I have heard from the Queensland Government that it is studying the report and will be seeking further conversations with ourselves. We have informed them that we will be happy to have such conversations when they are ready for them.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Housing whether his attention has been drawn to certain stated complaints regarding housing difficulties facing newly arrived migrants. Is there any substance to these complaints? If they are correct has there been any consequent effect upon the numbers of migrants desirous of leaving Commonwealth migrant hostels?
– Three years ago the average length of stay in Commonwealth migrant hostels was 38 weeks. It has now been reduced to 19 weeks. In the same period the numbers going through these hostels have increased from just over 30,000 per annum 3 years ago to about 45,000 per annum now. This follows the recent heavy increase in migrant intake as a result of the very energetic activities of my colleague the Minister for Immigration. In other words, over the last 3 years the numbers going through the hostels have increased by 50% and the average length of stay has been halved. This reflects the very great improvement in available housing. In the last 12 months there have been 139,000 com mencements, and in the June quarter this rose to a rate of 143,000. This high rate of construction places considerable strain on our resources of manpower and materials, but of course the increase in both migrant flow and this other activity reflects the very prosperous, fast growing and extremely well managed economy. At this stage the management is doing so well that it would be folly to change it.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is fact that recently the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin, sought a loan of $5m to build additional class rooms for public schools to relieve overcrowded conditions. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth refused the loan on the excuse that it would contribute to inflation? Is the right honourable gentleman aware that the Sydney civic commissioners have approved private enterprise building projects worth over Si 00m in the last 12 months? If this is not considered inflationary, how does he arrive at the opinion that school building is inflationary?
– I cannot see the relationship between the two statements. I believe, indeed I know, that the building industry is substantially overcommitted and consequently we must take some action to ensure that construction in the housing, hospital and other sections of the building industry is restrained. We are taking action through the banking system to call up statutory reserve deposits so that money will not be as readily available as previously. At the Australian Loan Council meeting which determined the 1968-69 loan programme we took action to ensure that the States had a fair deal and fair access to the loan market for capital purposes, but they were not to be permitted to exceed what we regarded as the resources available. When the States put their proposals to us at the Loan Council meeting we agreed to the proposals which are now well known to the Parliament. Shortly afterwards the New South Wales Premier did make an application for an increased amount. This was a matter for the Loan Council. He could have pursued it if he had wished, but in the interim we had made a decision that the amount was not in fact to be increased.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Will he inform the House why in the High Court case of Bonser v. La Macchia both he and the Solicitor-General for New South Wales asked the High Court not to decide where the inner limits of territorial waters lay or where they could constitutionally be set? Did the Chief Justice refuse to accede to the request and in his judgment clearly define the complete sovereignty of the Commonwealth over the continental shelf and its powers beyond the territorial sea? Has the Commonwealth already received applications for non-petroleum mineral exploration rights on the continental shelf based on this judgment? Are such applications to be dealt with by the Commonwealth on their legal merits or is the fiction of continued State sovereignty in this area of law to be maintained?
– In the case of Bonser v. La Macchia, as I said to the House in answer to a previous question, the evidence was that the fisherman was operating 6i miles off the coast. The question of determining whether Commonwealth jurisdiction, under its fisheries power in section 51 of the Constitution, commenced at low water mark or at the 3-mile mark was virtually irrelevant. It is true that both the Solicitor-General for New South Wales and I put that view to the court. The Chief Justice did say that we would both appreciate that the court could decide that matter if in its view it became necessary, and we accepted that position. I think that the course we took was the correct one. In the result, although the case was heard by seven justices - one of them had died before judgment was given - four justices held that it was not necessary to decide the point and upheld the validity of the Commonwealth Fisheries Act irrespective of what the commencement point might be; but two justices, as has been said - the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Windeyer - expressed the view that the Commonwealth jurisdiction commenced at low water mark.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. I desire 10 ask whether the
Federal Government has received any request from the Queensland and New South Wales State governments for financial assistance for what is known as the border rivers irrigation scheme, which envisages the building of dams on Pikes Creek in Queensland and the Mole River in New South Wales in order to irrigate land on both sides of the border.
-Order! The honourable member is now giving information. He must ask his question.
– If such a request has been received, can the Minister advise the House about the attitude of the Federal Government towards it? If no request has been received, can the Minister say whether consultations have taken place between the two State governments and the Commonwealth Government about this scheme?
– No application has been received by the Commonwealth Government in recent times from either the Queensland or the New South Wales State government for funds for a dam at Pikes Creek or Mole River. When I first became Minister for National Development about 5 years ago, there was an application before the Government. After discussion in the Cabinet it was decided not to agree to this. To the best of my knowledge that application has not been renewed since. Certainly neither the Queensland Government nor the New South Wales Government listed either of these dams on its application for assistance under the national water resources development programme.
– <I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether he is aware that a Victorian company is interested in establishing an air cushion vehicle service between Victoria, Flinders Island and the mainland of Tasmania. 1 also ask whether he has received representations or a request from the State Government for financial assistance in this venture. I further ask whether he is in a position to make a statement concerning these representations.
– No, I have not recieved any representations concerning the project to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition refers. However, I know that there is a manufacturer in Tasmania - the State from which the honourable member comes - who has developed, to a fairly advanced stage, air cushion vehicles, and on his behalf the Tasmanian Government has made representations to me concerning the necessary operational standards which should be applied around the Australian States. As to a particular service, this manufacturer has told me of some substantial prospective orders from within Australia and on the export market, all of which seems to indicate that there is not only a reasonable prospect of using air cushion vehicles but also the possibility of using Tasmanian produced vehicles for this purpose.
I will look into the circumstances of the proposal to which the honourable member has referred, but if there is a project of this sort it would appear to me to be initially within the province of the State Government. However, I believe it will not be long before we see in various services around the Australian coast air cushion vehicles operating safely and satisfactorily and to the advantage of passengers who travel in them.
– My question is also addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I refer to the estimates of the Department of Shipping and Transport, which indicate an allocation of $18.5m for rail standardisation programmes. Can the Minister say how much of this money will be spent in South Australia? What projects are contemplated? In what order of priority will these projects be undertaken? Finally, when does his Department plan for the completion of these works?
– Of the sum of $ 18.5m referred to by the honourable gentleman, approximately $4m will be spent in South Australia on the completion of the standardisation of the east-west line between Cockburn and Broken Hill. In addition, some $2. 5m will be spent by South Australia in New South Wales on that same section of the line. In addition, of course, to the east-west standard gauge line, as the honourable member has suggested, other projects within South Australia are being investigated. Under the 1949 standardisation agreement there is an obligation on the Commonwealth to proceed with the standardisation of railway projects within that State but at a time to be determined by the Commonwealth and after consultation with the State. As I have already mentioned in this House on a number of occasions, at this stage three particular projects are under very close examination.
The line between Adelaide and the eastwest standard gauge line linking Port Pirie to that line is at the moment subject to investigation and a consultant’s report. A group of consultants have been agreed upon between the State Government and the Commonwealth, and I am hopeful that within the next few weeks a consultant will in fact be appointed. The consultant is required to report - I think within a 6 months period - on the proposed routing of the line, the standards of construction and the extent to which this line might effect the operation of the broad gauge and narrow gauge lines associated with it.
In addition there is a proposal which is also under very active consideration for the construction of a line between Whyalla and Port Augusta. This line would take a great deal of the steel traffic that is now being despatched by road from Whyalla to Port Augusta and then trans-shipped on to railways for consignment to Western Australia and the eastern Australian ports. Also, an interdepartmental committee is examining the prospects of a link from Alice Springs either to the Marree terminal of the standard guage line or possibly to some other terminal on the east-west standard gauge line. The report of the committee is taking into account the possible economics of a road programme as against a rail programme. It is one that will determine the practicability of replacing the narrow gauge line which has been subjected to such frequent obstructions by flooding over the last 2 years. Each of these programmes, of course, means that there is a prospect for future rail work in South Australia in the not too distant future. I think the result will be that not only will the railway system within South Australia be improved but also the communication facilities within Australia will be a lot better.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. He will know that this Treaty has been signed by 92 nations, by 78 of them more than a year ago. Has the Australian Government asked any of these nations, and in that case which of them has it asked, what assurances they have received about the operation of the Treaty and how any reservations they had about the Treaty have been resolved?
– I think perhaps we should make it clear to the Leader of the Opposition and members of this House that it may well be that 92 nations have signed the Treaty but only a fraction of that number have ratified it - I think something like 18, from memory. Also from memory, I believe the United States has not ratified it; that the USSR has not ratified it. This is from my memory of the matter. Certain it is that only a fraction of the numbers to which the Leader of the Opposition referred have ratified the Treaty.
For our part, we have not asked other countries which have ratified the Treaty what their reasons for doing so were because if we should ratify it, it would only be after we were convinced that there were sufficient safeguards for Australia’s future in it; that there was an effective and efficient Treaty operating. We would regard ourselves as being the proper judges of that in Australia’s interest rather than asking some other country.
– 1 ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Did he receive yesterday a deputation representing the Australian apple and pear industry seeking approval for a stabilisation scheme designed to give confidence and security to this industry? Does he not agree that, in the long term interests of this industry, some form of price support or stabilisation is necessary, as has been found to be required for many other branches of primary industry? Has he been informed that a meeting attended by at least 350 growers from the Huon Valley on Sunday last unanimously agreed to a motion supporting in principle submissions to be made by their delegates to the deputation for such a stabilisation scheme? Will he and his Department strenuously endeavour to formulate a stabilisation scheme which will restore confidence in and ensure the long term security of this important industry?
– The information that there was a meeting attended by 350 people supporting such a proposal is news to me. I thank the honourable member for this information. On my numerous visits to Tasmania and to the honourable member’s electorate I have had requests that something be done about a stabilisation scheme for the apple and pear industry. I have said to the people making these requests that those in the industry should get together and try to work out a proposal with officers of my Department, who would give whatever help they could in formulating a form of orderly marketing in relation to the export of apples.
Yesterday a special committee of the Australian Apple and Pear Board came to see me to show me the work that it had done over the past several months in conjunction with officers of my Department and to get some reaction. All I can say is that we had a useful discussion. I pointed out some of the problems that I could see in a stabilisation plan, that there would have to be both give and take by the industry depending upon what the returns would be, and that the Government would require evidence that the plan had the substantial support of the industry on an Australia-wide basis. I. indicated that there would have to be some relationship to the possible Treasury subvention that would be needed to make such a scheme operate.
I pointed out also that the large varietal differences that there are in apples lead to complications and that this was a question which the special committee needed to examine more closely, that there needed to be some allowance for the market preference given for a variety depending upon where it is grown in Australia, particularly the preference that is given to Western Australian Jonathans, and that there must also be some opportunity for all exporters to get shipping space. These were some of the difficulties I posed to the
Special committee, but I think we are making progress. This is the first time that the job has been tackled on a national basis and I am hopeful that it will come to fruition.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the Australian National Line’s profit level of $2m to $3m annually what possible justification can the Government and the Australian National Line give for freight increases? Is the Minister aware that the Tasmanian economy would be hardest hit because of Tasmania’s wholesale dependence on sea transport and a substantial dependence on ANL ships? Is it not a fact that mainland States have alternative road transport? Has Government policy forced the ANL to place profits before service and forced Tasmania to subsidise losses on the Darwin route?
– -Tasmania, like every other State in the Commonwealth, is concerned at the level of freight rates. Road transport is as important within Tasmania as it is within mainland Australia, but in addition, of course, Tasmania is dependent upon sea access across Bass Strait to the mainland markets. As the honourable gentleman would be aware, a considerably improved service is available from Tasmania as a result of the introduction of vehicular deck vessels by the Australian National Line. But, as I explained to the House yesterday, unfortunately the improved type of ships to replace the conventional vessels still operating across Bass Strait and around the Australian coast, and which are being built in Australia, have not yet been delivered and in the result the Australian National Line, while it has committed funds to the purchase of these ships and the construction of wharf facilities, has not been able to get the benefits of the revenue that would be generated from the freight that those vessels would carry if they were in service. The continued operation of conventional vessels has affected substantially the economics of the Australian National Line.
In addition there have been, as I have explained to the House before, industrial troubles on the ‘Empress of Australia’ and the ‘Australian Trader’. These also have caused substantially adverse financial results for the Australian National Line. Certainly losses of a very large order have been incurred as the result of the maintenance of services to Darwin and north Queensland. These also are related to the fact that conventional vessels are still being used in those trades and that the vehicular deck ships which are under construction have not been completed yet. I have not said that the result of this will necessarily be an increase in freight rates although this may, in fact, be the only alternative. What I have said is that necessarily there must be, for the Australian National Line to remain in operation, a viable economic return for the goods it can carry. If through continued industrial unrest and the maintenance in service of conventional vessels there is a deterioration in the Line’s financial position, of course it will be necessary to see what steps need to be taken to correct that position.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Have the increase in bank interest charges and the call-up of trading bank funds into statutory reserve deposits in any way altered the tenor of the Treasurer’s statement of 31st March 1966 in -which he set out the rural credit arrangements entered into by the then Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry and himself on the one hand and by the general managers of the major trading banks and the Governor of the Reserve Bank on the other hand? Will special consideration still be given to the needs of credit-worthy younger men with appropriate experience? Do the trading banks still stand prepared to relax normal security standards in appropriate cases?
– The increase in interest rates and the call-up to statutory reserve deposit were not intended to change the special relationship which applied to young people wishing to obtain advances from the banks for rural credit under which they were to be given special consideration so far as interest was concerned.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Has the Western Australian Government sought financial assistance for drought relief? If so, what action is proposed? Does the Prime Minister know that sheep are starving in Western Australia while there is a glut of wheat? Will he provide finance so that the State Government may purchase wheat from the Australian Wheat Board for farmers affected by the drought?
– All I can say to the honourable member is that I have no recollection of the Western Australian Government having requested drought relief of the kind he suggests. I will certainly look into the matter to see if such a request has been made. I have no recollection of it and I believe I would have, had it been made. I will look at the matter.
– Has the Treasurer had an opportunity to study the text of an address delivered last night by Dr Coombs, former Governor of the Reserve Bank, in which he questioned the Government’s policy of restricting the entry into Australia of overseas banks? If so, does the Treasurer accept the reasoning of Dr Coombs in questioning this aspect of the Government’s policy?
– I have not had an opportunity to read the full text of the statement which I believe was made yesterday by the former Governor of the Reserve Bank. I have read in only a perfunctory way the report of what he said, as published this morning in a Sydney newspaper. He is, of course, a very effervescent person, full of ideas. I am always only too happy and willing to listen to all that he has to say. The one comment which I think I can make to the honourable member is that to the best of my recollection Dr Coombs did not make any recommendation that we should relax the provisions relating to establishing in Australia a branch banking system controlled by overseas interests.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. I remind the right honourable gentleman of the question that I asked on 20lh May about the crisis in sterling and the stand-by loan made to Britain by the International Monetary Fund. Has there been a decline in our overseas gold reserves of
S60m in June of this year, $57m in July and $89m in the first week of August? Is this situation due to the falling off in the rate of overseas capital inflow into Australia? If so, what action does the Government intend to take to rectify the trend?
– I well remember the question which the honourable gentleman attempted to ask earlier this morning.
– It was ruled out of order.
– It may have been. Nevertheless, this part of the answer deserves to be stressed. The implication in the first part of his question was that some action might have been taken by the British Government to curtail portfolio and institutional loans coming into Australia. The fact is that no such action has been taken and it is highly improbable that any such action will be taken. As to the figures that were given for June and July, there was a fall in overseas reserves of something of the order of $60. 6m in June. In July there was also a fall of something of the order of $58m. There were very special circumstances associated with this lastmentioned fall. We did pay off $21m on Mirage aircraft which had been imported some time previously and were therefore reflected in the trade figures at the time and are now reflected in the balance of payments figures. There was also a $ 10m to $ 15m deficit due to the operations of the official marketing authorities of the Commonwealth. Those two amounts accounted for a very large proportion of the total fall in overseas reserves. The third factor that has to be remembered is that we must not take one or two months’ operations as indicating the long term trend.
– What about August?
– I thank the right honourable gentleman for reminding me of that because I might have forgotten it. I am grateful to the right honourable gentleman for prompting me. The fact is that in the first week of August we had an maturing loan in London of something of the order of $78m or $79m. Because the interest rate was too high we declined to convert and we have in fact repaid overseas indebtedness of this amount so that $79m has to be taken into consideration when we are looking at any fall that might occur in our overseas reserves in August.
– How could you have overlooked that?
– I would not have overlooked it. I am merely highlighting the fact that I am grateful to the right honourable gentleman for reminding me. I always like the right honourable gentleman interjecting, anyhow. The other point that I wished to mention was that last year we did have a very high private capital inflow of somewhere of the order of $ 1,000m. We could not expect a capital inflow of that amount to continue permanently. What I can say is that the private capital inflow in July was at least of the order of $S5m and that is a large amount indeed when long term averages are involved.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service and it refers to correspondence between the Minister and myself relating to the Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draftsman and the penal clauses of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I am keen to know the actual position if possible in addition to the helpful background information already supplied. Is the Minister able to indicate to the House whether the Government has made progress in reviewing those clauses in which many people, including myself, believe that elements of injustice may exist?
– The representations which the honourable member made to me some time ago on behalf of the body he mentioned have been amongst those which have come to us from many places, including those presented formally by the officers of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Since receiving those representations both the Attorney-General and myself have devoted a great deal of time to studying and sifting these issues. We have met representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and also those of the employers. There has been an interchange of ideas not only amongst the main parties concerned but also between the officers attached to both the employers’ organisations and the ACTU and our two departments. A great deal of work has been done and this is, as the honourable member will appreciate, a very complex and a delicate task because it runs to the root of the conciliation and arbitration system. This system affects and underpins the livelihood of the workforce of Australia and also the rights of the trade unions in which it takes part.
This work and exchange of views is going on intensively. I should say that the leading experts in the country at the moment are engaged in this work pretty well full time. A number of issues have to be decided in principle. Even when these issues have been decided, it is a very lengthy and complex task to reflect the decisions in terms of drafting legislation or detailing procedures. Any change in one spot does send a chain of consequences through the rest of the legislation and the rest of the ordinary procedures of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is a complex task which has to be thought out.
Progress has been made. We will be meeting again. Naturally, the representations of the associations to which the honourable member refers are caught up in this general wider process. I will endeavour to keep the House informed as and when something tangible and useful can be said. The honourable member will realise the delicacy of saying things about which which have not reached a fairly final stage of negotiation.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. It concerns a technical and non-controversial matter and is therefore a considerate and congenial question for him. Well over 3 years ago - in April 1966 - the honourable gentleman assured the House that the Government was making the most extraordinary efforts to bring the military code right up to date. I ask him: Does he expect to guide this legislation through the House this session and to leave at least this monument to his career as Minister for Defence?
– Of course, I am full of apologies to the honourable gentleman that the work that I promised him we would get finished as soon as possible has not yet been completed. I think the fact that we have put a herculean effort into this project and that it has taken so long to do the work will give him an idea of the magnitude of the task. I am sure that it will be one of my regrets that I will not be able to pilot that legislation through before I leave the House, but I will leave it in the perfectly good hands of somebody else from this side on the front bench. I am sure that he will find the work pretty nearly done when he comes in.
– Does the Prime Minister agree that the present system of free auctions has proved extremely efficient in establishing a price for the sale and distribution of our wool? In November, I wrote to the Prime Minister and asked whether there had been any approach by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that there will be no alteration in the marketing of wool until a free discussion has taken place thereon?
– I think honourable members would agree that the free auction system for wool has served Australia and the wool growers well. The approach of the Government with regard to primary industry generally is that we will pay attention and listen to proposals made regarding any commodity by those representing that particular industry. But I do think I can say to the honourable member that I see no prospect of the free auction of wool being altered.
– Hear, hear!
– In fact, I cannot talk for the future forever but I see no prospect of this at the moment.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question concerning the World Health Organisation. At the 21st World Health Assembly, did Australia vote against the application of the German Democratic Republic to become a member of the World Health Organisation for political reasons or for health reasons? If Australia’s vote was for health reasons, what were they?
– I have not the slightest idea, but I will examine the question and provide the honourable gentleman with an answer.
– Earlier today I misheard a question from the honourable member for Wide Bay. He was asking me about the position concerning an irrigation project and I understood him to be asking about the position regarding a proposed powerhouse. I would like to take the opportunity to reply to his question now and say that I understand the Queensland Government has approached the Commonwealth Government with details of this scheme, which are under consideration by the Department of National Development and my own Department.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Dimethyl silicone fluids (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
Sorbitol aqueous solutions (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
These reports do not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Motion (by Mr Chaney) agreed to:
That, until the end of the present period of sittings, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, leave be granted for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during sittings of the House.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: Construction of a Rehabilitation Centre, Glen Waverley, Victoria.
The proposal involves the erection of rehabilitation and treatment facilities, residential accommodation, staff quarters, work conditioning unit, farm area and associated buildings and services. The estimated cost is $2,250,000.
The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and, upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reference to Public Works Committee Mr KELLY (Wakefield- Minister for the Navy)[11.19] - I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Development of RAAF Base, Wagga, New South Wales.
The proposal involves construction of electrical instrument and armament training building, catering training building, lecture rooms, WRAAF quarters, laundries for officers and airmen, senior male and female officers’ quarters, airmen’s quarters, recreation centres, senior N.C.O. mess and kitchen emergency power house and external engineering services, including a sewage treatment plant. The estimated cost of the proposal is $5,500,000.I table a plan showing the location of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– -I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the House extends the operation of the Urea Bounty Act 1966 for a further maximum period of 6 months to 30th June 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. Under the existing Act, bounty will cease to be payable after 31st December 1969.
The Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Act 1962-1966 also expires on 31st December 1969 and I shall shortly introduce a similar Bill to extend that Act for a further period of 6 months. Urea and sulphate of ammonia are both nitrogenous fertilisers and I shall deal with the reason for the extension of the two Acts in this speech.
The Tariff Board is currently reviewing the urea and sulphate of ammonia industries and is examining the general question of what assistance should be extended to the producers of these products in Australia. Public hearings were commenced in July this year and it could well be early next year before its report is received. The Government considers that the present total level of assistance to the industry should be maintained pending receipt and consideration of the Tariff Board’s report. It is therefore proposed to retain until that time the annual financial limits on the total amount of bounty payable as recommended by the Tariff Board in 1966. These are the equivalent of $500,000 in a full year for urea and$1m in a full year for sulphate of ammonia. Accordingly, the operation of the urea bounty legislation is being extended to 30th June 1970 or to an earlier proclaimed date should the Board’s report be received and acted on.
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed to extend the operation of the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Act 1962- 1966 for a further maximum period of 6 months to 30th June 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. The purpose of the Bill is to implement this proposal. I have already outlined the reasons for this extension in my speech concerning the extension of the Urea Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will give effect to the Government’s decision announced in the Budget Speech to increase the bounty on phosphatic fertilisers manufactured and sold in Australia for use as fertilisers. In speaking on a similar measure last year I pointed to the significance of phosphorus in agricultural production in this country. Over much of Australia the soils have a naturally low phosphorus status. For pasture production in the better rainfall areas of southern Australia the application of superphosphate is essential. Nearly two-thirds of all superphosphate is used in this way. The use of superphosphate is also necessary for cereal growing across much of southern Australia and there is increasing evidence of the importance of phosphatic fertilisers for grain production in the north. In addition, it has been demonstrated that phosphorus will greatly stimulate the establishment of tropical pasture legumes thus opening up the possibility of substantially greater demand for superphosphate and other phosphatic fertilisers throughout the north.
The Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act 1963 provided for payment, during the 3 year period from 14th August 1963 of a bounty of $6 per ton of standard superphosphate with a soluble phosphorus pentoxide content falling between 19½% and 20½%. Bounty was payable on other phosphatic fertilisers at the rate of $30 per ton by weight of the phosphorus pentoxide content. In July 1966 the period of the bounty was extended to 31st October 1969. The bounty was designed to serve a twofold purpose, namely, to reduce the level of farm costs and to encourage greater use of superphosphate as a means of promoting more economic production. It has been largely effective in promoting these objectives. Consequential benefits have been to allow the uptrend in rural output to continue, to improve the competitive position of exports and to give enhanced incentive to the development of new lands. One of the most significant effects of the bounty was on the area of improved pasture which increased from 41 million acres in 1962-63 to 54 million acres in 1967-68.
Sales of phosphatic fertiliser expressed as standard superphosphate rose following the introduction of the bounty from a pre-bounty level of 2.8 million tons in 1962-63 to a peak of 4.3 million tons in 1966-67. Prices of superphosphate continued to rise over the period, in common with the cost of many other farm inputs. This tended to detract from the effect of the bounty in encouraging the use of superphosphate. In 1967-68 droughts, combined with the overall cost squeeze on farmers, contributed to an initial downturn in use in all States except Western Australia and Queensland.
Last year the Government decided that in the circumstances prevailing, some additional incentive was needed to encourage primary producers to continue to expand usage of phosphate fertilisers. Honourable members will recall that the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act was therefore amended in 1968 to increase the bounty on standard superphosphate to $8 per ton with corresponding increases in the rate of bounty payable on the phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) content of other phosphatic fertilizers. The bounty was extended to 3 1st October 1971 to enable primary producers to undertake longer range planning of property development. It was also provided that the weight of approved compounds or other substances containing trace elements when added to superphosphate should be deemed to be superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty. The trace elements involved were copper, zinc, cobalt, molybednum, manganese and boron.
It was felt that the increase in bounty provided in 1968 would encourage expanded superphosphate usage since graziers were more conversant with the management practices entailed by the higher stocking rates needed to utilise fully the fodder available from improved pastures. Furthermore, the breaking of the drought in southern Australia had created conditions favourable to a rapid response by pastures to increased use of superphosphate encouraged by way of a higher rate of bounty. These expectations were not realised. Sales of superphosphate declined in all States except Western Australia during 1968-69 despite stable superphosphate prices throughout the year. The increase of $2 per ton in the bounty in August 1968 evidently did not provide sufficient inducement to encourage farm demand. For Australia as a whole, the average ex-works price of bulk superphosphate after payment of bounty is some $4.16 higher than when the bounty came into being. Taking into account the movement of prices received by farmers, the cost of superphosphate would need to fall by about $4 per ton to bring it into the same relationship to farm returns as obtained in 1963-64.
The Bill before the House provides for an increase in the bounty rate on standard superphosphate by $4 per ton bringing the total bounty to $12 per ton: for an increase to $60 per ton on the phosphorous pentoxide content in superphosphate other than standard superphosphate; and for a similar increase related to the phosphorous pentoxide content of other phosphatic fertilisers. The provisions relating to trace elements remain unchanged, that is, the weight of trace elements added to superphosphate shall be deemed to be superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty.
It is anticipated that with the incentive provided by the increase in bounty, sales of phosphatic fertiliser will increase to the order of 4.25 million tons in 1969-70. Bounty payments on this basis are estimated at $50.4m for the full year or $ 18.7m more than in 1968-69. The total bounty is an appreciable sum of money. Nonetheless, it is considered to be an essential investment to continue the trend toward greater use of superphosphate. There can be no doubt regarding the vital importance to Australian agriculture of low priced phosphatic fertilisers. The bounty is a form of incentive which promotes good farming, fertility maintenance and productivity increase. It is difficult to conceive of any form of assistance to agriculture which could be as effective in its stimulus to productivity and farm income. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 August (vide page 504), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: “this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families,
it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools.
it ignores the problems of capital cities and regional centres,
it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures, and
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements”.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), which I think details the major weaknesses in the Budget. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech highlighted the superficial approach which the Government has adopted to problems which have existed and which will continue to exist while this approach is taken. A considerable number of cash increases in payments was announced in the field of welfare. They have been heralded by Government members and their supporters as being a new approach to welfare. To me it seems to be an almost ridiculous approach. What in fact has been done is that payments which are and have been for along time included in our welfare services have merely been updated to bring them somewhat closer to the amounts which are now being received by way of average income. It is hardly a new approach to increase unemployment and sickness benefits for the first time for 7 years. It is hardly a new approach to give pensioners an amount which, as a percentage of average income, is as low as it has ever been. If the welfare committees which have been set up within the Government are not able to come up with any really effective new ideas, then the clear implication is that the Government is not capable of seeing the problems and the needs.
Basically, our social services are the same now as they were when they were originally introduced. They have hardly altered. Some of the benefits, in cash values, are almost what they were when they were first introduced. Maternity benefits for the first child have not been altered since 1943, yet in most cases the birth of the first child imposes a considerable financial burden on married couples. It does not take much imagination to realise just how much the value of this benefit has depreciated in that time. If we are to go into the 1970s with a well planned approach to welfare - an approach designed not to give people handouts when it is thought to be politically desirable to do so, but to provide those sections of our community which are unable to cater for themselves with a decent standard of living and an expectation that that standard of living will be maintained, it will be necessary to take an approach different from that which is being adopted at the present time. I do not think that this Government is capable of adopting a new approach.
I think this is proved by the fact that for 2 years the Government has been talking about adopting a new approach to welfare, but the only really new idea on the subject which is embodied in this Budget is the tapered means test. But this was included in the policy speech delivered by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) prior to the 1966 general election. This is 1969, not 1909. One would think that we should have advanced sufficiently in our capacity to be able to devise welfare programmes which are more advanced than those which were introduced in 1909. It appears that the Government is not capable of doing that type of thinking. One of the subterfuges of the Budget is the implication that the Government is not increasing taxes; that people are receiving all of these benefits out of normal income. In fact, what has happened is that because of the escalator principle which is embodied in our tax scale, personal income tax as a percentage of income, especially as it applies to the middle and low income groups, is increasing, and the hardship of this income tax is growing.
This is clearly shown in the estimates of receipts which accompany the Budget. They indicate that the net pay as you earn tax this year will one-third higher than it was 2 years ago. There has been an increase of 33i% in 2 years in collections of pay as you earn taxes, which are taxes on wages. If any government which was elected to office said that it was going to increase taxes by one-third in 2 years it would be thrown out of office immediately. But in fact this is what has been done. It has been done by the subterfuge of not altering tax scales to meet changing levels of income in the community. Once a person who earned $1,000 a year would have been considered to be receiving a reasonable income among the low income section of the community, but today that same person needs an income of at least $3,000 a year. Tax rates are based on the idea that $1,000 to $2,000 a year is a reasonable income. They are also based on the fact that anything over $3,000 a year is considered to be in the luxury class. Anyone earning this amount is taxed accordingly. The lowest income earners in our community are paying proportionately greater amounts of tax than they ought to pay.
Another tax anomaly is to be found from an examination of Table A on the back of the income tax salary and wages return form. From this table we see that a person with a taxable income of $416 a year, which is almost nothing in our present tax system, pays no tax. However, if a person earns $1 more he will have to pay 51c tax on the extra $1. This rate of tax does not reappear in the tax scale until the $8,000 bracket. This calculation appears only in tax table A which is on the back of the tax form. For an additional $13 income - the increase from $416 to $429 - a person will pay just on 50% of that amount in tax. This seems to me to be a ridiculous situation. Most likely it does not affect many people. But it seems wrong that a person whose income is only $430 a year should be required to pay 50% of his increased income in tax. One wonders what type of luxury people could live on with that sort of income.
This morning the Treasurer indicated this Government’s intention to place a squeeze on the building industry. It is the Government’s intention - and the Treasurer specifically mentioned this in answer to a question today - to place a squeeze on hospital construction. There is a need in the community for the reconstruction and construction of hospital buildings, homes for the aged and many other important welfare services which are related to the construction industry. Any squeeze that is put on by the Government and which prevents these vital community services from being constructed at the earliest possible date is an act of inhumanity of some magnitude. It appears that it is always the housing and construction industries which the Government takes on when it needs to reduce the level of spending in the economy. The result is most likely the highest incidence of bankruptcy and the highest incidence of loss of wages because of the failures of employers occur in this industry. Because of the instability in the industry wage rates have to be high to compensate people engaged in the industry for the frequent loss of employment. This has been a result of the inefficient operation of Government economic policies.
I would also like to draw attention to the fact that over the years this Government has removed those sections of the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement which were designed to assist people whose incomes were such that they were not able to provide adequately for themselves. In the original Bill, which was brought into this House by one of my predecessors, the Honourable John Dedman, who was a former honourable member for Corio, provision was made for rent rebates which would ensure that State housing commissions and authorities would not charge rents in excess of 20% of the income of persons occupying the houses. The payment of one day’s pay out of five was taken as a reasonable percentage of income to pay in rent. The Commonwealth removed from its schedule of payments any assistance to the States to meet these rent rebates. The result is that rents for housing commission estates are no longer based on 20% of the income of the family occupying the house but are based on a much steeper means test. In the original Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement provision was also made for money to be spent to provide recreation facilities.
We do not provide a person with a home when we put up four walls and a roof. If this is all we provide we only give him somewhere to sleep and somewhere to eat. This is far from being a home. It becomes a home only when it becomes a place in which to live. With low income earners and with the present system of allocating funds for housing it is necessary for people who live in houses not only to establish gardens and facilities within the home and pay for furniture and so on but also to find the money to provide kindergartens, baby health centres, parks, football grounds, pavilions, libraries and all the other facilities that go to make up an area where people can live rather than just eat and sleep. Provision was made in earlier Commonwealth legislation for these purposes, but this no longer exists. I think it was a retrograde step when provision for the facilities I have just mentioned were taken out of the legislation. It is something that very quickly ought to be put back into the legislation.
Victoria, for instance, is so ‘interested’ in providing children who live in housing commission estates with somewhere to kick a football and play cricket and keep off the streets and not be under their mothers’ feet that even though the planning Act in that State provides that 5% of any new estate must be subdivided for open space, recreational facilities and so on, it has found a legal loophole and includes roads in the figure of 5%. What the State is saying in effect is if children want to play, they should go out and play on the roads. I think this is archaic thinking at its worst. This is something that the Commonwealth should take up with the State when the next CommonwealthState Housing Agreement is negotiated. It is time that the Commonwealth asked the States to pay consideration to housing requirements when housing estates are built to ensure that not only four walls and a roof are put up but that the estates are places where people can live and which will not become slums. We have advanced in this century. We have some idea of the effects that urban living without any relief can have on human beings. It is about time we took note of the knowledge that we have and tried to put some of it into effect by way of humane and sound planning of housing developments. I would think that the situation in Canberra is adequate evidence that the Commonwealth has some idea of what is desirable. It is unfortunate that the Commonwealth is not prepared to try to transfer these desirable aspects into the State housing system.
I would like briefly to mention two things on the subject of education. Firstly, I feel it is necessary that the Commonwealth initiate actions to ensure that colleges of advanced education which have been established in the various States - at least in Victoria they are the only tertiary institutions which exist outside of the capital city of Melbourne - have sufficient finance so that they can upgrade their teaching and other facilities to the degree standards and the very high standards that we all hope can be achieved as quickly as possible. It appears at the moment that because of the lack of funds available for these facilities even before they get off the ground, the colleges could have to introduce quotas and cut back their initial building programmes. This would be a tragedy because if these colleges are to establish their reputations as institutes of higher learning, it is necessary that they do not drag along year after year trying to get to that standard.
At present no real planning or thought is being given to whether or not kindergarten facilities should be provided as a matter of education. The normal situation in Victoria, which I understand has the best kindergarten provisions of any State, is that parents and local government bodies have to raise a substantial sum and then they get a grant from the State Government in order of priority as money becomes available. The usual situation is that for each kindergarten established there is a huge waiting list of children wanting to get into it. Another factor is that in low income areas the provision of kindergartens is usually slower than in high income areas because the parents do not have the spare cash to put into the building and operating of kindergartens. With education being such an important part of our life, particularly to the children who must go through their primary and secondary education and who in low income areas must qualify for Commonwealth and other scholarships if they are to advance, it is important that the best possible staff be provided.
Figures published by various authorities indicate that normally children from low income families do not get through to university or other higher education Institutions in anywhere near the percentage which would be commensurate with their numbers in the community. One of the major reasons for this is that their family background is one of low education and therefore when they come into the school system they are culturally behind children who have had the advantage of having parents of higher educational standard. It is not the fault of the parents that they were not able to complete their schooling. In most cases they were forced to leave school because of lack of opportunity and because of their parents’ lack of finance. If children in low income areas are to be given anything like an adequate chance of getting to the secondary and tertiary education levels they must be given opportunities. These opportunities can best be provided through properly organised kindergarten facilities.
I would suggest also that regional library facilities for children would be a great boon to children from low income areas, but the first priority must be that these children be given the opportunity to raise their education potential and their cultural level before they actually go into the school system where they will have little chance of improving their situation within the class structures. Teachers in primary schools just do not have the time, because of the sizes of the classes, to devote their attention to bringing up to date a cultural level which is lacking when a child goes to school. At this stage there does not appear to be any effort to research the situation to see whether kindergarten facilities are important to these children. I think they are vital and the only place where action can be expected is at the Commonwealth level. I believe that, as is done in Canberra, kindergarten facilities should be looked at as a basic requirement in the development of any new housing area and should be provided if at all possible at the time when the houses are occupied. The present situation is that normally the first one or two generations of young children are in the primary schools before kindergarten facilities are available and, because of this, their educational opportunities are lost completely.
I want to touch briefly on a matter referred to in the Budget that directly affects education. It is important that the Government should realise that the needs of a substantial section of the State education system are such as to warrant the type of assistance which the Government is intending to give to private schools. I make one analogy between two schools within 2 miles of each other - Geelong Grammar School and Norlane High School. Geelong Grammar School received a substantial grant for a science block which I am sure will benefit the education of the children who attend that institution. The Norlane High school is in the middle of a housing commission area whose children are in need of the greatest assistance with their education that they can possibly get if they are to compete with other children who have a background that gives them a better chance in life. That school, with about 1,000 pupils, has no science block facilities. Under the grants scheme which has been announced the Geelong Grammar School will receive $48,000 this year. The Norlane High School, with an almost identical school population and operating within 2 miles of the college and in a housing commission area of low income families, will receive not lc. It is all right to say that the Victorian Government has been given $X for education. If we gave that Government twice as much it would not be able to provide these schools with the basic facilities of education that are required. I believe that it would be a proper action for the Government to extend these grants to cover the State school system. I can well imagine the great benefit to the children of those high schools that could be achieved if they had $48,000 a year to spend.
There is no indication in the Budget that the Commonwealth Government has yet realised the importance of determining policies on regional development in Australia. It is still evident from the Budget that the Commonwealth believes it is necessary to look at the development needs of the Commonwealth only at the time of elections. Nowadays all major national development projects are announced on the eve of election campaigns. This would suggest that no planning whatsoever is involved. The Senate election of 1967 brought forth money for the second stage of the Ord River scheme and for the Emerald scheme. The Gwydir by-election brought forth moneys for the dam on the Gwydir River. This type of thinking is apparent within Government circles. No doubt if the Government is worried about the electoral situation in Queensland it will come forward with the necessary money for a central Queensland power station. If it feels that its electoral prospects are not bad, central Queensland will do without the power station.
Finally I wish to deal briefly with a matter that was the subject of debate on Tuesday and which will continue throughout Australia to be the subject of debate for some time - the purchase of the Fill aircraft and the Commonwealth Government’s defence policies. In a speech on a matter of public importance the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) kept pleading with the Opposition to accept the facts that the Government put before it. I should like briefly to deal with some of the facts that the Government has put to the Parliament and to the Australian people in the past. In 1963, at the time of the purchase of the aircraft, the then Minister for Defence informed the Australian people that the cost of the aircraft would be $112m. The facts were that the Department of Defence, the United States Defense Department and everyone else who had any knowledge whatever of the aircraft had already discarded this figure as being unrealistic. It was based on the lowest estimate put forward by the General Dynamics Corporation. The Australian Government signed a contract at that time which did not stipulate a price. In evidence before the United States Congressional Committee the Assistant Secretary of Defense was asked whether this meant that the Australian Government would pay, whatever the price was to be, and he replied: ‘Yes, this appears to be the case.’ We had an escalator price.
We know how close to real the figure of $112m was. But this was put forward during an election year. It is one of the points which the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) wanted us to accept the other day. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has continually stated in the House that this aircraft was purchased on the recommendation of an Air Force evaluation committee. The Air Force evaluation committee did not examine the aircraft technically with a view to its immediately replacing the Canberra bomber but considered that it would be a good aircraft to replace the Vigilante, which the committee recommended should be obtained but which the Government decided not to purchase. Further evaluations would have been necessary had the complete advice of the committee been taken. I am sure that if this had been done the Fill would never have been purchased.
This year the Government has announced a reduction of $60m in our defence expenditure. Taking into account normal increases in costs within the Government this reduction could be equivalent to a reduction in excess of $l00m. This cut in defence expenditure will have a disastrous effect on our defence industries. The aircraft industry has been waiting and waiting for some announcement by the Government that it intends to keep the industry going. In a defence emergency our aircraft industry would be vital. But still there is no indication by the Government that it intends to do anything to provide the industry with the orders necessary to keep going. It appears that the industry is to be left to languish and die. We have had many opportunities to foster an Australian aircraft industry but we have allowed all of them to pass. It is apparent to me from an examination of the Budget that the Government will not do anything to maintain this industry, without which our ability to defend ourselves from attack is very doubtful.
Mr CHIPP (Higinbotham) (12.3]- How will the resources of this nation be employed and deployed in the coming 12 months? That, I suggest, is the question that confronts this House each year at Budget time. We as a Government have laid down guidelines as to how we believe the resources of this nation should be deployed in the next 12 months. I would like to discuss the way in which the Government has set those guidelines generally but particularly in a defence context. 1 have listened carefully to the speeches made by honourable members opposite in the course of this debate. Naturally one would expect them in any year but particularly in election year, to be critical of the way in which the Government intends to deploy the resources of this nation. But from nobody on the other side, from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitiam) down, did we hear anything except criticism of the Government. In an election year one would have expected that in the forum presented by this debate the leader of the Opposition would have been constructive; that he would have informed the Australian people, through the vehicle of the national Parliament, how he believes the resources of this nation should be employed and deployed in the next 12 months.
Let us examine the Government’s proposals. As far as defence is concerned I believe that the Government has adopted the philosophy that we have time to breathe before we again commit ourselves to spiralling defence costs. I would like to examine the validity of that premise and I say at the outset that essentially I agree with it. In this breathing time the Government has decided, wisely, to build up our muscles - our industrial muscles, our economic muscles and the muscles of our society per se as a nation of 12 million people - because when one goes to Asia nowadays the overwhelming feeling one receives is a feeling of aloneness as an Australian in this part of the world. Anybody who says that we are part of Asia and that we are Asians is a fool. We are not Asians - we never have been, never will be and will never be so regarded by Asian people. At this stage we are regarded by Asians as a friendly European country with whom they would like to be friends in the future and from whom they would like some assistance. We live in the Asian geographical area. We will be here until the end of time.
As one moves around Asia today one is overwhelmed by the feeling that given a short time no white faced British soldier will walk the streets of Singapore or be seen in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang or anywhere else in the nation of Malaysia. One can envisage a situation in which the only white faces to be seen, as far as soldiers are concerned, will be those of Anzacs. The realisation of this fact gives one a lonely feeling and makes it imperative to resolve to do two things as far as our national policy is concerned. They are firstly to establish firm and real relations with our Asian neighbours and, secondly, to be in a position industrially, economically and socially where we can be a force to be reckoned with in the area, notwithstanding that we are a nation of only 12 million people. In this context when I look at the Budget I am pleased because I see a large increase in expenditure on education. I see a fantastic increase of 38% compared with expenditure last year. If we are to build a great nation here - one that can survive by itself in this lonely part of the world - we must have more people. We note in the Budget that the Immigration target for next year is to be increased from 160,000 to 175,000 - a marked increase of 10%. At the same time we have seen in the Budget some action, which some might say is overdue, with respect to social welfare. In a nation which boasts of its affluence and the standard of living which it enjoys, we would be open to serious accusation if we could not look after those whom nature treats in an unfortunate way and could not allow them to live like human beings.
If one makes a simple arithmetical calculation one sees that the defence vote this year is 5% less than last year’s figure. By itself this means absolutely nothing. It simply means that payments which fortuitously came out of the nation’s statement of income and expenditure last year did not recur. By itself the reduction of 5% in defence expenditure does not mean an overt policy change on the part of the Government to decrease our defence activities. At least I would hope that it does not mean that. Bearing in mind that in an election year any government may be tempted to go beyond the bounds of prudence in increasing expenditure, particularly in a situation of over-full employment, I marvel at the Government’s restraint in bringing down a Budget such as this, and I congratulate the Government.
On the question of defence there is a great deal of controversy indeed about the philosophies of the main political parties in this country. As I see it, there is a philosophical cleavage in defence outlook between the Australian Labor Party on the one hand and the two parties constituting the Government, and the Democratic Labor Party on the other hand. Because this Budget as such when read in conjunction with the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) the other evening has caused so much discussion, I thought it might be useful just for a moment to examine briefly the philosophical views on defence of the two groups. I hope I do not do my friends in the Australian Labor Party an injustice when I say that I believe their view of Australia in this situation is: There is no real threat to Australia today. I think I am quoting them fairly accurately because I think this is what they have said. They go further. They say: We can conceive of no real threat in tha immediate future’. They go even further than that. They say: ‘At this point of time, we can see no threat at all in the future*. After having begun from that premise they work back and say that the Government is overspending the resources of this nation on defence.
I do not think that is an unfair precis of the point of view of members of the Opposition. It is a respectable point of view to which they are entitled if they sincerely believe it, and I believe they do. But there it is in its stark, naked form. They say that there is no real threat, that there will be no threat and that they can see no possibility of a threat. As far as my party is concerned, or as far as I am concerned, I say that at this point of time there is no immediate threat. To that extent I agree with the Opposition. But having looked at history in the last few years, and having noted the rapidity with which change can occur in this area, I think a man would be foolish to say there can be no threat in the immediate future. This is where exquisite judgment of timing is displayed in this Budget. How long do we have in Asia before a moment of truth confronts us? We have to maintain the level of our defence expenditure, and in this Budget we have done so. It is only 5% down on last year, and what is overlooked is that this is the second largest amount this nation has spent on defence in its history. I do not think that should be overlooked. And this takes no account of any additional expenditure which, of course, is in the chute.
We say we do have some time before the moment of truth, and to put a figure on it I would say it could be 10 years before wo as a nation have to face that exquisite moment of truth that we almost faced a few years ago with Indonesia. After having said ‘10 years’ - or by 1980 - I do not for one moment suggest that we do nothing for 10 years because that would be ridiculous. These days it takes 7 to 8 years to order the sophisticated kind of equipment required for defence. It takes at least 8 years to build a ship, it takes 8 years to train a naval or army officer and it takes about that long to order sophisticated aircraft, as we know. So I believe that if one says that that moment of truth could confront us in 1980 then perchance we have 1 or 2 years now in which we can build up the kind of muscles that I was talking about, the kind of muscles to allow us as a nation of 12 million people, possibly alone when the moment of truth arrives, or possibly partly alone, to handle a dangerous situation. We do not want to look back and feel that we deployed our reserves in the year 1969-70 too much on military hardware to the detriment of the development of our mineral resources, our immigration programme, education and those other things which would tend to make us a bigger, stronger, more vigorous nation in 1980 if that is the year of our test.
As I said before it is an exquisite piece of judgment to prophesy when the moment of truth may come upon us. Being a supreme optimist I hope that a situation of confrontation will never face Australia. But in government one would be lacking in responsibility if one did not prepare the nation for what is a reasonably expected state of affairs, and when one is in government with the responsibilities of government one then conceives of the worst possible situation that could confront this nation in a practical sense and then prepares for it. Not to prepare for it is sheer irresponsibility. As I see it, the cleavage between the Labor Party and the parties on this side of the House is quite real. The cleavage, if there is one, between us on this side of the House and the Democratic Labor Party, is not a philosophical cleavage. It is simply a cleavage on the question of timing. The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair), with respect to him, has not yet explained to my satisfaction why we must be spending additional amounts in this year of our Lord 1969. He may have reasons. I hope he will put them forward so that they can be canvassed and examined by us and by other observers. But as far as differences in principle are concerned, I can see none.
This possibility of being alone that I spoke about before is very real. If one goes through Thailand today one gets the feeling that the Americans will soon not be there. One gets this feeling not only because of the attitude of the Thai people, or any people of Asia, I believe, towards having foreign troops on their soil, but because I think President Nixon has made it palpably clear that his aims are concerned with the internal workings of the United States of America, and disinvolvement with Asia is high on his list of priorities. We know of the tragic happenings in Malaysia in the last few years, particularly on 13th May and 14th May of this year. People have said that this wonderful nation of Malaysia is or has been on the brink of some sort of civil war and that this has disturbed people in this area enormously. Very rarely does one appreciate the gravity of the racial troubles in the greatest nation in the world today, the United States of America. Sometimes we, as allies of America, and sometimes the Americans themselves, tend to sweep under the carpet this horrid problem of race relations in the United States of America. Those who have been to this great nation lately, where one sees them living in the ghettoes, where one can feel the hatred and the explosiveness of the situation, have realised the possibility of civil disturbances or civil war breaking out in the greatest nation on earth. I would have thought that this possibility has not escaped the pragmatic mind of Richard Nixon and that with the usual pragmatism that he has shown in the past - he has dedicated himself to acquiring a second term in the White House - he knows he will need thousands of millions of dollars even to make an impact on this colour problem. Whole cities will have to be pulled down and rebuilt. Hospitals, roads and schools in the negro quarters of virtually every city in the United States will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt, and the pragmatic mind of Richard Nixon, I would say, would ask where these thousands of millions of dollars may come from in the next 8 years. The inevitable answer would be: “We have to cut back on our overseas expenditure in jungle wars.’ I think we neglect that kind of reasoning in the Nixon mind and in the American mind at our peril, and that is why I believe in the next few years we have to build the resilience of this nation to be able to cater for that kind of a situation.
As I have said before, I am deeply concerned, as most people are who observe the situation in Malaysia today. One can only hope that the present rulers will show some form of authority, some quickness to act, some ruthlessness and some control over the situation before it breaks out again.
Malaysia, suddenly, without warning, has become the linchpin of Asia as far as stability is concerned. As one moves around, one cannot help being worried at the long term effects of what is happening in this grand little nation. There is the simple fact of the economic boycott. It makes one almost weep to see the Chinese population of Malaysia in some way trying to gain retribution against the Malays for what was allegedly done on the evenings of the riots that took place on 13th and 14th May by boycotting anything which comes from a Malay.
One of the favourite Chinese fruits - that fruit with the curious smell, the durian is now being completely boycotted by the Chinese people of Malaysia. This fruit is worth millions of dollars in income to the Malay farmers who grow it exclusively. This action not only brings economic ruin to the human beings of this nation of Malaysia but also exacerbates this kind of antipathy that has already existed. One has to tack onto that the edict of the Government that, from next year - very, very soon - all subjects in the secondary schools must be taught in the Malay language. One can imagine the effect that will have on the Chinese citizens of Malaysia who cannot speak in Malay but whose children, in future, will be taught in the Malay language. One can see these dozens of problems becoming worse and worse in this wonderful nation that many of us called a ‘shop window of Asia’ some time ago. It was a fool who said that things in Asia happen slowly. In fact, things can happen with remarkable rapidity in Asia because there are so many factors in the Asian mentality and the Asian personality. These factors are volatile. They can be inflammable. Things could happen so quickly.
It is a sobering thought to realise that it is almost 4 years now since the night of the Gestapu - 30th September 1965 - where by the slightest of lucky margins the nation of Indonesia did not become Communist overnight. It was a fluke, if you like. A couple of freak quirks of fate prevented Indonesia becoming a Communist state. Sometimes, in our complacency we cannot picture what position Australia would have been in today had that happened. We would have had - this is putting it in a stark term - a nation of 115 million people, having a border with Australia, and having been subject to Communist discipline and regimentation for 4 solid years. I would suggest that, given that situation of 4 years hard Communist discipline on 115 million people in one of the richest countries of the world and with all sorts of aid and assistance, both military and economic, from both Russia and China, Australia today could be looking at our nearest neighbour in a way different from the way in which we are at this time.
I have said before - this is not original; it is almost a cliche to say it - that soldiers do not keep Communism away. They do not stop the Communist advance. The only way in which to stop Communism is by increasing not only the standard of living but also, as J. P. Priestley once called it, the quality of living. How one can improve the quality of living in Asia takes a great deal of understanding and judgment. The Western world sometimes believes that South East Asia is simply an amorphous mass of hundreds of millions of Asians living on the border of poverty in unhappy circumstances waiting and pleading for the enlightened Western world to come and to save them from misery, poverty and unhappiness and believing that we of the Western world are the only ones with the magic key that can turn the lock to make them into happy people. This is absolute rubbish. Apart from some sections of Indonesia, I know very few places in South East Asia where people are existing unhappily and in misery and in the way that some misguided humanitarians in this country and other countries describe.
We need to show a great deal of understanding of the way in which we can improve the quality of living. If we try to do it too quickly, it could be as fatal as doing it too slowly. I illustrate this by a simple, perhaps naive, example. I visited a kampong recently in Indonesia - miles out from a capital city. About 100 families lived in that kampong or village. One of the families acquired a transistor radio. Tha mighty transistor had invaded this little out of the way village. It was almost pitiful to see how everybody in that village then had to keep up with the Asian Joneses. Everyone had to have a transistor radio - which, I suppose, is fair enough. But the effects on that kampong which I could observe were fascinating. It meant that everybody in that kampong had to work a couple of hours longer each day. There was more money in that village. The quantity of money increased. This means that the price of rice increased, which means that everybody then had to work a little bit harder to earn more money to buy extra rice. In other words, the equilibrium of that particular kampong was momentarily disrupted.
This is the secret of Asia - a secret which, unhappily, our friends, the Americans, learned too late - that we cannot hasten things too quickly in Asia. If we compound that kind of disruption of equilibrium throughout a nation of 115 million people not only with one transistor radio but also by trying to raise standards from their level to our level overnight, catastrophic results follow.
On the other hand, we cannot be too slow in lifting the quality of living of Asia. Are we really succeeding in doing this? I have been lucky enough to go to Asia once a year for the last 7 years or 8 years. If I was asked honestly could I testify that the quality of living of the people in the kampongs - and 85% of Asians live in kampongs - had markedly improved, I would have to say that I could not say that it had.
I come back to a place like Australia and I hear people mouthing these meaningless cliches. I refer to businessmen and so on who say: ‘We must improve the standard of living in Asia, and give aid and do this and that’, but who forget the example of the Americans who poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Asia and are held in contempt for it. These same people who control the companies, when a proposition is put to them that some batik - this magnificent cloth that only Asians can make - is coming from Indonesia, or some sandshoes are coming from Pakistan or some tennis racquets are coming from Malaysia, are the first to jump to the Tariff Board for increased protection.
They are the very same people who get on the soapbox at Rotary or in the pulpit of their church on Sunday and say: ‘We must help Asia*. If it is not the businessman who screams: ‘Increase tariffs’ and: ‘protect Australian workers’, it is the trade unions. If it is not the trade unions, it would be the Chamber of Manufactures. If it is not the
Chamber of Manufactures, it would be the Federal member of Parliament who represents the area in which that factory is located - and on and on it goes. Yet we say that we must help Asia, we must increase the quality of living. Notwithstanding that, on that particular article, whether it is clothing, whether it is sandshoes or whether it is one of one million other items which could give jobs to literally hundreds of thousands of South-East Asians - and that is the way to increase their standard of living - we see the things that I have just described happening, denying these people jobs so that they can earn money, have their self-respect and build their own fabric of their own society. Yet, we do virtually nothing about it.
The richer nations get richer and the poorer nations get poorer. This has been the way in which the pattern has continued for the last 10 years. I can see nothing happening through any government, any individual or any organisation to change that pattern. This is the very thing on which Communism thrives.
I make a plea now, as I have before, to Australian business men. The only way to keep Communism away from Australia is to create employment for Asians where they can have their self-respect and increase their productivity. A way to do this, and to help Asians as well as ourselves, is to take our manufacturing industries to Asia and engage in joint ventures with Asian businessmen. It grieves me, as I go through Asia, to see the Japanese, the Dutch, the British, the Americans and the French there, while the Australians are conspicuous by their absence. When I come back to Australia and ask an Australian businessman: *Why do you not go to Asia?’ he replies: *We are a pretty hard boiled outfit. We have had experience in Europe and we know our business. Our representative went to Asia. He was clipped by the taxi driver and he was asked for a bribe by the man at the Customs desk. They are a bunch of crooks. We will not do business in that way and we are not interested in going into Asia’.
Either the French, Dutch and Japanese are wrong and are making fools of themselves by going into Asia and the Australian businessmen are right, or the opposite situation is right. We cannot afford to be insular. I am sometimes tempted to think that the Australian businessman, when he looks at Asia, is like the Englishman who is alleged to have said: ‘English is a most logical language. For example, the French call a knife a couteau. The Germans call a knife a messer. But the English call a knife a knife, which is after all what a knife really is.’ I wonder whether the Australian businessmen, in expecting the Asian standards to be the same as ours and assuming if they are not that the Asian standards are wrong, are making precisely the same mistake.
– -I support the amendment moved so convincingly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and congratulate him on a speech that showed clearly the failings of the Government and the weakness of the Budget. Let me say to the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), who has just resumed his seat, that we do not say that the Government necessarily is overspending on defence. We say that the Government is wasting a lot of defence expenditure and that defence expenditure could be better deployed. Defence does not depend on the amount that is spent but on the way that it is spent. One example of the Government’s spending is the $300m on the FI 1 1 aircraft, which we have not yet received and may never receive. Another is the expenditure on naval vessels that cannot be used for the purpose for which they were purchased, according to the report we received yesterday. No provision is made in the Budget for a naval base at Cockburn Sound, although a feasibility study was called for 3 years ago and was presented to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in January 1968. That is our criticism of this Government’s defence expenditure. The honourable member said that the lull in defence expenditure was needed to put muscle back into defence. Be careful that you do not become muscle bound.
The Government has been placed in the position of having to increase pensions in two succeeding years, not because it has changed its callous attitude towards pensioners but because the Prime Minister’s election time-table was upset. There was to be an election following the 1968 Budget, but the Prime Minister squibbed it. There has to be an election following this Budget.
The 1968 increases in pensions merely restored to the pensioner the loss in purchasing power which had occurred during the intervening 2 years. The consumer price index, which was 100 in 1966-67, was 103 in 1967-68 and 106 in March of this year.
The increases provided by this Budget will be swallowed up in increased prices before many weeks have passed. The usual pattern is for pensions to be increased every 2 years. Consequently no sooner do they catch up with increased prices than the value of the pension commences to decline. As the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) pointed out, the average increase each year since the Liberals assumed office has been 50c for single pensioner and 41c each year for married pensioners. The average increase for A and B class widows over the 20 years has been 474c a year. The monetary value of the increases granted to pensioners in this Budget has never been less, because the value of the $1 in terms of purchasing power has never been less. In terms of purchasing power, a $1 increase 2 years ago would buy more than would the $1 increase given to single pensioners in this Budget.
The Government has the happy knack of using average weekly earnings as a measuring rod to show how wages have increased. If average weekly earnings are to be used as a guideline to measure wages, surely the same guideline can be used to show the real value of pensions. The figure for average weekly earnings for the quarter ended March 1969 was $67.20. In 1949 the age pension, both single and married, was 26.9% of the average weekly earnings. As a percentage of average weekly earnings, the standard pension with the $1 increase will be 22.3% and the married rate with the 75c increase will be 19.7% of average weekly earnings - a lower percentage than 20 years ago. On this comparison the pensioner is relatively worse off under this Liberal Government than was the pensioner under the Chifley Labor Government. This is a clear indication that the pensioners are not sharing in the prosperity of the country.
Before he became Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) took every opportunity in this place to advocate the abolition of the means test. I refer honourable members to his speech on 17th September 1963. Again on 20th August 1965 he said:
The means test is an extravagance which the Australian economy can no longer afford.
On 13th October 1965 he said:
The means test is an economic anacronism and is one of the things which are eroding the root of the Australian economy.
The Prime Minister has indicated his opposition to the abolition of the means test and the Minister for Social Services appears to have come into line with his view. Instead a new test, the tapered means test, has been introduced. The principle of abolishing the means test has been abandoned. As the Leader of the Opposition points out:
The Treasurer concedes that to abolish the means test entirely over the next 5 years would cost less in each of those years than the present proposal will cost this year.
Surely the argument about where the money will come from has been scotched for all time.
The Australian Labor Party proposes the introduction of national superannuation so that all Australians will have the benefit of superannuation instead of it being confined to a minority. We believe that the means test should be abolished by age groups so that it can be accomplished at least during the lifetimes of two parliaments. We believe in the abolition of poverty and in justice to the retired. All those peole are suffering when the standard of living of the community is supposed to be progressive. The means test is a most frustrating and annoying factor with which retired people are faced. It makes a mockery of thrift and denies age pensions to those who save during their working life. This is not an impossible objective. Since 1958 age pensions have been paid in New Zealand to all people over 65 years, irrespective of their income or assets. In Canada there is no means test for those over the age of 70 years. In the United Kingdom there is no means test for men over 70 years of age and for women over 65 years of age.
Every honourable member of this Parliament has been guilty of advising those who are reaching the retiring age to reduce thenassets in order to qualify for the age pension. On the advice of members of this Parliament many people purchase a ticket to go to the United Kingdom before they apply for the pension. Consequently money that could be spent in Australia is spent in overseas countries. Assets are dissipated needlessly so that people may qualify for a pension. This action is forced upon them by the means test. It is psychologically bad because it does not encourage thrift. Every recipient of social service benefits has been short-changed since this Government took office. Increases in social service benefits have not kept pace with price increases. Benefits are always dragging behind costs.
As a result of inflation over the years taxpayers have passed into higher income tax groups, and although they get less in real wages in their pay packets, the Government takes more off them in taxation and gives them less in return. A descriptive title of this Budget would be “The Thimble and Pea Trick Budget’. In orther words: Here you see it, now you don’t’. The small increases in pensions granted to the aged, the widows, the invalids and in repatriation benefits will be swallowed up in these increased prices within a relatively short period. This is not a family Budget. There is no increase in child endowment to make up for the loss of purchasing power through inflation over the years. An answer to a question at page 2563 of Hansard shows that in 1949 a family with 3 children received in child endowment 11.3% of aver, age weekly earnings, whereas in October 1968 the percentage of average weekly earnings was 4.3. In addition the family income in terms of purchasing power will be reduced still further by inflation in the months ahead.
Since 1963-64 those in the lower income groups have assumed a greater proportion of the tax burden. The rate of taxation in the lower and middle income groups has been far greater as a result of the failure of the Government to reform the pay as you earn taxation rates at the various levels of money income. It has been pointed out that since 1963-64 average weekly earnings have risen by 40%. The wage earner on the average weekly wage has had his income tax increased by more than three times the rate of his wage increase. A person receiving $10,000 annually at the beginning of that 6-year period whose wages increased in line with the average has seen his tax rise at twice the rate of his income, while a person on $20,000 in 1963-64 has seen his pay as you earn tax rise at only a slightly faster rate than his income. Here is an example that bears out our argument that the lower paid person is being slugged by this Government. The wage earner who was on the minimum wage over the period was slugged more than the worker on the average weekly wage. His income rose by only 25% , but his tax burden increased four times.
The present practice of deductions assists the man with a higher income. Only those with very high incomes can take full advantage of the allowable deduction of $1,200 for superannuation and insurance premiums. He can save as much as $700 in tax, so the premiums cost him only $500. The cost to a process worker of a $100 policy - that is about as much as he can afford - will be $87, and he saves only $13 in tax when his income tax is determined. Deductions for education expenses favour those with higher incomes. A high income earner may claim the maximum deduction of $600 for 2 children and his saving in tax is $330, which makes his cost for education $270. If a process worker paid $300 on educating his two children he would only save $34 in tax. The public pays 55% of the education bill for the wealthy man and only 11% of the education bill for the process worker. In an article reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 13th August it was pointed out that the Commonwealth Government will get 20% more in taxation this year without increasing the rates. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has admitted that lower income groups, particularly those earning between $1,000 and $10,000 a year, are taxed out of all proportion to the big income groups. The Treasurer in a television interview on 18th August 1968 said:
I think these people, on international terms or when comparing them with others, are pretty heavily taxed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the sitting of the House was suspended for lunch I was pointing out that the Treasurer had admitted that the lower income groups were taxed out of all proportion to the higher income groups when Australia’s tax scales were compared with those of other countries. In a television interview in August 1968 he said that he had discussed a reduction in personal taxation with the Prime Minister, but he said:
With defence expenditure rising the way it is - and it has in the past few years - we felt that we could not touch it this year.
That was in August 1968, and now 12 months later he still has not touched it. Defence expenditure has been reduced in this Budget, but the lower income groups still have not received any relief from their taxation burden. In fact, they have been slugged more than they were in 1968. It happens in this way: As average incomes move up the tax scale the Government reaps about 30% of any wage increase. This means that with every rise in money wages, even though real wages do not rise, the recipient goes into a higher income tax bracket. The faily man suffers most because the taxation allowances for dependants have not kept pace with inflation. It is estimated that the net pay-as-you-earn income tax will increase by $298m this year. Last financial year the increase was $220m. While these figures show increases in wages, the fact is that money incomes have risen faster than real wages, thus placing wage earners in higher income brackets, which means that they are paying higher income tax. It means also that the purchasing value of the take home pay has been reduced. Although the Treasurer has admitted that these anomalies exist, the Government is prepared to let them go on and to allow those in the lower income groups to carry the increased burden. Yesterday the Treasurer stated:
We are looking at the taxation structure. As soon as it is practicable to place a submission before Cabinet it will be done.
We have heard of these reviews before. In 1964 a review of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act was promised, and it has been repeatedly promised since then, but we are still waiting for it. In 1967 amendments of the Navigation Act were promised. We are still waiting for them. Can the Treasurer blame the lower and middle income taxpayers if they take his promise of a review of the tax structure with a grain of salt?
Not only is the Government squeezing the taxpayer but it is also squeezing the States. The Commonwealth has placed a financial squeeze on the States, so much so that some of the Premiers have stated that they will have to increase their revenue to meet a deficit. As the Commonwealth gets richer the States get poorer, and they are forced to slug the people with increased transport charges, hospital charges and other levies such as turnover tax. When the Commonwealth resources are inadequate for the States’ requirements, the States have to raise their own revenue to meet the deficit. The people have to pay for it.
Without doubt, the most serious problem facing young people and families is the housing shortage and the excessive cost of buying a home. The cost of houses has been seriously inflated by excessive interest rates and land costs. There is no reason why interest on money borrowed to build a house should be in excess of that charged under the last Labor Government. There is no reason why interest should be higher than that charged for war service homes. The housing situation in Western Australia is desperate. Because of the mineral development and the repercussions from such development in Western Australia that State has the highest percentage population growth of any State. Apart from the natural increase in population and the number of people who come to Western Australia from other States, the migrant intake has increased considerably. The intake increased by 3,900 during the 12 months ended 30th June 1969, making a total increase in population for the year of 23,360.
These people need houses, and so do the people who are not recent arrivals but who have been waiting for years for a house. There are over 15,000 applicants on the State Housing Commission’s list for houses. This backlog has resulted in a considerable lengthening of the waiting period for applicants. In 3 years it has extended from 14 months to 44 months for the purchase of a home, and for a family home containing three sleeping units the waiting period has increased from 20 months to 44 months. Some applicants who have been approved by the State Housing Commission because their circumstances have been considered urgent have to wait 3 months to get a house. This does not seem to be a long period of time, but for an emergency case it is a long time to be without a home. The Commonwealth Government carries some responsibility for the deterioration in the housing position. About 15 months ago the Premier of Western Australia asked for a $5m special grant to relieve this serious situation. His request was refused. Surely the migrant intake alone places a heavy responsibility on this Government.
The Western Australian Government has failed the people miserably by not taking action early enough against rapidly rising land prices. When he returned from overseas a few days ago the Premier of Western Australia stated that there was no key to the land problem. The McCarrey Committee was established to report on land costs and the housing crisis. Unfortunately action is still pending on most of the important recommendations made by this Committee. The great tragedy is that the highest profit is going to the land speculators. They do nothing to earn higher profits. All they do is buy up parcels of land and sell them at huge profits. Mr W. J. Hannaford, a representative of housing interests, said on a visit to Western Australia that building blocks were generally $3,000 over priced.
The average working man has been placed in the position where he cannot hope to own his own home. He cannot compete for land at such high prices. This applies too to the man who may be on overtime and whose wife is working. How much worse is it for the young married man whose family is arriving? What chance has he of purchasing a block of land. He may save $250 towards the price of a building block, but by the time he has saved that amount the price of the block has jumped another $500. That is why people in such circumstances have to apply to the State Housing Commission for a home. A Labor government would provide the States with funds to acquire large areas of suitable residential land, which would be subdivided, serviced and sold at cost to those who wanted to build their own home and could not do so because of high land prices. All that I have said in condemnation of the Western Australian Government because of its lackadaisical attitude towards the housing of the people does not relieve the Commonwealth Government of its responsibility. This Government has failed the States in the matter of housing. Cheaper land and finance should be provided. It is within the Government’s power to give that assistance. Men and materials are available. The two ingredients missing are cheap land and cheap finance. A Labor government would provide both.
As the Government has failed the people an so many issues, so it has failed the people in health. The report of the Nimmo Committee on health insurance clearly reveals that the criticism of the existing national health scheme by the Labor Party over the years has been justified. The Committee was shackled by the limitations placed upon it by its terms of reference. It could make recommendations only within the ambit of the voluntary health insurance scheme. Despite the shackles, the Committee made some very sound recommendations and its criticisms have shown that we have a very sick national health scheme. A few years ago it was a common claim that Australia had the best national health scheme in the world.
– Hear, hear!
– The Nimmo report in no uncertain terms has scotched that unfounded claim. An honourable member opposite said: ‘Hear, heart’ If he has not awakened to the fact that Australia does not have the best national health scheme in the world, he never will. If the Government had heeded the advice of the Opposition over the years the suffering and anxiety of contributors to the scheme could have been avoided. Overseas people coming to Australia wonder whether we have a national health scheme at all. Dr John Griffiths, who was Director of Hospital and Health Services Studies at the Leeds University, and who became Professor of Hospital Administration at the University of New South Wales, was asked to assess our national health scheme when he arrived in Australia. He said: ‘What national health scheme?’ Too many people are left out of the scheme or are inadequately covered by it. Many gamble on remaining healthy rather than pay out the high premiums for inadequate benefits. The scheme costs many families over $1.40 and then forces them to pay about one-third of the medical expenses themselves. What sort of a scheme is it that charges the people a high contribution, taxes them to provide Commonwealth benefits and then makes them pay one-third of the medical bill? It would be farcical if it was not so serious, and the honourable member for McMillan says that the scheme is the best in the world.
The Nimmo report showed that there were 117 separate organisations operating medical and hospital insurance funds. The existence of so many funds creates costly duplication of staff, equipment and accommodation. The funds spend a big percentage of the people’s contributions on prestige office buildings and in competing with one another through advertising campaigns. The report showed that 25% of contributions is spent on administration, whereas comparable Canadian funds retain only 15%. This means that the average scheme pays back only 75% to insured members. The position is worse than it appears to be, because the average is worked out by including those contributors who insure themselves at the very highest rate. People on the lower tables get back much less than the average.
Sir Earle Page, in his preliminary address to the British Commonwealth Medical Association in 1950, said that the scheme would cover 90% of patients’ costs. He repeated it in this Parliament. The Nimmo report states that the scheme was launched with the object ‘to provide for a person, at small cost to him, protection in the event of illness against the full cost of hospital accommodation and treatment and 90% of the cost of medical services’. The report stated:
Many people who have insured in the top tables of hospital and medical insurance have been sadly disillusioned to discover when overtaken by illness that their hospital insurance did not cover extras such as use of operating theatre, drugs, dressings and appliances and that their medical insurance covered only 25% of the doctors’ charges.
The report was tabled some months ago, but only one of its many recommendations is to be partly implemented. I do not propose to go into that in detail. The anomalies created by it were shown in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
What about the other recommendations in the report? It would appear that they are going to be placed in the limbo of the lost, like so many other reports and recommendations. Does the Government accept the criticisms of the present scheme, and if so, what is the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) going to do about them? The Nimmo report in fact criticises the Minister’s own Department. It says that the administration of the health insurance scheme should be transferred from the
Department of Health to a national health insurance commission of five members. The Labor Party believes that a system of universal health insurance should be established, administered by a Commonwealth health commission and paid for from a Commonwealth insurance fund. We believe that such a commission should finance public beds in public wards and make a pro rata contribution towards the cost of intermediate and private wards. This applied under the Chifley Labor Government.
We believe that every member of the community should be assured of comprehensive medical and hospital care and that nobody should have to pay more for health insurance than he can afford to pay. The patient should have the right to choose from whom he should receive such medical care. Doctors should be free of worry over the source of their fees and be able to treat patients according to their medical status rather than their financial status. As the Leader of the Opposition said:
Australia wants a health scheme which will provide proper service at a cost the community can alford to pay. They want a scheme that meets the needs of the entire community, regardless of age and income. They want a scheme which can cope with the demands of all forms of illness, injury and incapacity, regardless of their type, origin or duration. They want a scheme which will promote efficient use of the resources of the health industry while allowing practitioners satisfactory rewards, incentives and conditions of work.
The Australian Labor Party has consistently advocated the establishment of such a scheme. Australian economists have shown how the Party’s proposals can be put into effect at a cost lower than that of the inefficient, ineffectual voluntary insurance system which now prevails.
I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, which says that the Budget is inadequate in that:
Time will not permit me to deal in greater detail with the points that have been raised in the amendment, but I commend the amendment to the House and to the Australian people.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hunt) adjourned.
– I present the following papers:
The Fourth Report of the Australian Universities Commission.
The Second Report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education. The Report of the Australian Research Grants Committee for the Triennium 1967-1969.
I ask leave to make a statement about the 1970-72 triennial programmes for universities, research grants and colleges of advanced education.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In presenting these reports, I wish to make a statement on the Commonwealth Government’s policy and decisions concerning assistance to universities and colleges of advanced education during the next 3 years. The reports outline respectively developments and progress which have taken place in universities and colleges of advanced education in the period 1967-1969 and go on to make recommendations for the coming 1970-1972 triennium. At the same time I would like to take the opportunity of presenting the 1967-1969 report of the Australian Research Grants Committee and to deal with the Government’s decisions on financial support for the Australian Research Grants Committee programme during the 1970-72 triennium. A number of tables have been prepared setting out the financial details of the programmes, and giving comparisons with the previous triennium. With the concurrence of honourable members I shall incorporate these tables in Hansard at the conclusion of my statement.
I am pleased to be able to say that the Government has found it possible to accept the financial recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission and of the
Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education. The Commonwealth fully endorses the grants recommended for individual institutions. The estimated cost of these two programmes combined for the 1970-1972 triennium is 5910m which represents an increase of 40% over the 1967-1969 triennium. Of this amount the Commonwealth Government share will be $42 lm. The programme for universities of over $674m represents an increase of 25% over the previous triennium, whilst the programme for colleges of nearly $236m is an increase of 117%. The rate of growth in the programme for colleges is substantially greater than in the universities programme. It has to be recognised, however, that the colleges programme has begun comparatively recently from a modest base and is about to go through a stage of rapid development The universities as a group, on the other hand, have already passed through this stage in previous triennia and have now entered a period of more steady growth.
As honourable members know, the colleges have been established to broaden educational opportunities at the tertiary level for students completing their secondary education. The colleges are beginning to make substantial advances and do, I believe, offer a meaningful alternative to university education. I regard the colleges as complementary to universities in the kind pf training they provide; generally they offer courses more directly related to the practical needs of industry and commerce. These close links with vocational needs will appeal to many able students.
Together, the universities and colleges of advanced education cover two of the three major sectors of tertiary education in Australia. In 1969 the universities have estimated total enrolments of 107,000 and the colleges of advanced education, some 40,000. These enrolments combined represent 87% of the tertiary student population, the remainder being enrolled mainly in State teachers colleges. In 1972 university enrolments are expected to have risen to 127,000 whilst for colleges of advanced education enrolments will be nearly 70,000. The expansion will mean greater educational opportunities at the tertiary level. As a result, the number of students enrolled in universities and colleges of advanced educa tion, as a proportion of the 17-22-year-old age group, is expected to rise from 11.3% in 1969 to 13.7% in 1972.
I would like to emphasise that the Australian Universities Commission and the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education have worked in consultation with each other and with the relevant authorities and institutions in the States. The Commonwealth Government in reaching its decisions has decided that the two programmes together represent a reasonable expansion of the activities of these institutions and an acceptable demand on our resources, in relation to other considerable education activities.
The Government believes that the approved programme for universities, taken in conjunction with the programme for colleges of advanced education, represents an equitable allocation from the total resources available for education at all levels and will at the same time encourage a properly balanced development of tertiary education. I shall now deal in more detail with the reports themselves.
In 1969 there are 107,000 students in the universities of Australia, of whom 67,000 are full-time, 33,000 part-time and 7,000 are external students. It is estimated that in 1972 there will be 127,000 students enrolled in the universities of whom 83,000 will be full-time, 36,000 part-time and almost 8,000 external students.
The capital grants recommended by the Commission and approved by the Commonwealth amount to $I37m, of which $1 10.8m is to be provided for university buildings and items of capital equipment, $2 1.5m for student residences and $5m for teaching hospitals. A fund of $2m for capital equipment is provided to permit the purchase of single items of equipment costing more than $40,000. Hitherto, the only way in which a university could acquire such items has been when the piece of equipment is part of an approved proposal for a new building, or when a grant for the purpose has been made by the Australian Research Grants Committee. The Commonwealth share of the capital grants will amount to $75.5m.
The total provision for 1970-1972 represents an increase of SI Om over the figure for 1967-1969. There are two factors which should be borne in mind in considering these figures. One is that the programme for university buildings in the triennium 1967-1969 included considerable sums for the three new universities, Flinders, La Trobe and Macquarie. No new university will open its doors in the triennium 1970-1972. The other is that the programme for capital expenditure on teaching hospitals in 1970-1972 will be some $5m as compared with almost SI Om in the 1967-1969 triennium. The fall in expenditure is explained by the fact that the programme for bringing the standards in existing teaching hospitals to a more acceptable level is nearing completion. In its third report, the Commission gave reasons for its belief that the future programmes of capital support for teaching hospitals were likely to be at a lower level and that has, in fact, proved to be the case.
The proposed capital programme for student residences in the triennium 1970- 1972 is $21.54m, of which $11.36m is for halls and $10. 18m for colleges. In April of this year, there were 10,954 university students in residence at affiliated colleges and halls of residence. This is 16.2% of the total full-time student population. In 1966 the corresponding number was 8,190 or 14.5%. The Commission has received evidence, which it considers to be as yet inconclusive, that the preference of students is shifting somewhat from colleges and halls of the existing kind towards flats, with facilities for individual cooking. Nevertheless the recommendations which it has made should raise the estimated percentage of full-time students in residence to 18.2% by the end of 1972.
The total recurrent programme for the triennium 1970-1972 is $537m as compared with $4 13m in the triennium 1967-1969. The Commonwealth share of the programme will be $239m.
The largest component of the total is $536m for teaching and research, as compared with $413m in the triennium 1967- 1969. The figure for the triennium 1970- 1972 includes a sum of $8m in the form of special grants for research and research training. The Commonwealth will bear half the cost of these grants, while continuing to bear the whole cost of the programme for the Australian Research Grants Committee, to which I shall refer later. It should be noted that the figure I have quoted for the triennium 1967-1969 includes the supplementary grants provided by the States and the Commonwealth to meet increases in academic salary rates which occurred during the triennium.
Recurrent grants to teaching hospitals will be $2.9m in 1970-1972, compared with a figure of $2.3m in the previous triennium. Unmatched Commonwealth recurrent grants for colleges and halls of residence will amount to $2.5m in the triennium 1970- 1972 as compared with $1.9m in the triennium 1967-1969.
Part-time Teaching and External Studies
The Commission has made certain changes from past practice. It has adopted a new formula for calculating the full-time equivalent value of part-time teachers in universities. The details appear in the opening paragraph of chapter 3 in its report. It has also changed, after a careful examination of the situation in the universities, the weighting given to external students. In the past, four external students have been regarded as equivalent to one full-time student. The Commission considers that the cost of teaching an external student is now considerably higher than the formula suggests. In 1970-1972, two external students therefore will be regarded as equivalent to one full-time student. That will have the result of increasing the recurrent grants of universities which make provision for external students. The Commonwealth welcomes the change, not only because it believes the new assessment to be closer to the reality, but also for a social reason. It does not regard work for university degrees by the hard road of external studies as entirely satisfactory, but it firmly believes that the opportunity to undertake such work by external study should be available while there are many people dedicated enough to want the opportunity. In a country of great distances, like Australia, the need is particularly great.
Neither the Commission, nor the Commonwealth accepts the view expressed in the Martin Report that external studies should be phased out of the universities. Moreover, a young university in the State of New South Wales has demonstrated that science subjects can be taught most successfully to external students and that State is now particularly well served in the provision of external studies in science as well as the arts and social sciences. In particular it is the hope of the Commonwealth that one or another of the universities in Victoria will vigorously enter this field; Victoria is the State least well served with opportunities for external studies. I believe that this is an area in which universities should be responsive to the needs of the community.
The Commonwealth has noted with pleasure that the University College of Townsville will become independent at the beginning of the forthcoming triennium. It is to be known as the University of North Queensland. The planning of a new university institution at Mount Gravatt is to be continued during the triennium 1970-1972 and an amount of $250,000 will be provided for the purpose.
There are two entirely new developments recommended by the Commission for the planning of which funds will be provided during the forthcoming triennium. They are, firstly, the establishment of a new university institution in Western Australia. The present University of Western Australia, both in terms of student numbers and in site utilisation is rapidly approaching its optimum size. An amount of $200,000 has been provided in the recommended grants to the University of Western Australia to enable the necessary planning to take place for the new institution to receive its first students in 1975. The second is the establishment of a new medical school in South Australia, which is to receive first year students in 1973. The school will be situated within Flinders University of South Australia which is to be provided with $251,000 for planning the new school during the triennium 1970-1972.
Both these projects have the support of the respective State governments concerned and both are welcomed by the Commonwealth Government. I emphasise that for both, there will be preliminary planning only during the 1970-1972 triennium. Substantial expenditure will not occur until the triennium 1973-1975.
Before I leave new developments, I wish to inform honourable members that there are two further likely new developments for which the Commission has not made financial recommendations. One of these is the Commission’s recommendation that a fourth school of veterinary science should be established in the University of New England. The Commonwealth has accepted this recommendation in principle, but has made no decision on the location of the fourth school. That is to become a matter for discussion between myself and the interested States and the cost of the new school cannot be determined before those discussions are well advanced. The other is related to recommendations which may come out of the impending inquiry, which the Commonwealth has decided to sponsor, into postgraduate business education. I wish to emphasise that the costs which might be involved in establishing a fourth school of veterinary science and in developing postgraduate business education will not be found from within the sum of $674m which, as I have stated, is the total amount of the Commission’s financial recommendations for the triennium 1970-1972.
I also wish to inform honourable members that the Commonwealth Policy Committee on Automatic Data Processing is still engaged in examining how the needs for increased computing capacity in the universities of Victoria and the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales may best be met. Consideration will be given to proposals as soon as they are submitted. One of the objectives of the Policy Committee has been, in consultation with the universities, colleges of advanced education, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, to arrive at cooperative sharing arrangements amongst neighbouring institutions. The recommendations for capital expenditure of $2m which the Commission has made in its report relate to proposals already put forward by the Policy Committee. Before I turn to the Australian National University, for which the Commonwealth has sole responsibility, I should like to draw the attention of honourable members to specific issues in two State universities.
The University of New South Wales is to construct a very high building of some sixteen storeys at a cost exceeding $6m in the triennium 1970-1972. The Commission considers that a very high building is suited to the limited size of the University’s campus and agrees with the view of the University that it would be costly and inconvenient to construct the building in stages. The Commission has recommended the construction of the whole building in the triennium 1970- 1972 on the understanding that a very substantial part of it will be devoted to the provision of library space. The building is to be alongside the existing library. On that condition, the Commonwealth has decided to approve the recommendation.
All medical schools now include child health in their teaching and research programmes. The Commonwealth, therefore, proposes to withdraw the special support given to the Institute of Child Health in the University of Sydney since 1948. It was provided at a time when the subject was undeveloped in our universities. The University will therefore need to establish a Departpartment of Child Health financed in the normal way; that is to say, the State and the Commonwealth would make grants according to the usual formula. This matter will need to be the subject of discussion between the Commonwealth, the State and the University.
The Commonwealth accepts the Commission’s recommendation that a sum of $lm, of which the Commonwealth’s share will be $500,000, should be made available to the University of Sydney for the acquisition of land. It does so, however, on the condition that the money will be expended on land within the two areas of 35 and 9 acres, much of which has already been acquired. The funds will not be made available for the acquisition of land in the further area of 21 acres which the University has contemplated acquiring. The Commission’s view, which the Commonwealth supports, is that undergraduate enrolments at the University of Sydney have reached a size which ought not to be increased and that the completion of the acquisition of the two areas of 35 and 9 acres will provide sufficient space for the redeployment of its overcrowded campus. In all universities which grow too large, students and junior members of staff come to feel alienated from the administrative machinery and the administration itself sometimes loses touch.
I now turn to the Australian National University. The total programme of capital expenditure recommended by the Commission amounts to $ 14.3m. The figure includes a sum of $8.9m for university buildings and capital equipment; an amount of $3. 2m for residential colleges and halls of residence; and a further sum of $2.2m for the acquisition of a tandem accelerator which will be used in the Research School of Physical Sciences. The Commission, in recommending the purchase of the accelerator, has been guided by the advice of distinguished experts overseas, including Lord Penney.
In the 1970-1972 triennium, the University will have available for general recurrent purposes grants of $73,960,000 provided by the Commonwealth, and in addition an estimated $4,030,000 in income from fees, rents and other sources. The total will therefore be close to $78m. The University will be expected to abide by the triennial principle. Supplementary grants will not be provided, if the income from rents, fees and other income is less than the estimated figure. Nor will the Government’s grant be reduced if the income from those sources exceeds the estimate. As is the case with other universities, the Australian National University will be able to carry forward balances in its recurrent account from year to year within the triennium, but it must, by the end of the triennium, have kept expenditure within the total of recurrent funds approved.
The grants of $73,960,000 include an amount to replace the separate grant, described as for general research purposes, which the University has received in the triennium 1967-1969 and the University will be free to acquire out of its income of some $78m individual items of equipment costing more than $40,000, subject to the prior approval of the Australian Universities Commission. Finally, and additionally, the Commonwealth will pay from 1970 in respect of the colleges and halls of the University, other than post-graduate halls, recurrent grants subsidising running costs on the formulae applicable to all other universities.
The report of the Australian Research Grants Committee which I have tabled is a review of the Committee’s activities in the years 1967-1969. As honourable members know, the purpose of the programme is to assist outstanding research workers in projects of scientific or scholarly merit. A Very substantial part of the funds available has been received by research workers in universities, but some projects in industry have also received grants. For the 1967- 1969 triennium the Commonwealth Government provided the whole of the funds of $9.2m needed for the Australian Research Grants Committee programme. In 1970- 1972 the Government will meet the full cost of a $ 12.5m programme for the Australian Research Grants Committee, and in addition its half of the $8m special programme of research and research training in State universities. The amount which the Commonwealth will make available for research under both programmes will therefore be of the order of $ 16.5m compared with a Commonwealth allocation for research in the 1967-1969 triennium of $9.2m.
I believe that these funds should enable our research effort to be maintained at an encouraging level. In particular, the additional allocation for the Australian Research Grants Committee should enable it to recommend more adequate grants than in the past for the most outstanding research workers. The Committee should also be in a position to recommend grants for some promising young research workers who have not yet demonstrated their research capacity sufficiently to compete with the established workers In their fields.
The Commonwealth is prepared to support a programme of $236m for colleges in the States and in Canberra. The Commonwealth’s share of this amount will be $107m, and includes payment for a programme of $250,000 for research into problems of colleges of advanced education, and an unmatched grant of $500,000 for library acquisitions. The main factor contri buting to the growth in the advanced education programme is the greatly accelerated development which is planned for the colleges in the coming triennium. As with universities there has been considerable pressure on the colleges to increase enrolments at all levels.
Quite apart from the provision of facilities to accommodate increased enrolments, it must also be recognised that in agreeing to the recommendations of its advisory committee, the Government has accepted that a significant part of the capital programme must be devoted to the replacement of totally inadequate accommodation and facilities and to the installation of new equipment. For recurrent expenditure the increases are attributable mainly to greater staff and student numbers, as well as to measures to reduce teaching loads and improve the quality of instruction. Provision of new courses is another factor contributing to the additional costs, both capital and recurrent.
I draw the attention of the House particularly to chapter 4 of the Second Report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education, dealing with the relationship between the colleges and industry. The relationship between the colleges and industry is of critical importance to their successful development. The colleges have been established by governments to provide training for industry - which I use as an inclusive term for manufacturing, commerce, government and community services - and therefore it is essential that industry should play a direct role in shaping the nature of the courses to be offered. The Government notes with satisfaction the associations which have been developed between the colleges and industry and looks forward to a strengthening of these ties in the future.
Before turning to the recommendations, I wish to mention briefly two reports which have been made following inquiries recommended by the Advisory Committee on Advanced Education. The first is a report by Mr Justice Sweeney concerning academic salaries in the colleges; the second is the report of a committee under Mr F. M. Wiltshire which has inquired into awards in the colleges of advanced education. The States have specifically requested discussion of the Sweeney report before firm decisions are made, and arrangements are at present being made to discuss both reports. The recommendations of the Committee are in two main parts - general recommendations affecting the programme as a whole, particular recommendations dealing with the proposed programme in each State and for the Canberra College of Advanced Education.
The Government accepts the Committee’s recommendation that within States recurrent funds may be transferred between colleges. Transfers of this nature are regarded as appropriate since the majority of colleges in any State are under a largely centralised financial control. Acceptance of the recommendation has no application to universities which are individual autonomous institutions. The Commonwealth will provide a sum of $250,000 for research into the problems of colleges of advanced education, which is at the same level as in the present triennium. It will consider separately the Committee’s recommendation of support for an integrated project on educational technology, which accounts for a substantial part of the increase suggested by the Committee in this area. The sum of $500,000 was made available in the present triennium for the acquisition of library materials by colleges; the sum was allocated on the basis of need. The Government accepts the Committee’s recommendation that a similar sum be made available in the next triennium subject to the condition that a State should not reduce its own expenditure in this area. This decision reflects the Government’s realisation of the particular importance to education of adequate library services. Further important comments on the libraries programme are given in chapter 7 of the Committee’s report.
State and the Australian Capital Territory Programmes
I will not attempt to deal in detail with the particular programmes since these can be studied in full from the report of the Committee. I will, however, mention briefly certain items of general interest and a few of the major projects.
Teacher Education within the Colleges
The programme approved by the Commonwealth includes provision for teacher education in colleges of advanced education at Bathurst and Wagga in New South Wales, Rockhampton and Toowoomba in Queensland, at Hobart and at Canberra. This follows from the Government’s adoption of the principle of Commonwealth support for both capital and recurrent purposes of teacher education within colleges of advanced education, of which I informed the House on 13th August. The Commonwealth will look to its Advisory Committee on Advanced Education to advise on proposals for an expansion of this activity in the future and to co-operation with State authorities and institutions in the development of teacher education within the colleges.
The colleges are giving attention to the establishment of residential faculties and during the coming triennium fifteen of them will be adding residential accommodation for students as compared with six during the current triennium. I note with considerable satisfaction that the mining industry is contributing liberally to the provision of residential facilities in Kalgoorlie and that the local community has subscribed a significant sum for residential facilities in Toowoomba. The Commonwealth will back such enterprise as it is doing for residential facilities in association with the universities. Of course, we wish these facilities to play an integral part in the educational and social activities of the colleges. During the 1970-1972 triennium over $8.5m will be available for the provision of residential accommodation.
In the four years since the Government announced its decisions on the recommendations of the Martin Committee report, the colleges have grown in strength and esteem and plans for further development are, as the second report of the Committee indicates, well in hand. There are now 43 colleges receiving Government assistance. Indications of the growing strength and acceptance of the colleges are the establishment in a number of States of co-ordinating bodies - in New South Wales, the Advanced
Education Board; in Victoria, the Institute of Colleges; and in Tasmania, the Council of Advanced Education. A major project which I should like to mention is the merging into a single institute - the New South Wales Institute of Technology - of the former New South Wales Institute of Technology and the New South Wales Institute of Business Studies. Careful consideration has been given to the relationship of the central site at Broadway with the feeder colleges in suburbs. As honourable members will see from the report, heavy emphasis is placed on developing the central Broadway site and a substantial part of the capital to be provided for the New South Wales programme will be devoted to this development.
In Victoria, a major problem facing the city colleges is the limitations of their present sites. The intention is, in the case of the major Victorian institution - the Royal Melbourne Institute at Technology - to re-build the Institute on an extended site. A major work during the 1970-1972 triennium is the construction of the northwestern building of the Institute at a cost of $5.6m. It is worth pointing out that considerable attention will be paid during the triennium to the development of agricultural colleges. New buildings of significant size and quality will be provided at several institutions. The report itself contains details, but an example of what I have in mind is the provision at Muresk in Western Australia of a substantial administration and general purposes building. The development proposed reflects the considerable interest which the Government has in the provision of education for rural pursuits. A further proposal of importance is the decision to include in the programme for the Queensland Institute of Technology, Brisbane, the sum of $2m to enable the physics/paramedical building to be completed. There has been a steep rise in enrolments at the Institute, and its needs are pressing. Finally, I wish to mention the very recently established Canberra College of Advanced Education. Since an Interim Council was appointed in December 1966 to bring the College into existence, construction on a site about 5 miles from the centre of Canberra has begun. High quality staff have been attracted and full-time courses will begin in 1970. Part-time courses are being offered at present in temporary premises.
Planned courses in 1970, to be held in the first multi-purpose building on the new site, will include administrative studies, applied science, liberal studies, librarianship and computer studies. The College has also recently announced plans to introduce courses in teacher education in 1971. The Commonwealth has approved an $8m capital programme and the $5.2m recurrent programme for the College in 1970-72.
Commonwealth payments to the States during the 1970-1972 triennium will be authorised by States grants legislation under section 96 of the Constitution. Separate Bills will be introduced later in this session of the Parliament to cover the colleges of advanced education and the universities. The legislation will, as is customary, stipulate the maximum Commonwealth contributions but I emphasise that the initiative lies with the States to determine the levels of expenditure within the Commonwealth’s ceilings laid down in the legislation. The 1969-70 Estimates incorporate relevant amounts for the first 6 months of the new triennium.
Total expenditure in the 1970-1972 triennium under the three programmes I have outlined will be $923m compared with $658m in -the 1967-1969 triennium. The Commonwealth share will rise from some $306m to nearly $434m. Subject to any extraordinary circumstances which might be put forward to governments for consideration, these levels are firm except for possible increases in recurrent grants arising from reviews of academic salaries. During the current triennium some increases were felt to be justified in the recurrent grants for colleges of advanced education to assist them to meet costs which could not bc satisfactorily estimated in the very early stages of the colleges’ development. It is not expected that this situation will arise again in the coming period. In conclusion I would like to say that I look forward to the growth in tertiary education and research which will result not only from these measures but in addition from the Government’s decision to provide a further $30m in unmatched capital grants for government teachers’ colleges. The 1970-1972 triennium will, I am sure, be a period of notable development.
– by leave- The Opposition welcomes the tabling at this stage of the reports of the Australian Universities Commission, the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education and the Australian Research Grants Committee. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has completed for the information of the House a most comprehensive review of the Government’s attitude towards university education in the next triennium. Honourable members will have ample time to digest the wealth of complex information contained in the reports before the legislation necessary to implement the recommendations is introduced. In particular the report of the Wark Committee on advanced education will require most careful study. It is only the second report of the Committee; the structure of the advanced colleges is still at an early stage of evolution. The objectives and achievements so far of this new system of tertiary education warrant the most careful assessment.
The statement of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on these reports was in many ways, I believe, an admirable one. I find that there is very little to criticise and I believe that one can quite fairly say there is much to commend lt. In particular, it is welcome that the Government has accepted the financial recommendations of both the Australian Universities Commission and the Wark Committee. Honourable members will recall how the Commonwealth trimmed some $56m from the recommendations of the Universities Commission for the 1967- 69 triennium. This, I believe, had a most disruptive effect on university planning and on the morale of individual universities and academic staff.
– It was the States which cut this, not this Government. We went to the maximum to which the States were prepared to go. In the earlier triennium the States actually put the limit on it.
– I am prepared to accept what the Minister offers us in explanation. I do not think at this stage that I would like to enter into debate with him on this question. But I believe that many of the cuts made by this Government were quite arbitrary and appeared to discriminate against individual universities. The Opposition said at the time that these cuts had probably been made because of the expenditure on defence. It may be fortunate for the universities .that this programme is being approved at a time when defence spending has been deliberately dampened. Nevertheless, there is a much more rational and responsible attitude to the Commission’s recommendations in what is contained in the Minister’s statement. The ready adoption of the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission and the support of the Commonwealth will allow universities, to plan and administer in a much more favourable atmosphere than during the previous triennium.
The Minister rightly emphasised the inter-relation between the two systems of tertiary education and the need for harmony between them to assure balanced development of tertiary education. The specific financial recommendations will come under much greater scrutiny when the enabling legislation is debated. In regard to the universities, the $10m increase in capital grants seems adequate, bearing in mind the completion of the bulk of capital spending on Flinders, Latrobe and Macquarie Universities. As no new universities will open during the triennium, in real terms there has been a reasonable increase in capital grants. . I agree also with the Minister’s comments on external students and the emphasis he places on stimulating, these activities. The reassessment of the nature of external studies is realistic, particularly as the Minister points out that these studies have been given a new dimension by the success of Macquarie University in external science studies. It is welcome that the development of new universities should be concentrated in Queensland and Western Australia, which are the areas of greatest need for additional tertiary capacity.
The Opposition joins with the Minister in welcoming the associations developing between colleges and industry. We welcome also the emphasis placed on teacher education in the colleges and the development of agricultural studies in the colleges. In total the Commonwealth contribution to the three programmes will rise by about 40%, a distinct contrast to the savage pruning made to the Commission’s recommendations for the last triennium. In effect, the Commonwealth is financing just under half the total of $923m to be spent on these three programmes. Although the Opposition welcomes the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Committee, I would like to point out that the role of the Commonwealth in tertiary education still falls well short of the role -envisaged for the Commonwealth by the Labor Party. The Labor Party believes that in the national interest the Commonwealth should assume responsibility for co-ordinating and financing university education and teacher training. This would enable additional funds becoming available to be spent in all other educational areas and institutions. The universities would retain their present autonomy, with the Commonwealth Parliament as well as the State parliaments having representatives on their Senates or Councils. This is the essence of the Opposition’s approach to tertiary education and I am glad to be able to state it while agreeing with the broad terms of the Minister’s statement.
In conclusion, I acknowledge, as I said when I first commenced to reply on behalf of the Opposition, that the statement delivered by the Minister is a most comprehensive one. It is certainly helpful to members on this side of the House who will later be called upon to consider the legislation that the Minister will introduce to give effect to the recommendations that he has outlined this afternoon. I believe that the Minister has presented to this House a statement that will be appreciated not only by members on his own side of the House but also by members on this side of the House.
Debate resumed (vide page 536).
-I would remind all honourable members that this is the maiden speech of the honourable member for Gwydir and I would suggest that all the customary courtesies of the House be extended to him.
– In taking my place in this House I wish to thank the people of Gwydir for giving me the honour of representing them in the House of Representatives. I am conscious of the tremendous responsibility I have undertaken to play my part in giving some weight to the development of one of Australia’s most productive agricultural and grazing regions.
The Gwydir electorate occupies an area in excess of 30,000 square miles, with a population of 88,000 people. It is an area with over 3,200 farm holdings producing around 30 million bushels of some of Australia’s best milling quality wheats. It is an area with nearly 10 million sheep, producing last year 81.7 million lbs of wool, and carrying up to 500,000 cattle. The electorate encompasses one of Australia’s largest flood plains between the Namoi and Barwon river systems, a plain overlaid with several feet of some of Australia’s richest black and brown alluvial soils. It is an electorate containing scientific research centres in the Narrabri district which are known throughout the world.
In the Namoi Valley we find Australia’s largest and most efficient cotton growing industry producing 113,000 bales of cotton regarded as some of the highest quality machine picked cotton in the world. This is produced from approximately 47,000 acres of irrigated land. This year approximately 30,000 bales of cotton will be available from this valley for export. The value of this crop to the growers, together with the value of the bounty, is estimated to be $18m. In Wee Waa we find one of the world’s largest, if not the world’s largest, cotton ginning co-operatives, the Namoi Valley Cotton Co-operative, operating six cotton gins and ginning about 80,000 bales of cotton a year. Now that the Burrendong Dam has been completed and the Copeton Dam has been commenced, I predict that the Macquarie, Namoi and Gwydir river valleys will become the centres of Australia’s largest oil seed production. The first soy bean crops that have been grown on the Namoi and Gwydir rivers have produced excellent yields.
The new electorate of Gwydir will, of course, include the booming city of Dubbo and an important portion of the Macquarie River valley. Dubbo is a city with inherent growth and industrial potential for many reasons, one being its geographical position. It is situated almost equidistant from the major capital cities of eastern Australia.
So, I am proud not only to be representing Gwydir but also to be a member df a government that has brought, over the past 20 years, under the leadership of three great Prime Ministers and my own highly esteemed leader, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), great stability and security to the people of this country; a government that has encouraged unprecedented growth and development in Australia with the gross national product rising from $4,47 lm in 1949 to $27,1 14m in this year, an increase of 506%; a government that has assisted in the expansion of our population from 8 million in 1949 to over 12 million today; a government that has shaped its policies to ensure full employment and prosperity to all Australians, with over 1.5 million new jobs created and over 1.5 million more new homes built since 1949; and a government that has encouraged the development of the primary and secondary industries of this country to undreamed of levels. This year the value of rural production is expected to be nearly $4,000m. The value of production of manufacturing industries is $7,430m and the value of mineral production is approximately $850m. So, today, we are one of the most progressive and stable societies in the world, secure in the knowledge that good relationships have been forged wilh our powerful friend and ally, the United States of America. This relationship has occurred because we have fulfilled our obligations to the ANZUS Treaty and because of the soundly based foreign policies of this Government.
I have sought entry into the Federal Parliament not only to lend my support to the sound national policies of this Government but also to help to ensure that the people of Gwydir and those who live outside the great metropolitan areas of this country enjoy their full share of this new and exciting era of development and prosperity. Before proceeding further, I wish to pay my tribute to my predecessor, Mr Ian Allan, whose resignation from this House brought to an end a long and dedicated service to the people of the Gwydir electorate and, I believe, to the people of Australia. Ian Allan never ceased in his advocacy of the development of the water resources of the Darling River basin and the general development of the highly pro ductive Gwydir electorate. I assure this House that I am imbued with the same faith and confidence in this area pf Australia. It will be my clear objective to see that the area is helped so that it will make an increasing contribution to an even greater nation in the future. This objective will be possible only if we create a favourable atmosphere for capital investment for country secondary industries and for the economic and efficient primary producers to exercise flexibility in their enterprise to meet the changing needs of the market place both at home and abroad.
The dependence of rural towns and provincial cities upon the soundness and stability of primary industries is axiomatic. Yet, today, rural industries are burdened with excessive pressures, many of which are beyond their control, such as the recent adverse seasonal conditions over a wide area as a result of the drought since 1964, the crippling cost price squeeze and the serious world market difficulties for such products as wheat. I wish to deal with each of these briefly.
With regard to drought, expensive drought relief measures have been undertaken by the States with unprecedented Commonwealth Government financial hacking. However, the actions that have been taken so far have been designed to meet the emergency. They have been basically defensive. I feel that while drought experience is fresh in our minds we should move to the offensive. Since drought is a feature of our environment, we should be planning now to meet the next drought before it starts. I have long been an advocate for a National Drought Authority whereby the Commonwealth and States can get together on a permanent basis to take all possible steps under their joint powers to plan ahead to meet the problem of major droughts. Such a national approach to drought would lead to more economic stability in rural areas and create a more favourable climate for the development and decentralisation of our country towns.
The measures that I would envisage being undertaken by such a body would include the co-ordination of the resources of the Commonwealth, the States and the primary producers to minimise the losses from recurring droughts; research into every aspect of drought management and mitigation on the farm; the devising of economic policies or taxation concessions to encourage primary producers to conserve more fodder on the farms - a measure in this Budget of course was designed to achieve this - the retention of sufficient grain for stock feed in drought times at strategic centres throughout Australia as a national fodder reserve after collaboration with the Australian Wheat Board and other marketing boards; and the acceleration of water conservation by the immediate provision of additional financial assistance to the States through the Federal Government’s national water resources development programme.
I note with satisfaction in this respect that the Budget provides for $5.7m this year as the first payment of the $20m that is being allocated to the Copeton Dam on the Gwydir River in my electorate. But there is an urgent need for the Commonwealth to step up its financial assistance in this important area of national development. The Commonwealth, to some extent, has recognised the need by the announcement in 1966 by the late Harold Holt of the intention to create the national water resources development programme whereby $50m was to be allocated to the States over a 5-year period. The value of this concept is clear when we look at the requirements of New South Wales alone.
Although New South Wales has allocated $94m to conservation in the past 4 years, it is estimated that $ 1,200m is required to conserve adequately the water resources and to create some measure of drought resistance. Without Federal aid, it will take up to 50 years to achieve this objective. In the Gwydir electorate alone, we have the unharnessed Barwon and Maclntyre River systems. An urgent need exists for the Pike’s Creek Dam and for further dams on the Namoi system. I point out that 3 years have passed since the national water resources programme was announced and the $50m has been committed already to works throughout the Commonwealth. I do believe that it is essential and urgent that the Commonwealth allocate many more millions of dollars in the near future to keep this programme funding the water conservation requirements that exist throughout this nation.
The States, with their limited access to finance, have no possible hope of providing the necessary capital. I submit that the Commonwealth with greater access, and which benefits directly from the increased production as the result of capital outlay on water storage works, should make a far greater contribution to the needs of conservation. This approach should be applied not only to water conservation and flood mitigation but also to soil conservation and the conservation of flora and fauna. This wider objective could be achieved by broadening the functions of the Australian Water Resources Council and constituting it on lines similar to the Australian Agricultural Council.
I turn now to the problem of the cost price squeeze on our rural industries and the need to compensate them for the economic predicament in which they are struggling. The persistent deterioration in the terms of trade of the primary industries is shown by the fact that the prices received by farmers today are only marginally higher than they were in 1964 - in fact li% - but their costs have increased by 18%. What is particularly disturbing is that the rate of increase in costs is actually accelerating. From 1954 to 1964 costs increased by 2.1% per annum but from 1964 to 1968 the average annual increase was 4%, despite our decision not to devalue the $1. All this happened, I repeat, with virtually no overall price rise to benefit the farmer.
By further investment of capital, intelligent management and sheer hard work, the volume of rural production, despite drought, has been increased by 30% since 1960. Such an increase in any branch of secondary or tertiary industry would have brought substantial additional profit to that industry. But what has happened to the farmer? His net indebtedness to the major financial institutions has more than doubled. There has been what one Reserve Bank spokesman described as a ‘phenomenal increase of 65% in rural debt during the last 4 years’. Much of this was due to drought.
This year the gross market value of primary production is expected to reach the record figure of approximately $4,000m. Yet so little profit will go into the farmers’ pockets that they will be unable to maintain their present rate of capital investments. This will lead to deterioration in improvements already begun and falling productivity. The consequences to the nation are plain. Should capital inflow steady down, a severe crisis in the balance of payments could occur within the next 5 years. Therefore, as a safeguard, the volume of marketable rural export products must increase. Despite an enormous increase in the export of both minerals and manufactured goods, a huge gap will be left that only an increase of 25% in the exports of wool, meat and other exportable primary products can fill.
It must be our clear objective to restrain, as far as possible, the incidence of rising costs without retarding the growth of economic industry. I recognise the difficulty of achieving this balance.
There is no doubt that the heavy overseas capital inflow into Australia, associated with the growth and full employment policies demanded and enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of Australians, places excessive demand on our resources. This loads our general cost structure and to this extent costs will rise. Let us hope that, as the volume of manufactured exports grows, export primary industries will find new allies in their campaign for price stability.
The Commonwealth has made every effort to help increase the productivity of the primary industries through grants to promote research and extension services. However, beyond that limit additional cost compensation must be devised to offset the degree of cost inflation that cannot be fairly absorbed by these industries. This year’s Budget contains many very important contributions to help offset the costs of rural industries. However, one thing is clear to me. Whatever is offered in the way of compensation - the $12 a ton subsidy or bounty on superphosphate or additional taxation concessions - and whatever extra amounts are allocated to promotion and research in the wool industry, the value of these concessions will soon be eroded unless there is an improvement in the economic climate for the export industries.
Before leaving this subject I would like to make clear my confidence in the future of the wool industry. There is a national need to restore confidence in this, Aus tralia’s largest industry, which sells every bale of wool that it can produce. A return to profitability in wool growing holds the key to the balance in the levels of production of wheat, grains and meat.
The other problem to which I referred earlier was the international marketing problem facing some of our agricultural commodities. The product most severely affected by this situation is wheat, lt is apparent that the world trade in wheat is continuing to shrink, and this is mainly due to new wheat strains, better farming techniques and heavy subsidisation programmes in some of the major wheat producing countries. The world market situation needs careful attention so that we may adjust our own production to meet the situation.
The world wheat scene would have reached the depths of chaos but for the efforts of the Minister for Trade and Industry. He has so far succeeded in maintaining the concept of international orderly marketing for wheat in the face of world over-supply. Only a few weeks ago we were faced with a free for all on prices with no prospect of raising total wheat sales. In this situation the limited markets would have gone to the countries with the strongest Treasuries. Australia could not have matched the economic might of the United States of America, the European Economic Community or, for that matter, Canada. Although world prices have dropped, they have dropped in an orderly manner so that none of the exporters in the International Grains Arrangement have had an undue price advantage over the others.
I want to pay my tribute to the intelligent manner in which the Australian wheat industry has met the current difficulties facing it. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation has devised a delivery quota scheme for 357 million bushels, guaranteeing the growers a SI. 10 first payment, making a total payment of $440m available to the wheat growers of Australia for this year’s harvest. This scheme was devised to protect the small growers, ensuring them a first payment of $1.10 on a quota delivery. It is an Industry-devised Governmentbacked scheme. In the face of great difficulties, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Government have worked and will, I know, continue to work with the wheat industry to obtain the best possible arrangement for the industry. Already this has been done in every aspect. The new 5-year stabilisation scheme for the wheat industry was approved last year. It guaranteed $1.45 a bushel for 200 million bushels of wheat and last year the Government underwrote the first payment of $1.10 for last year’s record crop. All these measures were necessary at least to provide time for the wheat growers to diversify their production to alternative crops and land usage in the face of the world marketing situation.
There is one aspect of this year’s Budget with which I am somewhat disappointed. It has neglected to provide direct assistance to another important area of national development, decentralisation. Some State governments, particularly the New South Wales Government, have embarked upon ambitious, constructive and, I believe, successful programmes of decentralisation. In New South Wales, for instance, over 450 industries have been assisted financially either in their establishment or expansion costs in country locations by the Department of Decentralisation and Development. Although the Commonwealth has assisted in the broad sense with such measures as petrol price equalisation, beef roads and assistance to special projects, further extensive assistance is required to create a favourable climate for private investment in our rural cities and towns. The Australian Government must devise some positive measures to provide relief to industries in country locations from the heavy burden of freight and telephone charges.
However, I compliment the Treasurer upon the Budget he has presented to this Parliament. The Budget has attempted to reach the needy sections of the community. The Government has embarked upon a new approach to social welfare, with far reaching benefits being extended to the aged, the widowed, those living on repatriation benefits and the sick, especially those on low incomes. Further necessary consideration has been given to assisting the Aboriginals who must be helped to live with dignity and self respect in our community.
I welcome the 38% increase in assistance to education. This additional assistance will add breadth and quality to tha training and development of our young people, both in State and non-State schools. No greater investment can be made in this country or any other country than the investment in education to develop to the full the qualities of our young people. I have no doubt that in the future Commonwealth assistance will be extended to the needs of the State primary and secondary education systems. As we know, a State by State survey is being conducted throughout the Commonwealth to ascertain the needs of our State school systems and education generally. I believe that this Government is adopting a very wise course in waiting for this report before actually embarking into this field of responsibility which has been regarded until this point of time as the responsibility of State governments.
I am particularly pleased that, during the triennium, grants to the States for universities and colleges of advanced education are expected to amount to $227m and $93m respectively. It is to be hoped that further colleges of advanced education and universities will be located in rural areas to give children living outside the great metropolitan complexes educational opportunities. Not only is this necessary for the children living in the towns, but for the young men and women intending to enter upon a farming career. The higher standards of management that will be required on the farms in the future will need a better educated farming community. The inadequate educational and advanced education facilities available to our young people in country areas is an important disadvantage suffered by the farming community. On the average they leave school earlier than their counterparts in the city, and are therefore less likely to obtain scholarships and less likely to enter universities. In an age when extra skills and intelligent application of modern techniques are necessary in any form of business, this is a major handicap which must ultimately make a serious contribution to the economic difficulties in the primary industries. The application of these thoughts, though mainly directed to the minority living outside our capital cities, will go far in increasing our national wealth, not only in the primary fields, but also in the secondary and tertiary levels of industry.
We all recognise the interdependence of our three classifications of industry - primary, secondary and tertiary. We know the necessity to achieve a balance in our development to ensure that the wealth producing industries continue to expand, so that they make their contribution to fullness and richness of life in this envied nation, Australia.
– Before commencing my remarks I would like very much to congratulate the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) on having made an excellent maiden speech in this place. He spoke as one who understands fully the rural interests of the electorate which he represents and he dealt with some of the problems that have developed in rural industry during the 20 years of LiberalCountry Party government. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), which is in these terms:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families,
it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools,
it ignores the problems of capital cities and regional centres,
it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures, and
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements’.
This Budget is a sugar coated pill designed to entice votes. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech gave honourable members some indication of where the money is to come from. For the benefit of my country friends, I would describe the Budget as being very much like a bucket of milk with nice cream on top and very watery milk underneath. I know that anyone who has had a cow which produced milk like that has not kept her for very long.
This is a Budget of divisions. In relation to taxation it is divided as between the wealthy and the wage earners, and as between the middle income group and the primary producers. Many of the latter unfortunately would not qualify, not only because of the present drought conditions but because of the economic policies of this Government, for inclusion in the same income group as wage earners or middle income earners. Another division in the Budget affects the pensioners. The rift between the single pensioner and married pensioners has been widened by the tapered means test. Under the tapered means test pensioners who now qualify for a part pension will be denied the fringe benefits. We now have a recurrence of the problem that existed for so many years under this Government until the means test was altered 4 years ago.
This Budget has caused a division in the field of education. It has made an allowance to one section - the independent schools. We do not deny that this section requires this assistance. In fact the Australian Labor Party had already promised to provide such assistance. But the assistance stops there. The Government has not recognised the problems of the State education systems and the need for assistance there. A division has been established in this Budget in relation to benefits payable to families. The Government has not seen fit to increase family allowances. It has not seen fit to increase endowment rates, which have remained stable for a long time. The unemployment benefit has been increased for the first time in Ti years. Those of us who came into Parliament after the 1961 Federal election recall very vividly that an increase in unemployment and sickness benefits was granted immediately following the disaster of that election when the Government went back to office with the narrow majority of one after the distribution of the preferences of the Communist Party supporters in the Queensland electorate of Moreton. It is unnecessary for me to impress upon honourable members or those people who depend upon unemployment benefit for their living the importance of this increase. Some people have had to live for over 12 months on unemployment benefit When I have asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) from time to time the number of people who have been off work for periods of 3 months, 6 months or 12 months and who have been continuously in receipt of unemployment benefit he has supplied the figures to me and they have shown that the benefit was at a rate less than that of the age pensioner. In many cases the families concerned had children to rear. Some people say that if the unemployment and sickness benefits are too high it will encourage laziness. I do not think that any person would prefer living on the unemployment benefit to working. This is an insurance that was provided for under the Chifley Labour Government from social service contributions which people made in addition to income tax deductions and which were made in proportion to income. But under this Government these funds have been absorbed into revenue, and whenever a case is put forward for an increase in benefits the cry always goes up: ‘Where is the money to come from?’
Yesterday the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) mentioned that maternity allowances have not been increased for many years. The allowance for the first child has been pegged at $30, while the allowance for each additional child has remained at $10. I know that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has been very concerned with this matter and he will be interested in a case that has been brought to my attention. I have some concern in this matter myself, but it is not financial. The wife of a 23-year- old constituent of mine gave birth to twin sons at her first confinement Twenty months later she had a second set of twin sons. The husband is beside himself with worry about how he can get assistance for himself and his wife. The doctor who attended his wife has had considerable experience overseas. He stated that in his medical experience he had never known of two multiple births following each other.
I referred this matter to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who advised me on 3rd July that the maternity allowance made available to this lady was $42 and that in addition her child endowment had been increased from $6 for each 4 weeks to $19 for each 4 weeks. He said further that in the past gratuities had been made available to mothers who had given birth to quadruplets or quintuplets and to mark occasions which are very rare indeed in Australia, and that offers had been prompted by the special circumstances and in the nationwide interest invariably attendant on such events. Assistance of this nature has not been made available by the Government in cases where twins or triplets are born. This is entirely wrong. A considerable amount of hardship has been caused to the young couple I mentioned and to many more like them. I quoted a moment ago the remark of a very learned doctor that this was the first case to his knowledge of two multiple births following each other.
I want to refer to the $1 increase in the age and invalid pensions. An elderly lady, who lost her husband 6 years ago and whose only means of communication is by telephone, called me recently to ask whether she could obtain assistance for the purchase of adhesive tape. She buys a roll of this each week at a cost of $1.25. She has had an abdominal operation and needs a dressing regularly. The Blue Nurse sisters call on her and they have to use this tape because she is unable to use ordinary elastic tape.
So we have these divisions in the Budget. There is an old axiom: ‘Divide and you shall conquer*. I do not know where it came from originally, but I know that it has been used by many people over the centuries. I know that it is an argument that has been used by employers when men have come along and asked for an increase in salary. The idea was to give someone an increase and set him up as a pacemaker and forget about the rest. In this way the employer would divide the men, because those who did not receive an increase would regard this one man as a person who had been looked after a little better than themselves. This Budget divides the people, the pensioners and the taxpayers into different groups.
The present scales of taxation were fixed 15 years ago. Since that time they have become unfair to wage earners in the middle income group and to farmers. Many farmers, because of their high production costs and drought, receive less income than the wage earners. Revenue from taxation will increase by $3,000m this year. This has been aptly described as increasing taxation by stealth. Some honourable members have said how pleased they are that taxation has not been increased. Whose leg are they pulling? In making these divisions, the Government may even have acted against its own interests. It can divide some groups but when it starts to divide so many groups the process will go against it. For some time before the Budget was presented the Treasury had been putting forward a case for the tightening of the economy. The Treasurer had made numerous statements. They were summed up not by myself, because I might be considered biased, but by Mr Russell Prowse, a Bank of New South Wales economist. He said that he failed to understand the Budget and went on to say:
A fortnight ago the Federal Government announced it was taking money away from the major trading banks so they could not lend it.
The reason given for this was that the economy was becoming overheated and there was some danger of inflation. Mr Prowse further said that while some of the increases in pensions and education expenditure were justified it did not make economic sense to apply deflationary tactics to the economy through the banks and at the same time apply heavy inflationary tactics through the Budget.
In the excellent speech made by the honourable member for Gwydir he mentioned how the indebtedness of primary industries bad increased over the years. He pointed to this problem. He must be wondering whether Peter is being robbed to pay Paul and whether farmers finish up with just experience. The overdraft rate has been increased to the highest rate in recent times. The fertiliser subsidy has been increased to $12 a ton. Drought bonds will benefit mainly the grazing companies and not so much the farmers. We must wonder, as one hand receives and the other hand pays out, just who will receive the benefit. I acknowledge that there should be a fertiliser subsidy, but I would like to refer to an article that appeared in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ in 1963. I found this article when I was cleaning out my office. It was a commentary written following the Budget that was presented in August 1963. In a 5-minute guide to the Budget it stated that the Government believed that a bounty of £3 a ton to the manufacturers of superphosphate would reduce the price to consumers by £3 a ton. Let us consider this matter. If the letters that I have received from primary producers are any indication, primary producers certainly have not bought superphosphate at a price $6 a ton cheaper than that applying previously. The subsidies have been absorbed into the profits of the chemical companies which have been having a bonanza at the hands of this Government. This has resulted not only from tariff protection but also from absorption of the subsidies.
Now I come to one of the main reasons why the Treasurer said he was able to make a cut in the defence vote. The Leader of the Opposition quite rightly said: ‘What would they have said to me at election time if I had suggested that we cut the defence vote by 5%? What would have been the reaction? Would it have been a cry of treason, as happened when the Australian Labor Party suggested that the National Liberation Front should be included in any Vietnam peace talks?’ Of course, those supporters of the Government, the splinter group, are crying treason. They are in a great fix as to what is going to happen as a result of the reduction in the defence vote. I think that this very action indicates the duplicity of the Government and of its spokesmen who time and time again have referred to the yellow hordes coming down from the north and how it is so necessary to protect Australia’s interests.
We find that amongst the items listed in the cut in the defence vote is a reduction of $10,231,000 in expenditure on naval construction for the Royal Australian Navy. The Budget papers refer to the completion of the current shipbuilding programme. There is a decrease in the overall vote for the defence departments - the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air and the Department of Supply - and there is to be a decrease in actual expenditure, from $91,212,000 in 1968-69 to $50,682,000 for the current year, on defence expenditure overseas. The latter is a very big drop seen against the overall reduction of 5% in the defence vote. Although there is to be a reduction of nearly $ 10.25m in expenditure on shipbuilding for the Royal Australian Navy, we have heard statements from the Flag Officer in charge of the Royal Australian Navy that we need another twenty patrol boats to patrol our shores. Japanese vessels are policing the international fishing agreement between Australia and Japan. I have always given great credit to the Japanese for looking after themselves. I do not know that they will do anything other than police the agreement, but I think it is in our interests to have vessels patrolling our shores.
All this is happening at a time when the Australian shipbuilding industry, particularly as concerns naval yards, is in a very perilous position. Only yesterday a deputation from the Williamstown naval dockyard waited on the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) to discuss with them further shipbuilding programmes and the question of what continuity of work can be maintained so that naval yards, not only at Williamstown but also at Garden Island, will not lose valuable personnel who are being enticed to outside industry by the payment of higher wages. Most of these people would be prepared to stay and work in the naval yards because this is what they like doing and they also like the security of employment which goes with the work. However, I understand from the men who comprised the deputation yesterday that increments and other incentives to stay with the Department of the Navy apply for only 3 years. After 3 years the men receive no further increases, by way of over-award payments, to encourage them to stay in the yards.
Another matter which I should like to raise refers to questions on notice and whether answers which honourable members receive to questions on notice are factual or not. My attention was drawn to this matter by an article in today’s Sydney Press, which referred to the report of the Auditor-General for 1968-69, particularly in reference to the Navy. The newspaper report carried the headline: ‘$160,000 Navy Bungle over Rescue Ships’. Rather than read from the newspaper report I shall read from something more authoritative - the report of the Auditor-General - which states:
Approval was given in May 1965 for the purchase of 2 craft of suitable design to fulfil an interim ‘search and rescue’ role in the SydneyJervis Bay area pending the introduction of patrol boats of the type referred to elsewhere in this paragraph. The Department anticipated at the time that the 2 craft to be purchased would be absorbed into the harbour personnel boat programme and be made available for harbour duties when replaced by patrol boats.
The boats selected for purchase at a cost of $138,386 were 38 foot flybridge cruisers which were being manufactured and marketed in the United States of America.
I know that at the present time we are buying quite a number of naval vessels in the United States of America. Because I am interested in shipbuilding - for some years now - each year I have asked a question concerning shipbuilding of the Minister for the Navy. I was prompted to look back through the questions I had asked to see what answers I had received over this period of time. In 1965 I placed on notice a question to the Minister for the Navy. I asked him what vessels were currently on order for the Royal Australian Navy. In his reply on 23rd September 1965 the then Minister for the Navy, the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), gave me a list of vessels which were then on order. But nowhere in that list did the Minister refer to the search and rescue craft which were purchased at a cost of $138,386 in the United States of America. I looked at the answer which was provided by the same Minister for the Navy in 1966, and still there was no reference to these vessels. Possibly, so far as the Minister knew at that time, they had not been ordered. Nevertheless, they have arrived in Australia, and since their arrival a further $22,001 has been spent to fit them for their interim role as search and rescue craft. But it was found that they were unsuitable for operation in open waters or inside Jervis Bay in adverse weather conditions. The Auditor-General’s report stated:
The 2 boats were returned to Garden Island in June and November 1968 respectively and have since been used on harbour duties.
According to advice received from the Department, both boats have been out of service for lengthy periods since their return to Garden Island, because of breakdowns and non-availability ot spares which it had been anticipated would be readily available in Australia.
So much for that. The only comment I want to make is that if the boats had been built in Australia and serviced in Australia there would not have been these problems. Again I ask whether answers given by Ministers to members’ questions are adequate or fully cover the matters which are raised in the questions.
One of the matters missing in the Budget is any reference to definite proposals for combating drought. Drought has had a major effect on the economy of this country for a number of years and especially in recent years. I am particularly interested in this subject. Honourable members will remember that I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) a question today on this subject. I asked whether any stage had been reached in discussions between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth in regard to funds for the commencement of the Kolan-Burnett-Isis irrigation scheme. The Prime Minister said that the matter was being considered. He said that the scheme was not considered when the original sum of $50m was made available to the Water Resources Council. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has said that the reason for this was that the Queensland Government did not give the scheme top priority; it gave first priority to the Nagoa-Emerald scheme. The people of Queensland welcome the assistance given to the Nagoa-Emerald scheme because this was the first allocation of funds by the Commonwealth for water conservation work in Queensland.
An amount of $7m is required for the Kolan-Burnett-Isis irrigation scheme. But if the Commonwealth gave the scheme the green light tomorrow it would still take between 10 to 15 years before work was completed. This scheme is destined to bring stability to an established area that embraces a $32m sugar industry. All members of this Parliament who have visited this area - and a number of them, including the Prime Minister,’ come from the southern States - have agreed on the need for and the economies of the proposal. I would like to see an early decision made on this scheme since it- has a cumulative effect, because of smaller crushings and reduced crops, not only on farmers but also on the towns. Unemployment has not fallen in this area as it should at this time of the year. Unemployment has been due to the reduced crushings, and because there is not enough work available for farm labourers. This situation is also having its effect on the building industry. Further, there is talk of closing down one of the sawmills in Bundaberg. So this is a matter of great importance to a section of the electorate that I represent. It is also important to the area mat will become part of the electorate of Kennedy. It is particularly important to the electorate of Capricornia which I am sure will be again represented by my colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham).
At this late stage some social welfare adjustments have been made in the Budget.
Adjustments have been made to pensions, and after 7i years unemployment and sickness benefits have been increased. Also, some hospital and pharmaceutical benefits concession has been given to some people - and this is ever so light - on lower incomes. This Budget could have been a most creditable one. However, I do not believe that it merits in any way the praise which the Treasurer gave to it. I fear that the Budget will be better remembered for what it has not done and for what has been deferred than for what has been offered. The Budget shows a lack of real understanding of the wants of the community. This does not mean that the people want more dough. Social welfare increases are of little use to people who do not have incomes. The benefits given by the Government will be quickly absorbed in rising costs. The Government has left itself wide open in this respect. The Budget has been condemned even by its own supporters, including those in the splinter parties.
– I have listened in the last 30 minutes to an address by the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen). In comparison with some of the other speeches that have been made by honourable members on the other side of the House the speech can only be described as moderate. However, on behalf of the Liberal Party I would like to offer congratulations to the new honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) on the most capable address that he gave to this House this afternoon. I believe that the Government and Australia will gain from the acquisition and entry into Parliament of the honourable member. He seems to have quite an understanding of the problems of the people of his electorate and this ensures a balanced contribution to this House.
I have listened to many speeches during my time in this Parliament but I find it difficult to recall any time prior to this week when the members of the Opposition - the alternative government, the same Party that has been elected to power on only three occasions in well over 50 years - have been so gloomy in forecasting the future of this nation. Members of the Opposition speak in terms which can be only interpreted as reflecting its own chance of winning the general election to be held on 25th October.
I do not believe any of us would want to change places with any other nation. Australia in the last 20 years, under LiberalCountry Party leadership, has emerged and we do not have to wait for the 21st year of Liberal leadership for Australia to come of age. The test of the sincerity of the Opposition’s forecasts of doom lie in whether or not it actively agitates and advises fellow Australians to migrate from this country to raise their families. Certainly there is a lot to be done, but a lot has been done during the last two decades to give the Australian public confidence that this Budget lays the foundation for yet another decade of prosperity, achievement and advancement for this nation.
– Rah, rah.
-It is suggested that what I am saying is rubbish but I notice that all members of the Opposition are very well dressed; their feet are well shod; they wear nice suits; and they do not seem to be doing too badly out of the economy that is run by the present Government.
Just over 19 months ago a new Prime Minister was elected and trusted with the leadership of this country. The Prime Minister stated from the outset that he was determined to do something to help the needy. We have made strides in this direction. In the interim he was castigated by the Opposition Leader for tarrying. Now the Opposition Leader claims the Budget to be inflationary but underlines his insincerity by proposing such great expenditure that he contradicts most of what he has said in criticism. The Budget has planned that a billion dollars will be spent in 1969-70 on social services.
– Not enough.
– The right honourable member for Melbourne says that this is not enough. We cannot help but agree. There is much to be done. But if the right honourable gentleman listens - I know that he is to speak after me - he will see that this Liberal Government has improved things out of sight since the Labor Government went out of office in 1949.
It is interesting to note, if we take a glance at the figures that contribute to the expenditure, that the amount is almost on par with our defence allotment. In fact, when we add the expenditure in other social welfare fields, such as repatriation, housing and health, the total this year will be Sl,659m. This is an increase of almost S200m in this field. Consider the benefits that are given in the form of age pensions. In this field there are 705,000 people. There are 122,000 people receiving the invalid pension, 78,000 receiving a widow’s pension, and 24,000 receiving the wife’s allowance. Also, 111,000 people are receiving an additional pension in respect of pensioners’ children. Further, 3,800,000 child endowment payments are being made. In regard to the maternity allowance which I intend to mention a little further cm in my speech, provision has been made for some 252,000 people. Unemployment and sickness benefits have been paid to 28,000 people.
– How much did the Commonwealth pay when you were bom?
– Unfortunately, that was just about the time the Labor Government came into power. This type of benefit did not exist then. It is well to remember that the Government’s wise decision to taper the means test will mean the addition of extended benefits to 100,000 persons already receiving some benefits and the addition of approximately 150,000 people who did not qualify for a benefit previously.
We have heard many members of the Opposition speaking against the continuation of a moderated form of means test. I submit that if the means test were completely abolished, as suggested, many more persons would be receiving social service benefits and this, in the long term, would be detrimental to those persons in the category of the really needy. I do not believe that honourable members opposite really subscribe to this theory in their hearts, hut they feel that by grasping at a catch-phrase like ‘abolish the means test’ they will win electoral support. I suppose that after 20 years in the wilderness one cannot blame them for grasping. For the last 19 years they have been grasping and I am certain that for the next 19 years they will still be wandering in the wilderness.
I wish now to examine the age, invalid, widow and service pension increases as announced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). The maximum weekly rate of pension payable to single age and invalid pensioners and to widows with children is to be increased by $1 to $15 a week. For widows without children the new weekly maximum rate will be $13.25. The pension payable to a married couple will increase by 75c a week for each so that the maximum rate for their combined pensions will be $26.50. Persons in receipt of service pension - which are repatriation benefits - will receive similar increases, as will tuberculosis sufferers in receipt of allowances. In the future the latter will, in addition, be eligible for certain benefits and concessions available to social service pensioners. The Government has given particular attention to the needs of widows with children and proposes to introduce special measures to assist them. If we were to examine - I shall do so in more detail later - the way in which the lot of widows has improved under the present Government, we would find a remarkable story.
– You are kidding.
– I am certain that the honourable member has not had the time to study these figures. As the House is fully aware, members of the Opposition are reluctant to admit that there have been improvements. The allowance payable for each child, after the first, of a widow pensioner will be increased by $1 a week to bring the total payment, excluding child endowment, for each such child to $3.50 a week. This benefit will be extended to children, other than the first, of age, invalid and service pensioners. These measures must certainly contribute to a better standard of living and must assist the people who are in those particular circumstances. As a further measure of assistance, the mother’s and guardian’s allowance is to be increased from the present rate of $4 a week to $6 in cases where there is a child under the age of 6 years or an invalid child requiring full time care. As well, the deduction from income for means test purposes for a dependent child of a pensioner is to be increased by $1 a week to $4 a week. A widow pensioner with three dependent child ren may thus earn $22 a week, hold property of a value up to $4,500 and still receive the full pension and allowances.
All these new benefits will be extended to age, invalid and service pensioners in appropriate cases. This is further evidence of the Government’s determination to assist people in this area. It has been decided also to modify residential qualifications for widows’ pensions so that certain women who are widowed overseas may be eligible for a widow’s pension on their return to Australia, provided they have lived in Australia for a continuous period of 10 years. This is a very humane thought. Because of the number of persons who in the past have migrated to Australia and now wish to visit their home countries, it is intended to permit pensioners making temporary visits overseas to receive, on their return to Australia, payment of pension for up to 30 weeks absence. The present limit is 12 weeks. I know of a couple of cases in my own electorate where elderly people who have scrimped and saved to enable them to take a trip outside of Australia - a budget trip - have found, on their return, that their pension has been cut for a number of weeks. The new proposal will gladden the hearts of many of my constituents. Persons who become pensioners because of the proposed increases in basic rates of pension - these are different from those persons who will become pensioners for the first time because of the introduction of the tapered means test - will become eligible for the pensioner medical service, giving them entitlement to free medical and hospital treatment and free pharmaceutical benefits. They will be entitled also to other subsidiary benefits provided by the Commonwealth, such as reduced radio and television licence fees, telephone rentals, hearing aids and funeral benefits.
When one looks at the amendment moved by the Opposition one feels that in the fields of repatriation and social services there must be little wanting. Indeed it would be appropriate to turn back the clock 20 years and to study improvements that this Liberal Government has made to the plight of those who have just retired. Let us look at the record of the Labor Party which, in the coming election, will offer itself as the alternative government. The record shows that in September 1949 - I realise that that is a long time ago, but one has to go back a long way because it is a long time since the Labor Party has been in government - the pension was £2 2s 6d. If we relate that amount to present values we see that had the Labor Party been in office and had it continued to regard that as a fair enough payment the pensioners whom it professes to champion would be receiving only $9.98 as compared with the pensions paid by the present Liberal-Country Party Government of $13.25 for widows, $15 for single age and invalid pensioners and $26.50 for a married pensioner couple. The honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) continues to bark and yap like a dog but it is obvious that many members of the Opposition will be joining him in November. (Mr Devine interjecting) -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting.
– He is provoking mc.
– If the honourable member for East Sydney intends to speak, I should like to hear from him on a non-political basis his opinion about larger payments for single persons as opposed to the double rate for married couples, because I have received numerous letters from people who feel that the single person is getting the better deal. I have never heard any discussion of this subject by Opposition members and it would clarify the situation if some member opposite spoke out on it.
While on the subject of improvements brought about by the present LiberalCountry Party Government it is well to turn to the subject of widow pensions. In September 1949 a class A widow with one child received, under the Labor Government, £2 7s 6d or 5s more than the pension paid to an age or invalid pensioner. If we relate that pension to movements of the index up to the quarter ending June 1969 it would represent a payment of $11.05 to a class A widow. The present Government pays almost double that amount. Whereas a few months ago the payment was $20.50, with continued improvements, this will reach double what the Opposition would be paying if it were in power. It is well to bring these facts to the attention of people. They are in black and white for all to see.
A little research will show that what I say is factual. No wonder honourable members opposite are baying and barking. The truth hurts. The standard of living enjoyed by people dependent on social services has greatly increased. I am certain that in many years time when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) retires we will look back upon an era when even greater improvements were effected. When we look at the payments made under a Labor Government in the 1940s it is little wonder that it was bundled out of office. No wonder in this election year the Labor Party refrains from suggesting amendments to pension payments. It is vulnerable in this area. It does not want to draw the attention of pensioners to its poor and pathetic record. The Labor Party should be ashamed of what it did to pensions in the 1930s and 1940s. Do not interpret my remarks as an indication of complacency on the part of the Government because I know of the underlying determination of the Government to improve the lot of those in unfortunate circumstances and those who have contributed to the growth of this nation but now live in retirement.
I am disappointed that after nearly 3 years of constant representations the maternity allowance paid in respect of the birth of twins has not been increased to twice the amount paid in respect of a single birth. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), who has the distinction of being the father of twins, mentioned this matter this afternoon. I do not believe that comparatively speaking it is cheaper to have twins than to give birth to a single child. Many honourable members are smiling because I raise this matter. Situated in my electorate on the southern side of Brisbane is the Mater Mothers Hospital. Sometimes when you walk past the hospital you will hear the crying of small babies. Probably more babies are born in my electorate than in any other electorate in Queensland. In Australia in 1966 there were approximately 2,300 sets of twins bora and 20 sets of triplets. The respective figures for Queensland that year were approximately 320 sets of twins and 4 sets of triplets. I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) will recognise that the maternity allowance is one aspect of our social services system which needs reappraisal. A family which suddenly finds that it has two babies to care for instead of one must turn round and buy another set of baby requirements. I can assure the Minister that parents wishing to buy two prams instead of one receive no discount on the second purchase.
I turn now to a more serious and perhaps sadder subject, still related to children.
– How many do you have?
– I trust that the honourable member will listen to my remarks respectfully because they relate to a matter that is causing great concern to many people. A mother who gives birth to a child after less than 5i months gestation does not qualify for the maternity allowance if unfortunately the child does not live. The legislation provides that the intrauterine life must not be less than 5i calendar months. But the law in many States requires that the body of a deceased child born after 19 weeks intra-uterine life must be disposed of in a proper way. This means that the parents incur the cost of a funeral for the child. Normally it is bad enough to have lost a child. Where the child is born dead after less than 5i calendar months of intra-uterine life the Commonwealth does not pay a maternity allowance. I hope that the Minister for Social Services, to whom I wrote only a week ago on this subject, will hasten his inquiries into the situation that applies in the States so that he may establish whether an anomaly exists and see what steps may be taken to correct it. This is a situation which, now that it has been brought to the light of day, none of us would like to see continued.
Another matter to which I would like to refer is the plight of a father whose wife has died or deserted him. As the only member in this Parliament to have raised this matter I cannot help feeling that people underestimate the problems besetting a father who is left alone to face the world with a young family. He has a special problem in that he must go out to work each day. he has to come home at night and try to feed his children, get them to bed, and get off to work again next morning. The children may experience a degree of neglect which they may not experience if the absent parent was the father and not the mother. I know that the problem is difficult.
I know that the matter has been considered by the Cabinet welfare committee, but we must come up with a solution. It has been said that if we make direct payments families on social services will be earning a lot more than families not on social services. Perhaps we could introduce some system of home help. Too often the community thinks that a woman left with a small family needs some assistance but that a man left to rear a family can always bring in a housekeeper without causing gossip. To many men this idea is completely obnoxious and unacceptable, perhaps because they are trying to raise their family in a home environment still stricken by grief at the loss of a wife and mother. I believe that more attention should be paid to this problem.
As we all know, the sum of $2 is paid as supplementary assistance to pensioners who do not own a home. In restricting the payment to pensioners who do not own their homes I believe that we are overlooking the hardship experienced by pensioners who own their homes. In my home State of Queensland, where more than in any other State we find wooden dwellings, I believe that we are contributing to a great loss of national assets. People who live in their own homes and who have received the pension for 20 or 30 years without the benefit of supplementary assistance can barely exist on the present payments. There is nothing left for maintenance of their homes. Those houses deteriorate. This is a wasting of national assets. I do not advance any solution to the problem; I merely say that it is one that should be considered. Perhaps something could be paid to these, people every 2 years, for example, to help them to maintain their homes. We assist the elderly who live in rented accommodation because landlords must load their rents in order to meet the cost of maintaining their dwellings. There is no difference between the dwelling owned by a landlord and that owned by a pensioner. Both are subjected to the ravages of storm, wind and sun. Both suffer the same level of deterioration and peeling of paint. I mention Queensland particularly because in the southern States we fmd more brick homes, which withstand the onslaught of the elements far better than do wooden homes.
I had hoped to discuss many more topics today, but my time is running out. I would like to compliment the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his willingness at all times to listen to and to study the problems brought to him in the field of education. Over the last few months I have been to him on many occasions on the subject of mature age scholarships. Many people in my electorate suddenly found that with the increase of interest of people going on to educate themselves in later years they were being left out and that it was almost impossible for them to obtain a scholarship. But the Minister has seen fit to raise the mature age barrier from 25 years to 30 years of age and then to double the number of scholarships available in certain areas. This in itself will most definitely make the lot of many people in our society easier and encourage and induce them to go on to better their lot in life.
I know that the speaker to follow me in this debate is the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), and it would be wrong of me to conclude this address without making some mention of immigration. As we all know, 22 years ago the right honourable member for Melbourne piloted the immigration scheme. Last year 118,000 assisted migrants came to our shores, and 57,000 non-assisted migrants. In the days when the right honourable member for Melbourne was the Minister for Immigration we had 70,000 assisted migrants and 44,000 non-assisted migrants. I believe that the right honourable member must look proudly on the growth of this nation over the years. As was mentioned by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) in his maiden speech, the gross national product has grown from $4,50Om in 1949 to $27,000m today. My attention has been drawn to the fact that the right honourable member for Melbourne has stood down to allow the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) to make his maiden speech. As one who is the same age as the honourable member I take the opportunity to wish him well in his maiden speech.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kennedy) adjourned.
– by leave - The House will recall that on 27th November 1968 I announced that the Agreement on Fisheries within the 12 miles declared fishing zone between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan had been signed in Canberra. I now inform the House that instruments of ratification of this Agreement were exchanged in Tokyo on the 25th July 1969 and in accordance with Article 9 the Agreement will come into operation on Sunday, 24th August 1969.
I believe that honourable members will be interested to learn of the arrangements that have been made for ensuring compliance with the Agreement The Japanese authorities, in accordance with Article 5, have given detailed instructions to the operators of their distant waters fishing fleet concerning the need to comply with the provisions of the Agreement. In addition, the Japanese authorities have already despatched a fishery inspection ship to the Australian region to check that Japanese fishing boats are complying with the requirements of the Agreement. I consider that this action, which has been taken before there was any formal requirement to do so, is evidence of the good intentions of the Japanese authorities. The Agreement has legal force only through the application of the relevant laws of each country and so far as Australia is concerned the Fisheries Act will be applied to Japanese fishermen in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement.
Turning now to the significance of the Agreement to Australian fisheries, the principal point is that although each Government has entered into the Agreement without prejudice to its legal position on the question of exclusive fishing zones beyond 3 miles, the Agreement provides that at the end of the agreed period, 7 years for the mainland and 3 years for Papua and New Guinea, all Japanese fishing operations in the declared fishing zone will cease.
The areas in which Japanese tuna long line fishermen will be licensed to operate inside the declared fishing zone have been agreed after long negotiations and have regard to the interests of the Australian fishing industry. These areas are the east coast of Tasmania, the south coast of New South Wales, the waters outside the Great Barrier Reef and a small area off the north west coast of Western Australia. Strong Japanese representations to be permitted to continue fishing in the declared fishing zone between Sydney and Brisbane were excluded from the Agreement.
With regard to Papua and New Guinea Japanese tuna long line boats may engage in fishing in the declared fishing zone with the exception that west of 145° east longitude there will be no Japanese fishing and between 145° east longitude and 151° east longitude the Japanese tuna long line boats may operate only in the outer six miles of the declared fishing zone. In none of the areas is there likely to be any real competition between Japanese and Australian fishermen.
Whilst it is true that there is a major Australian tuna fishery on the south coast of New South Wales, it exploits the younger southern bluefin tuna that migrate through the area and occur in surface shoals which are fished by Australians using the live bait and pole method. On the other hand the Japanese fishermen fish the adult tuna by the deep long-line method, generally well beyond the 12 miles limit off the south coast of New South Wales.
The Government is pleased that the Agreement has been successfully concluded. I believe that the administration of it will be carried out in a harmonious fashion and in a spirit of mutual co-operation between Japan and Australia without abrogating any of the fisheries rights claimed by Australia.
– by leave- In the unavoidable absence of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) I have undertaken to speak for a short time on the statement just made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). First of all, we on this side of the House appreciate the fact that at last the fishing by the Japanese around our coastline is to be regularised. This is the first time we have had a definite agreement, with an obligation by both countries, and for this we are grateful. We realise that it was an intricate sort of agreement to bring into being, especially as the Japanese have fished in our waters for so long. There are several comments that I want to make in respect of the agreement. Firstly, the fishing industry is the Cinderella of Australia’s primary industries. When the Labor Government was in office 20 years ago we had the Commonwealth Whaling Commission operating and we were in control of the whaling operations on the west coast of Australia. This Commission did a wonderful job. It operated successfully, but when the change of government came the Australian Whaling Commission was destroyed, as were other government-run enterprises, and the Commonwealth has never since had any direct interest in fishing around the Australian coastline.
The next thing I wish to mention in respect of this matter is this: There are great weaknesses in the Agreement. There is a complete absence of regulations governing supervision. There are no patrol operations to see that this Agreement actually is carried out. With the best intentions in the world, Australian Government officials and Japanese Government officials cannot be held responsible in Canberra and Tokyo respectively for what their individual fishermen will do off the east coast of Tasmania, the north-west coast of Western Australia or off the Great Barrier Reef. Without supervision, this Agreement could break down.
This Agreement does not provide for the imposition of quotas. As a matter of fact, the Japanese can fish for 7 years from the commencement of this Agreement. They will be unrestricted. No quotas are set and no accounts are required. It is 7 years of unrestricted intensive professional fishing operations. We on this side of the House say quite definitely that 7 years is too long. It is too long a time for the Japanese professional fishermen to have unrestricted control over these areas for fishing purposes. The Agreement in regard to the coast of Papua and New Guinea stipulates a period of 3 years only. Admittedly, that may not be so long, but 7 years is a long time indeed. At the end of this time, the Japanese will be excluded entirely from Australian waters.
The statement made within the last 12 months by Admiral Crabb is still relevant. He said that we needed twenty more patrol boats for work around the Australian coastline, some of them to be used in the supervision of our fishing industry. The patrol boats would watch the activities of our Japanese competitors in this field. But do honourable members know that not lc is made available for an extra patrol boat in the Budget presented last week? Therefore, Admiral Crabb’s worthwhile suggestion has gone down the drain.
– No, it has just been crabbed.
– That is quite right. This is a grave weakness in the Agreement. No provision is made in the Budget for the Commonwealth to advance certain moneys to Tasmania to help that State to build up its own patrol fleet. Japanese fishermen are fishing extensively off’ the eastern coast of Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government has asked often for financial assistance to help build up its patrol fleet. What actually happens in this respect? It is a fantastic setup. This Government now is asking the Japanese to patrol their own fishing operations. I have never heard of such an arrangement On the first page of the Minister’s statement, we find this: the Japanese authorities have already despatched a fishery inspection ship to the Australian region to check that Japanese fishing boats are complying with the requirements of the Agreement.
Honourable members would never read anything like that in any other statement ever presented to this Parliament. We are now dependent entirely on the goodwill, honesty and fair play of the Japanese whether this Agreement will operate fairly in the fishing zones. It is leaving the Japanese to do our job for us. In fact, we are getting the patrolling on the cheap because it will be carried out by the other partner to the Agreement.
We are not doing very much under this Agreement. We have a couple of patrol vessels in the north. Admiral Crabb’s idea was to build up that fleet considerably. It is impossible for two or three patrol vessels to supervise this tremendous coastline along which fishing operations will take place. The area includes the north-west coast of Western Australia, the south coast of New
South Wales, the waters outside the Great Barrier Reef and the east coast of Tasmania. It is not a fair go for a small patrol fleet to be called upon to handle such a very large area. We on this side of the House say that this is a definite weakness in the Agreement in respect of patrolling operations. In other words, there is nobody to police the Agreement except the Japanese themselves.
I wish to mention another aspect here. The setup off the south coast of New South Wales is interesting. Some people say that the Japanese are competing with the Australian fishermen. This is not true in the essential sense. I agree with the Minister. It is interesting to read that off the south coast of New South Wales Australian fishermen exploit what we call the younger southern bluefin tuna that migrate through the area and that occur in surface shoals. The tuna are fished by Australians using the live bait and pole method. On the other hand, the Japanese fishermen fish the adult tuna by the deep long line method, generally well beyond the 12-mile limit off the south coast of New South Wales. Therefore, in this area there is very little competition. Off the coast of Tasmania, the position is very much the same. We have very few recognised tuna fishermen. I feel sometimes that our criticism of the Japanese fishing in our waters has a hollow ring about it I say that for the reason that, if we are not prepared to fish our own fish, expertly and professionally, we have not the right to criticise any other nation wanting to do so. This would be a complete dog in the manger attitude and one unworthy of any country.
Our job is to build up our own tuna fleet. This must come with assistance from the Commonwealth Government to enlarge the industry which is a Cinderella industry, as I said. There is hardly any expenditure on fisheries compared with our other main industries. We should help to build up a tuna fishing industry of our own. We should provide tuna fishermen with better facilities and money that they can borrow at cheaper rates of interest to build and to equip their own boats. The Government does not recognise the fishing industry as it does other primary industries. It has been on the outer. The fishing industry is the odd industry out. I know that fishermen live tough lives. Fishing is a hard life. Indeed, today, it is not a very economic life. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should do a great deal more for our Australian fishing industry and, in this sense, particularly for tuna fishermen.
Finance is very hard to obtain for the purchase of boats and gear. It certainly is not available under the same conditions as other primary industries are allowed. Long term low interest finance is not available for the professional fishermen or for any other sort of fishermen as far as I know. The insurance of boats and gear is far too costly. In this sense, I suppose State governments would have the main responsibility in reducing insurance rates. After all, Australian insurance companies today are lifting their rates. Motorists are finding it harder and harder and dearer and dearer to meet their premiums. I feel that it is about time somebody started to clip the wings of these rapacious insurance companies that are sucking the economic life blood out of motorists, farmers and everybody else. It is about time the Commonwealth took over insurance as a going concern.
Many countries market fish in Australia. These countries include Canada, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Denmark and Japan. Great competition in the field of fish meats ls to be found in our shops. I feel, therefore, that special finance with low rate interest and special low rate insurance are required to help give what I would call an injection to our fishing industry. This Agreement is good in that it regularises the fishing activities of the Japanese in our waters. But my criticism is that the period of operation of the Agreement is too long. Its weakness is that no provision is made for patrol work to be intensified. No provision is made for more patrol boats. We are leaving the patrolling and supervision of the provisions of the Agreement to our partner, the Japanese, who are the prime movers in this matter. This is a strange and amazing situation. Finally, I apologise for the absence of the honourable member for Dawson. He was called away urgently. I am a very poor substitute for him. [Quorum formed]
Debate resumed (vide page 565).
– Before I call the honourable member for Bendigo, I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech and I ask that the usual courtesies be extended to him.
– It is traditional for a new member of the Parliament to express in his first speech his thanks to the people of his electorate. I wish to say that I am very grateful to the people of the Bendigo electorate for the confidence that they have shown in me. I am highly honoured by and very proud of the distinction that the people have given to me and I intend to give the highest possible service in return. The Bendigo area is one of the oldest areas in Victoria. Its history has been intimately associated with the history of Victoria and of Australia. It is for this reason that I feel honoured to take a part, however humble it may be, in the history of this great electorate.
I should like also to pay a tribute to my predecessor, Noel Beaton. He continued a tradition of first class service to his electorate. For 9 years he gave everything that he had to his electorate. The confidence of the people in him was high. His reputation as. a servant of his people was built on his readiness to give sincere attention to any problem, however small or large. It is a mark of his dedication that he was finally forced to retire from office because of the ill health that his hard work caused. It is with great humility that I succeed him as the representative of the people of the Bendigo electorate.
I consider that my primary task in this Parliament is to represent the needs of my electorate, and the principal need of my electorate is development. My task is to put pressure on the Commonwealth Government so that it will ensure that industry, population, commerce, administration and everything else associated with a developing area are attracted to my electorate. The term used to describe this activity is often decentralisation’. In more recent times this term has given way to ‘regional development’ or ‘balanced development’. Whatever term is used, the fact is that the people of my area feel very keenly the neglect and apathy that this Government has shown over 20 years to the needs of regions such as mine.
In academic and administrative circles there is still much discussion and difference of opinion over the desirability, the need and the possibility of decentralisation. There is quite obviously a need to confront this Government with the vital necessity to adopt a policy of regional development. I can assure the Government that the people of my electorate do not need convincing. Too often we find that our young people, when they have finished their school years, are forced to go to the metropolis because of the lack of opportunities for employment in the place where they were born. Too often they will never return permanently to live with their families and too often the whole family itself will pack up and move away. Again we find that in some ways the quality of our life in regional areas is not equal to that offered in the capital cities. This happens because the great boom in economic prosperity that is affecting Australia will primarily affect the capital cities first and only indirectly filter out to regional areas.
We are impressed by the staggering figures that show that the Victorian Government plans to attract some $ 1,000m worth of development to Victoria. But we ask: How much of this will we in our area get? If we study the population trends we will find that the rate of population increase in major provincial cities cannot equal that of the metropolis. If one examines population changes between mid 1961 and 1966 one finds that the population of Melbourne increased by 13.45%. The population of Bendigo increased by 6.96% or less than half that rate. The population of Seymour, which is also in my electorate, increased by 7.54% and the population of Castlemaine declined by 1.86%. It is evident that most of the population increase of the metropolis is parasitic and takes place at the expense of regions such as Bendigo. This is the situation that confronts my electorate. As I said, there is no occasion to convince us of the need for the Government actively to encourage the decentralisation of industry, population, commerce and administration to regional centres.
Surely by now the Government must be aware of the high cost of its negligence in allowing the notorious urban sprawl to develop. Surely it is time that the Government recognised the price that the community pays in high land costs in the metropolitan areas, the high cost of providing local government services and in particular the soaring costs of transport and traffic management in the capital cities. These costs add up to invisible millions of dollars in the metropolitan area. These costs become a charge on the nation as a whole. I believe that, by comparison, the cost of developing established regions such as mine would be insignificant.
What has the Government done? What does it intend to do to foster the development of my electorate and similar regions? This Budget deserves the severest censure for omitting development completely. There is no evidence in the Budget of plans to foster decentralisation. The Budget offers nothing to my electorate individually. And this refusal to sponsor a programme of regional development is all too typical of the neglect that this Government has displayed for 20 years. The Government has had plenty of time to implement its propaganda. In 1949 the Menzies Government went to the people with a plan of decentralisation of population and industry. Nothing has happened.
Let us look at another significant date, 1964, when a Premiers Conference took place. It established in the following year a Commonwealth-State Officials Committee to investigate a number of aspects of decentralisation. I commend the scope of the work that this Committee plans. But is the Government serious about it? The Committee met in 1965 and again in 1966. The next time it met was in February of this year, 3 years later. It is no wonder that a member of the Australian Country Party in this Parliament said that the Committee was a standing joke. Not even the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) knows with certainty when its report on decentralisation will be finished. Only last week the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), who is a member of the Opposition, asked the Prime Minister whether he could say when the report would be finalised. The Prime Minister had to admit that at that date he did not know. The negligence of the
Government is reflected in the fact that it has rejected or voted against every motion concerning decentralisation that the Labor Party has brought forward. The attitude of the Government is expressed in the words -Leave it to private enterprise’ or ‘It is a State matter*. The Government is not interested in taking the measures that would encourage industry to come to regional centres. Only in May this year, during the campaign for the Bendigo by-election, when the Labor Party raised an urgency motion on decentralisation the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) expressed the Government’s attitude on the measures that we have suggested. He said:
The Leader of the Opposition is talking about bastard decentralisation. He is trying to subsidise industry to go into a country town when it would not normally go there.
There in clear terms is the attitude of the Government. To subsidise industry to go into towns when it would not normally go there is bastard decentralisation, says the Government - ill conceived, ill begotten, illegitimate and unwanted. What an attitude. The Liberal Minister ducked out of his obligations by the usual escape hatch of State rights. He said: ‘It is not up to the Commonwealth. It is a State matter’. But what if the State itself actually asked for help, as Victoria did when it asked the Commonwealth for aid to promote the accelerated development of five Victorian centres? The suggestion produced by the Manson report in 1967 was rejected in toto.
We on this side of the House have plans for regional development. We are not prepared to tolerate the decline of regional centres. We believe that the Commonwealth must play its part in co-operating with State governments and local governments. We favour the establishment of regional authorities comparable to the authority that has developed Canberra. We believe that a special division concerned solely with decentralisation must be established in the Department of the Interior. We believe that a balanced development fund should be established to help finance decentralisation. We would investigate the possibilities of giving tax concessions for decentralised industries. We would relieve country telephone users of the high cost of trunk calls. In my opinion it is notorious that one of the highest costs faced by decentralised industries is trunk calls, yet the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has recently announced a profit. Surely part of that profit could be designated to lower charges for decentralised industries. We would favour also the establishment of government enterprise and government industries in regional areas. After years of Liberal apathy and neglect we in the Labor Party would deal seriously with the vital issue of developing regions like the Bendigo area.
One of the great problems facing my electorate and many others like Bendigo is the current problem which faces the primary producer. These are problems that the Government is either unwilling or unable to tackle, let alone solve. Probably no section of the primary producers in my electorate - whether it embraces poultrymen, orchardists or wool1 growers, to mention a few - is confident that the Government can or will cope with the problems it faces. The cost-price squeeze, which has been mentioned so often in this House, is affecting them all. It is at the root of their problems. The Government refuses to tackle it. The wheat industry is only the most recent victim of the Government’s inability to provide policies based on a sound assessment of current and future trends. The introduction of the two price system and the failure of the Government to provide storages for surplus wheat could well destroy the wheat stabilisation scheme. This year 1969 could well be the tost year of wheat stabilisation, unless a Labor Government is elected to office in October.
The Government cannot say that it has treated the wheat industry well. There are people in my electorate who have no quota at all, and many whose quota is virtually worthless. I wonder whether the Government is fully aware of their plight. Is the Government aware that a blow to the income of wheat farmers will have far reaching effects beyond those on the wheat farmers incomes themselves? Those who live in regional centres and whose income depends directly or indirectly on wheat farmers also will be hit. The effect on the economies of some places will be depressive. I urge the Government, even at this late hour, to change its policy towards the wheat industry in order to protect the wheat growers, and to ensure that they are not forced to bear the heavy burden of financing the construction of storages on their own properties.
I refer now to social welfare. This Budget will not cope with the needs of the people in my electorate who depend on social services. It shows that the Government has no interest in social welfare. Social welfare is not concerned with handing out $1 here and 75c there. It is not concerned with plugging a few gaps and papering over a few cracks in a crumbling edifice. Social welfare is concerned with ensuring that those who need help get it, and that they get it from the wealth of the whole community. Social welfare is concerned with providing a just income that will enable all people to live civilised, dignified and comfortable lives. Social welfare is concerned with redistributing wealth. On these grounds the Budget fails miserably. The Government is not worried about individuals and human beings. It is worried solely about economic forces, pressure groups and votes. I believe that the quality of a government is dependent directly on how it evens out differences in incomes and class among citizens. This Budget shows that the quality of this Government, its humaneness and its sense of justice is probably at its lowest ebb.
What does this Budget do for the ordinary citizens? There has been no serious attack on the deficiencies inherent in the private enterprise health insurance system. There has been no attempt to remove from the shoulders of low income earners and middle income earners the burdensome and quite disproportionate weight of taxation that they have to bear. The repatriation section has come under criticism from retired servicemen in my electorate. A married couple will still find it exceedingly difficult to buy a home because of the policy of this Government, and indeed the recent rise of interest rates will make them pay more. No help has been given to people with families. After 25 years the maternity allowance still remains unaltered. Child endowment has been neglected. Can the Government seriously claim that its election eve Budget will help the Australian citizen? I do not believe so. This Budget provides for an income to the Commonwealth of about $7,000m. Its income over the current financial year is expected to increase by about S800m. In this context, how miserable is the $1 or 75c that the Government insults the pensioner with! This paltry increase will barely cover rises in the cost of living. What happened to the much vaunted social conscience of the Prime Minister? Is the Liberal Party so insensitive to the needs of the pensioners that it can hand them only $1?
While I am discussing social welfare I would like to highlight the tragic effect on old people that the current wrangle between the States and the Commonwealth over rights and obligations is having. I shall mention only one example. The Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged caters for some 370 full time patients and 60 day patients per day. The facilities of the home are good. The work performed by the staff is excellent. But it cannot do enough. The Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged has a waiting list of about 270. Males must wait for 18 months to be admitted and females must wait for 2 years. Obviously the home is in need of extra facilities. Because of this the home raised a donation from the public in the Bendigo area to initiate additions of six stories. These plans have been sabotaged by the Liberal Party. Sir Henry Bolte refuses to pay his share of the cost to match the Commonwealth grant available on the ground that this is a Commonwealth matter and not a State matter. So a deadlock has resulted and the extensions cannot be started. So long as this irresponsible wrangling continues the aged ill in my electorate will continue to suffer.
I pass now to another issue that is vital to all Australians and to my electorate - education. For 7 years I have been a teacher at a State high school. Many things disturbed me about our education system. But nothing disturbed me quite so much as the inequalities in education that have been built into the system by years of Liberal government. I believe that education serves many functions, but one function that it must serve is to level out the differences of class, status and income in society. Equality of opportunity in education as a vehicle for eliminating inequalities has been a noble concept, but it is too rarely evident these days. When there are such inequalities in education the need today is often for positive discrimination in favour of those who need assistance. I would like to point out a few facts that highlight the inequalities in our education systems.
Firstly, inequality is evident in the first years of a child’s growth. The phenomenon of the culturally deprived child is well known to educationalists. The chances of a child succeeding in education are linked with the cultural background of its family. It happens that children from low income families need extra assistance and stimulus at a very early age if they are’ not to fall behind the children who have cultural advantages in their family background. We need to spend far more on pre-school centres, and we must stop neglecting the primary schools, which suffer shortages of staff, shortages of facilities and inadequate buildings just as much as the schools at higher levels of education do.
It is at the secondary level that the inequalities begin to show up. Children of low income earners are far less likely to go right through the education system, in contrast with students from families that are better off. The State Government in Victoria does little to even up the differences. The whole concept of subsidies from the State Government to match donations made by parents for essential equipment militates against the school situated in a low income area. The voluntary donations, composition fees, subject fees and a whole host of other levies required for the provision of essential equipment makes a mockery of the concept of free education. Everywhere in Victoria secondary and technical schools controlled by the State are facing a shortage of staff - a shortage of qualified staff - a dearth of essential equipment and inadequate buildings. Every deficiency in these areas increases the inequalities faced by students. Furthermore, the way in which the Commonwealth Government enters into the field of education too often enables a minority of wealthy and privileged private schools to get richer while the State schools remain poor. I have heard it said that on a per capita basis the private schools get about 30% more in science grants than the Government schools do. That is a serious charge.
The inequalities in the State school system are evident also in the provision of libraries at the post primary level. I refer to an article in the Victorian Teachers Union’s magazine entitled Teacher’s Journal’. The article was written this month and it pointed out that the standard of accommodation and facilities in State school libraries in Victoria is being lowered by the Victorian Government, which is spreading more widely the limited amount it receives from the Commonwealth. By contrast, the Commonwealth itself establishes high standards for private schools. I wonder whether the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is aware of this situation and whether he is disturbed about it, and I wonder what he intends to do to ensure that facilities for State school students are at least equal to those for private school students.
Another inequality that is evident to teachers is in the granting of Commonwealth scholarships. The normal tradition in the granting of scholarships has been that they should be given to able students who need them most and who would not bc able to go on in their educational career without them. The concept of need has been ignored by this Government. Students in government schools are less likely to win Commonwealth scholarships at intermediate level than are students in wealthy private schools. The students in government schools need scholarships more, but too often scholarships go to those people who do not need them. A report by the Victorian headmasters and headmistresses in 1965 showed that they believe that only 1% of the people who won Commonwealth secondary scholarships would stay at school because of the extra assistance. In other words, the scholarships are not fulfilling a function of helping students to go on in education when they would not do so without the assistance. Similarly, university scholarships reflect these inbuilt inequalities. A larger proportion of university scholarships is won by students from the upper managerial and professional classes than is won by students from clerical, manual and farming backgrounds.
But one sphere of inequalities disturbs me most of all. That is the inequalities that confront students in country regions. So we have a twofold inequality. It is quite clear that students from country schools are less likely to go right through the education system from beginning to end. For example, in Victoria, whereas 14.1% of metropolitan students leaving school enter university, only 4.9% of country students enter the university. Thus country students have about one-third of the chances that metropolitan students have of using all the educational opportunities available to them. This is a disturbing situation. The Government should be worried if it seriously believes in equality of opportunity. The causes are there to see. Anyone who has been involved in education at all can see what the causes are. All that is required is action. This nation is exceedingly wealthy. I stated earlier that it had an income this year of $7,000m. We can afford far better opportunities for our young people, and we should start immediately to turn more of our resources to increasing the opportunities of those who need assistance most. We should be aiming to offer equal opportunities to all Australian children.
– May I first of all, on behalf of the members on the Government side of the House, congratulate the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) on his maiden speech, even though he would not expect me to agree with everything that he said or the views that he put forward. At least we must congratulate him on his first speech in this place. We would also like to congratulate the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) for an excellent maiden speech which we heard earlier this afternoon, one which did a lot of credit to him, his Party and the House as a whole. It was a privilege to listen to him.
We are dealing with the Budget. Most of the speeches this afternoon dealt quite rightly with the domestic issues outlined by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech. It has been quite right that so many members on this side of the House should have highlighted the many new and important and valuable measures that have been brought down by the Treasurer and which are to be enacted on behalf of so many thousands of people in need in this country at the present time. I believe also that we should spend some time in looking at the way in which the Government is proposing to expend its share of the Budget on matters external to Australia.
I wish to mention first of all the section of the Budget dealing with defence Services, secondly the aid to countries overseas and, thirdly, the money being spent on Australian Territories, particularly Papua and New Guinea. All of this will be affected to quite an extent by the speech made last week by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), in which he quite clearly indicated to the House that the Government is revising its priorities and its policy, to a certain extent, in respect of events and diplomacy affecting countries to our north. He indicated to the House that the Government is taking note of changes that are taking place to our north, revealed to an extent by the recent speeches of the leaders of the United States of America, in which they said to us and the world as a whole that in the world of the 1970s the power situation will be changing. Whereas in the 1960s we have had only two major powers, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, we now foresee that in the 1970s there will be the rising power of mainland China. There will be possibly three major powers in the world compared with two at the present time. This has been borne in on the Administration in Washington to the extent that it will have to change some of its patterns of diplomacy and defence preparedness in the years to come. This is indicated in the more flexible attitude that the Americans are exhibiting in their policy towards the nations of South East Asia.
The USSR also is changing its policies and taking note that no longer is the cold war in Europe the only matter it has to take into consideration. It also is changing its policy towards Asia and particularly towards mainland China, and one of the results of this has been the presence in the Indian Ocean of a Russian fleet. In his speech last week the Minister for External Affairs indicated that the Australian Government was also to adopt a more flexible attitude to the events that are taking place, and particularly its attitude towards the USSR. I say this to the Government: If there is to be a new flexible approach to these matters, then the Government should also realise the importance of other events that are taking place to the east of Australia as well as to the north. For too long, I believe, in the last few years our eyes have been turned to events taking place to the north and north west of Australia. We have not been looking as much as we should towards the events that are now taking place on our doorstep, on our eastern seaboard. 1 think we have ignored the events that are taking place on the islands in the Pacific because we hope, to an extent, that if we ignore the problem nothing will happen and the colonial powers which have been dominating the scene in the Western Pacific will continue to play the same part in the 1970s as they have played in the 1960s. But that now is no longer a possible solution.
Changes are taking place in the islands of the Pacific, and Australia and New Zealand must take note of these changes. The colonial powers of Britain and the United States of America, as well as New Zealand and Australia, are finding changes taking place in the political status of the islands in the Pacific. Changes have already taken place. There are already independent nations in the Pacific. Tonga has been a nation in its own right for all time. But recently Nauru gained its independence as an independent nation. Western Samoa is an independent nation. The Cook Islands have now full internal self-government, granted them by the New Zealand Government in the last 2 or 3 years, although New Zealand at the request both of the Cook Islands and of Western Samoa continues to exercise the administration of their foreign affairs and defence policies. But now also we can see change taking place in the British colonial dependencies in the Pacific. It is quite likely that new constitutional developments and changes will take place in the islands of Fiji within the next 2 or 3 years. In fact, if the two parties could come to agreement, as they well may in the near future, such change could be even more rapid.
I have here a report also on interim proposals for new constitutional development taking place in the British Solomon Islands. There could well be internal selfgovernment in the Solomons in 1970 or 1971. If that change takes place in the Solomons, so also, I believe, within a few years thereafter there will be a similar constitutional change in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. If these events come to pass, the British presence in the Pacific will have receded almost entirely. As the British presence has withdrawn from the Indian Ocean and from east of Suez so also is it withdrawing from the Western Pacific. Now I am told also that within the next few weeks delegations are going to Washington from the United States territories in the Western Pacific - from the Marianas, Marshall and Caroline Islands. So also we might see some form of internal self-government in the United States territories to our north east. Therefore it is not very difficult to foresee that within a very few years the only colonial powers left in the Pacific will be France in respect of the French territory of New Caledonia, France with Britain in the condominium of the New Hebrides and Australia with its territories in Papua and New Guinea. So as the colonial influence recedes from the Pacific, I believe that we in Australia must decide what views we should take about the new nations that are there emerging. Both Australia and New Zealand must take notice of these events now. They cannot leave attention to this for the years to come.
Just as I believe that a great deal of goodwill is exhibited towards us by the people of these islands, so I believe that we must use and cultivate that goodwill, because if we adopt a policy of indifference it could soon evaporate. The first question I think we should ask ourselves is: As the colonial wave recedes from the Pacific in the next few years, what changes will take place? This first wave of colonialism spread over the Pacific 100 years ago. Can we be certain, however, that there will not be another wave of colonialism to take its place? Can we be certain that other nations, such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Mainland China or even Japan, inhabiting the north western Pacific will not take an interest in what is going on in these islands in the years to come, in the same way as other metropolitan powers took an interest in these islands 100 years ago? Secondly, we must remember the defence significance of these islands to Australia. We only have to think back to 1942 and remember how important was the lifeline across the Pacific to Australia in those dark days after the fall of Singapore. If the Russian fleet is going to be in the Indian
Ocean, and if we are going to adopt a more flexible attitude towards the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, I think we also have to make certain that we secure our lifeline across the Pacific.
For instance, what would happen if one of these nations went to, say, the island of Nauru and offered aid to build a new port and harbour facilities, with the only string attached being that if occasionally a cruiser or a submarine wanted berthing facilities there, it would be allowed to have them? What attitude would Australia have to such a development? Above all things, I believe that the aim of both the Australian and New Zealand Governments at this time is to see that this whole area is kept free from outside interference; that the wave of colonialism should recede; and that the people inhabiting these islands should be allowed to move into the twentieth century in the way they wish to do, rather than have to do what other people might try to encourage them to do. So if we believe that that policy is the best one to pursue, both in the interests of the inhabitants of the island and also in the interests of Australia and New Zealand, we should ask ourselves what we can do to bring it about.
Certainly I think we can say that at the moment there is very little outside influence in any of the islands of the Pacific, other than the influence that has been left by the metropolitan powers that are now receding from the scene. There is also, as I have said, a large measure of goodwill towards the people of Australia and New Zealand. Quite possibly, some of the speeches made in Fiji recently by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) did not do a great deal, to my mind, to improve our image in that country. But I believe that at least we should cultivate the goodwill of these people. If we remain indifferent now the goodwill could well evaporate and we might not have the same chance to renew it
There are three ways in which we can help the peoples of these islands. First of all, we can see that political independence comes to these islands - certainly, if not complete independence, internal selfgovernment. I believe, therefore, that the sooner this comes about the better it will be in the interests of the nations concerned.
Certainly, we should do all that we can to encourage responsible attitudes among the emerging members of Parliament in these new nations. One development over the last year concerned the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which was asked to carry out seminars in various parts of the world to help members of parliament in these newly emerging nations. The most successful of these seminars was carried out in July on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean. Another seminar was held at Nassau which is in the Bahamas. Already, as Chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Executive Committee, I have been receiving requests for a seminar to be held to help the newly emerging members of Parliament in the islands of the Pacific. One thing that we can well do is to encourage members of Parliament to come to Australia to share in seminars in the same way as other parliamentarians from the Caribbean countries and the new nations of Africa have gone to the United Kingdom. This is one way in which I believe we can gain the confidence of the people who are going to lead these new nations into the 1970s.
Secondly, we must do much more for these new nations in the fields of aid and trade. Already a great deal of Australian investment has been made in the islands of the Pacific. Australia is the economic dominating force in many of these islands, particularly Fiji. Just as here in Australia we sometimes fear the economic dominance of nations and companies which invest in Australia, so also we must remember the action we are taking in the Pacific. We should see that we do not commit the sins that we castigate some others for commiting in Australia. We should try to encourage local equity and local management in Australian interests in these islands.
I believe that all the aid that has been given by Australia in the Pacific has been incredibly well spent. To my mind not nearly enough aid has been spent in these islands. But such aid as has been spent has been extremely well administered. There is no graft in these islands as there might be in some other places where aid had been expended. When I was in Fiji recently I was most interested to see the success that has been made of family planning schemes. This scheme was introduced to control the population increase and to avoid the population explosion that has taken place in other parts of the world. Therefore, we can see that aid expended in these islands will go towards improving the standard of living, whereas aid, I sometimes feel, given to nations that have a rapid population explosion just manages to ward off starvation which is always near the mouths of all the children that are born from day to day. Now that family planning is working so successfully one can feel that aid given to these islands will be most useful and helpful to the people.
The third point 1 want to mention relates to common services. There are movements towards the provision of common services throughout the islands of the Pacific. The East African High Commission provides common services for the new nations of East Africa. Similar movements are taking place in the free trade area of the Caribbean. I can envisage the time when common services will be provided for the new islands of the Pacific. First of all, one can see the development of civil aviation facilities and meteorological facilities, all of which will help to increase the number of tourists visiting the island and so help these nations to become economically viable on their own account. Here I believe Qantas Airways Ltd can provide definite help because already it has an interest in Fiji Airways which is running services to so many parts of the Pacific. Also, one can see common services in post and telegraph facilities and radio facilities, possibly a common currency and certainly common health schemes.
The development in East Africa of a common service organisation has been leading gradually towards a much closer form of political association. Similarly, it is expected that a free trade area for the Caribbean could eventually lead to a closer political association of the islands of that area. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has been doing what it can to accelerate moves in this direction. But such moves must be internally generated and not forced on these nations from outside. The history of some of these federations has been such that the imposition of these associations has not been effective. Therefore, we must look to the people of these islands to work out their own future. This can best be done, I believe, by helping the members of Parliament in these new nations to meet together and to understand some of the responsible decisions they will be called upon to make in the years to come. Already discussions on these lines have been taking place in the annual conferences of the South West Pacific Commission. These discussions must be encouraged. 1 think it is of major benefit at the moment for the South West Pacific Commission to have these regular conferences and meeting places for the new leaders that are emerging in this area. Also, I think that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association can play its part in this regard. We can see already new leaders of world stature arising in the Pacific. I refer here to new leaders such as King Taufa of Tonga, Chief Hammer de Roburt of Nauru and Ratu Mara who is the Chief Minister of Fiji. These are names that we will hear so mjch more about in the 70s than we have in the 60s.
I can well envisage, if we can promote meetings for discussion for the new members of Parliament, the coming into existence of a commonwealth or community of Pacific nations. If we could get some form of common association 1 feel certain that these nations would be better able to withstand external pressures that might otherwise hit them if they tried to exist singly. Therefore it is in their interests and in the interests of New Zealand and Australia that we should encourage these moves to take place. I know that they are long term moves. But I believe that Australia should be examining this matter now. The Government should set up an interdepartmental committee to examine in what ways Australia could help.
I also wish to discuss the future of our Territory of Papua and New Guinea. What views will be taken by the people on the island of Bougainville in the next year or two when they see, just across the strait in the other islands of the Solomons, internal self government? Now that West Irian has no opportunity of ever joining in some form of common nation with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea we should be asking ourselves what will be the future of that Territory. Will it be entirely independent or will the people of that Territory be interested in a common association with the other Pacific islands as I have just been envisaging? I feel certain that the most important thing in their interest and in
Australia’s interest is that Papua and New Guinea should be free of external influence and external interference. I believe also that the Territory’s future members of Parliament should be given every opportunity, as soon as possible, to meet their colleagues in the parliaments of other parts of the Pacific. They will be the people who will decide the Territory’s future; they should be considering their future at this time, should be meeting their colleagues in the Pacific, and should be meeting members of the Australian Parliament.
Let me sum up the points that I have tried to make. First, changes are taking place on our eastern doorstep and it is vital that Australia and New Zealand, within the next few years, should be looking to the east as well as to the north. We should be playing our part in the political changes that will take place there. Secondly, we should do much more than we have been doing with both aid and trade in the islands of the Pacific. We already have investment in many parts of this region and we should encourage local equity and the participation by the people in these nations. We should look to see whether tariff barriers on trade With these islands can be lowered. We should do all we can to see that the nations become, as well as politically independent, economically viable and able to exist in their own right. One of the ways in which this can bc helped is the development of tourism, particularly by improvement of civil aviation facilities. Thirdly, and most importantly, we should be encouraging the members of the parliaments of these new nations, particularly from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, to meet one another. They will be the people who will make the decisions on their future. We should help them to do this in as responsible a manner as they possibly can by assisting them to meet one another and to meet us in Australia.
We should examine also the whole organisation of the South Pacific Commission. I believe that that body, in the new set up with the receding of the metropolitan powers, needs a complete reexamination and a new constitution in order to play its part more effectively than it has done up to now. Above all, change is taking place in the Pacific. We have a large measure of goodwill among these people and so the time is opportune for us to take measures to help these new nations in both their interests and ours. If we seize the opportunity now we shall, I am certain, benefit them and us. If, however, we let the opportunity go, it may never recur in our lifetime.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I will not repeat the terms of the amendment but I submit that the Budget is inadequate not only because of the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition but also because it does not provide for increased child endowment, an increase in the maternity allowance and increased provision for the education of pre-school children. It is right and proper that we should do more to ease the means test as it applies to elderly people and that we should do more for (hose who have no property and no income other than the pension. There are 800,000 age, invalid and widow pensioners in Australia who have no other income but their pensions.
The maternity allowance has not been increased substantially since 1943. There has been no increase in child endowment since 1967. 1 do not mind easing the burden of those people who are in the last years of their lives - in fact, I am all for it- but if this nation is to survive and be great we must do more for young married people. To provide them with cheaper housing loans is not our sole responsibility. It is not enough to relieve their burdens with regard to sales tax or even income tax. We must increase child endowment and the maternity allowance. It was the Curtin Government that made the last substantial increase in the maternity allowance. In 1943 the maternity allowance was increased to $30 where there were no other children, to $32 where there were one or two children under 14 years of age and $35 where there were three or more children under 14 years of age.
I am nearing my 73rd birthday.
– A happy birthday to you.
– Thank you. I hope you live as long as I do. I hope that you may be as proud of your contribution to the welfare of this nation when you are 73 years of age as I am, but you have yet to marry. I am talking about the maternity allowance. Young married women tell me that it costs anything up to $300 to have a baby these days add to provide everything for it. How much will the present allowance of $35 buy where there are three or more children in the family? It is completely inadequate. I believe in paying tribute to the old but our children are our best biological asset. This nation cannot survive unless more is done for young married couples so that they can have more children. It is a trite saying that the best immigrant is the Australian-born child. So it is. I hope that the Government, which has repaired a deficiency with respect to education of children, will do something about the maternity allowance very soon. This is one of the weaknesses of the Budget.
Child endowment is a most important social service benefit. It has not been increased since 1967. Compared with other countries we do little to enable parents to raise families. Married couples can rear three or more children only by debasing their standard of . living and their social importance. This is not the right attitude for Australia. So I say to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that whatever may happen in future months or years, nothing is more important for the government of the day than to increase child endowment and the maternity allowance.
In my opinion the next elections will be fought on the issue of foreign policy, whether we like it or not. I am not afraid to fight the elections on foreign policy. I did it in 1966. I am opposed to Australia’s participation in or commitment to the war in Vietnam. It is an unwinnable war, a filthy war and seemingly an unstoppable war. It can be stopped only by President Nixon’s deciding to move out.
– What about the Corns?
– You have put your point of view. I do not go all the way with the USA. I believe in an independent Australian foreign policy. There were times when I was about to send a telegram of congratulations to the Prime Minister because he was getting pretty close to my view of what was the right thing to do about our commitment in Asia. But the hawks in the Libera] Party and the Country Party must have exerted some pressure because he could not go all the way with me. He has had to follow a sort of corkscrew policy. I think the bias in his heart is towards an independent foreign policy. I do not think he is as much a hawk as are most of his supporters on the back benches.
The 1966 Federal elections proved that State aid is not a winning issue for the Labor Party. The Holt Government, which promised nothing, won a sweeping victory although I, as Leader of the Labor Party at the time, promised to pay 60c a week for each child in Catholic primary schools and 80c a week for each child in Catholic secondary schools - much the same as the Government has promised to do. That policy which I announced was the unanimous decision of the Labor Party at the time. The main issue for Catholic voters in 1966 was a mythical Chinese Communist invasion of Australia, not Catholic education. The position is still the same. This is because Australia’s lay Pope - 1 think his name is Santamaria - with his usual egocentric pretentiousness has declared it so to the worn out, washed up, gutless wonders who constitute the leaders of the National Civic Council and the Australian Democratic Labor Party. According to the gallup polls in 1966, 68% of my brethren voted in favour of the Government’s policy of conscription for Vietnam and Australia’s continued involvement in that filthy unwinnable war. According to the latest gallup poll taken about 2 months ago the same brainwashed, fear crazed Catholics again recorded a 68% vote in favour of conscription for Vietnam. The ‘security’ of the nation - and I quote the word ‘security’ - is still more important to these people than the ‘mess of pottage’, to quote again, which Bishop Arthur Fox rejected with such sneering contempt nearly 3 years ago. Bishop Fox reflected correctly the view of a majority of his backward fellow Catholics. If the Labor Party were to promise before the election campaign to meet the total bill for the erection of every new Catholic school and the maintenance costs of all existing buildings and the payment of all teachers’ salaries, religious and lay, and if we were to offer not $35 per annum but $250 per annum, which it costs some State governments for each child in a government school, not one Democratic Labor Party voter would switch his or her vote to Labor in the coming fight. Hate of the Labor Party fills their hearts and fear of Chinese Communism dictates their thinking. There is an old Arab proverb which says: ‘Who fools me once, shame on him. Who fools me twice, shame on me.’
I wish the Government well in its new appreciation of Russia’s naval strength in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean areas. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should ignore the threats of the Democratic Labor Party about where its preferences will be directed on 25th October. He already has them in the bag. Until Catholic church authorities repudiate all manifestations of McCarthyism in the Catholic community, and disown the activities of all those who spread their lying, vicious and unscrupulous propaganda against the Australian Labor Party, the Catholic education system and the Catholic church generally will suffer. Many Catholics, both clerical and lay, have much to answer for because of the encouragement they have given and still give to the alien, un-Christian philosophy of the evil-minded, now long deceased United States Senator Joseph McCarthy.
I want to say something more about education. Our trouble in Australia is that we do not spend enough on education. The Labor Party’s policy is to give to certain independent schools, and this means the rich schools as well as the poor - and the rich can do without it - a certain amount, but we want to give three times as much to the State governments to repair the State institutions. I represent an old established electorate. I have recovered a certain portion of an electorate I represented in 1949 before the House was enlarged. There is not one Government school in my electorate that is not 80 or 90 years old.
– And not a thing has been done to them.
– Not a thing has been done to them because the State governments have no money with which to do it. I went to a Catholic school when I was a child of 6 or 7 years of age. It is still in operation today as a kindergarten. It was built in 1858, 111 years ago. It is still functioning. This is the sort of thing that should not happen in this country. What do we spend in Australia on education? We spend 4.3% of our gross national income. What does the US spend? What does Great Britain spend? I can give the House the figure; it is 6.5%.
– You cannot use that.
– Why can I not use those figures? I have been to Britain and the honourable member has not, and I have seen that Britain has a much better system than we have. Do not faint if 1 tell you that Russia spends 7.5% of its gross national income on education. Might I remind honourable members that an educated democracy is a powerful democracy. If we have any reason to fear Russia it is because its people will be better educated than ours because of the hillbilly system of education which we maintain in al’l parts of Australia. Canada shows what can be done in the democratic world, lt spends 8.5% of its gross national income on education and that is why it is dragging young teachers away from Australia. We have to do more and better than we are doing in this regard.
I now come to the subject of libraries, where many people repair for their information or for their entertainment. In 1965-66 Australia spent about $9.5m on libraries, museums and other cultural activities. This worked out at 84c per head of population. In 1962 the US spent 31.44 per head of population on libraries. In the same year the UK spent enough to provide 1.455 books per head of population, Russia spent enough to provide 3.571 books per head of population, the US 4.21 books and Australia only 0.917. If any of my friends on the Government side of the House want to know where they can get this information it can be obtained from a recent publication titled ‘Libraries for the Public’ by John D. McLaren. I intend to ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard two documents about which I have spoken to the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin). One is an extract from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission which shows that in respect of education, health, hospitals and charities the States and the Commonwealth have such diverse standards that they do not reach anything like uniformity in the matter of expenditure. To mention just one thing, on the training of teachers New South Wales spends $2.4 per capita, Victoria spends $4.22, Queensland $1.57, South Australia $3.79, Western Australia $2.68 and Tasmania $3.04. I think of these figures when I hear the arguments put forward against Commonwealth control of education. There is such a diversification on almost every point that I wonder how we can continue. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the document in Hansard.
us 8 o
I shall also ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a document supplied to me by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which deals with the direct contribution by State governments towards the running costs of independent schools. The Government proposes to give $35 per annum for the education of children in primary schools and $50 per annum for the education of children in secondary schools. But what do we find as to comparable grants? New South Wales contributes $30, Victoria $10, Queensland $25, South Australia $10, Western Australia $20 and Tasmania $20. This is what happens in respect of the primary schools. It would be illuminating for honourable members, if they will do me the honour, to read what I say or study the figures. They would find how the situation differs from State to State. If we want a proper education system - and I congratulate the
Minister for Education and Science for what he is trying to do to bring about some uniformity - and we want to do all that we can, then we have to ask these people in the States to do more than they are doing and to try to bring about some uniformity. If they fail to do so,, some day we will just have to ask the people by referendum to transfer the control of education to the Commonwealth.
– I know that all the reactionaries and these other people will say no, but it will come. Mr Deputy Speaker, with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the document to which I have just referred which sets out the direct contribution by governments towards the running costs of independent schools. It reads:
I wish to say something about our foreign policy. I have adumbrated the subject in my references to the forces that constitute the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Those forces are threatening the Government today - quite vainly, I hope - and I believe that the Government will turn a blind eye on them, if it does not muster up enough courage to tell them: ‘Whatever you say, we are going on with our policy.
You vote for us or you do not.’ I know where they will vote: They will never vote for my Party. They will never vote for anybody else who really stands for democracy. This element in the DLP is made up of Fascist minded people. They would much prefer to see a ‘Franco Spain’ established in Australia than they would a government that is responsible to the people.
I wish to say something about the United States of America. I am not antiAmerican. I had an American grandfather. I do not care for American policy. I am the only Australian in this Parliament who can say that he has American blood in his veins. Someday, the Prime Minister’s son may come into the House. Someday, the son of the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) may come into this House. There will be more American blood represented here. We have given the United States a blank cheque on our armed forces, cm our natural resources, on our foreign policy, on our commercial enterprises, on our national integrity and on our future security. We no longer believe in Australia for the Australians because we now go all the way with USA. We have allowed our minds to be influenced by massive campaigns of dishonest American propaganda but, fortunately, we have not yet finally pledged our souls on the altars of America’s gross materialism.
We must work along with the Americans. But we must work along with the Russians because they are moving into the area which is being vacated by the British. The British are moving from east of Suez because they have not the financial or economic resources to continue there. For my part, I would rather see the Russians in this area than I would wish to see the Japanese. I would rather see the Russians there than the Chinese Communists. I think that we can work with the Russians if we became closer to them. I think that the Government is doing the right thing in what it is trying to do in regard to security pacts and all the rest of it. I have no real fear of Russia because Russia has its own problems with Communist China. They are historical. They have lasted for thousands of years. The only real invasion of Russia that ever took place and that was of significance was the engagement by Ghengis Khan and his grandson Kubla Khan and later Tamerlane which established an empire at Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea that lasted for 240 years. I think we ought to be realistic enough to realise that this situation might occur again.
Anyhow, I do not wish to see a war between Russia and China. I do not wish to see a war between Russia and the Western world. 1 want world peace. If we cannot get world peace, we will have world holo caust. Already the Chinese Communists have discovered the way or are being assisted to discover the way to make nuclear weapons. When a nuclear war starts, where does it finish? I think the Government was wrong in not signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. I think that it ought to sign that Treaty. What do we lose by signing it? We are creating the impression in the minds of Australians, if we do not sign it, that we would like to have nuclear weapons in this country.
– It is only political.
– It may be political, as the honourable member for Yarra says, in order to try to persuade people that the Government is no longer hawkish in its attitude. I think that it has been hawkish too long. I want to see the Prime Minister come around to a more sensible view in regard to Australia’s policy.
We in Australia live in the era of the ailing, affluent, acquisitive society.. It is the era of the jolly swagman, without much thought of today or tomorrow. It is a period in our history which seems to suit the mentality of too many average Australian citizens, however disastrous that might be both now and in the future. Australia must never be either a sheriff or a member of any posse that operates in any Asian country in the interests of American monopoly capitalism. Look at the terrible bill that the Americans will have to pay. Their war bill for Vietnam will amount to $382,000m. That is the estimate given by the United States senator, Senator N. Hatfield. The cost of our participation in Vietnam alone until the end of the last financial year was $11 6m. I ask: What better purposes could that money have been spent on instead of being wasted in Vietnam? How many hospitals, how many homes and how much relief for the needy could that money have provided?
Mr Deputy Speaker, I always feel for those young Australians whose names are being ballotted from the lottery of death. They are told to go out to kill or be killed in Vietnam so that the rest of our society - the people who escape, whose names do not come out of the barrel and the rest of us - can live selfish lives without regard for them. But there are twenty-five young Australian resisters who already have been disposed of by the courts or who are waiting to be processed by these institutions for the heinous crime of not wanting to be murdered in Vietnam in the interests of Western monopoly capitalism. The irreducible penalty for their crime is 2 years in gaol, unless the prerogative of mercy is exercised in their favour. I am glad to note that John Zarb has been released. But I think that all the others should be released.
I ask the Prime Minister to consider the question of what more the Commonwealth Government can do in assuming its responsibility under social services and under its health powers to relieve the States of some of their burdens. The latest figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that the net expenditure by the six States on health, hospitals and charities for the year 1966-67 totals $279m. We cannot have a new tax agreement merely by talking about formulas. It is not a matter of formulas; it is a matter of a new arrangement whereby the centralised power of the Commonwealth shall be exercised through the States for the benefit of all Australians regardless of the States from which they come. If we wish to do more for education, health and social services throughout Australia, we must spend less on immoral, unwinnable, civil wars in Asia. Our dilemma in this regard is no different, except in degree and in the matter of urgency, from that of the United States.
This is a Budget which might be compared with the curate’s egg. It is good in parts. It is not as good as it ought to be. It is not as good as it should be. I make a plea tonight for the old people who have no other income and for the young mothers and fathers of Australia who are being deprived of increased maternity allowances and child endowment benefits. I make a plea for peace so that Australia can face the future, weak as we are with only 12 million people, in our campaign to develop our country and to make our contribution for the wellbeing of all nations.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, at the beginning I wish to endorse the remark made by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) that the Budget which he introduced to the House last week is one of the best budgets to come before us in the last 20 years. And that is really saying something, for successive budgets under a Liberal Administration have led in that period of time to a situation where, compared with 1948-49, our mean population has grown from 7,796,000 to 12,171,000; our gross national product at constant prices has risen from $8,39 lm to $2 1,077m; our steel production has risen from 1,178,000 tons to 6,599,000 tons; our new motor vehicle registrations have risen from 103,149 to 459,885; our construction of new houses and flats completed has risen from 52,684 to 115,357; our mineral exports have risen from $12,883,782 to an estimated $464,079,000 and our unemployment rate has fallen to a stage where all our people can be said to be fully employed to an extent that has never been known in this country before.
It is estimated, too, that the increase in average earnings in this coming year, after income tax, will be some 5% and that the average income earner will be some 5% better off. This is a pretty significant record of achievement as a result of the planning and the budgets that have been introduced in the past. It is a very good augury for the achievements that are available in the future and will be availed of by further budgets introduced in the next 3 years by a Liberal Government which has this record of achievement behind it. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves today, with great pressure on our labour resources, as I have indicated, and considerable pressures on some sectors of demand in the economy, the Budget is, as it needed to be, deflationary rather than inflationary. It is mildly deflationary. It has reduced an overall Budget deficit of $385m, which was budgeted for last year, to an estimated overall Budget deficit of only $30m in this financial year. It has increased a domestic surplus of some $200m last financial year into an estimated domestic surplus of $500m this financial year. It is, Sir, financially responsible.
Yet at the same time it has made very significant advances along the road to social justice. Steps along this road were taken last year. Further steps are apparent in this Budget and yet further steps remain for future budgets presented by a Liberal Administration.
Some 17 months ago the GovernorGeneral stated in his Speech:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
Let us see what has happened in the intervening time to fulfil these intentions. We will have in the space of a year increased the basic rate of age pension by $2 a week for single persons. This is an increase of more than 15%, which is an unprecedented increase and which is an increase far in excess of any increase in the cost of living. In the same period we will have increased the rate for the married couple pensioners by $3 a week, increased the pensioner wife’s allowance by $1 a week, increased the allowance for the first child by $1 a week and for other children by $2 a week. We will have increased the pension for a widow with two children by $5 a week and given an additional $2 a week if one of the children is under 6 years of age or is an invalid. We will have increased the unemployment and sickness benefit by $1.75 a week and the wife’s allowance by $1 a week. We have given a personal care subsidy of $5 a week for persons over 80 years in hostel type accommodation under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Our deserted wives and home care programmes open up a new aspect of cooperation with the States in the welfare field depending not merely on cash grants.
I do not argue that no more remains to be done, for, of course, much does remain to be done. But 1 do suggest, Sir, that this is a practical demonstration of moving to carry out an intention - not a vote catching intention but rather is it an honourable approach to fulfil a promise honestly made some 17 months ago, and very greatly fulfilled at this stage.
But what of our other stated intention, to encourage thrift and self-help, which previously were discouraged? Previously if a certain amount had been earned or had been gained in superannuation, a pension was reduced by $1 for every extra $1 earned - a 100% tax. What of our stated intention to overcome those problems? We have in this Budget made what I think is a most significant breakthrough in that direction by the introduction of the tapered means test. This is a measure which really does encourage thrift and self-help and I doubt whether its benefits are even yet fully understood in the community. Under these proposals, those who have provided for their retirement through superannuation or through other means of saving will no longer have their pensions reduced by $1 for every $1 they receive in excess of $10 a week if they are single or $17 a week if they are married. Further, a single man or woman whose income or means as assessed equals or exceeds $25 a week at present receives no pension at all. Under our proposals such a person will receive a pension, reducing as his income increases but not ceasing until his income reaches $40 a week.
In addition such a person with an income, for example, of $30 a week, who previously paid $72 a year in tax, will now pay tax of only $17, a further increment and a further encouragement to saving. Indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker, he receives a double benefit - a pension increased from nothing to $5 a week and a tax benefit of $1.05 a week. An aged single person receiving $40 a week of taxable income does not get any pension under our proposals - but he does get a tax concession of approximately $1.60 a week.
As a further example of how the scheme works, a married couple who are pensioners with income or means as assessed of $60 a week will have their pension increased from nothing to $5 a week, and they will receive tax concessions amounting to approximately a further $1.42 a week. And the benefits continue for a single person until he receives an income of $44 a week, and continues for a married couple until such a couple receives $80 a week. At all these ranges of income these benefits are manifest. They should be fully understood. I do not wish to take up the time of the House in giving further detailed examples of particular rates of income or means as assessed and the benefits which flow from them, but instead with the concurrence of honourable members I will incorporate in Hansard, at the conclusion of my speech, three tables which show the benefits flowing from part pension and the benefits flowing from tax concessions in each income range.
But I emphasise again that it is necessary when computing the encouragement given to thrift to take into account not only the benefit from the part pension now to be paid but also the tax. concessions now to be available. I doubt, Sir, if there has ever been such an incentive to thrift - such an incentive to self help - proposed in this House previously and I believe it will result not only in a just approach but also will reduce the total pensions bill otherwise to be borne in the future by the working taxpayer, and we have done this without increasing taxation.
I would like to contrast those proposals which I have just spelt out with what I take to be the proposals of the Opposition, but unfortunately there is great difficulty in doing this properly because when one reads the Budget speech made by the Leader of the Opposition, he has not made any firm proposals at all. All he has told us in relation to high, wide and handsome statements about abolishing the means test for everybody, no matter what their range of income or superannuation schemes - all he has told us is that if his Party is elected it will then appoint a committee to tell them what they ought to do, because apparently they do not themselves yet know what to do or have not yet worked out a scheme which they could put before this Parliament. This is a completely nebulous approach, and it is also an improper approach, because it means that the Opposition is either afraid or unable to make firm proposals as to how they” would carry out whatever their proposals are - afraid or unable to present these before the people so that the proposals and the cost of those proposals may be judged by the people themselves. For my part I believe the explanation of this extraordinary cavalier approach is that the Leader of the Opposition is afraid to put his proposals forward, even imprecisely. For, Sir, if those proposals are to follow the recommendations of Professors Downing and Gates, as he suggests but does not definitely state, then they would require increased taxation on the working population to raise $880m a year - $880m a year being the part to be paid by employers, or a tax of approximately 6% on payrolls. And they would require an additional tax on the wage earner ranging from about $15 a year for the lowest paid contributor who is compulsorily to be taxed to $182 a year on income earners of $90 a week or above.
– J think you are all mixed up.
– The honourable member for Yarra suggests that it may possibly be that I am in some way -mixed up. If 1 am it is because there have been no definite proposals put before us but merely a suggestion that if the Party opposite is elected they will get somebody from outside to tell them what to do, which is of course what they have been doing in a different way ever since they have been the Opposition. Furthermore, it is worth noting in these Downing proposals, as I understand them, that the benefit to be received on retirement by the working man who has been taxed during all bis working life, is also to be taxed in his hands after he has retired.
– Well, they are taxed now.
– Do not deny it. It is also worth noting that those proposals, if they are the proposals ultimately to be adopted, require that such benefits even though they have been paid for during a working life are to be reduced by one-half of any earnings continuing after the age of 65. This is supposed to be something called the abolition of the means test*. So these proposals require the community to accept substantial and compulsory increases in taxation throughout their working lives; to accept increased costs and prices due to an additional compulsory 6% levy on payrolls, and to accept that when they do get benefits those benefits are taxable and subject to a means test of one-half when they reach 65.
Let me make two additional points about this strange amorphous non-proposal. The first point I want to make is to bring home by illustration the increased burden of taxation that the scheme - which is apparently to be put forward but, of course, we do not really know what it is but it has been hinted at - would require. For the Professor Downing scheme, if that is the one to be adopted, requires all who are self employed to pay in addition to their own tax to which I have referred the contribution that would otherwise be paid by their employer. So a self employed man, a farmer, anybody in his own business or a shop keeper with a wife and three children, who is earning $60 a week, after allowing for average concessional deductions would be required to pay income tax of something over $200 per annum to be increased under Professor
Downing’s proposals and the Opposition’s proposals, unless they are told to do something else, by $100 per annum or almost 50%. This is actually the employee’s contribution and because he was self employed he would also have to pay the employer’s contribution - an additional amount of $200 per annum - so that the total income tax bill would rise from S218 to $518 per annum.
I do hope that there will be some more precise proposals put before this House in regard to what aspects of this scheme are or are not to be adopted than the mere statement: ‘Well, we are rather in favour of this kind of course. We do not quite know how to do it. If we get elected we will put a committee up to tell us and it will be something along -the lines of the Downing scheme’ - which I have just shown to the House requires these sacrifices from the taxpaying man, from that section of the community the Leader of the Opposition was so sorry for, for whom he wept crocodile tears, but who would be the really hurt people should this compulsory additional tax be introduced.
Mir Crean - Tell us who is paying the $800m extra tax this year.
– I will not interject on the honourable member and I ask him not to interject on me. But, Mr Deputy Speaker, I have been asked a question and, if you do not mind, I will reply to it because it is an interesting point. 1 have been asked who is paying the $850m extra tax to be raised by the Treasury this year. The people earning wages and salaries are paying this, but their rates of taxation are not being increased by one cent - and no one can say that the Opposition’s proposals, if they are implemented, would not require an increase in rates of taxation. I will move on to that later. It is no wonder that the Leader of the Opposition has not made any firm proposals. It is no wonder that he adopts as a policy a promise to ask other people to tell him what his policy should be. But it is a wonder that he should believe the Australian people are as gullible as he seems to believe they are, and I suggest very strongly that he and the Party who sit behind him are under an obligation, if they are to retain any credibility in this matter at all, to put precisely before Australians just what they do propose to do and just what extra taxation and just what increases in taxation rates they propose to impose on the working population in order to do it. For our part we can say with truth that our proposals are clearly and concretely set out in the Budget for Australians to judge, as they ought to be.
– You are the Government and you can do this.
– They have been costed and they do not require any increase in taxation. It is said that we are the Government and that is what we should be expected to do. I agree. That, indeed, is what we have done. But they are the Opposition and they can be expected, if they propose to put an alternative scheme, to put it in the same finite, concrete, costed way that the Government has put its scheme before Australians.
Apart from advances in the field of social services, the Budget provides for great advances in providing for education. It provides for a continuation of the grants now made by the Commonwealth for science blocks and libraries in secondary schools, both government and independent. It provides for a continuation of the grants made for building secondary technical schools - solely government secondary technical schools. It provides for a continuation of the $8m a year for capital to build teacher training colleges for State governments to train teachers for State government schools, except that there is a small percentage of private teachers trained in them. It also indicates that that grant will be increased to $10m a year in the future, and all of these grants require no matching contribution from the States whatever.
Further, the Commonwealth accepts the proposals put forward by the Martin Committee that teacher training should be permitted as an integral part of colleges of advanced education and should attract Commonwealth grants when they are so integrated and accepts that recommendation from the Martin Committee, again to the advantages of State education systems. It accepts the proposals of the Australian Universities Commission for the coming triennium and of the advisory body on colleges of advanced education for the coming triennium, and as a result expenditure from all sources - Commonwealth, State and fees - will rise from the record $65 lm in the present triennium, which ends at the end of this calendar year, to $91 Om in the triennium beginning on 1st January 1970.
It provides for increased scholarships and it provides something which has been attacked by the Leader of the Opposition in the sense that he does not think it should be provided in the way it is. It provides for assistance to be given to the recurrent costs of independent schools. This assistance for all independent schools is to total $16m for recurrent costs in this financial year and $8.5m for science blocks and libraries in this financial year. That is what this Budget in this financial year is providing for independent schools - a total of $24.8m. This is fully justified and fully warranted. For our part, we believe in a dual system of education.
– Why do you neglect the State schools?
– I will show you that wc do not. We believe in a dual system of education. We believe that it is good for education itself for there to be alternative approaches able to be tried out both in the government schools and in the independent schools. We believe that those who bear their full share of taxation should be able to receive some return if they decide that they wish their children to attend other than a government school, and we believe, looking at the matter purely from an economical point of view, that it would be nothing less than a disaster for the government schools if the independent schools were not able to continue and nothing less than a disaster for the nation if the independent schools, being able to continue, were to provide a bad type of education. It is necessary to see that both these problems are attacked, and this Budget sets out to attack them, yet the proposal is criticised by the Leader of the Opposition on the grounds that the Budget makes no provision for government schools, echoing an interjection made fairly recently by one of the Leader of the Opposition’s closest followers. To quote the words of the Leader of the Opposition: ‘There is not one cent in the Budget for government schools’. Such a statement reveals either ignorance or a determined and quite futile attempt to conceal the truth, for this Budget provides in total for independent schools, as I have said, $24. 8m in this financial year, and it provides in total for government schools, including the provision of teacher training in that field, not $24.8m but $39.4m. There are a lot of cents in $39.4m, and I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition could say that there was not one cent in the Budget for government schools.
I should not conclude without referring to some of the most glaring of the attempts at misrepresentation which were evident in the speech delivered here by the Leader of the Opposition. He implies that the Budget increases taxation. It is perfectly clear that it does not. The rates of income tax or indirect taxes are not raised by one cent. If he had said that total collections from taxation will rise he would have been correct, but he chose instead to imply that rates of tax were to rise, which is untrue. He claims that the Budget makes no considered approach to the needs of all schools, both independent and government, and I have shown that the Budget provides indirect grants for government schools and the provision of capital for training teachers for government schools, more than it provides for independent schools. He claims that it ignores the problems of capital cities, yet it contains provision for. the first steps in the Government’s decision to provide $600m for urban roads and freeways over the coming 5 years to relieve one of the greatest pressures on the urban system - the congestion of traffic and the time wasted and economic loss through that congestion. He claims that it makes no attempt to grapple with social services, and I have shown both that it does, and that there has been no concrete alternative proposal advanced. [Extension of time granted.] T thank the House and will not take advantage of it. The Leader of the Opposition claims in his speech that the Treasurer spoke of a growth rate of 6% in the coming year and said that the Treasurer had refused to indicate how much of that growth rate would be real growth and how much inflation. Yet the Treasurer’s speech specifically states as reported on page 33 of Hansard of 12th August 1969:
An increase of at least 6% in gross national product at constant prices. . . .
I interpolate that that means in real terms. It seems a reasonable forecast to make. Yet we are told that the Treasurer had refused to give that information. It is there. lt was there for the Leader of the Opposition to see, but it was misrepresented to this House.
The Leader of the Opposition claims that the Treasurer concedes that to abolish the means test entirely over the next 5 years would cost less in each of those years than the present proposal will cost this year’. The Treasurer has not, as far as I know and from any document I can read, conceded anything of the kind. But the Leader of the Opposition’s remarks, being translated, mean that he thinks that to abolish the means test would, when it has been done, cost annually six times as much as our own taper proposals, without providing even one extra dollar for the areas of need that remain.
– That is not what he said.
– That is what he said. I will quote what he said. I am told it is not what he said. Indeed what he said was:
The Treasurer concedes that to abolish the means test entirely over the next 5 years would cost less in each of those years than the present proposal will cost this year.
This means that he thinks that this year, next year, the year after and so on for the following 5 years you add at least as much as is provided this year, which means that it will be six times as much annually as is provided now, and that, Mr Deputy Speaker, will not leave one extra dollar to relieve those who have no other means at all; to relieve the widows; to take any further steps along the road of helping real need. I think that the statement as it was made was made in a way designed to lead the unwary to be taken in.
The Leader of the Opposition said:
For the first time in memory this Budget contains not a single development proposal. This Budget continues the silence on Queensland water projects.
Amongst the papers presented with the Budget for all to read who have the intelligence to read and the will honestly to reproduce what they read, the Budget contains money, makes provision for the Copeton Dam, for the King River Dam, for continuing the Tailem Bend pipeline in South Australia, for the Fairbairn Dam, for a loan of $14.7m to Tasmania for power: In total an increased developmental project of $71m in the Budget over last year. Yet we were told that for the first time in memory the Budget contains not a single developmental proposal. I cite these examples, and they are examples selected out of many that could otherwise be chosen to illustrate what I believe to be the false and unsustainable basis of attacks on our proposals, for, coupled with the nebulous, imprecise, audacious suggestions of ‘Elect the Labor Party and we will get somebody else to tell us what to do’, and coupled with an inability to level genuine criticism and attacks on the proposals we have made, it leads me to the conclusion that this long list of misrepresentations, this long list of misstatements, points up the bankruptcy of new ideas, points up the inability of a concrete and proper attack on the proposals the Government has put forward. For we have put forward matters finitely presented and finitely costed. That they can only be attacked by misrepresentation must mean that there are no finite alternative proposals ready to be put before this House.
I just wish to make one other point. It was clear from the opening remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition in this House that there has suddenly burst upon him with a startling clarity as some new revelation from on high, that when new proposals are made, that when advances in social services or education or development are made, the money to make them has got to come from the taxpayer. He suddenly realises this, apparently, because he points out with an air of surprise that this is where the money is coming from; it is coming from the taxpayers. OK, we knew that, and I think most people knew it before. Let us accept that. But what is more important than this new revelation is what I hope will be a subsequent revelation, and that is, that if all the proposals, I will not say advanced, but imprecisely sketched and put before this House were ever to take a concrete form, then the money would still continue to come from the taxpayers, but in much larger amounts than at present and as a result of much higher rates of taxation than at present. What we are proposing, as I said, is a Budget which takes good steps, which is financially responsible, and which will not take from the taxpayer by ratting rates of taxation one single penny this year. I commend it to the House, and I believe it will commend itself to the country.
Debate (on motion by Mr Erwin) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of developments in connection with the provision of land for the Bougainville copper project in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. An agreement has been signed for the purchase of Arawa plantation as a town site for Bougainville. The plantation will cease to’ operate for the production of cocoa and copra as from 1st September 1969. However, immediate entry will be made to start work on the hospital and school and for town surveys.
The owners will receive an immediate payment of $600,000. The final figure will be in accordance with fluctuations in the price of cocoa, the final estimate of production and a number of other factors. To ensure equity to the owners the factors which would determine the price would be studied by experts. A legally qualified arbitrator would determine claims for losses which do not relate to the commercial value of Arawa plantation. Special arrangements are being made under the agreement for the purchase of the orchid collection and the premises belonging to the New Guinea Biological Foundation on the plantation.
I also wish to report a further development in relation to native held land required for the project. Mr Paul Lapun, member for South Bougainville in the Territory House of Assembly, and Mr Raphael Bele, a Rorovana landholder, have had talks with the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and with me as Minister for External Territories. In these talks it was recognised that the Bougainville copper project which has been the subject of special legislation by the House of Assembly and which has been endorsed again by that House in June last, is a project of great importance to the whole of the Territory. It was also noted that the Arawa plantation had been bought by the Administration by negotiation with the plantation owners.
Messrs Lapun and Bele have also had discussions with Conzinc Riotinto of Australia in Melbourne. In the course of these talks the company has indicated that in addition to whatever compensation might be payable to the native landholders for the purchase of the 175 acres of Rorovana land required for the port site, it is willing to plant equivalent areas of native owned land - at present not producing - with cocoa and coconut trees so that the landholders who are affected will have a continuing source of income in the future.
The Prime Minister and I emphasised in the discussions the importance which the Government attaches to the successful carrying out of the Bougainville copper project from the point of view of the future welfare and the interests of the native people of Papua and New Guinea as a whole as well as of the people of Bougainville, and pointed out that for these reasons the Government could not allow the project to be blocked. On the other hand the Government wished to avoid unnecessary disturbance to the traditional way of life of the people. We indicated that if the native landholders at Rorovana and Arawa were prepared to negotiate a settlement similar procedures and principles would apply to the question of compensation or payment to native landholders of land as had applied in the negotiations for the purchase of Arawa plantation. There is no reason why these people should not enjoy a better life as a result of these changes.
Mr Lapun said that he did not wish to see the copper project abandoned. He felt that the prospects of a negotiated settlement would be better if the company could be joined in the discussions and participate in direct negotiations with the landholders. This was agreed to. Mr Lapun also stated that care for the social structure of the Bougainville people was of great importance.
Messrs Lapun and Bele are now returning to Bougainville. They have indicated that they are not authorised to make any commitments on. behalf of the Rorovana people but in the light of their discussions with the Government in Canberra and with the company in Melbourne they will have discussions with the landholders and see if they will agree to negotiate in the same way as the owners of Arawa plantation negotiated a settlement. Representatives of the native landholders could take part in these negotiations together with a legal adviser and an accountant of their own choosing. The Government would meet the reasonable costs of these advisers. Messrs Lapun and Bele are in agreement with the terms of this statement insofar as it relates to them.
– by leave- Mr Deputy Speaker, there will be - there must be - more development in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) is encouraging that development now. At a seminar conducted by the Melbourne Chamber of
Commerce on 12th June 1969 the Minister, on the subject of business and investment opportunities in New Guinea, said:
The main reason why private investment has been increasing is because investors find investment in the Territory profitable and in the minds of many investors this outweighs any difficulties that may be associated with investment in a developing country.
The Minister appreciates that the reason companies go to developing countries is for private profit. While realising this point, in the same speech the Minister went on to say:
In addition ro the provision of basic services without which private development cannot take place the following are some of the Government’s measures to attract investment. no restrictions on transfer of profits and capital from the Territory; low rates of taxation for companies and individuals in the Territory; credit for taxes paid by companies in the Territory on profits transferred to Australia; special tax concessions for mining, timber and agricultural production; special tax holidays for pioneer enterprises; complete exemption from Territory income tax for a period of 5 years for pioneer operation; exemption from Territory tax of dividends paid from pioneer income from such companies; exemption from Australian tax may also be granted in respect of dividends paid out of pioneer income to residents in Australia; tariff protection, where warranted; duty-free entry of plant and materials used in manufactures in most cases; availability of credit on reasonable terms through the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank.
These are some of the generous concessions that are being offered to Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd.
I would now like to read to the House a motion which was moved in the House of Assembly by Mr Tei Abal who is the present Ministerial Member for Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries. Mr Tei Abal said:
Mr Speaker, I move that this House recognising that the economic development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is dependent upon the steady inflow of outside capital and representing the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea determines that such inflow shall be encouraged for the benefit of the Territory and its people and invites and welcomes capital investment for developmental purposes in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. . . .
There is nothing wrong with that statement as long as one puts the emphasis the right way. I feel that when this motion was moved in the House of Assembly emphasis was meant to be put on the words: ‘that such inflow shall be encouraged for the benefit of the Territory and its people and invites and welcomes capital investment for developmental purposes in the Territory’. The same troubles as those now being experienced on Bougainville are likely to occur again unless the Government handles the position much more efficiently and with much more understanding than it has done in the case of Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd.
At the moment about 600 acres of native land is required. However, before the project is through something like 2,950 acres extra will be required in the area adjacent to the township that is at present being negotiated. This land is in addition to the 10,000 acres which will be used for mining purposes. For all land negotiations in the Territory the pattern must be laid down now. This is the first major mining project in the history of the Territory since the Second World War so this becomes the pattern, and all land resumption and land tenure in future must follow this pattern. Therefore Australia must be absolutely certain that not only do we please the companies that want to invest their money in the Territory but, first and foremost, we please the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
I congratulate the Minister and the Government on the conciliatory attitude which fs now being taken over the resumption of land on Bougainville Island. It should have been taken somewhere around 1964-65 when it was fairly well known that Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd was very interested In the development of that area. It is not sufficient for Australia to take it for granted that the people in the Territory, over whom we have trusteeship, will accept every word that we utter. Nobody in Australia believes that every action that the Government takes is in his interest. Every person in Australia believes that he has the right to criticise, to demonstrate if necessary, to petition and to do everything possible in order to maintain his freedoms concerning the ownership of land. The action that is now being taken over the land on Bougainville should have been taken before the police and tear gas were used. The Opposition hopes that the Government’s attitude will be recognised and accepted by all the native people of the Territory, but particularly by the people now affected on Bougainville Island.
The Opposition has recognised for a long time that Australia’s trusteeship of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea would cost Australia greatly in finance, manpower and criticism. Australia is predominantly a white nation in control of a predominantly black nation. We are a nation of the haves and Papua and New Guinea is a land of the have-nots. We are expected to show the people of Papua and New Guinea the way to development, independence and comparative prosperity. The Government has recognised the task but has never recognised the urgency of the fulfilment of our task. Nor has it recognised the dangers to Australia unless we do better than any other colonial power has ever done. Australia and Australians believe in democracy and the rights of individuals. Every step we take in the opposite direction in our handling of the trusteeship territory is a black mark against Australia and democracy.
The Opposition acknowledges that Australia’s task in Papua and New Guinea is as tough as the task which confronted our fighting men on the Kokoda Trail. We need the understanding and the assistance of the Fuzzy WUZZY Angels as much now as we needed them between 1942 and 1945 but we need, more so, their friendship in the future. I cannot say on behalf of the Opposition that we believe that Australia’s resources are sufficient to do all that needs to be done in Australia and in Papua and New Guinea without the financial assistance and knowhow of private industry. I can say, however, that the Opposition expects the Government as a trustee of the Territory to safeguard, firstly, the rights of every individual in the Territory and, secondly, every natural mineral and other resource which exists in the Territory. The Opposition is not satisfied that this is being done at the moment. Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd is the mining company which invested approximately $4m in assessing the potential of the area for mining. The company undoubtedly found the prospects encouraging and decided to continue with the project if suitable arrangements could be made. The agreement was the subject of protracted negotiations and in June 1967 an agreement was signed between the Administration and the company. In my book the company received much the better end of the stick.. I do not blame the company for striking a hard bargain but I do blame the Administration for allowing the company to succeed.
This was the first major agreement entered into by the Administration.It is now the pattern for any future agreements. Australia need not worry too much at present as we will perhaps be out of the Territory before the resources of this mine, which are anticipated to last 25 years, are exhausted. Many of the financial advancements from the mine will already have been felt in the Territory, but Australia fostered this agreement and is likely to negotiate many others in the near future. One cannot expect other companies to accept anything less than has been offered to Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd. After the Australian administration has left the Territory and the mines have been exhausted and the mining companies have moved out is when we can expect to receive our heaviest criticism. We will have failed in our responsibilities to a primitive people and an undeveloped country. We must leave them with all their assets safeguarded and a firm belief that Australia and Australians ure and always were their friends.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Defence (Parliamentary Candidates.) Bill 1969 Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1969 Coral Sea Islands Bill 1969.
Debate resumed (vide page 594).
– A half hour or so ago the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) finished his speech on the Budget. lt took nearly 40 minutes. For the first 20 minutes of that speech honourable members would have thought that they were listening to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). The Prime Minister spoke wholly on social service matters. He neglected to touch upon many of the points that were made in criticism of the Budget by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He omitted to criticise in full the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition and which reads:
This House is of the opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
As 1 said, the first 20 minutes of the Prime Minister’s speech were devoted to social service benefits. He gave a long explanation about the new means test and he tabled papers which show how the new tapered means test will work, but at no stage did he mention that whilst these people might be receiving something in the way of a cash benefit in the form of a social service payment they would receive no fringe benefits whatsoever - no health service, no television licence fee reductions, no telephone rental reductions and not even the funeral benefit. The Prime Minister said it was the best Budget for 20 years. Apparently he did not take any notice of the newspaper headlines on the day following the presentation of the Budget. If he or his advisers had bothered to read some of the financial reviews published the day after the Budget was presented they would be aware that criticism is mounting.The right honourable gentleman spoke vehemently about the claim of the Leader of the Opposition that there would be an increase in taxation this year. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition was not as careful in his choice of words as he should have been. Little did I or any member of the Opposition realise that the Prime Minister, speaking in a budget debate, would grasp at straws, because in the document entitled ‘Statement No. 1 - Budget Estimates, 1969-70’ this statement appears:
The Budget estimates . . . provide for: . . an increase of $825m, or 13.5%, in Commonwealth receipts, after allowing for new revenue measures announced in the Budget Speech. . .
Where does the Commonwealth get its revenue receipts? It gets them from taxation, customs and excise duties and other charges. There may not be an increase in taxation, but there is certainly an increase in revenue from taxation to the tune of $825m or 13.5%.
The Prime Minister listed the improvements in social services contained in this Budget - the extra money being spent on health services; increases in social services benefits. He reminded me of my very old friend, Sir Hugh Roberton, one time Minister for Social Services, who, whenever asked a question in the House about social services, used to compare what was paid by a Labor government in 1946 and what was being paid currently. Tonight the Prime Minister adopted the same argument. In a country as great as ours - a country that cannot help developing and prospering - the Government seeks to take credit for the fact that there happen to be increases in social service benefits, in health services and in other services. These are automatic advances; they must come. Just as there will be an increase of $825m in taxation revenue this year, so there should be increases in child endowment and other social service benefits, in health benefits, in money for roads, housing and development projects and in money for other development in the States. But rarely do we see these days deliberate and definite attempts by the Government to increase expenditure in these fields, because these things cost money. Every penny that comes from the Commonwealth to the States under any agreement has to be fought for by the Premiers. One has only to read the statements made by the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of Victoria before and after the Budget to know how dissatisfied they are with it.
The Prime Minister said that this was a deflationary Budget. A few nights ago on television the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) would not say whether it was inflationary or deflationary. The Prime Minister said that there was an increase of SI a week in pensions last year and an increase of $1 this year. All honourable members will remember that last year was to be election year and in every election year this Government has increased social service benefits. The Prime Minister had decided to have an election towards the end of last year but, because of pressure from the Australian Democratic Labor Party, he changed his mind. But he had made certain in the Budget that social service benefits were increased. This year is election year. The date of the election was announced yesterday. In this Budget, as was to have been expected, there is an increase in social service benefits. Tonight the Prime Minister devoted a lot of his time to talking about increases in age, invalid and widows’ pensions and the easing of the means test, but he neglected to mention that not one penny has been given to the mothers of our children by way of increased child endowment. For the last 4 or 5 years this Government has been prepared to take 20-year-old boys and send them to Vietnam but for a number of years it has not been prepared to grant any increase in child endowment to the mothers of our families.
– Your Leader omitted to mention social services in his amendment.
– By its neglect of child endowment the Government has encouraged the mothers of young children to go out to work. Every so often here and in other places - in newspapers and on television - we see examples of what lack of parental control causes - delinquency, drug taking, pack rape and a general decline in moral standards. But the mother of three or more children is compelled by this Government’s actions to take a job outside the home. Ours has now become a two wage economy. As soon as you take parental control away from children you find, as we are finding now, that they take advantage of the situation. Children need to be controlled; they need to be shown; they need to be watched. But if the mother is away from the home the children are exposed to the danger of delinquency, unless they come from a particularly good family. Fortunately most families in Australia are in this category.
The Government must accept some responsibility for the decline in the community’s moral standards.
– By how much would Labor increase child endowment?
– I still want to talk about the Prime Minister’s speech.
– Do not ignore my question.
– If after the elections the honourable member cares to return to Canberra as a member of the public I will interview him in my office for 2 or 3 hours and explain exactly what Labor will do. I will show him what the Labor government has done about child endowment.
The Prime Minister said that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition did not contain any firm proposals. He castigated the Leader of the Opposition for this neglect. We learned our lesson a fair while ago - as long ago as 1961. When the then Leader of the Opposition, now the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), suggested a deficit budget of £100m in order to put over 200,000 unemployed Australians back into work we heard the same old cry from the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, as we have heard tonight from our present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton): ‘Where is the money coming from? If we adopt these suggestions we will have an inflationary budget. It will cause harm to the community.’ After the Government was returned with a majority of one, it brought down in about February 1962 another Budget aiming for a deficit of about the amount that we had suggested. Every decent policy which we have put forward and which has captured the public’s imagination has been grabbed by the Government. The tapered means test was promised in the Labor Party’s policy speech before the 1966 elections. Now, the Government has adopted this scheme. Grants for science blocks for independent schools was another innovation that was made a point of policy by the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party in the year before this Government introduced the scheme.
The Prime Minister talks about a cavalier approach. Who better than he would know what a cavalier approach is? He and his supporters over the years have been suggesting that the Labor Party’s policy on Vietnam could and would never be adopted. Now we hear many members of the Liberal and Country parties preaching and accepting that policy. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said it would be traitorous to sit down and negotiate with the National Liberation Front. Now this is being done but it is no longer traitorous because the Government supports it. The Prime Minister, during the 17 months that he has been in office, has talked about forward defence and about Fortress Australia. He has made innumerable promises about a policy statement on overseas investment in Australia. He has made two or three promises that the future of the Fill aircraft would be made known prior to the election. Tonight in his major speech of the year, the speech in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who suggested an amendment to the Government’s Budget, he mentioned not one of those things.
– The Minister for Defence mentioned it yesterday.
– The honourable member talks about the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). The Minister for Defence mentioned it yesterday and then, without prior notice to any backbench supporter of the Government and many members of the Cabinet, at 6 o’clock he announced his imminent retirement. Yet the honourable member asks me to take notice of what the Minister for Defence said about the Fill. He went to the United States of America in September of last year and took delivery of the first of these aircraft, which at the time had fatigue failure in the wing. He came back to Australia and said that those planes would be flying in Australian skies by October of this year. Now the honourable member asks me to take notice of the Minister for Defence. I am sorry: I cannot.
The Prime Minister asked where the money was going to come from to pay for our propositions. Already we have paid to the United States something like $185m for the Fill planes and before this year is over we will have paid to that country for this aircraft something like $206m. The money can be found. The Treasurer has admitted that the Commonwealth revenue this year will increase by $825m. The Government has found $200m in the last 2 or 3 years for the Fill aircraft. These are the kinds of arguments that are brought against us whenever the Labor Party suggests a forwarding-looking policy, a different policy on any matter at all. It may be on foreign affairs; it may be the abolition of the means test over a 6-year period, and not, I remind the House, 1 year.
When we suggest amendments to Australia’s health scheme we draw the criticism of Government supporters, of the Australian Medical Association, of representatives of the medical and hospital benefit funds. Yet this Government in 20 years has not laid down a comprehensive health policy. The control of our health services is divided between the Commonwealth and State governments. The Australian Medical Association is almost a law unto itself. It recommends a rise in fees of doctors whenever it feels like it. It refuses to allow the Government to extend the pensioner medical service without the Association’s approval. Some of its members are curtailing services to their patients. The Association will not even recognise, for the purpose of the grant of medical benefits, optometrists who may wish to refer patients to doctors. They fight against many improvements to health services which are designed to help the poor and the chronically ill of our community.
Another defect of the hospital benefits scheme in Australia is that there are 78 medical funds and 109 hospital funds in operation throughout Australia. Some are small, some are of medium size and some are large. They have a wide variety of rules. Their benefits differ considerably. Their charges for those benefits also differ. Some are efficient but many are inefficient and many of them have high administrative charges. The drug manufacturers are allowed almost to call their own tune on the cost of drugs. Many of the companies are controlled from overseas. They are violently opposed to generic prescribing and they do little research work in Australia. These are some of the criticisms and complaints which can be levelled at our present health system. Yet the Budget contains only three minor alterations in the health insurance scheme. The major problems have not been touched. Yet the Go vernment has had before it since March of this year the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance which has been known as the Nimmo Committee. It was a Government appointed committee of three, Mr Justice Nimmo, Sir Leslie Melville and Mr Mcintosh. It was appointed by the Government, but the Government has chosen so far to ignore most of its recommendations. The Nimmo Committee made some comments about the health insurance scheme generally and it said, amongst other things:
Some of the recommendations that the Nimmo Committee made were:
That the hospital insurance scheme be rationalised by combining benefits tables to three benefits each equal to one of the three levels of hospital fees in force in each of the States - standard, intermediate and private wards.
That organisations be obliged to have uniform rules and follow uniform practices in relation to matters such as claims subject to third party or workers’ compensation provisions, waiting periods for benefits in maternity cases, benefits for newly born children, eligibility for benefits of student dependants and allowance of membership credits to members transferring from one organisation to another. That all hospital and medical benefit table enrolments be made on the basis that contributions will be automatically adjusted whenever variations in rates of contributions become necessary.
That medical benefits be paid when a specialist oral surgeon carries out a procedure for which an operating theatre at a public hospital is required and used. That a patient referred to an ophthalmologist by an optometrist be eligible for medical benefits at the specialist rate.
I will admit that some of these recommendations could not have been introduced immediately, but many of them could have been introduced without any trouble at all.
It merely meant a decision by the Government and they could have come into operation. But the Government does three things in the Budget in the health field and then pats itself on the back for having improved the health services of Australia.
Again I repeat that this was a committee of independent people appointed by the Government. The Nimmo Committee report was very critical also of the administration of health insurance and found, amongst other things, that there were 101 different rates of hospital fund benefits giving a coverage of from 60c per day to $19.50 per day and that in more than half of these cases the coverage was below the minimum public ward rates. It found also that the multiplicity of rates was causing confusion. It complained about the reserves and operating costs of these funds. On management funds, it said:
In the financial year 1967-68 the lowest expense rate for hospital funds was 6.20% of contribution income and the highest was 20.24%. Most of the hospital funds’ .expenses were within the range of 11% to 13% of contribution income.
For medical funds the lowest expense rate for 1967-68 was 10.86% of contribution income. Most medical funds’ expenses were within the range of 14% to 16% of contribution incomes. The highest expense rate was 21.29%.
On the subject of reserves, the Nimmo Committee said that they were far too high. The reserves held at 30th June 1967 by the various organisations throughout Australia amounted to $55,484,000 for hospital funds and $22,933,000 for medical funds.
When this scheme was first introduced, it was supposed to return 90% of the cost of medical benefits to the contributor. But in 1967-68 the contributor was expected to pay 32.6%. Since that time, doctors fees have risen. So, the percentage that the contributor now has to find would be far greater than that 32.6% that was the average in 1967-68. Practically no progress has taken place at all because in 1954 - the first year in which the scheme was introduced - 36.9% was paid by the contributor. The then Minister for Health, the late Sir Earle Page, said that it would be 10% .
I could go on quoting criticism and findings of the Government appointed Nimmo Committee. There are plenty more. The report is a substantial one. It runs to seventy-three pages and makes a number of recommendations. I have deliberately quoted extensively from the report to show that Labor’s criticism of Australia’s health scheme is well founded and justified. That is why the Australian Labor Party suggested an alternative national health scheme. Something must be done urgently to help the poor and chronically ill in our community to meet their hospital and medical costs.
It is interesting to note how, upon the publication of the report of the Nimmo Committee and also of the alternative national health scheme proposed by the Labor Party, a rash of leaflets and pamphlets was issued by the Australian Medical Association and by representatives of the benefits funds. Mr Rex Turner, the director of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia, is perhaps the chief protagonist in this regard. Already, he has written and distributed a thing called ‘The Case against Compulsion’, which is a criticism of the Australian Labor Party’s alternative health plan. But Mr Turner should not criticise anybody when the Nimmo Committee report can criticise the funds because he is a director of one of those funds.
Since then, he has been sending out also regularly a leaflet labelled ‘Comment’. The first issue was released on 1st May. a couple of months after the release of the report of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance. Issues of Comment’ have come fairly regularly since then. 1 have approximately six issues of Comment’ in my hand at the moment. The Australian Medical Association has issued a booklet entitled: ‘Paying for Health Care’, which is a criticism of the Labor Party’s proposals-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr MAISEY (Moore) £9.58]- Mr Deputy Speaker, in speaking to the Budget tonight, I. wish to concentrate on one area alone and that is the estimated expenditure for 1969-70. The Government is budgeting to spend about $7, 000m and I am sure that the debate is and will be largely concentrated on eight individual items within this Budget. These eight items are all new and include the changes in the basic rates of pension, a more liberal means test, free health insurance benefits for certain classes of people, other new social welfare and repatriation benefits, provisions for pensioners* dwellings, more liberal Commonwealth scholarship benefits, the superphosphate bounty and, lastly, and, very importantly, the assistance to independent schools.
All of these changes are sincerely welcome and give lie to the sort of irresponsible assertion that one sometimes hears that this Government shows little concern for the underprivileged or for sections of the population that appear to be overburdened with costs of schooling. While it cannot be disputed that these new measures set precedents for the future, and as such deserve all the attention that they will undoubtedly receive, one must realise that their total amounts to a mere $128m in an almost $7,000m Budget, which is, really, 1.8%. I propose to address myself to the other 98.2% of the estimated expenditure for 1969-70. 1 do this on the basis of the observation that our eye tends to be attracted by and our speeches tend to be centred on that part of the water that is visible; but what is visible is a mere ripple on the surface of a very deep ocean. The height of the ripple is at most a few hundred million dollars. Below this is an abysmal depth measuring several thousand million dollars.
What governs the depth of this ocean? This is an important question. It is important because, by and large, this depth increases from year to year as if we were constantly travelling away from the shore. It is suggested that the depth of the ocean is partly an unavoidable result of past legislation and past policy decisions. For example, a decision made in the 1900’s that there shall be free compulsory education carries with it lasting expenditure implications, even though these implications in a legalistic sense refer to the States. Past decisions on social welfare and past sales of Commonwealth securities carry in their wake automatic and substantial expenditure commitments. Thus many of the things that make up the depth of this ocean are the automatic result of what the Parliament has determined in some instances half a century or more ago. These sorts of components of Government expenditure do not attract the eye of the Parliament for a very valid reason. Little can be done about them, unless we are so radical that we wish fundamentally to alter the entire system of government.
Were the depth of the ocean to consist of this type of expenditures and this type of expenditures alone, it would present a very barren ground indeed for a debate of this nature. However, there are other items in this that ought to attract our attention. For example, the running expenses of departments are increasing at about $40m to $43m a year. This increase is almost three times as much as the total allocated to independent schools for this financial year. This item shows just about the most dynamic growth rate of any expenditure item in this Budget. It is not necessarily a healthy growth rate.
Another example is the defence allocation. At first blush one would be tempted to think that it is behaving most untypically. The appropriation is down by almost $61m. It is then that we look at the breakdown of the figures and we find that, if we take away the reduction in the expenditure on the construction of vessels and accommodation, in the purchase of aircraft, arms and equipment, we are left with an increase of $S4m. The net impression is, therefore, that defence, like a gorged giant, is having a digestion pause. We cannot give a pilot two aeroplanes or a footslogger two rifles. One bed is about the most that a soldier can sleep in. Ships would be difficult to run without crews. Perhaps this is a simplification. But, just as when, we are moving into deeper and deeper water we may strike an underground plateau, so there will be occasions when defence expenditure will pause to draw a breath. We may note that this pause appears to have nothing to do with any activity that this Parliament may or may not have undertaken. It seems that, just as with the increases so with the pauses, the Parliament assumes the role of a rather passive spectator.
This brings me to a rather basic question at the very heart of parliamentary democracy. As elected representatives of the people and as those answerable directly to the people, can we truthfully say that we have very much control over departmental expenditure or defence expenditure? Some 3 or 4 years ago the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) wrote a rather penetrating article on his job as a federal member. The first question was:
What am I as a Federal member, a cipher, a rubber stamp, a VIP or a shaper of the nation’s destiny?
In an aside the honourable member also said that, when asked the question: ‘What do you do?’ he replied:
I do not know whether I am gainfully employed, but at least I am fully employed.
He then went on to give a detailed account of what his year consisted of. He worked for his constituents making representations to Government departments, buttonholing Ministers and asking questions both upon and without notice. He made speeches. He attended public functions in his capacity of a local VIP. He engaged in the politics of his own Party and conducted public relations for his Party. He represented the Australian Parliament. Finally and perhaps most importantly he looked after his personal political survival.
We all do these things to a greater or lesser extent, according to our circumstances, our whims and our personal predispositions. We are all men of many parts, just as the honourable member for Wills is. But the really important question is whether these are the right parts. It seems to mc that in a democratic environment parliamentarians have a very important part to play as a check on the running of the Government in the widest sense. The Government in the widest sense consists of ‘us’ who sit in the two chambers and ‘them’ who sit in the departments. It seems to me that some of us at least have to exercise control over them. Perhaps one might say that the Ministers do it. But do they? Ministers change from portfolio to portfolio, have tremendous demands placed on their time and quite often commute to their Canberra job from their interstate homes. Can they really maintain the sort of detailed control over their departments, whose staff is resident in Canberra, has a rather lengthier tenure of office and less extraneous demands upon its time? Hardly. It would seem that both Ministers and members deal with the visible and more spectacular issues which, in their thoughts, might be the more important issues. One suspects that, contrary to this view, the more important issues consist of the mastering of a complexity of hard details which neither parliaments nor the Ministers can claim for the most part to exercise.
This seems to me to be a perversion of the word ‘democracy’. This situation gives rise to an attitude that I recently saw expressed in a book on the British Civil Service entitled ‘The Profession of Government’. Brian Chapman, the author, says:
Higher civil servants rightly regard it as their principal duty to safeguard the continuity of the State. They are, therefore, always likely to consider that what they do is in some way on a higher plane than what politicians do; that they are the protective force of society, and politicians the destructive force.
If this is what the public servants think of themselves, there must be something wrong with the way the democracy has developed.
Thus on the grounds of democratic principle I regard it as important that the Parliament seek to reassert its control within the profession of government. There is a second and far earthier reason why this control should be reasserted. There are a lot of things that the Parliament should know about that other 98.2% of the Budget. I approach this question from the standpoint of concern for the costs in the Australian economy. There is little doubt that tariff policy and various other activities of the Government add unnecessarily to the costs in the Australian economy, thereby imposing substantial penalties on exporting industries. The cost aspect that I wish to look at now is the cost of Government departments and the cost of defence. I think it would be both improper and untrue to say that the lack of detailed surveillance by Parliament of departmental costs means that they are necessarily running riot. Senior public servants are generally men of great integrity and responsibility and there are checks and measures as well, which means there is a degree, perhaps quite a considerable degree, of internal control over gross mismanagement and waste.
It is important for the Parliament to be satisfied about how effective the internal checks and measures are. We are dealing with men, and men have always wanted to build empires. One hears of this department and that department erecting a large and powerful economic division which duplicates economic divisions already existing within other departments. I feel that within certain departments the very important issue arises as to how much return we are getting for the cost. Taking the Department of External Affairs as an example, one rather wonders what benefits Australia obtains from the spending on cocktail parties and all the other expenditure included in diplomats’ allowances. 1 would not be at all surprised if the Department of External Affairs argues for its allocations on the basis of what diplomats from other countries get. Is there value in keeping up with the Joneses? Do we generate any more natural goodwill if we engage in an overt display of affluence in countries where the great bulk of the population maintains a bare subsistence standard of living? On a casual observation it seems to me that the Americans have probably made themselves unpopular in many countries through just such displays of affluence.
On the Australian Broadcasting Commission television channel about 2 months ago we saw a film on the new Australian Embassy in Washington. It is an absolutely lavish building. I wonder what we gain from having such lavish buildings and whether a display of modesty would not create a far better impression. Also I noted remarks made by Senator Sim some little time ago concerning Australia House in London. I noted his observations about the staff numbers. One wonders whether all that staff is really necessary. One also wonders what value we get from having all these people on the government pay-roll paid by the taxpayers. There are many doubts which can only be resolved by independent investigation conducted by this Parliament.
The most important of all the areas of government expenditure is the expenditure on defence. Throughout my adult life I have observed it was both unwise and imprudent to place too much reliance on others. In fact, self reliance was a responsibility to both oneself and to people that one represented. This 1 have found to be so as a member of the Australian Wheat Board, as President of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, as president of a farmers organisation and of course more lately as a member of this Parliament. The same principle, I feel, applies to defence. I think it would be irresponsible for us to place reliance on our allies to the extent of neglecting self help. To my mind a virile and effective self effort is vital. We must spend substantial sums on defence - perhaps greater sums than we are spending now. But - this is vitally important - we must be sure that we get value for the money that we spend on defence.
In the last year a great deal of questioning has arisen in the United States on this very matter. The questioning occurred at all levels of government, including the United States Secretary for Defense. Within Australia we have Sir Henry Bland in charge of the Department of Defence. We hear that he is rationalising our defence effort. We hear that he is a man of the greatest competence. We hear that he has a cost consciousness. After all, his father was the man who made the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts a force to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, there is every reason why this Parliament should satisfy itself through its own means that money in this area is well spent. This brings me to my proposals. I think it is vital as a check on the cost of government for the Public Accounts Committee to be very substantially enlarged. It should have a number of specialised sub-committees, each gradually acquiring skills and understanding of one or two departments. There is also room for a sufficient number of highly qualified staff to be made available on a permanent basis to this Committee. I think it is important that the chairmen of these sub-committees be judiciously selected. For example, in the case of the sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee which would have oversight over defence, one would ideally go to the Democratic Labor Party for a chairman. One would do this for two reasons. The first is the well known and justified concern of that Party over defence matters. The other is that a member of that Party would, without doubt, act most independently and would not be subject to overt or subtle ministerial influence. His political preferment would not be subject to the Cabinet’s opinion of him.
Let me examine some of the advantages of this course of action. The first advantage is that it erects yet another check against unjustified increases in costs. Secondly, it would help the departmental secretaries concerned, who have a cost consciousness in their task of controlling such costs. Thirdly, a specialised sub-committee would have a good deal to offer to the Minister or Ministers concerned. Not only would it help him or them in the non-policy area of keeping an oversight over the department without really interfering in ministerial prerogative over policy, but it would also share the responsibility for management matters. In short, if a department did happen to squander money, then it would be fair to apportion the blame between the Minister concerned and the sub-committee, and not simply hoist it onto the Minister’s shoulders. The final advantage of the creation of such sub-committees would be the activation of able people on the back benches. I have already” referred to the honourable member for Wills expressing his doubt about whether he was gainfully employed. Many of us must share these doubts. It is clear that our democracy is not getting the most out of the skilled manpower that sits on the back benches of the two chambers. The fringe participation on the part of back benchers in important matters of State makes Canberra, for many, a soul destroying place. One wonders whether the average back bencher in Canberra ranks anywhere near as high as the 700 faceless men who comprise the First Division and Second Division of the Public Service.
There is another angle to this as well. The involvement of back benchers in difficult and delicate matters would constitute a valuable period of training, making them more skilled and valuable when they are first elevated to a portfolio. I conclude on this point: From the standpoint of commonsense, from the standpoint of cost consciousness and from the standpoint of democracy, it is important that the Public Accounts Committee be substantially expanded and divided into sub-committees, each specialising in one or more departments and keeping a watching brief over the costs of that department. It will be readily realised why I have such a preoccupation with costs. Exporting industries, especially the farmers, are faced with a cost-price squeeze. The situation is worse now than it has been for several decades. Since farmers are unable to pass costs on to their customers, each and every area of cost matters to them. For example, taking another area of Government activity, the cost of telephones in country areas is rising tremendously. A sub-committee of the type I have mentioned could go into the question of whether the Postmaster-General’s cost structure is reasonable or unduly high. A similar thing could be done in relation to transport costs, and so on throughout most of the economy of this country.
Mr Deputy Speaker, unless the Government starts putting an extra effort into the question of controlling costs in Australia - the costs of tariffs, the costs imposed on us by the arbitration system, and the Government’s own costs - as I have pointed out in this speech, we will see a great number of bankruptcies in the countryside and unfortunately, I am afraid, we will see them very soon. Farms will be closed and gradually the system of farming that we now know, based on the family unit, will be replaced by a system based on corporation ownership of large tracts of land. There wil be even fewer people living outside the capital cities. Country towns, having smaller populations to service, will shrink in size. We know of gold mining ghost towns, towns whence populations moved when the gold ran out. Soon we will know of another type of ghost town unless something is done. These will be the cost price squeeze ghost towns, towns whose population moved out because there were no farmers left to service. The cost price squeeze is threatening the time honoured Australian way of life. Every angle must be explored, and no stone can be left unturned, in a search for the solution to this problem.
– I, and I think every member of this House, listened with great interest to the thoughtful speech by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey). He ranged fairly widely over the question of the administration of this country, and he raised a number of questions. I do not think he made any direct accusations, but he posed a number of questions about whether there was extravagance in Commonwealth departments such as the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Defence. He suggested that the Public Accounts Committee be enlarged, and he referred to costs in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, transport costs and the like. He suggested that if these trends, about which he knows in the country today, continued there would be bankruptcies in the countryside. Knowing the honourable gentleman’s great interest in the wheat industry and his devotion to its cause, 1 felt that he was probably leading up to the point where he would place before the Parliament his great experience in these matters and outline the problems of that industry with which he is so vitally concerned. I would like to say to the honourable gentleman that many of the problems that he sees today can only be laid at the door of this Government, which has been in office since 1949. One cannot blame the previous Labor Government for anything that is wrong with the Australian economy, for anything that is wrong with the Australian farmer or for anything that is wrong in any area of public administration, because this Government has been in office for 20 years.
So I can understand his frustrations. I fully agree with him about the competence of members on the back benches, and we know that that applies in all parts of this House. However, I do not wish to make any political capital. I think he made some constructive suggestions. I believe there is a need to have a defence estimates committee because of the problems in this area. I have often myself thought about the escalation of numbers in the Commonwealth Public Service and wondered about the inspector system in that Service, although of course I must say that I find the. gentlemen I deal with in the Public Service in Brisbane to be very fine, dedicated and competent people.
I move on to what I would like to say about the Budget. I want again to go back to some philosophical considerations. A Budget is the principal tool whereby a government gives effect to its policies, ranging from the health of the economy to its policies on social welfare, which reach out into every home in the nation. The Budget should be judged by how effectively it advances the national goals spelled out by the Prime Minister as against those spelled out. by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. Conditioned as we all were to months of Treasury propaganda which suggested a threat from inflation, many people see the Budget as a lot larger than life. Because the Budget fails as an instrument of progress in development or defence, because the Budget fails to give reasonable payments to pensioners, widows and those in receipt of other benefits, the Budget deserves to be condemned and accordingly I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).
I would like now to discuss some of the matters to which I have referred briefly. Many of the Government members have made much of referring to the payments that have been made in the field of social welfare, and honourable members on this side have pointed out that strangely enough these increases in value or in payments are most likely to be made in election years. The people who depend on the social service system and the repatriation system for their incomes have been treated very shabbily indeed. Government members are claiming credit for the fact that invalid and age pensioners have received an increase of $1 for single pensioners and 75c each for a married couple. With the rises in costs referred to by the honourable member for Moore, of which we all know in our own lives, what lesser amount could the Government have given these people? The Government gave them the bare minimum it could with any decency. It has granted increases in pensions and benefits before of $1 and 75c, but with the erosion of the value of money these amounts mean less in purchasing value to the recipients of these pensions. 1 will not take a dog in the manger attitude on the social services programme. All of us are pleased to see the increases that have been made, but I feel mat there are a number of anomalies in what has been done. I am pleased to see the increases in unemployment and sickness benefit. The last increase that was made was in a time of political necessity for the Government. It was made in February 1962 when there were 130,000 Australians registered for employment and after a general election in which the Government emerged with a very small majority indeed. But while we welcome this increase in unemployment and sickness benefit, I would like to refer, as I have in my speech during the Budget debate for the last several years, to some of the further needs in this area.
I refer in particular to people who are not yet adults but who are in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefit. I refer to young people between the ages of 16 and 21 years. la the various States the age at which a person may leave school varies. In Queensland, 15 years is the compulsory school leaving age, but in certain circumstances, such as family need, young people may get permission from the Education Department to leave school at an earlier age. We all know that something similar to this would apply in every State. So if one of these young people below the age of 16 is out of work, no payment is made at all. In the case of young people between the ages of 16 and 18 the payment for unemployment and sickness benefit is $4.50 a week and in the case of people between the ages of 18 and 21 it is $6 a week.
I have often felt when I have looked at these amounts in our Budget that it is presumed that the young people are living at home. These rates would appear to presume that the young people are at home and being helped out by the income of the father, who is the breadwinner, or of other members of the family. But again this does not always apply. Mr Deputy Speaker, you and I come from the State of Queensland, where many young people have to leave their homes in the countryside to go to Brisbane or the other cities to gain employment. If one of these young people, for instance a lad of 17 or 18 or in fact anyone under the age of 18, is out of employment he gets the princely sum of $4.50 a week to sustain himself. I can see no reason why the amount should not be the same as for an adult person, particularly when these young people are living away from home. I do not know of any place in the metropolitan area of Brisbane where a person could live away from home for $4.50 a week or even for $6 a week, which is the amount payable to young people between the ages of 18 and 21 who are out of work. So I feel that while Government supporters might congratulate themselves on the advances that have been made, there is really little substance in these congratulations. We in this country have not developed a social services system which would take up areas of need. It is going to be left to a Labor government at some time in the future - and we trust early next year - to start to look at these programmes and to develop these programmes in order to advance all Australians who, by virtue of age or widowhood or illness or unemploy ment are dependent on the payments made by the Department of Social Services or by the Repatriation Department. While Government supporters would like to give credit to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for the increases that have been made, I feel that some credit should be given to those delegates to the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party whose policies on social welfare, education and in so many other fields have forced the small changes that have been made by the Government in this Budget. Every member of this House knows that the Budget was altered on a number of occasions, to increase the amounts payable, because of the political pressures of the time, and for no other reason.
The second matter to which I should like to refer fairly briefly is the question of education. It is a very important question, and I am happy to see the payments which are to be made under the Budget to independent schools. But like every other member of the Labor Party and like many of the people who do not support the Labor Party but who feel very strongly about this question, I believe that the Commonwealth can become involved in assisting education only when the assistance applies to all schools across the board. We do not select particular sections of the community to whom child endowment should be paid. We pay child endowment in respect of every child in Australia, no matter what his class, creed or any other consideration might be. A similar situation should apply to education. We know that there are areas in the community which have been treated unjustly in this matter by all governments over the years. But these people should realise that if government assistance to independent schools is to be developed and nurtured to take up the full needs of many of these schools, it will be necessary for assistance to be given to the State systems of education as well, because if this is not done resentment will build up and not much progress will be made in either of these areas.
The facts of the matter have been subjected to much misrepresentation. The Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Labor Party put forward a proposal to establish an Australian schools commission which would carry out for all schools in Australia functions similar to those carried out by the Australian Universities Commission in the matter of assisting universities and developing proper priorities. It has been suggested by Government supporters that this would mean that a Labor government would interfere in the running of all schools. Of course, this is sheer and utter nonsense. No-one suggests that the Universities Commission has interfered in the internal running of universities in any harmful way. Indeed, I know that any person associated with university education would give great credit to the Universities Commission for what.it has done in assisting in the great advance which has been made in tertiary education in recent years. A statement by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) today spelt out just what the Government proposes to do in the triennium immediately ahead of us. All of us appreciate these things. But we cannot build tertiary education on a system under which proper preschool, primary school and secondary school education is not provided.
The Labor Party firmly and strongly believes - and it will fight the next election on this issue, among other issues - that a proper education is the birthright of every Australian child, at a reasonable cost to the parents. Our purpose in advocating an Australian schools commission is that we want to have proper priorities spelt out, because the function of government has to be concerned with the quality of education. The quality of the education which Australian children are receiving - and not the question of what school the children may attend - is the matter which should be of concern to this Parliament. In this controversy over state aid, however much I appreciate the sacrifices that have been made by people who send their children to independent schools - more particularly, people who send their children to parish schools - at the same time I believe that too much attention has been focused on what Mr Chifley used to refer to as the hip pocket nerve, without a proper amount of attention being focused on the quality of education. The number of trained teachers, the sizes of classes and all these other matters are important. The important question is the education and the soundness of the education which every Australian child receives.
It has been suggested that the Labor Party would interfere in the internal running of independent schools, were we to set up an Australian schools commission. I have said previously that this is nonsense. But it should be realised that when a government pays out public money, some degree of supervision is necessary. We know that schools which have claimed assistance under the science laboratories scheme which was introduced by the present Government have committees which make allocations. They have to produce plans to a proper standard and the plans have to be approved. Then progress payments are made in the light of reports by architects and professional people who are able to value the building concerned and so on. So any form of government activity involves some kind of supervision. It is obvious that if we are to plough the road ahead in assisting non-State schools, it will be necessary for a complete investigation to be made into all the Australian education systems. The Labor Party has demanded such an investigation for a great number of years. We need to be able to spell out proper priorities. The denominational systems of education will need to realise that they will have to rationalise their system to ensure that the money which they have or which they will receive from the Government is properly and economically spread over their own system.
Although I have the greatest admiration for the brothers and nuns who serve in parish schools, for example under the various orders, it is a fact that these orders tend to have glamour schools catering for people of great affluence, although in their own system they have areas of great need. I feel also that these people - and again I am not attacking them in saying this - will have to realise that money will be paid to them if it is spent on education alone. Brothers have contacted me in recent weeks and have said: ‘We are very happy to get this grant, in the case of our own school, where it is paid to a school conducted by our order, but where it is paid to a parish school, very often the expenses of the school are controlled by a parish board out of general funds.’ I believe that if governments are to be involved in education, changes will have to be made. These are the sorts of sensible changes which would be demanded by any responsible government that sought to determine proper priorities and to assist every Australian child, irrespective of the school he or she may attend to attain a sound education.
The next matter that I wish to raise is the question of defence. Much has been made of the fact that there is a reduction of $51m in defence expenditure in the current year. In actual fact, if one takes into account the 8% increase in expenditure which applies in other departments - the sort of increase brought about by rising costs and the like - and then plots a figure as to what defence expenditure will be if the rate of increase over recent years is continued, one finds that there is an actual reduction of $150m in defence expenditure. I am one of those people who believe, as does the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), that defence expenditure has to be properly scrutinised. I have a nasty suspicion that defence expenditure has been kept down this year for one of two reasons: Either because in an election Budget it was decided to win -votes by an attractive social welfare programme or, alternatively, because the Government did not have those programmes ready whereby it could continue to provide for the equipment programming of our defence forces.
We all know that in the early 1950s the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said that there would be war in 3 years. After he won the election he commenced a de-escalation of defence expenditure which has caused this nation to make great sacrifices over recent years. But we should not allow ourselves to be blinded to the fact that there are great needs in defence expenditure, and I think particularly in expenditure for the Navy. One of the principal criticisms of the FI 1 1 aircraft that I make - and I hope the aircraft flies and I hope that it is successful - is that we have bought a battleship of the air. We have tied up an enormous amount of money in buying this aircraft, however successful or otherwise it might be. There is a great deal of discontent in the Royal Australian Navy. Young officers are leaving the Service because they do not know what their future might be. They realise that many of our ships are becoming old. There is pressure for a new aircraft carrier and the like. The Treasurer, in the section of the Budget Speech dealing with defence, said:
The projects so far approved include ship construction and various items of capital works and equipment. The ship construction programme will include a fast combat support ship, a hydrographic ship and an oceanographic ship for the Navy and heavy landing craft for the Army.
The Treasurer went on to say:
It is also proposed to put in hand a preliminary design study for new light destroyers for the Navy as replacements for some of the RAN’s existing destroyers.
In the political climate that we have in Australia - the Government obviously realises that it has to be very careful about the extent to which it becomes actually involved with garrison forces on the continent of Asia - we need to realise that, if we have the policy that the Opposition has espoused of keeping our commitments in this area, we will require fast troop transports and transport aircraft capable of getting our troops to any part of an area where we may have to meet a military commitment. It is not enough to station forces there because in the light of the circumstances today there is no flexibility of movement for them. I believe that the Government deserves to be condemned for the lack of continuity in its building programme for the Navy and for its lack of foresight in not providing the Services with the equipment that they need in order to meet the situation that we face in South East Asia.
I am very happy that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) is at the Table because the next matter I want to raise concerns his portfolio. I regret that there is no provision in the civil works programme this year for work to commence at the Eagle Farm Airport. I went through this matter in considerable detail in a speech I made to the House on 15th October last year. In that speech I spelt out just what has happened at Eagle Farm over the years and what has not happened. I said that the people of Brisbane and the people of Queensland expect something to be done. In September 1963 the late Senator Paltridge, who was the then Minister for Civil Aviation, said that the Eagle Farm Airport would be at the top of the next 5-year programme of the Department of Civil Aviation. I am not criticising the money that is being spent at Mascot. I believe that this airport has to be developed because it is Australia’s only international airport in the broadest sense of the term. I believe that a lot of money is being ploughed into Tullamarine Airport to give Melbourne facilities that will not be needed there. In any event, I would like to point out the great disparity between the expenditure in those places and what is done for Farm Airport, he said: 1 have raised this matter in order to ask the Minister to make a clear statement on when work will commence at Eagle Farm and whether the terminal will be completed in 1975 as was promised. I put it to him that Queensland members have been very fair in this matter because every other capital city in Australia has received treatment ahead of our State. Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to put to the House the present situation. In the civil works programme this year the balance carried forward is $39m - almost $40m. The amount allocated for new works is $28m. The total amount available this year in the civil works programme is just over $68m. Provided in that programme for work at Eagle Farm is the princely sum of $24,666. A breakdown of the $68m allocated to the civil works programme shows where this money is to be spent. We find that in Sydney there is a $17m carry-forward and the amount allocated for new works approved is $23m. Therefore, $40m is available to be spent at Sydney during the current financial year. In Melbourne there is a carry-forward of $19m. The allocation for new works is $250,000. This amount will be expended on Henty House. I am not sure whether this building is at Melbourne airport or in Melbourne itself. Nevertheless, $19m has been made available for Melbourne. I contrast this sum with the figure of $24,666 which has been made available for Eagle Farm. On 28th April 1966, before the last general election, the Minister for Civil Aviation was good enough to send a letter to all honourable members from Queensland in which, at page 2, when referring to Eagle Farm Airport, he said:
As a very general figure (and it is stressed that this is given without any plans or surveys of the area) it would cost about $10 to $20 million. The initial survey works, being carried out by the Department of the Interior, are now completed and the planning of the project has commenced, with a view to obtaining the necessary approvals, the preparation of the detailed designs, the calling of tenders and the commencement of construction by the 1968-69 financial year.
That financial year ended almost two months ago. I do not propose to give any further details of the amounts of money spent at other airports. However it is quite obvious, when one looks through the civil works programme and sees what has happened elsewhere, that Brisbane has been set aside. If this Government continues on its present course it may be some time before work actually commences at Eagle Farm Airport. I know that all honourable members from Queensland - indeed all of the citizens of Queensland - will be very interested to hear the Minister spell out, at some time in this debate or in the debate on the Estimates, and spell out quite clearly, what is to happen at Eagle Farm.
There are two other matters that I would like to mention, both of them very briefly. I regret that there is no mention in the Budget of the Captain Cook bi-centenary. I raised this matter in a question I asked of the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, several years ago. In a speech I made in a grievance day debate some months after that I pointed out that this is the most important single event in Australia’s history. I am concerned that no statement has been made about what the Commonwealth Government intends to do to celebrate this event. We know that Her Majesty the Queen is coming to Australia and that a fountain is being built near Civic Centre in Canberra - I think it is described as a memorial jet. However, the State government committees, the tourist industry representatives, historical societies, commercial organisations and people generally are most anxious to celebrate the Captain Cook bicentenary in a proper way.
In previous Budgets amounts have been provided in the Estimates for royal visits or other activities of that kind. As I said earlier, this is the most important single event in our history because it celebrates the event which preceded the settlement of this country by our predecessors; those people who came here, sometimes for their country’s good, in 1788 to settle this land. I think that this is something which the Government has neglected. I hope that the Prime Minister will attend to this matter and make a statement about it in the Parliament before it is dissolved in order that honourable members can discuss it, make suggestions or write letters to him to see that the bi-centenary is properly celebrated.
– We could have Mick Jagger to play Captain Cook. He is here at the moment.
– That is possible. Whatever suggestions might be made by the honourable member for La Trobe, I am sure he would agree with me that this is something worth doing properly. We are getting very close to the Cook bi-centenary. It is to be celebrated in April and May next year. I think the Government would be very unfair to the incoming Labor Government if it left the plan in this parlous state. It looks as though early in November this year there will be a different Cabinet and a different team of people will have to get down to it and do the job.
Finally, and very briefly, I would like to draw the attention of honourable members to an article in the ‘Australian Journal of Science’ of May 1969. We hear a lot about conservation, which is very good. There is a great deal of interest in this subject on the part of the Australian community. We know that the Minister for Education and Science, who is in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has taken some interest in this matter. However, before proper priorities can be drawn up it is necessary to have a comprehensive survey of all Australia to determine what areas of land, or sea, for that matter - for example, the Barrier Reef - should be kept as national parks and the like, and what areas should be carefully husbanded or reserved completely inviolate. This is a reasonable article suggesting a biological survey of Australia which could be established only with Federal Government assistance. At the moment in Queensland we have an emotional controversy over the Great Barrier Reef. It is tremendously important that the Barrier Reef should be preserved.
The National Parks Association has suggested to the State Government that various areas should be set aside as national parks but nobody knows what areas of the Barrier Reef are biologically unique and should be preserved completely untouched for future generations. A similar position applies right across the Australian landscape from Cape Byron to North West Cape and from Cape York to the southernmost part of Tasmania. The only way in which we can properly undertake a scheme of conservation in Australia - this is very important - is to set up such an organisation as the Journal suggests. I have not the time to pursue this subject at any great length but I feel that if members from both sides of the House read the article they will, having already supported the establishment of the Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies, support this further advance not only for the field of science but to preserve our land which is the fundamental heritage that we of this generation will pass On to our successors in Australia.
I have covered a range of subjects tonight. It is one of those things that one does in a speech on a Budget. Unfortunately there are so many issues and so many things left out of the Budget. I know that honourable members on this side of the House have endeavoured to cover a whole range of subjects. I feel that when people look at this Budget with mature consideration they will realise that in many ways it is an irresponsible Budget. It does not refer to what we should be doing in the field of defence and other areas, and it does not relate to development and the need for airport construction - at Eagle Farm. It is simply icing for the top of the cake for an election. I believe that the Australian community today is too mature and too well educated to be carried away by a Budget of this kind. I believe that people throughout Australia will support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition as, indeed, do we on this side of the House.
-Order! Before calling the honourable member for Curtin I remind the House that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech. I ask for the usual courtesies to be extended to him during his speech.
– I believe that it is right in rising for the first time that I should honour the name of John Curtin whose name my electoral division bears. He was a great Australian brought up in and near my electorate as also was my predecessor, His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, who was the first representative in this House of the division of Curtin, representing it from its formation in 1949 until 10th February this year. They are great figures in Australian government and their achievements in the history of our national affairs have already been judged to be considerable. Such stature and achievements are rightly to be respected by the young and the new. John Curtin was a man who, in times of great difficulty, drew credit to himself and, indeed, to his associates by his straightforwardness and fine qualities which caused him to tread the highest path of duty. Sir Paul Hasluck is a scholarly man known for his intellectual gifts, integrity and hard work. His contribution to Australia is as I am sure all will agree, continuing strongly. Both these outstanding men are sons of Western Australia and their contributions were in the national interest. It is an honour to represent an electorate associated with these two great Australians - the former a Prime Minister who gave his name and the latter the Governor-General who gave 20 years of the highest service.
I must thank the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and Ministers for their courtesies and the Government Whip for his understanding and tolerance. I most sincerely thank Mr Speaker for his help and courtesies and I thank honourable members of all parties for the kindness and consideration shown to me. In particular I thank my sponsors from Western Australia, the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), who introduced me to honourable members and who are well known for their tireless representation on behalf of their electors in Perth. All these people helped me over the hurdles, when necessary, but were understanding enough to know that I did not want to be wet nursed. No-one can rise to speak in this House of the Federal Parliament for the first time without a deep feeling of occasion, tinged with awe. It is an honour to participate here and an honour to represent Curtin electors in the Parliament, particularly as the electorate is an area in which I grew up and in which I have been engaged in many community and political activities. Yet I believe my electors want me to take a wide view of their representation and to take the closest possible interest in national affairs, in which so many of them are deeply interested. I believe they want me to have an eye to the interests not only of Curtin but of Western Australia when those interests are rightly involved in the national interest.
Let me say here that Western Australia is proud to have, in the last 10 years, by its increasing production and rising export expansion, contributed most significantly to the whole country’s growth. It has just started to fulfil the promise it has shown for so long, fully justifying the confidence and views of so many great men past and present in Western Australia and in Canberra. Basically, I think my electors want me to act in the interests of Australia, in which each State is an integral part of the Federation, an Australian nation with rising strength, importance and responsibilities. Here I must acknowledge and thank all constituents of my electorate, particularly members and supporters of the Liberal Party, and my many friends in the State and division for their support over many years, and make a special acknowledgement to the women who have worked and continue to work in the Curtin division for the principles in which they believe. On this occasion I must acknowledge finally the sacrifices of my father and late mother which enabled me to have an opportunity of wider education and so many opportunities which, in no small degree, will help me in my work. Like so many of their generation, they worked hard and without help. I thank honourable members for the courtesy of silence extended to me during my maiden speech and I thank honourable members who have honoured me by coming to listen. I do not wish to be provocative or to abuse the privilege that honourable members have accorded me. When a man comes to this place it is right that he should put forward the views that he holds of the broad issues, frankly and objectively, and expose his objectives and principles - although not all will agree with them.
I want to touch briefly on some matters, of concern to all thinking Australians, affecting the government of this country. In this House and in the country there has always been much debate on policies relating to international affairs. This continues and clearly will continue as there are many matters of contention and of alternative policies which could be pursued. The scene is changing constantly and in making a judgment I have no desire to adopt ready-made slogans for the facts and situations need to be re-appraised constantly. While the nuclear stalemate sways threateningly there are, underneath, many nations with individual interests and views which greatly complicate relations. We must neither fail to notice the significance of changes nor imagine that solutions are easy. We seek an understanding amid the turbulence of changing events. Having said that, there are present facts and realities which must be faced. We live in a world in which armed power, rather than reason and law, is the decisive factor. We live in a world where armaments are increasing steadily, both nuclear and nonnuclear.
The world’s two greatest powers have the capacity to ruin one another, the nuclear aggression of one bringing upon it the reply of immediate devastation. Other countries are developing this capacity and to us it is particularly significant that China is producing nuclear weapons and a missile capacity which is anticipated to reach the stage of intercontinental missile development by the mid-1970s. In armaments, China is making a big effort at a big cost to its economy. With a military establishment of 3 million men, its arms and conventional weapons are vast, but its relations with other countries are at a very low ebb. Whatever the long term intentions of China and however much its attitude is explained by internal dispute, it has an imperialist and aggressive recent history. On all sides it threatens the governments of its neighbours politically, economically and militarily. China could change all this quickly if it chose but there is nothing in its behaviour to give us much encouragement or reassurance to leave ourselves or our friends in South East Asia unguarded at this time.
Australia has deliberately committed itself to a positive position of sending troops to resist aggression in South East Asia, engaging in the fighting which has broken out, and has given substantial assistance in aid. I welcome this and was glad to note the new commitments recently announced by the Prime Minister for our future support and aid. No-one likes to spend these vast sums on defence - there is so much good we could do with $ 1,000m - but the demands of national and regional security arising from the situation I have mentioned justify the cost. If we believe that the way of life which has emerged in the Western world is better, that it gives more scope for a satisfying life for the individual than does Communism and that it is more humanitarian than Communism, in the long run our way will prevail if we can keep free from major wars. We keep open the door for negotiation and co-operation with Communist states but the hard lessons learned at significant cost demand substantial guarantees before we lower our guard. Our basic attitude must be .to try to persuade the Communists that peace is to our mutual advantage but until that dialogue takes place we must try to deter direct or indirect pressure on China’s neighbours.
But as I have said, Australia has chosen a position of involvement - correctly I believe - and we must continue to work hard at understanding more clearly what is happening in Asian countries and helping where this can be truly of benefit. 1 do not underrate the advances that have been made in the last 20 years. This is time purchased at very heavy cost by this and other nations, not only in expenditure for aid and defence forces but also in many lives lost in battles and skirmishes in Korea, South Vietnam and Malaysia. But the time purchased has been put to good use by the non-Communist Asian states. There is growing appreciation of the need for collective action to meet common problems, as shown by regional efforts such as the creation of the Asian Development Bank and the Asian and Pacific Council. With the realisation of more ambitious goals and broader ties we can hope that these efforts eventually will provide the collective economic, political and military strength that will enable these regions to determine their own future. In this we must blend concern with restraint as we leap towards economic and social progress. The economic growth of South East Asian countries and growth in their political and other institutions are mainly dependent on their providing social justice. This is an aspect to which Australia must make the greatest contribution possible, and I am pleased to see announced in the Budget that our aid and assistance in education to the Asian people is substantial.
I believe the forms in which our aid has been given have been practical - more practical than those in which aid has been given by other countries. Therefore it has been effective, and Australians are more highly thought of in consequence. I look forward to an increase in future Budgets in both aid and defence forces. Our growing wealth demands our growing contribution and acceptance of responsibilities, for Australia is of increasing importance in this region, and the world, because of the dramatic industrial growth and international trade we are achieving. This has led to stronger relations with South East Asian countries which I believe are increasingly looking forward to our participation and leadership.
We have already participated actively in many directions, and the efforts of our governments have not been inconsiderable in their influence to assist and encourage stability in Asia. I emphasise again the growing contribution that Australia must make to South East Asian countries which are of basic defence importance to us and which are neighbours that Australia’s interests demand be stable. Defence in its true meaning is not just guns but also butter. We must help to remove the seeds of discontent in those countries. Security and economic development are but two faces of the same coin. The Asians want food to eat, clothing and education for their children and plausible hope for the future, as we do ourselves.
Turning to our own internal affairs, may I say I believe we must continue to give the very closest attention to continuing the rapid buildup of the Australian economy. It is essential that we keep a high level of production - the true wealth of any country - by creating directly a climate of encouragement of hard work linked with efficiency of our people. With burdens of expenditure for defence, health, social services and other government expenditure we must be careful to provide incentives for people to work harder, save and contribute more to the economy. It is as important to the growth of the country that initiative, inventiveness and resourcefulness should be encouraged as it is to have a fair sharing of the nation’s wealth, for history shows that the best societies, the richest, the most efficient and the most satisfying in which to live, are those in which individual initiative is allowed a wide scope of expression and where innovation, striving and ambition are not stifled.
To determine the value to be placed on all competing demands, and to decide the priorities, is a major part of the judgment required of government. As was said a long while ago, politics is the art of the possible and the business of government continually reminds us that we cannot have everything. The ever increasing demands for more services will not and cannot always be answered by increased rates of tax. We must grapple more in the years to come with ways to get more out of the money we are spending, perhaps in part by a simplification of laws and regulations, thus releasing labour for other work, but certainly by continuing reappraisals of the value or cost benefits of expenditure. My belief is that in such evaluations concerning the public and private sectors we must never forget the great strides which we have made and which can be made by leaving considerable avenues for incentive, for all incentives which produce efficiency, get better results for expenditure, prevent waste and result in low cost production are also the source of much more satisfaction to the individuals involved. But the problem of maintaining the necessary encouragement is a continuing one that will not bie solved by one-shot efforts as the problem is inherent in all administration, public and private, all over the world.
The Australian economy must continue to maintain a high growth rate in real terms for a continuing higher standard of living for our people, including full employment, high intake immigration and helping those who we know need assistance and are unable to provide it for themselves. This can be achieved only by a courageous balance of economic and political demands. I am glad to see the Government continuing to provide funds for capital development works around which private concerns can build. We must never allow these to become show pieces managed without a strenuous effort towards true cost benefit economies. They must be economically efficient to contribute to our economy. The recent Commonwealth aid roads legislation was most gratifying because it rested on this principle. Such principles affect the standard of living of each citizen every day of his life. We must develop our resources as fast as is practicable, and as there are not in Australia sufficient funds to meet the investment opportunities which exist overseas capital is essential for an acceptable development rate. I think we should obtain what local interest we can in the developments in which foreign capital is involved, but not reach the point of deterring or refusing development because a certain percentage of Australian interest cannot be obtained.
This is basically a negotiating matter with the overseas firms involved just as the provision of development expenditure is a negotiating matter. This development brings advantages to Australia in the form of transport, ports, bousing and other services. I believe the Government very properly takes a close interest in the humanitarian needs of our people and spends a significant portion of the national income on them. Indeed, this is at the basis of liberal thought, the aspects of stimulating education - which is part of our national investment - the provision of health services for our people and the means to care for those less fortunate who are entitled to be treated with humanity as Australians. This is the very consequence of the wealth produced in this country. We have a number of social service categories in which most of those to whom pensions are paid are not in that plight because of anything they have done or have failed to do. But even in those cases where this has not been the situation it is right for the community, through its government, to keep them modestly.
Yet we must meet the challenge of finding better ways of ensuring that those who have worked to save are better off, since it would be a fundamental fault if there was no incentive to provide for old age or unexpected adversity. I want to say how delighted I was with the provisions of the Budget in respect of the amendment to the means test on pensions since we now have an incentive for those willing to work and save for the future. To speak to the House of Representatives makes one most conscious of the history of it and the men who played their part. One is conscious of the great names - Deakin, Barton, Forrest, Hughes, Curtin and Menzies - and the shaping by Parliament of these men.
At this moment I feel very aware of the continuing contribution to national life by those who have gone before and those who will follow. A strong sense of continuity is inevitable, for the growth and development of our people have become a dramatic reality. Our potential for raising our own standards and, thank God, those abroad are right before us. No-one will now dare say that any objective is not possible for Australia. Leadership towards national purpose is all that is required for things to be planned and done. In ali that debate on national issues which very properly takes place within our democratic government one would hope to see a greater consensus in our aims. One would hope to see the end of the lingering poison of class warfare and an increase in the striving for better standards in every field and fuller lives.
It is important for a country and a people to have a purpose and to have specific objectives and standards, for the spirit of man requires challenges and discipline in his work so that he will fully exert himself, achieve worthwhile tilings and gain satisfaction from it. More effort by individuals is needed to meet the problems. Australians are not afraid of hard work. But they need leadership, the climate of encouraging government and incentive, economic and social. When Australia has engaged in great undertakings, as in the Second World War, its efforts have been phenomenal. So great is Australia’s potential that development is only beginning. This, linked with the characteristics of our people - their naturalness of behaviour, lack of hypocrisy, candour and a desire to progress - can lead Australia to be a great country in every sense of the word with a capacity to solve problems and to make a worth while place and a full life for every individual in the community, with challenges, opportunities and real satisfactions for each. These are general high policy purposes of which any country can be proud, and this country can with modesty be original, even unique. It has the capacity to live well and to be a force for good in the world. We can join in a great enterprise.
– The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) has just resumed his seat after making his maiden speech in the House. All honourable members will agree that it is an ordeal to make a maiden speech. There was some merit in the contribution that the honourable member made to the debate. He will have to exist in politics for the next few months. If he is returned to the House after the election on 25th October I hope that he will make to the debates in the House a similar contribution to the one he has made on this occasion.
The honourable member referred to the prosperity of Western Australia. I wish to ask him whether the ordinary people of that State are sharing in its prosperity or whether they are paying heavily for the galloping inflation that is occurring in the State. I refer particularly to the spiralling land costs. People need land in order to build their houses. We know that it is getting beyond the means of people to purchase homes not only in Western Australia but in all the capital cities of Australia.
The date 21st August will always be imprinted on my mind. On that date this year John Zarb. a young conscientious objector, was released from a Melbourne prison. He was eventually released after long agitation by many people throughout the length and breadth of the country. The honourable member for Curtin, who is a young man himself, is a supporter of a government which forces young men to go to the jungles of Vietnam against their will. Over 300 of them have been killed so far and about 1,500 have been injured. Australia’s participation in the war has already cost the country about $120m and repatriation costs and allowances in the future will greatly increase that figure. John Zarb is one of the great young men of this era. Men like John Zarb. Simon Townsend and William White, who were the first conscientious objectors, are men we all should respect. I wish to pay my tribute tonight to men of the character of John Zarb
On this day 12 months ago there was an invasion of Czechoslovakia by the military forces of the Warsaw Pact - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its allies. Recently what one may describe as an historic statement was made in this House by the new Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) indicating that there has been a significant change in the foreign policy of the Australian Government. No longer can the Government fool the people with its anti-Communism policy. For years the Menzies and Holt governments led people to believe that because they lived in freedom they opposed Russian Communism. For nearly two decades those governments were supported by thousands of migrants and Australian Democratic Labor Party voters. But now the Gorton Government wants to change all this. The Minister for External Affairs said in the House on 14th August:
The Australian Government at all times welcomes the opportunity of practical and constructive dealings with the Soviet Union.
What did thousands of new Australians and Australian Democratic Labor Party voters think of that? What these new Australians and DLP voters do not realise is that the Menzies, Holt and Gorton governments have not been fighters for freedom but followers of big powers. They followed Britain when it was a big power. Then they followed the United States of America. Now that the United States has proved to be not big enough to win a war like the war in Vietnam the Gorton Government wants to bring in another big power, the Soviet Union.
Certainly we must talk to the Soviet Union. I have advocated for years, and I will continue to advocate, peaceful coexistence with all nations. I have advocated that we should support the admission of all nations to the United Nations and have said that this Government should have taken practical steps years ago to bring the People’s Republic of China into the United Nations and so allow discussion and dialogue to be entered into. In this way we can break down the barrier that exists between one country and another. I support any action for dialogue with the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and any other country. We must talk to the Soviet Union and to other countries about the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and try to reach agreement to end the arms race which endangers the future of mankind. We know that already enough nuclear weapons are stockpiled to kill and overkill mankind many times. So it is important that dialogue should commence not only with the Soviet Union but also with other countries.
Why does the Gorton Government wish to have dialogue with the Soviet Union? No doubt it is to allow the Russians to bring their military forces into South East Asia, because the Government overmagnifies the threat of the People’s Republic of China and other Asian countries to our north. Any Russian military intervention in South East Asia is unnecessary, unjustified and dangerous. So that honourable members are clear on that, I repeat that any Russian military intervention in South East Asia is unnecessary, unjustified and dangerous. The Gorton Government, like the Menzies and Holt governments that preceded it, thinks that the big powers can stop the rise of people whether it is in Czechoslovakia, Northern Ireland, West Irian or Vietnam. They cannot. In the end the will of the people will prevail. We must stop thinking in terms of power politics and come to understand the part of the world in which we live.
Those who have supported the Menzies and Holt governments must think again. Negative verbal and military antiCommunism has achieved nothing but has encouraged wars and the arms race, and already has caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. May I remind the Government of its foolish and stupid policy that sees Australia involved in the war in Vietnam. The people of South East Asia will need great changes in their way of life if they are to rise out of poverty and political impotence. We must help them in their efforts, not bring in more military power in an attempt to stop them. We must understand these people. Again I stress that we must have dialogue with all countries. We should not be taking this chauvinistic approach or trying to encourage military powers to come here for our protection. I was in Czechoslovakia prior to the invasion of that country. At that time there was no military threat to Czechoslovakia, but the Soviet Union magnified its fears of events in Czechoslovakia prior to 21st August. Who is to say that fear could not be magnified again? Already there has been conflict between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China over border disputes.
If we enter into regional arrangements with the Soviet Union who is to say that because of those arrangements we could not be involved in a war with China? I have heard it said that it is better for us to have arrangements with the Soviet Union than with Japan. I have my reservations about Japan, but also I have my reservations about many other countries. Certainly I will not become involved on a racial question. We must try to understand and strive to get the best out of all men. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), who is now at the table, has decided to retire from Parliament. I remind him of a statement that he once made in this House. I was shocked to hear him say that he was not interested in having friends north of the 17th parallel.
– When did I say that? Tell me when I made a statement of that kind.
– When discussing North Vietnam the Minister said that he did not want any friends in Vietnam north of the 17th parallel. I suggest that we must strive to make friends north of the 17th parallel, that we must strive to make friends in China and that we must strive to make friends in every corner of the world. We should not try to involve ourselves in regional arrangements in a way or with countries that could involve us in a war with China or with any other country. I feel that although there has been an historical change in policy by the Government, it has been a change for the worse. Every progressive thinking Australian should condemn any attempt to enter into regional arrangements with the Soviet Union or to bring it into this sphere of influence, even if he thinks that to do so might provide a counter balance of power against China. So far as I am concerned, what we should be trying to do is to show some understanding and to keep our nose out of military involvement in Asia. We should be entering Asia by economic means, technical means and educational means. This is the way in which we should be approaching this question. I wanted to express those few words during this Budget debate.
May I say with due respect to the Minister for External Affairs, who has just entered the chamber, that when has was elevated to his new position in the Ministry I was one who congratulated him. Last year I went on a tour as a member of a delegation under his leadership. On that occasion he showed that he had capacity and that he was a man of integrity. He gave good leadership and did not go back on any arrangements at any time during that tour. I did not underrate him when he became the Minister for External Affairs. But that is not to say that I do not oppose his policy. He knows that I am opposed to his policy. My opposition to him is not on a personal basis but rather it is on an ideological basis. I feel that a regional arrangement with the Soviet Union is not in Australia’s best interests. I condemn any regional military arrangement which brings the Soviet Union into this sphere of influence. I repeat this to the Minister, because he may think he is playing a game of power politics to counter the Chinese.
I want to refer now to another matter that concerns me. One could say that this is an inflationary Budget. Immediately we say that it is an inflationary Budget, Government supporters say: What about the promises of the Labor Party?’ The difference between the Government and the Labor Party is that we believe there should be a reallocation of the gross national product. We believe that inflation works against the interests of the people on low incomes and against the interests of pensioners. We believe that money should be taken from those who are wealthy and distributed to those who are needy. I do not see in this Budget any money being taken from the wealthy for distribution to the needy.
The people in the lower income bracket are not receiving a fair deal from this Government. Pensioners have received a miserable increase of $1. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said the other night that the Government gives $1 a week to the pensioners but gives $120 a week to certain members of the judiciary. It gives age pensioners an increase of $52 a year but it gives certain members of the judiciary an increase of $6,000 a year. That is the way the interest of this sectional Government is revealed, and it has governed Australia firstly under the Menzies Administration, then under the Holt Administration and now under the Gorton Administration.
What has the Government done for the family groups and for the people who needed an increase in child endowment? The only increases in child endowment that this Government has given in 20 years have been 50c for the first child in June 1950 and 25c for the fourth and subsequent children in September 1967. That is the fine record of this Government. That is its attempt to encourage an increase of population within Australia and to look after our own. It has not encouraged anything worth while. The only increases in child endowment that it has given have been the two minor increases I have mentioned.
What has the Government really done to ease the means test? What has it done to help the men who work in the railways, in the Post Office and in other government employment and who are forced to pay into the Superannuation Fund out of their low incomes? The Government kept the permissible income frozen from 1954 until April 1967. What a magnificent record that is! The honourable member for Grayndler quoted from the 1949 policy speech of the Liberal Party. In this speech the Government Parties said what they would do when they were returned to power. They said they would abolish the means test. But the Government froze the permissible income j from 1954 to April 1967. It was then eased and was increased by $3. The increase for a single person was from $7 to $10 and for a married couple from $14 to $17. The latest surprise move by the Government is that it has decided after 3 years to catch up with the Labor Party. It is that long since the Labor Party proposed still further to assist people in respect of the permissible income. The Rt Hon. A. A. Calwell, in his policy speech in 1966, said that in the event of Labor being returned to power, for every $2 in excess of the permissible income only $1 would be deducted from the pension. The terms were changed a little by the Government so that it might appear to be its own original idea. The Government decided to say that for every $1 earned in excess of the permissible income it will deduct only 50c.
– lt is the same thing.
– It is very difficult to find any real difference between the two proposals. The only difference is that the Government’s proposal followed 3 years after the proposal of the Labor Party.
Today I asked a question about the fall in our overseas gold reserves. In the last 20 years or so there has been a deficit on our current account of more than $8,000m. This has been paid for by the inflow of private investment from overseas. Sometimes there has been a movement in foreign reserves and sometimes a movement in government loans, but on the whole the great bulk has come from private capital inflow. An interesting aspect I draw to the attention of honourable members is that in the month of June there was a fall in our overseas gold reserves of about $60m. In July our overseas gold reserves fell by about $S7m, and in the first week of August, by $89m. In this morning’s issue of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ the financial editor wrote:
There had been an $llm surplus of exports over imports (f.o.b.) in June, and an almost exact balance of exports and imports in July.
On the usual tentative bases of estimation with some adjustment the net capital inflow might have been of the order of only about $20m or $30m in each month. This would be well below the average of nearly $100m a month for most of 1968-69.
If this is correct, it means that capital inflow has dropped by about $160m or $170m in the 2 months June and July this year. What does this mean? It means that if the trend continues because of the Government’s policy, after the election of 25th October next, even if a Labor Government is returned to power, there could be an acute balance of payments problem. If that problem arises and the present Government is returned to office, I believe that an emergency Budget will be brought forward. The Australian Financial Review’ of Wednesday 13th August printed this heading:
Time bombs with a welfare veneer.
That is the aspect of the Budget we must examine. On 20th May 1969 I directed a question to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in respect of the sterling standby loan that the British Government was seeking from the International Monetary Fund. The Fund sought certain conditions which stated that in future there would not have to be the same allowances by the British Government on outflow of portfolio investment and institutional loans that were flowing out to Australia and South Africa. I asked the Treasurer did he think it would have any impact at all on the capital inflow to this country, and of course he said he thought my facts were wrong. If in fact, as quoted in the ‘Australian Financial Review’, for the 2 months, June and July of this year, there has been a drop in the inflow of foreign capital to the extent of $160m to $170m it seems to me that the conditions of that standby loan of the International Monetary Fund to the British Government are making their impact.
Instead of the portfolio investment flowing from Britain to Australia and South Africa it is beginning to dry up, and if that dries up this Government will have ta do some economic planning. This is long overdue and this Government should take action because year in and year out we have asked this Government to do some economic planning and not rely on indiscriminate and unplanned foreign investment coming to this country. We have stressed over and over again that there should not be this over-reliance on foreign investment, particularly portfolio investment and institutional loan investment. There are no roots in this country for portfolio investment which can be withdrawn at any time This is a bad type of investment for this country. Unless there is some long term guarantee of people who will invest in portfolio investment then by using our tax powers we can give them certain undertakings and certain conditions if they are prepared to invest over long periods of time. But there are no conditions and no guidelines provided by this Government.
The Prime Minister has said that he made certain statements while he was recently in London in relation to the acceptance of foreign investment on our terms. It is time that the Prime Minister expressed a positive view in regard to guidelines on foreign investment. I myself feel that the Budget has been well described in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ in that it is a time bomb. If this trend toward a slowing up of foreign investment inflow continues I predict that whichever party gets into power after the 25th October next there will be difficulty with the economy. Honourable members are aware of the history of the British Conservative Government and the mess that it caused to the economy of Great Britain. Frankly, I am not taking as pessimistic a view of Australia’s future because I think that with the assets of this nation we have great prosperity ahead of us and a great future to look forward to. But we should have some economic planning to develop this country in the interests of Australians and to try to plan what type of investment we need and how we can use it. Unless we do this we will be relying year in year out on what is called the ‘razor edge’ of foreign investment.
The Treasurer has said that we nearly balanced imports against exports. This is what he told a gathering of people during the last parliamentary recess. He was so proud of the state of the balance of payments - with the position of imports in relation to exports. But what he forgot to mention was that invisibles of something like $900m had to be paid in some way. In other words, we needed some $900m of private capital inflow to fill the gap. Invisibles are increasing by about SI 00m a year, so I give warning to this House that no matter what government is in office after the election, whether it be Labor or Conservative, there will be difficulties in solving this acute balance of payments problem if the trend which has been evident in the past few months continues.
– 1 regard quite seriously my contribution to this Budget debate because it could well prove to be the last opportunity I will have during the life of this Parliament to direct attention to matters that I consider to be of national importance, particularly as they affect the huge electorate of Kennedy which I have the honour to represent. Before I turn to affairs which more intimately affect our national life I should like to discuss for a moment certain emerging patterns of external influences which could well threaten the security and the trade of this nation and which, in a special way, are of deep concern to the people who live on the northern frontiers.
The most interesting development is the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. In evaluating this it is important, first of all, to examine the special new emphasis which the Russians are placing on their naval power. For example, the following comments of three senior Soviet admirals on the occasion of the Navy Day celebrations of 31st July 1967 seem to be particularly indicative of a greater emphasis on Soviet naval strategy. In a newspaper article Fleet Admiral V. A. Kasatonov, First Deputy Commander in Chief of the Soviet Navy, said:
As a result of technical re-equipping our Navy has been able in recent years to transfer to a qualitatively new type of combat training - the working out of missions in remote regions of the world ocean which were previously considered a zone of supremacy of the fleets of imperialist powers. Our ships can now be seen in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in the tropic latitudes of the Indian Ocean and in the severe Arctic.
Meanwhile in far off Vladivostok still another impression of what is obviously the present party line was being expressed in a Navy Day interview when Soviet Admiral A. C. Anelko pointed out that various ships were now represented in the Soviet fleets - submarines, surface ships equipped with missiles, anti-submarine vessels, landing craft; that is, everything which is necessary for the fleet to carry out any task assigned to it. That shows a tremendous impetus to the importance of the Navy.
Finally in a newspaper interview ViceAdmiral P. G. Kotov, Deputy Commander in Chief of the Soviet Navy, spoke of Soviet nuclear submarines. He said: lt is sufficient to say that they are capable of destroying surface ships and submarines of the enemy and also of transporting troops and cargo to any region of the oceans of the world.
When asked about naval infantry his answer was as follows:
Revived recently, naval infantry has special armament and various types of amphibious equipment. Landing ships with naval infantrymen can surmount vast spaces of water and quickly put the men ashore.
Therefore, though it is desirable at all times to seek universal peace amongst nations it is also critical to our survival to be vigilant and, in this case, to face up to the unpleasant fact that after the British withdrawal in 1971 it could well be that Soviet squadrons will dominate the Indian Ocean.
What is to be done? One proposal that has come from naval experts and could perhaps meet the situation is for the establishment of a squadron comprising components from the United States, Australia and possibly New Zealand for the express purpose of patrolling the region in question. For the purpose of this proposal let us assume that New Zealand would support the establishment of this squadron but would not actively participate in it because of its limited forces. We might envisage a force consisting of perhaps an attack type aircraft carrier provided by the United States and two escort destroyers and an oil tanker furnished by the Royal Australian Navy. The home port for this fleet might be somewhere in Western Australia. The aircraft carrier need not be one of the modern type. After all, America has many carriers in mothballs and one could be taken out. The important thing would be an air group which should consist of two squadrons - a defensive fighter interceptor squadron and another which could attack with the greatest possible effect. However, these are details for our military experts.
The point I want to make is that the Indian Ocean is a region of danger. It would be quite futile to base any sort of defence or military concept on our going it alone. We must strengthen our alliances and the mutual co-operation we have with our South East Asian neighbours by mutual respect and a realistic understanding of the dramatic changes which are occurring in this region. One of the most important of these is the entry of the Soviet into the region. She not only has ships in the Indian Ocean but has served notice that new and closer diplomatic relations will be established, which quite apart from any political considerations could well in time establish
Soviet Russia as the chief trading nation in the area. Recently when Mr Safronov. the first Russian Ambassador in the area, arrived in Singapore, he said:
Now our two people will know each other better and this will make our contact fruitful and permanent’.
Could he have had in mind, amongst other possibilities, that Singapore might in time become a Soviet Hong Kong? If we are to keep faith with the people of this region, if we are to maintain the ties on which our regional pacts are based and declare to our Asian neighbours that they are not to be abandoned by the Western world, we must maintain our forces in Malaysia. This is important. We must select trade and diplomatic representatives who will stimulate a mutual understanding and who will work continuously to bring a message loud and clear to these people that we genuinely regard them as people with whom we want friendship and the closest possible ties, which will produce peace and prosperity for us all.
So much for external influences. I tura to national matters closer to home, particularly those relating to my own electorate. Although it is obvious to all that as far as rural producers are concerned this is perhaps one of the most generous Budgets ever presented, there are a number of matters which require much closer examination and much greater consideration by the Government. Let me again bring before this House and the nation - because in the long run it will profoundly affect the overseas earnings of this nation - the cruel drought which has been inflicted on Queensland and which has particularly affected the courageous people whom I represent. A lot has been said here on this subject time and again. Some of the remarks have been made meaningfully and some have probably just been an act of flag flying. But to understand really what this drought means it is necessary to move around the stricken areas and meet those who are trying to survive - not only the grazier and the farmer but also the many others who are indirectly involved. I refer to the small businessmen, the shearers, railway men, station workers, council employees and the thousands of little people who are struggling to hold on until the rains come.
I am chairman of a small group of people who represent these areas, and it is interesting to note that each one of these men is himself either directly or indirectly sharing the effects of the drought. We have become the focal point for appeal after appeal stressing the urgency of assistance being made available - assistance which in many cases is required for survival of a handful of breeders or which in other cases is mere sustenance until planting can begin again.
I only wish that some area of my electorate was not so afflicted, but the area from the Gulf to Gayndah has long been suffering under the stress of this drought and there is no immediate prospect of its breaking. According to the Bureau of Meteorology there is a less than 10% change of any monthly fall exceeding 3 inches in inland areas until next November, and anything less than this would give little relief. I only hope to God that our people can survive. Of the State’s 112 shires 94 have been drought affected and as our country councils are in most cases the biggest employers of labour in rural areas a tragic unemployment position would have arisen without the special drought assistance given by the State and subsidised by this Government.
Some interesting figures were supplied recently by the Manager of the Agricultural Bank in Queensland, Mr J. F. Stratton. It is noteworthy that these were only up to the end of May last. Drought loans totalling $966,900 were approved for about 1,000 dairy farmers. Applications for drought loans were received from 47 grain growers and other primary producers for whom a total of $46,711 was approved. Graziers lodged 57 applications for assistance and received loans totalling $94,640. Though I do not have more recent figures, even from July 1968 up to the end of last April stock losses have been estimated at 26,600 cattle and 77,200 sheep worth about $lm, and the cost of feeding, by the way, over this period was $2.2m.
However, the tragic story does not end there. About 165,000 cattle and 522,000 sheep have been moved to agistment. The movement of both cattle and sheep to New South Wales for sale and agistment has been unbelievable. In the first 5 months of this year about 989,000 sheep and 24,500 cattle had passed through Cunnamulla, and 544,000 sheep and 158,600 cattle had passed through Goondiwindi. So 1 could go on giving more and more of these appalling statistics. I could relate the first hand information that I have of conditions in the central highlands where the usually prolific Peak Downs Shire has not one stalk of grain under cultivation, where the whole area is suffering an agricultural and grazing calamity. I could tell of our new settlers in the brigalow areas where two successive droughts have called out courageous qualities needed against this adversity. The graziers and farmers in the usually flourishing area from Theodore and Moura right through the Burnett Valley south beyond Gayndah must be given every possible assistance. They must survive or a great part of the economy of this nation will sicken. Whole rural areas are threatened.
Certain assistance has been provided. The Federal Government has approved a $1 for $1 subsidy up to $4m and outright grants up to approximately $9m. This is good, but I have passed on to the Government appeal after appeal for a subsidy on the price of wheat and other fodder commodities. Our drought committee has unanimously and continuously urged the Government to approve this measure. We have made our appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) direct. All so far has been without success although we are now informed that this particular project is receiving some consideration. I do hope that a favourable decision is forthcoming before very much longer. A desperate need for this nation if it is to avoid these drought losses of tens of millions of dollars, not to mention the personal tragedy to so many of our country people, is for a top level standing committee consisting of Federal and State Government representatives and practical men in the industry whose tremendous responsibility will be to rehabilitate this industry. Longterm, very low interest loans will have to be made available to meet the gigantic task of re-establishing the primary industries which have suffered. By the way, I must congratulate the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) who put this proposition in a very excellent form in his maiden speech. It will be like cleaning up after an earthquake - and believe me it has been and still is a calamity of equal proportions.
In addition to all this, so help me, action must be taken by such a committee or by the Government itself to plan and plan and plan against future droughts; and this means water. Not only must conservation be provided on a large scale but assistance must be given to people who are themselves prepared to install their own practical schemes for storing water and, of course, fodder. If this is not done then the rural vitality of our country will languish - and as history shows - so will the nation.
As if to compensate for the scourge of drought, we have seen in these same areas a dramatic development of the mining industry. Huge ore deposits have been found. Coal has been found in such abundance that new discoveries are becoming almost common place. We have Mt Isa Mines announcing that $100m will be spent to develop a massive ore body which has been described as ‘tens of millions of silverleadzinc ores’. It has been discovered only 13 miles north of the present town of Mt Isa. Development of these huge deposits will mean the end of Broken Hill’s 91 year era as the top silver, lead and zinc producer in the world. The headquarters of my electorate will become just that.
Then there are the fabulous deposits of phosphate rock in the Cloncurry area and north of Mt Isa, waiting to be eventually developed on a huge scale and the nickel deposits north of Charters Towers at Greenvale which could be worth $800m, and which should, and I most certainly hope will, lead to the development of Charters Towers and the introduction to this historic town of a new prosperity which is long overdue. It might be said that I am parochial about all of these towns, but I am not, because every one I have mentioned will contribute an unlimited amount of money to the Treasury of this nation.
Then we see emerging in Central Queensland, a development which has to be seen to be believed. Blackwater and Moura are rapidly growing into nourishing communities. Bluff and Theodore could soon see similar activity. Goonyella will be a new town. It is 142 miles south-west of Mackay, and in the area operators are nipping off over burden and signing multi-million dollar contracts with the steel-makers of Japan. So great wealth is being produced, which is of immense value to this nation. Though it is obvious that overseas capital and knowledge was perhaps required for much of this development, we all look forward to the day when these great projects will be handled to a much greater degree by our own people with our own capital.
Before I turn from the subject of the tremendous coal mining development in Central Queensland, I would like to urge the Federal Government to arrive at a decision as urgently as possible to assist the Queensland Government to build its giant $200m power house in this area. Unless a move is made very promptly, some gigantic industries could be lost to the State of Queensland. The point I would like to stress is that power can and will be produced on a basis which will make it economical for some giant industries to emerge. As I say, these giant industries will be lost to Queensland unless something is done very promptly.
In fact it is estimated and predicted that industrial power could be produced by 1975 at 242c a kilowatt hour, and this will to a great extent be made possible because unlimited quantities of cheap coal will be readily available. The Federal Government must realise that this is not a matter purely for the State of Queensland; it is a matter of immense importance to the national earnings of this nation. Let me illustrate the point. If the power is available, an aluminium plant could be established in the area. I am only using these figures for the example, because I do not know the price of a ton of alumina or aluminium, but alumina could be exported at $20 a ton, aluminium could be exported for $200 per ton and the extra earnings would be tremendous and accordingly the nation’s income would increase. So you can see what is in it for the Treasury of this nation.
Now let me deal with matters more intimately affecting this nation and my electorate of Kennedy. Although I refer more specifically to our rural areas, it must be remembered that the tempo of development and the vitality of our hinterland set the pace for the growth and prosperity of our cities. We are proud of them and we realise that urban development also assists our areas. For example, every extra million people in the State or in the nation means an additional $86m to the beef industry.
So we are not parochial, but we do want a fair go and intend to fight for it. We are producing tens of millions of dollars of wealth for this nation, and we demand our share of the pay-off.
The first thing I would like to say is that much has been done for our inland areas and I would be betraying my trust to the people I represent if I did not express on their behalf appreciation for what has been approved and granted in our areas. Again I am not being parochial in this matter; but I must quote the area I know best. Let us look at what has been granted. We have approval for television in many of the centres in my area - thirteen stations to be precise. A number of important centres have been overlooked and we shall clamour constantly until we have these centres included.
A total of $39m has been granted for beef roads. I think something like $30m of that has been granted for our roads in Kennedy. The Government granted $20m for the construction of the Fairbairn Dam, and what a tremendous contribution that will be to future drought mitigation and to the wholesale agricultural development of the central highlands. Airport improvements and construction costs have been well over $lm. An amount of $800,000 was spent on the Mount Isa airport alone. Grants have also been made for the Mount Isa Railway line. And so I could go on and mention the considerable benefits to our primary producers in this Budget - benefits which have been greatly appreciated by this hard pressed section of our people so drought afflicted.
However, I want to use what time is left to me to point out briefly some of the things that have not been done. The first matter I want to mention is certain aspects of the Postmaster-General’s Department services and charges in rural areas. Firstly I point out that we do not have any benefits such as subscriber trunk dialling, and we know that we have little chance of getting it But what we do ask for, and what we will continue to fight for, is a local call charge to the nearest major business centre. People on station properties and in small towns should be granted this concession; otherwise you frequently find that it costs 40c to order a loaf of bread costing 20c. This is one of our major objectives, but we seek many more reforms and improvements in this area of activity.
One of the greatest factors affecting the cost of living in inland and northern areas is the freight charges which influence the price of every service and commodity in remote areas. I urge the Federal Government to closely examine this problem with the object of providing some form of assistance which will permit State governments to reduce freight charges. This, I am sure, would be a major factor in halting the drift of population from the far flung areas of the nation. We must not forget that this very matter was stressed in no uncertain manner in the report of the Loder Committee, which was established by this Government.
There was much more I wanted to say, but time does not permit. I could point out the great need for greater consideration for people in remote areas in the matter of housing. I would press for a subsidy for air conditioners and so on. However, I must place on record my complete disappointment that once more our pensioners - aged, war, invalid and widow - who live in areas where the extra cost of living is recognised by industrial awards which grant northern and western allowances, have been denied such recognition. They receive no extra allowance whatsoever. I urge every pensioner in every remote area in Australia to press for this concession, and any member of Parliament worth his salt must solidly support them.
Finally I say that the term I have spent in this House has been most rewarding and, I suppose, pretty demanding. I represent a huge, challenging and exciting electorate. An electorate such as Kennedy does make demands. An area of 280,000 square miles takes some covering. But while I am wanted I would not swap it for any other electorate in Austrafia.
Debate (on motion by Mr Duthie) adjourned.
Friday, 22 August 1969
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Meat Industry Bill 1969.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1969.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
Tonight I wish to raise a matter for the Queensland Associated Cattlemen’s Cooperative Ltd and the Associated Motorists Co-operative Ltd. These organisations are spread throughout Queensland and I understand they are in certain areas of New South Wales. The aim of the organisations is generally to operate as a form of cooperative to provide consumer goods at reduced prices for their members. It has been claimed to me by a principal of the co-operatives that various organisations have applied pressure to try to destroy them. Indeed the people responsible for the cooperatives feel that their opponents are going to be successful. They feel that the opponents will be so successful that the co-operatives may be forced into bankruptcy. Of course, if the co-operatives go into bankruptcy so too will the principals of the organisations.
I have been supplied with a statement of the complaints of these people. I would like to read the statement to the House and then make some comments. The statement reads:
The Queensland Associated Cattlemen’s Cooperative Ltd has formed and registered approximately 700 small co-operatives in Queensland within 3 years. The main aim of the formation of these co-operatives was for the primary producer to try to offset his increased cost of production which threatens to wipe out all primary industries today. The reason for their rapid growth of these 700 groups in Queensland was that most of the co-operative members could purchase most items used on their properties at wholesale or manufactured prices. An example of the huge savings was that a 100 lb. drum of Asuntil Cattle Dip was retailing at approximately $586, in Brisbane at the time and if any of the wool houses or their agents made a retail sale then the profit on the drum of cattle dip was approximately $186, however if Australian estates made a retail sale of this product to the primary producer the profit on this one drum was approximately $240 because this company was the Queensland distributor for this product.
Members could purchase irrigation equipment at less 25%, tractors at less 10%, save $35 a ton on barbed wire, urea fertilizer was reduced from $89 a ton to $53 a ton, etc.
In November, 1967, the wool houses, stock and station agents, and retail traders became so alarmed at all the Queensland primary producers buying at wholesale prices that they brought pressure to bear on the Queensland Coalition Government to change the Co-operative’s Act in this State. The main purpose of this was to wipe out all the buying groups and take away this wholesale buying which had become the greatest means of offsetting cost of production and allowing primary producers to stay on the land.
News of this change in the Act heard on the ABC news network by primary producers caused them to send so many telegrams, phone calls and letters of protest to their Country Party members, that these members in turn immediately made the (Liberal) Minister for Justice, Dr Delamothe state there and then in the House that if anything should happen to the primary producers supplies or discounts that they should come running to him immediately as he had two methods at his disposal which would guarantee the supplies of the primary producers mutual buying groups which was to be the new name of these groups instead of being called co-operative societies.
Now one of the costliest rural items namely petrol and diesel fuel was still left to be obtained for these primary producer groups. To obtain any reduction on these items Alan Bawden the Chairman of the Queensland Associated Cattlemen’s Co-operative Ltd, said that the only way the primary producer could get a reduction of price in this commodity was to contract for large supplies of petrol in the city area where it could be distributed cheaply and so that this cheaper petrol could eventually flow on the country primary producer groups at an estimated saving oi approximately 5 cents a gallon.
This would mean setting up a motorist’s cooperative in the city where large quantities of petrol was sold at the greatest retail price. This was the greatest chance of success against the overseas oil combine as this represented their greatest area with the high margin of profit.
The Queensland Associated Motorists Cooperative Ltd, w.as then formed to purchase this petrol for the primary industry and to qualify for the best prices available they set up one service station in Brisbane and purchased petrol from various agents until the large quantity of petrol being sold attracted the attention of the oil company Amoco (Australia), who sent out two representatives to negotiate an agreement which was to sell super grade petrol to a company named Bawden’s Transport and Distributing Company. The price of the super grade petrol confirmed in the agreement was at the rate of 29 cents a gallon at the Amoco depot in Brisbane.
This petrol was to be resold through the Associated Motorists Co-operative Ltd, and Mutual Buying Groups throughout Queensland. Their representative assured Mr Alan Bawden that the signing of this contract by the Sydney Office of Amoco. (Australia) was only a formality and as soon as this was done, Bawdens Transport and Distributing Company could start buying at the rate of 29 cents a gallon for super grad« petrol.
In the meantime the Associated Motorists Cooperative Ltd, set up other service stations. However this agreement was never signed by Amoco’s Sydney head office. In the meantime Associated
Motorists bought petrol from other agents but eventually all the oil companies joined together and refused to supply the Associated Motorists Co-operative service station with any more petrol. In fact they warned the petrol trade that if any oil agent was caught supplying petrol or any other product into the Associated Motorists Co-operative service station site or trucks that they would be immediately put out of the oil business.
On a number of occasions this has been shown on T.V. stations in Brisbane, but the best example shown on these T.V. programmes was on Channel 2 Today Tonight’ when this programme filmed Mr Alan Bawden, Chairman of the Queensland Associated Cattlemen’s Co-operative Ltd, taking 2,000 dollars in cash into Brisbane Oil Company Offices, with Mr Graham Wilson from Channel 2 as witness, and Mr Alan Bawden asking for a tanker load of petrol for the Associated Motorists Co-operative Ltd service station and only to be told that the instructions were that they had no petrol to sell the Associated Motorists Co-operative Ltd. Mr Alan Bawden also is the Chairman of the Associated Motorists Co-operative Ltd, and appealed to the Justice Minister Dr Delamothe referring to his, Dr Delamothe’s, statement recorded in Hansard in December, 1967, that if anything should happen to the supplies of the Mutual Buying Groups that they should immediately come to him as he had two methods open to him to which he could have our supplies reinstated. This approach to Dr Delamothe’s office was approximately two months ago and we have now had our three service stations closed for approximately one month because of refusal of supplies and still the Queensland Coalition Government has made absolutely no move whatsover to have our supplies reinstated. In the meantime during the last six months attempting to get this petrol at a cheaper rate has incurred expenses amounting to approximately $25,000. The refusal to supply petrol and the closing of the service stations will mean that the Queensland Associated Cattlemen’s Co-operative Ltd will have to go into voluntary liquidation and this was the ultimate aim of the Queensland Coalition Government and the oil combines. Once they can wipe out the Queensland Associated Cattlemen’s Co-operative Ltd then all the other seven hundred Mutual Buying Groups in Queensland will be eliminated because they will have no central organising body capable of policing the huge margins of profits previously paid to primary producers and motorists in the past.
That is the end of the statement sent to me by a principal of this organisation. Clearly, if the statement is accurate, it seems that unfair and unjustifiable discrimination has been applied against this co-operative organisation. I sent telegrams to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) several weeks ago, drawing their attention to the claim of this organisation that unfair discrimination was being applied against it by the oil companies. I requested that an investigation be made to establish whether there were any Federal laws, particularly restrictive trade practice laws, which would protect this co-operative organisation from the oppressive tactics which, allegedly, are being adopted by the oil companies. To date I have received no reply to those telegrams.
If the evidence which has been put before me, and which I have read to the House, is correct, it would seem that unnecessary and unfair pressure is being applied against this organisation with the ultimate aim of destroying it. If the claims of the principals of this organisation are correct, it would seem that it is attempting to give a service to consumers at a better rate than is presently available on the market. On this basis I think there is justifiable reason for an official investigation into the activities of the oil companies for discriminating and apparently endeavouring to destroy this particular organisation; an investigation to establish whether there is any validity in the claims and whether there is need for any action.
– I wish to bring to the attention of honourable members what I consider to be an intrusion into politics by directors of some hospital and medical funds. I refer to an article in a publication, entitled ‘Comment on Australia’s National Health Scheme and Voluntary Health Insurance’ and is signed by an R. Turner who I assume is R. J. Turner, B.A., B.Sc., Chairman of the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia. Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) drew the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) to the fact that some of these funds were becoming political and he asked whether the Minister was prepared to give an assurance that subscribers’ funds would not be used to attack political parties which had ideas on health contrary to the policies of the funds which were created by the Government. The Minister was not piepared to give that assurance.
What concerns me is that notwithstanding the complaint lodged by the Leader of the Opposition the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia is indulging in politics. In this leaflet, which is dated 15th August 1969, is an article headed ‘Let’s Set the Record Straight’ in which sarcastic reference is made to informed comment in relation to the health scheme announced recently by the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference under which we propose to introduce a better scheme in the interests of all people in Australia. Yet because this scheme is not in the interests of the directors of these funds which have mushroomed over recent years since the Government created the present monstrosity of a health scheme we find sarcastic references to comments about the present voluntary health scheme. All I want to say is that anyone who has ideas that the present health scheme is voluntary must certainly have a distorted imagination, because I would not be a member of any of these hospital and medical funds if Commonwealth benefits were available from another source. It is only by the present system that the Government is able to blackmail people into becoming members of hospital and medical funds, because unless a person is a member of a registered fund he is not entitled to the Government benefit if he is unfortunate enough to require medical or hospital treatment.
If ever there was a scheme of compulsion, it is the scheme which has been introduced by the Government. So we find people like this Mr Turner, who is greatly concerned for the very lucrative position he holds because he can see it dwindling away and his having to seek employment elsewhere, becoming political. I would not care about his becoming political so long as he used his own money and not money contributed by subscribers to his fund. The worst feature is that contributors to these funds have no say in the administration of the funds. It is a most undemocratic procedure when people pay money into a fund and have no say about how that money shall be spent. A bureaucracy has been created by the manner in which these funds have been set up by the Government.
If the Government wants to do some good for the people, why does it not overcome some of the anomalies that exist in the present scheme? Let me provide an example of what is happening. A constituent drew to my attention recently the fact that his wife had had two operations for which he received an account for $160. One of the operations had the code number 51 25 for which the fund and Government benefits amounted to $78.75. An associated part of this operation had the code number 5060 and if performed separately would have returned S67.50 to the subscriber to the fund. In other words, for a total medical account of $160 he should receive, by way of reimbursement, $146.25. Honourable members are entitled to say: ‘That is not too bad.’ The catch is that the operation is performed in two parts, but the medical profession carries out the two operations at the one time because 5060 is a skin graft operation which is part and parcel of the whole operation.
According to procedures laid down by the funds, if the operations are performed on two separate days, the contributor receives the amounts which I have stated, namely, $78.75 for 5125 and $67.50 for 5060. In 99% of these operations the skin graft is carried out at the time of the major operation. The regulations of the funds require that the contributor to the fund can receive only one benefit and that is for 5125 because the two are claimed to be only one operation. But the doctor does not give one account for the 5125; he gives an account for the two operations. The result is that the contributor receives, by way of refund, $78.75 for the operation which costs $160. The ironic part is that, if the skin graft is carried out at a later hour of the day than when the major operation was carried out, the fund pays half of the refund on the second part of the operation. These are some of the anomalies which exist under the present health scheme. People like Mr Turner would be much better advised to do something about improving the scheme. If the scheme were a much better one than it is at present, I am sure the Labor Party would not be doing anything to upset it. Anomalies such as those to which I have referred tonight clearly indicate the need to clear up the whole scheme and to remove from the scheme people such as this man who is becoming so political at the time of an election.
Another matter that was brought to my attention as far as costs are concerned is this: A gentleman drew my attention to the fact that his son had to have an eye examination. The first consultation and examination cost $10, which returned him $4.20. A further examination cost $5. The refund was $3.40. All told the cost was $15, of which the refund totalled $7.60. In all, as honourable members can see from these figures, the cost to him was $7.40. The original intention of the scheme was not that people should have to pay such exorbitant amounts, but these are the anomalies which have crept into it. Glasses were prescribed as part of the treatment. The boy will not be required to wear glasses all the time but to follow part of the treatment he had to buy glasses. In normal circumstances glasses can cost anything from about $10 to $40, but in this case, because the man knew somebody in the optical field, he paid only a nominal fee for them. Notwithstanding that, he got $4 back. If the glasses had cost $20, $25 or even more he would have got only $4 back. These are some of the many anomalies which exist in the present health scheme. Mr Turner would be doing a lot more good for the people he should be representing, namely, the subscribers, if he were to straighten out some of these anomalies.
Another matter which I want to bring to the attention of honourable members is the position which exists in hospitals in New South Wales today. The previous system of hospitalisation, introduced by the Chifley Labor Government, of free public wards in hospitals, was done away with and a new scheme was introduced. I see that I have not time to go through these facts, so I will not waste time by going half way through them. I will deal with them on another occasion. The matter needs looking into and rectifying. When the scheme was first introduced in 1953, a tradesman in industry, with a wife and two children, with a total margin of $5.20, with allowances for paying off a home at the normal rate of repayment of $8 per week, $4 for his wife, $3 for the first child and $2 for the second child - a total allowance of $17 - had a surplus of $11.80 and was well and truly within the public ward range. But because the margin for a metal tradesman has been increased to $19.70 we find that if he is a married man with two children he is not entitled to public ward hospitalisation.
– I wish to comment briefly on the first matter raised by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and to expand on his remarks with regard to one particular anomaly in the health schedules. When two or more operations are performed at one operating session there is a limit of Commonwealth subsidy equal to the limit for each single operation which attracts the maximum benefit. In all other cases the Act allows 50% of the charge for a second procedure and 25% for each additional procedure at the one session. In other words it does not matter how many operations are performed; you can continue to add 25% of the charge for each additional procedure until you reach this ceiling. The starkness of this anomaly is apparent in the case of a man who has two or more extremely major procedures, each of which in itself would attract maximum benefit, and who is still paid for only one. This has happened to a man in my electorate. I have taken up his case with the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) through every kind of channel available. The only satisfaction I have had is the remark: ‘You have to draw the line somewhere otherwise you keep on adding procedures’.
– Where does the doctor draw the line?
– The doctor operates for 4 or 6 hours. If the patient is in an extremely critical condition the doctor looks after him for many hours following the operation. He may look after him for many months in the hospital, giving after-care. All this comes into the field supposed to be covered by the fee for the ordinary operation. If hardship is pleaded the doctor is unlikely to charge on any basis other than that normally applying to operations done at the same time - that is, full fee for the largest procedure, half fee for the next procedure and quarter fee for any subsequent procedures at the same session. There is no justification in this ceiling being applied. There is no justification because in every other case where special hardship occurs the Government has made special fund provisions or some other arrangements whereby the actuarial risk that the fund takes is taken over by the Commonwealth.
I appeal once more to the Minister to examine this anomaly and to recognise how outdated it is in view of the tendency of the Government to review exceptional charges and exceptional hardship.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.34 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The names of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives and the years of their attendance at meetings of the United Nations General Assembly are as set out below:
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A very small number of officers of the Department of External Affairs has left the Department since Australia’s military commitment in Viet-Nam was undertaken who may be said to have been formerly engaged in part in the interpretation of Asian Communist policies. I shall not attempt to give the reasons for their leaving the Department as that is a matter for each individual Like other officers of the Department they would have had normal channels of contact with the Minister according to the requirements of the work they were performing. After leaving the Department they would have had the same channels of contact as any private citizen.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has South Australia followed the other States in passing legislation complementary to the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963; if not, why not.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
South Australia has not yet passed any legislation complementary to the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963. I am not aware of the reason why no legislation has been passed in South Australia.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What have been the (a) dates and (b) results of discussions between the New South Wales State Planning Authority and the Department concerning airport development in (a) the southern part of Botany Bay and (b) the Wyong area since his answer to me on 21st November 1968 (Hansard, page 3215).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government has set up an Interdepartmental Committee to examine and report to the Government on the necessity for and suggested location of any additional airports which may be required to supplement Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport when the aircraft traffic there reaches saturation point.
This Committee is proceeding with its assignment but as it is a most complex task I do not expect that the report will reach the stage where it can be presented to the Government for a considerable time yet.
You may recall that in March I announced that due to the community noise problem involved in the operation of jet aircraft from the Towra Point area I had decided to direct the Interdepartmental Committee to exclude this site from its considerations. At the same time the Prime Minister announced that he was in agreement with this decision. In regard to the Wyong district, this is included in the areas which are to be investigated by the Committee.
Discussions have not taken place between my Department and the New South Wales State Planning Authority in regard to airport development in the southern part of Botany Bay or in the Wyong area since the Interdepartmental Committee was set up in December 1968.
Incident at Consulate-General of Yugoslavia (Question No. 1758)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– I assume that the honourable member’s question refers to the event which occurred at the Consulate-General of Yugoslavia in Sydney on 9th June 1969. If this is so, the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) 9th June, 1969.
and (3) The Yugoslav Embassy did protest, by formal Note, about the event of 9th June. It had earlier made representations about other incidents.
No particular person was referred to in connection with the event of 9th June. The Note inter alia offered certain observations on other and prior matters affecting Yugoslavian interests in Australia and said that terrorists found encouragement in certain things, including the publication of an alleged statement by the Right Hon. William McMahon on an earlier occasion and the fact that it had never been denied publicly. It had been explained to the Yugoslavian Embassy at the tune of the earlier incident - and this was noted orally by the Yugoslavian Embassy when presenting the Note of 9th June- that Mr McMahon’s alleged statement was not accurately presented and that he was in no way condoning acts of terrorism or violence.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Senators), the Vietnamese Ambassador, the Secretary of the Sub-Committee on the South Pacific Region of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the External Affairs Liaison Officer to the Joint Committee. The discussion consisted of an informal exchange of views on the situation in Vietnam and in the area. I understand that no comment on the Australian Government’s policies in South-East Asia was made by the Chairman of the Joint Committee.
Vietnam (Question No. 1789)
Or Everingham asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What countries, other than allies, has Australia contacted on Australian intiative to promote the objective of a just and lasting peace in VietNam.
What issues involved in this objective have been raised in these contacts.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question may be found in my reply to his question No. 1607.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The table below sets out details of the amount and form of assistance pledged to Indonesia by donor countries for 1969.
There are substantial pipelines of credit to Indonesia from the major donor countries. The pledges set out below are normally implemented in a number of individual agreements on projects and programmes which serve to add funds to the pipeline of aid inflow. It is not very significant, therefore, to nominate any particular date as the effective date of assistance by each country.
The United States of America has pledged to meet one-third of the non-food aid requirements of Indonesia for the calendar year 1969, and a fair share of the food aid requirements, subject to certain conditions. The $U.S.70m shown in the table as food aid is a minimum commitment and may be increased substantially. The figure for other assistance’ is also preliminary. Thus the total United States aid figure is only a tentative minimum commitment.
The International Agencies have not made formal pledges, but the I.B.R.D. has signed loans amounting to $U.S.28m for projects and an A.D.B. loan programme will be implemented this year. The U.N.D.P. is financing a survey at a cost of approximately $U.S.5m.
As some donors have not finalised their aid arrangements, the total of these pledges is not the final 1969 aid figure to Indonesia. In October 1968 the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia endorsed an estimate of Indonesia’s 1969 aid commitment requirements of $U.5.365m of programme and project aid plus $U.S.135m of food aid. Indications are that Indonesia’s requirements will be met.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Does Australia recognise the validity of the incorporation of Goa into India.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia recognises Indian sovereignty in Goa.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
In what circumstances does the holder of each type of Commonwealth scholarship retain his scholarship if he transfers to another State.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Holders of any type of Commonwealth scholarship may retain their scholarships on transfer from one State to another subject of course to being able to enrol in a similar course in the other State, Where no loss of status results from the transfer, that is, where in his new course the student is given credit for at least the same amount of work as he had completed before the transfer, payment of scholarship benefits continues without interruption. Where the transfer is accompanied by a loss of status, up to 1 year’s additional benefits may be provided to enable the scholar to regain status. Scholars transferring as a result of a move of the family home or for reasons such as illness in the family, would receive this form of support.
In the case of students holding Commonwealth Secondary scholarships, if transfer is accompanied by loss of status, scholarship benefits are interrupted while they regain status.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Proposed Railway between Canberra and Yass (Question No. 1703)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
By what percentage has interstate goods traffic increased since the standard gauge railway between Melbourne and Wodonga was introduced in January 1962.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Compared with interstate goods traffic figures foi the first 6 months following introduction in January 1962 of the standard gauge railway between Melbourne and Wodonga, figures for the 6 months ending 30 June 1969 represent an increase of 219%.
Commonwealth Railways: Safety Devices on Locomotives (Question No. 1705)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What safety devices are installed in Commonwealth Railways locomotives which were not installed in Victorian Railways locomotives at the time of the head-on crash at Violet Town.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth Railways main line locomotives are equipped with -
Either the Deadman Pedal which is designed to apply the brake unless the driver maintains the pedal in a depressed position, or
Vigilance Control devices which automatically apply the brake if the audible warning signal is not acknowledged within a specified time.
One locomotive is fitted with an alertor device, an electronic unit which operates on a fixed time cycle. With the equipment the brake is automatically applied if there is no response to the warning signal.
Victoria main Une locomotives, at the time of the Southern Aurora accident, were equipped with a Vigilance Control device which emitted an audible warning signal if not acknowledged in a specified time. Failure of the driver to acknowledge the warning signal did not result in an automatic application of the brake.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Overseas voyages made by vessels of the Australian National Line and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited during the financial year ended 30th June 1969 are as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What stage has been reached in the plans to establish an Australian shipping register.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Legal advice has been obtained in this matter, and consideration is now being given to the means through which a complete and legally effective system of registration of Australian ships can be achieved under Australian law.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What stage has been reached in the plans to establish nautical training institutions and programmes in Australia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Departmental studies of the need for a nautical academy in Australia, and the manner in which such an academy or other higher training facilities for mariners might be provided, are continuing. An officer of my Department is in Britain reading for a Master of Science degree in Maritime Studies at the University of Wales. A large part of his research work is on the subject of technological education of officers, and in the process be is contacting or visiting many organisations involved in maritime training in Britain and on the Continent, and is progressively sending much valuable information to the Department.
Action is at present being taken to establish a committee, representative of departments and other bodies concerned with training of mariners in Australia, to formulate proposals for consideration by the Government.
International Convention: Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Question No. 1710)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Western Australia - Prevention of Pollution of Waters by Oil Act Amendment Act 1967, 20 October 1967.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690821_reps_26_hor64/>.