26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– presented from forty two residents of the State of Queensland a petition showing that the Labrador tracker dogs currently being used by the Australian Army in Vietnam are not permitted to return to Australia.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives bring to the attention of the Government the need to return Army Labrador tracker dogs to Australia when they are no longer required in Vietnam and that quarantine costs be borne by the Army.
Petition received and read.
Mr WHITTORN presented a petition from certain residents of the State of Victoria showing that because of uncontrolled slaughter of kangaroos for commercial purposes Australia’s largest marsupial faces the danger of becoming extinct; as a tourist attraction the kangaroo is worth a limitless amount of revenue to this country; future generations have a right to see these unique animals live.
The petitioners pray that the Commonwealth Government places a complete ban on export and local sale of kangaroo meat and fur products; that a Commonwealth body to control kangaroos be formed immediately.
Petition received and read.
Mr WHITLAM presented from innumerable citizens of Australia a petition showing that due to higher living costs, including increasing charges for health services, most aged persons living on fixed incomes are suffering acute distress; Australia is the only English-speaking country in the world to retain a means test for aged pensioners and a number of European countries also have no means test; today’s aged persons have paid at least 7i% of their taxable incomes towards social services since the absorption of special social services taxation in income tax and continue to make such payments (74% of all taxable incomes for 1966-67 amounted to $783,082. 1 50 and this year will produce more than S800,000,000, more than sufficient to abolish the means test immediately); the middle income group, the most heavily taxed sector of the community, subsidises the tax commitment of the upper income bracket through the amount of social services contributions collected by the Government and not spent on the purposes for which they were imposed; tha abolition of the means test will give a boost to the economy by (1) additional tax revenue from pensions, (2) swelling of the work force and (3) increased spending by pensioners; it is considered just and right to allow people who have been frugal, have lived their lives with dignity and have been anything but an encumbrance on the nation, to maintain that dignity to the end of their lives free from fear of penury.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to abolish the means test for all people who have reached retiring age or who otherwise qualify for social service benefits or pensions.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Prime Minister “ a question. I refer to the extreme sacrifice imposed on young men through the system of conscripted military service leading for some to the ultimate sacrifice and for others to maiming and permanent disability. What sacrifices has the rest of the Australian community, especially business interests, been called upon to make in support of the Vietnam war, in view of the Government’s oft repeated claim that our national service trainees are in Vietnam to defend the socalled Australian way of life?
– Any country engaged in hostilities in any part of the world, as at present our forces are engaged, would be affected generally by the requirement to back up those hostilities and to use in that direction the resources of the country that otherwise might be used in some other way.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Has he received my strongly worded letter referring to the second seizure of the Nationalist Chinese fishing vessel ‘Fu Chi No. 1’? Has the Attorney-General any idea of the cost to the Australian public of the search which involved the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy? Will he now disregard the well meant assurances from the Ambassador of Nationalist China that the trespassing in Australian waters would cease? Will the Attorney-General do everything in his power to ensure that there will be no pussyfooting by the courts and that if those concerned are found guilty this contempt for our nation will be met with the maximum penalties under the Commonwealth Fisheries Act, including the permanent confiscation of the vessel?
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order, ls the honourable member in order in using the expression ‘ensure that there will be no pussyfooting by the courts’? Is this not a reflection on the judiciary?
-I have been called upon to interpret the term ‘pussyfooting’ on many occasions. In fact it is used in this House occasionally.
– My point is that these words are a reflection on the judiciary. Is any honourable member entitled under the Standing Orders to refer in such language to the judiciary?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I do not believe that the word ‘pussyfooting’ can be interpreted in the way suggested by the right honourable member.
– It is a fact that I have received a letter from the honourable member for Griffith and that it might be described as strongly worded. As my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, announced to the House on Tuesday, there was an arrest of the Chinese vessel by HMAS ‘Bayonet’. The vessel was said to be fishing about the West Melville Passage off the north coast of Queensland and within the 1 2-mile limit. The vessel was taken into Cairns. My information is that Commonwealth police officers and Crown Law officers are at present investigating the facts of the matter to determine whether charges should be laid against the captain and crew and possibly some action taken against the vessel. Penalties under the Commonwealth Fisheries Act range up to a fine of SI 0,000 and in some cases confiscation of the vessel.
This is the vessel which was brought into Thursday Island. On that occasion fines totalling $2,500 were imposed. So this is the second occasion - if there is an offence on this occasion - on which an offence has been committed by this vessel. However, I would not want to prejudge the issues involved. I assure the House that if the facts that are revealed indicate that action should be taken, action will be instituted. As to the question about the cost of this patrolling by the Air Force and the Navy, I do not know whether the honourable member wants to reduce the patrolling or to increase it. If it is to be increased costs will be increased. If it is to be reduced there will not be a supervision. So far as assurances of the Ambassador are concerned, it is clear that steps have been taken by the Government of Taiwan to prevent this sort of incident occurring. We have received assurances from that Government and I have no reason to suppose that its instructions have not been fully carried out. A country is not in all circumstances able to control the actions of individual nationals.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Has the Navy been preparing proposals for the construction of additional wharves on the eastern side of Garden Island naval base involving the reclamation of about 10 acres of Sydney Harbour? If so, how far have these proposals proceeded?
– The Navy has been considering proposals of this kind with regard to Garden Island and, indeed, all other dockyards under its control around Australia. This is one of many propositions at present under examination.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. What range of incomes will be examined in the review of income tax rates? Is there any truth in Press reports indicating that the review might be confined to incomes in excess of S100 a week?
– Replying to the second part of the question first, it is well known that the Treasury has for some time been engaged in an examination of taxation generally. I would like to make it clear that there has been no report whatever before the Government or, as far as I know, before the Treasurer, but certainly no report at all before the Government suggesting there would be no examination of income ranges below $100, as was quite falsely and without foundation published in one or two newspapers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Will the Government announce its decision on the Fill before the House rises next week? I remind the honourable gentleman that when the team led by the heads of the Department of Defence and the Department of Air left for the United States at the end of July he said that the Government would be able to make a decision in approximately 4 weeks. Can he also inform the House whether fault testing by Australian authorities is still proceeding? If it is, when will this aspect of the investigation be completed?
– I recall what was said about this matter when the investigation team was sent to the United States some weeks ago. The unhappy fact is that the fatigue testing programme being carried out in the United States is not geared to our parliamentary timetable or to the coming election. Nevertheless, I am certain that an announcement of some importance will be made, either by the Prime Minister or me, before the Parliament rises.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Since Parliament will soon be dissolved and a new parliament will come into being, will the Prime Minister consider contributing to the fresh start by appointing a select committee of both Houses of Parliament with the object of examining, firstly, the level of understanding and knowledge of members in both Houses of issues on which they are required to cast a vote; secondly, whether the nineteenth century techniques of communicating information to members of Parliament are adequate in the present circumstances; thirdly, whether there would be merit in the institution of a routine programme or scheme which would entail the engagement of independent expert specialists to lecture to, and discuss with, those members of Parliament who wish to avail themselves of this programme those important and involved matters of economics, international relations, law, defence and education upon which members are required to cast their votes; and finally, the degree of interest and participation that such a programme would attract from members of both Houses?
– I would suggest that the question at least verges on a question asking about a matter of policy, but in any case it clearly, as a result of the preamble to it, is directed towards the new Parliament when it assembles, and I suggest to the honourable member that he might bring it to our attention after 25th October when we have won the election.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that for some time now something of a blitz has been waged by the Taxation Branch against taxpayers who fail to declare in their returns interest income which they have earned on deposits with building societies, fixed deposits, investment in finance companies and the like? Is the Treasurer aware that the income tax return form S which millions of salary and wage earners use calls only for the inclusion of interest from savings bank deposits and government loans and is a trap for the uninitiated or the lowly educated who use it? Does the Treasurer know that the Commissioner of Taxation, having caught up with these people, not only goes back through the years and compiles amended returns but also adds a 10% penalty for alleged tax avoidance? Will the right honourable gentleman do something to improve form
S so that the ordinary taxpayer will be clearly able to see what his future obligations are, and at the same time request the Commissioner of Taxation to refrain from adding penalties to assessments in the circumstances I have outlined?
– I will draw to the attention of the Commissioner of Taxation the honourable member’s question with reference to the income tax return form S. Also I will submit to the Commissioner the honourable member’s request that he act in a conservative manner when imposing fines in the circumstances he has mentioned.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to an assertion that $1 in every $4 at the disposal of voluntary health insurance funds is used in administration expenses? Is there any substance in the assertion or is this another example of political enthusiasm triumphing over an anxiety for accuracy?
– I raise a point of order. An honourable member who asks a question is required to verify any statement upon which he bases the question. It is quite clear that the honourable member for Grey purports to base his question on a statement made by me. The statement cannot be verified by the honourable member. I have asserted that $1 in every $4 which the health insurance funds receive by way of contributions is absorbed in reserves and administrative expenses.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is now going beyond the bounds of the point of order. The Chair is not in a position to gauge where the information given by the honourable member comes from. This is not the function of the Chair. As the Leader of the Opposition was not mentioned in the question the Chair is not in a position to say that the Leader of the Opposition is concerned in this matter.
– In answer to the question
– Tell us about Duntroon.
-Order! The honourable member for Wills will cease interjecting.
– 1 will, if the honourable member is not careful. In answer to the question asked by the honourable gentleman from Grey I believe that it is fair to say - it is not I who have implicated the Leader of the Opposition; he has implicated himself - that the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to convey the impression that $1 in $4 in the health insurance scheme is used in administrative costs. The term he usually uses in discussing this matter is squandered’. Does the honourable gentleman deny having used the word squandered’? In fact, the administrative costs of the hospital funds - and I have provided this information to the honourable gentlemen in answer to questions - currently stand at 11% and for the medical funds at 15%, making an average of I2i%, which is not $1 in $4 but $1 in $8.
It is true also that the Leader of the Opposition uses the expression ‘used in administrative costs or retained*. He then on every occasion goes on to mention the administrative costs of the funds and thereby, I think it fair to say, he intends to convey the impression that $1 in $4 is used in administration. If he does include reserves in this blanket statement about $1 in $4. this is utterly unjustified in this context. These funds are not lost to contributors. They belong to contributors and are being used continuously for the benefit of contributors.
At least three examples are given in the annual report of the Director-General of Health for this financial year which show that considerable improvements in benefits to contributors had been achieved during the previous financial year as a result of applying reserves to the contributor’s benefit, that is, increasing benefits without increasing contributions. So, to suggest that reserves can be thrown in with administrative costs, to put them in one blanket parcel, to talk about them as being squandered and to describe this as involving $1 in every $4 is a complete and utter misrepresentation.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that Australia has produced a number of very outstanding women in the legal profession, including a South Australian Supreme Court Judge? Is it a fact also that South Australia has produced many other distinguished jurists but that no South Australian has ever been invited to sit on the High Court bench? Is it true that, although the High Court is a court of appeal from decisions of the repective supreme courts, appointments to the High Court are almost invariably - not always, but almost invariably - drawn from New South Wales or Victoria? If these are facts, will be AttorneyGeneral recognise the important role played by women in the legal profession of Australia and at the same time give due regard to the rights of the smaller States in the Commonwealth by appointing to the present vacancy on the High Court of Australia that eminent and most distinguished judge of the South Australian Supreme Court, Justice Roma Mitchell?
– I am aware of the part which some women play in the law, not only in South Australia but in other States. I think they are increasingly taking an active part in the legal profession which is, perhaps, one of the last professions they have attacked. I know and have a very high regard for the particular justice whom the honourable member for Hindmarsh has mentioned, Justice Roma Mitchell. However, according to reports, it is not quite correct to say that nobody from South Australia has ever been invited to go on the bench of the High Court of Australia. In the early days an invitation was issued but was refused. It is a fact that no South Australian has sat on the High Court bench.
These appointments necessarily are made on the basis, so far as one can judge, of suitability and merit. The positions are very few in number; they total seven. The High Court determines major matters not only of general law but also relating to the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Therefore there is this extreme emphasis on merit in making appointments to that bench. Naturally I shall take notice of what the honourable member has said.
– My question also is addressed to the Attorney-General. Has the Minister heard of the decision by the Commonwealth Government to provide all schools in Australia with photocopying machines as part of the library grants? Has the honourable gentleman heard the opinion expressed that school teachers would be in breach of copyright laws if they copied portions of books or magazines to help students with their studies? As this will affect schools all over Australia will he advise the House whether such action would represent a breach of the copyright law?
– Under the Copyright Act we do give to a person who creates a book or literary work the sole right to reproduce that work. It is true that in a number of cases we have cut down that basic right. There is an entire division, starting at section 48 of the Act, which deals with the rights of libraries to copy works without breaching the copyright. We have not given any general exemption from copyright to schools to enable them to copy. But we have made some inroads. For example, under section 28 there can be a public performance in a school for the purpose of instruction, if it is not done for profit, without breaching the performing right. Under section 40 there is a right to copy for the purpose of private research or study. So a student can be given part of a book for the purpose of private study, the compilation of an essay, or something of that kind.
What we have not done so far is to permit a school to purchase one text book and then to reproduce it, or substantial parts of it, for use in a class of 20 or 30. If it is thought that that ought to be done, then it ought to be recognised that the whole basis of copyright is to encourage creative artists, not only in the literary field but in other fields. The returns they get are little enough at the present time. The Government has had considerable representations directed to it to improve the law for the benefit of authors in order to encourage them. In addition to this I understand that one of the supporting - one of the more profitable - parts of the business of book publishers has been the publication of text books. Therefore substantial matters of policy would be involved in creating an exception which would prevent an author from taking the royalty on text books on which he has devoted his talents. This is a matter which no doubt can be considered. The invention of modern devices such as the Xerox copying machine has raised problems which are only now coming closely under consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. It is unusual for him to receive questions except from members from his own State.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will ask his question.
– 1 ask the Minister for Health whether he is satisfied with the accuracy of the written answer he gave me last Friday that in the financial year before last the registered health funds had increased their reserves by $17. 5m to $120m and that in the financial year before last the funds had devoted to operating expenses and reserves over $38m of the Si 60m they received in contributions. Have the funds in the last financial year increased their reserves to $140m and have they reduced the percentage of contributions devoted to reserves and operating expenses below the percentage operating in the year for which he gave me his prepared answer last Friday?
– If the honourable gentleman would like a detailed answer to the detailed question he has aked I suggest that he place the question on the notice paper and I will supply the information. In attempting to make a case for the destruction of the Australian voluntary health scheme the honourable gentleman has made great play on global figures, whether they be of administrative costs or reserves. These global figures can be very deceptive, and to make my point on this I would like to read an extract from the report of the Nimmo Committee which puts this matter in perspective. The following is set out at paragraph 12.12 of that report:
Although the reserves held by some of the organisations are substantial, the adjustments to contributions which would be likely if our proposal is adopted would be relatively small.
That proposal relates to the disbursement of a proportion of the reserves. The report continues:
Calculations made for the Committee indicate that few, if any, organisations will be able to make reductions exceeding ten cents a week. This illustrates that although (he question of reserve levels is an important one, it would be wrong to suggest that the policies adopted in setting aside reserves in the past have appreciably reduced the effectiveness of the scheme. A continuance of rising health costs seems inevitable and reserves held by organisations are of value to contributors in assisting a stabilisation of contribution rates. A reasonable policy for reserves being applied in this way should remove any significant problems in this area. 1 believe that that extract corrects the misrepresentations of the honourable gentleman and puts this matter in perspective.
– I address to the Treasurer a question concerning a decision of the High Court in the Hamersley case. I ask him: Would he concede that the decision ultimately will mean that a number of States will be severely curtailed in their Budgets? If the right honourable gentleman concedes that will he give an assurance that he will give sympathetic consideration to any proposal put to him by the State Premiers so affected?
– I have not yet had an opportunity of reading the judgment made in the recent case in the High Court of Australia concerning Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and therefore I cannot speak definitively about the effects of the decision. I have asked my Department to refer the judgment to the Crown Law Officers to see whether they can give us a report about it. Until that report is received I am unable to make any statement in the House. I hope it is not as serious as it appears to be but until I do see the report I would prefer not to make any comment at this moment.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport will be aware of the recent achievement of the United States icebreaker Manhattan’ in breaking through the Alaskan ice pack. Has the Australian Government any plans either to build or to acquire an icebreaker for service in Antarctica, for the Minister will be aware that Australia owns or controls some 50% of that area and every year it is necessary for us to bring in ships from overseas to carry out this work?
– I think that we are all aware of the remarkable achievement of the Manhattan* in sailing the North West passage and opening up a new commercial route to Alaska across the top end of the world. Northern hemisphere waters, as the honourable member would know probably better than any other member of this House, are more congested than the waters of the southern hemisphere and consequently the need to open up new sea lanes is greater there, lt is true that the Commonwealth Government has successively chartered tonnage to operate to the Australian Antarctic Base. At this stage this charter has enabled us adequately to service and provide the supplies and provisions to the base on a satisfactory basis. Of course, this is under the responsibility of one of my colleague Ministers in another place to whom I will refer the honourable gentleman’s question. At this stage there is not the same critical need for the establishment of some sort of throughways in the southern hemisphere and in the Southern Antarctic waters as there is in the north.
– Has the Minister foi Trade and Industry seen the booklet The Great Grains Scandal’ published by Mr Maxwell Newton? As the only scandal is in the nature of a scurrilous attack by Mr Newton on the Australian Country Party, does the Minister intend to make a statement dealing with the scurrilous allegation?
– I have seen the booklet. I do not know how I came by it. Perhaps Mr Newton sent it to me. I have skated through it. It is chock-a-block full of scurrilous and inaccurate statements and I have no intention whatever of devoting my time to following up Mr Newton to correct his scandalous and scurrilous attacks upon the wheat industry and upon the Australian Country Party. I notice that in the booklet he acknowledges the aid in its preparation of a Mr Jedlin, who is Chairman of Crest Mills Pty Ltd in Sydney. I think that just before the last election Mr Newton made another foray of this type in publishing a booklet, which I had to disclose he was responsible for, called The Great Dairy Hoax’. It was an attack upon the Country Party and the dairying industry. That publication was paid for by Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd and the same Mr Jedlin came out vigorously and publicly sup porting the scurrilous attack upon the dairying industry and the Country Party by Mr Newton and Marrickville.
The thing that is common to both of these incidents is that it is quite clear that those who are responsible for these publications have the same motive. 1 do not think that any honourable member or any thinking person would believe that Mr Newton, out of his own pocket and purporting to give information to people, produced the book, it has been paid for by some vested interests which have some sinister purpose and that purpose is, of course, common in the case of wheat and margarine - to try to destroy orderly marketing. If someone wants to destroy orderly marketing in Australia then obviously he has to destroy the Country Party, because it is the Country Party that has for 40 years fought to establish, in the interests of the farming community and as a contribution to the economic stability of this country, orderly marketing. The statute book of every Parliament in Australia carries the provision for orderly marketing. I think that any person who attempts to destroy orderly marketing will clearly be seen to be against the farming community and on the side of the speculator who, in the days before orderly marketing, made enormous fortunes while the farmers remained poor.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. 1 refer the honourable gentleman to evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee that $162,000 had been spent by the Navy on the purchase and conversion of two pleasure boats. According to the evidence, this was done despite a pre-acceptance report by a naval architect that the craft were unsuitable. I. ask the honourable gentleman: Was this purchase investigated by a court of inquiry? If so, what action was taken?
– In 1965 a need was established for two search and rescue vessels to be stationed at Jervis Bay. These vessels were needed to accompany HMAS Melbourne’ and be on station when aircraft were operating from her. The vessels were also needed when aircraft were flying from the naval air station at Nowra and for many other purposes. Because of the urgent requirement for vessels to carry out these functions it was decided to buy two Bertram launches to be used in an interim capacity for search and rescue work but later to be used as personnel boats in Sydney Harbour. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, this matter has been under close examination by the Public Accounts Committee. I have had a very close look at the position. I know the facts quite well and 1 am certain that there is no need for any public inquiry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the remarks of Mr John Grenville, Acting Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, following the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress last week when Mr Hawke was elected to the position of ACTU President? Has the Minister been informed of Mr Grenville’s assertion that he ‘saw the Australian trade union movement captured by a band of extremists, some of whom owe their allegiance to foreign powers and foreign political parties’? More importantly, has his attention been drawn to Mr Grenville’s allegation that the rules of secret ballot had been broken in voting at the Congress and that attempts were made to intimidate delegates and to scrutinise ballot papers before they were placed in the ballot box? In view of Mr Grenville’s statement ‘that the strongest group at the ACTU Congress believes in selling the Australian way of life to their Chinese or Russian masters’-
-Order! I think that the honourable gentleman should ask his question. He is going far beyond the bounds of seeking information.
– I ask: What steps does the Minister consider should be taken to protect the interests of Australian trade unionists in the conduct of ACTU affairs in the future? Does the Minister consider that there should be some control over the conduct of future ballots? Finally, does he consider that the ACTU should command the same respect now and in the future as it undoubtedly has enjoyed in the past?
– Some days ago a Press report about these remarks was brought to my attention. The secret ballot provisions do, of course, apply to organisations which are registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is not such a body.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. I thank him for directing my attention to the recommendations which the Nimmo Committee made 6 months ago concerning reserves. I ask him: What action has been taken, in the 6 months since he received the Nimmo Committee’s report, to reduce substantially the existing level of reserves, particularly those in the case of the larger funds’ reserves, to 3 months contributions?
– It is not my intention to engage in a form of Nimmo one-upmanship with the Leader of the Opposition. I thought that it would have been clear even to him that - as I have repeatedly pointed out - in a context in which the detailed and complex negotiations are proceeding in relation to the reconstruction of medical benefit tables to achieve a better return for the contributors, a decision regarding the reserves of the funds could be properly undertaken and properly carried out only in that context. That is what will happen.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it not true that the Government has given encouragement, by taxation concessions, to parents in respect of the birth of their children? Because of this, will he acknowledge a responsibility to assist couples who find that their family planning is dependent upon adoption? Will he inquire specifically regarding the provision of some assistance, by way of taxation concession, relative to adoption legal expenses which, in the case of one family in my electorate, have already amounted to some hundreds of dollars?
– I will approach, not only the Treasury but also the Commissioner of Taxation, as soon as the House rises and ask them to look at the problems that are raised by the two questions asked by the honourable gentleman. As soon as I can I will let him know the answer. But even if we did come to some favourable conclusion about the matter I do not think we would be able to take action during the life of this Parliament.
– I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the right honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. In last night’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ there is an article headed ‘Ansett “Out to Get MPs’”. The article states:
The former Opposition Leader, Mr Calwell, claimed today that Sir Reginald Ansett was trying to unseat two Liberal MHRs from Sydney.
Yesterday, Mr Speaker, as you will remember I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) whether his attention had been drawn to an allegation that this was happening. I did not make the claim or any allegation. The article in the ‘Herald’ referred to the Prime Minister’s reply as follows:
Mr Gorton called Mr Calwell’s allegations absurd’ . . .
I asked the question of the Prime Minister, believing that even in his busy life he would have been advised that it was not 1 who made the allegation but his devoted colleague the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman).
– .Order! The right honourable member cannot debate the matter.
– I am not debating it. I am only pointing out the facts. I, having pointed out the facts, hope that this newspaper, and all concerned, including the Prime Minister, will do me the justice of saying that, the position having been explained, I am absolved of any charge of making allegations against the knightly figure of Reginald Ansett.
– In response to the views put forward by the right honourable member, I am bound to say that the statement he has made as to where these matters originated and where they appear in Hansard are quite correct. I have checked up and it was the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) who first made this suggestion. I might per haps be permitted to add in relation to this that I still regard the suggestion as being most unlikely to be true. The honourable member for St George and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) are well known to this Parliament for the interest they have taken in trying to suppress aircraft noise and for the hard fight they have put up to ensure that the curfew remains in this area. I would not think that these were sufficient grounds for what has been suggested. For one thing, if it is true, the Labor candidates for these seats could only be supported by Sir Reginald Ansett if they had said, or he believed they would, fight for the lifting of the curfew and enable aircraft noise to continue.
– by leave - This is a joint statement that will be made by the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities (Senator Wright) in another place and by myself here. Recently in answer to a question on notice the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) indicated that a statement would be made in Parliament on the Government’s policy on the development of tourism in areas of significance to Aboriginals. Since our respective appointments as Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, we have been examining this question and other aspects of the involvement of Aboriginals in the tourist industry. We have consulted closely with the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and we have had the benefit of advice from the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, the Australian Tourist Commission and other interested authorities.
The Government has responsibility for the protection of Aboriginal sites and the development of tourism near such sites only in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. It is however interested in the problems as they affect the States, and has been in touch with the States about the protection of sites. From the tourism point of view the Government recognises that the rich traditional culture of the Aboriginal people is of great interest to many visitors - both domestic and overseas. Many vistors wish to see something of the Aboriginal way of life. However, only a handful of the Aboriginal citizens of Australia today live for even part of the time in their traditional manner, and most of these people live in remote and inaccessible places.
I must make it clear that it is not the intention of the Government to permit or encourage the presentation of Aboriginal Australians as ‘tourist attractions’, to be looked at and photographed as though they existed to satisfy the curiosity of other people. In all its consideration of the role of Aboriginals in the developing tourist industry the Government has considered the interests of the Aboriginal Australians first, and will respect their right to privacy ahead of the interests of the tourist industry or of tourists themselves. The Government recognises, however, that, particularly in outback areas of central Australia and to some extent in northern Australia, the tourist industry is, and will develop further as, an important source of livelihood for the residents. In many places the permanent resident population is predominantly Aboriginal and there could be material advantage for Aboriginal residents as well as for the industry in their greater involvement in the industry, as owners and operators of services for tourists, as producers of goods for sale to tourists, and as employees in the industry.
In any development of the iudustry within the Aboriginal reserves and in developments involving Aboriginal residents outside reserves, the Government considers it essential that nothing should be done without full consultation with, and the agreement of, the Aboriginal residents. Within the reserves in the Northern Territory no development of the industry will be permitted unless it is planned in consultation with the residents, with their consent and for their material benefit. Subject to these limitations the Government seeks to involve the Aboriginal communities in the development of any services for tourists and other visitors in or near the areas of those communities. It is envisaged that the funds available for th’e establishment of Aboriginal business enterprises from the Commonwealth Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises, the Northern Territory Aborigines Benefits Trust
Fund, and other sources will make it possible for Aboriginal communities to benefit from the development of tourism when they wish to and in ways which they decide.
Some Aboriginal communities are already involved to some extent in the tourist industry in central Australia and elsewhere. For example, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) recently approved a loan of $14,000 from the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund to a group of Aboriginals at the Jay Creek settlement to establish a refreshment kiosk at Standley Chasm, a popular tourist venue near Alice Springs. This loan will enable them to develop a refreshment and artifacts business under the guidance of an experienced manager. The enterprise will provide employment for a number of Aboriginals and the profits will go to the local Aboriginal community. The venture developed from a roadside refreshment service begun by the Aboriginals with the encouragement of officers of the Northern Territory Administration.
The Government is interested in encouraging the employment of Aboriginals as rangers in national parks and as guides at established tourist attractions. In some places they may be involved not only in the protection’ of paintings and engravings but in the active restoration and maintenance of paintings in the traditional way and with the approval of those interested in such sites. The Government has plans to encourage and help the development of Aboriginal performances by trained dancers organised on a professional basis. It will encourage the involvement of Aboriginal communities in the production and marketing of arts and craft work and is considering means of fostering the certification of genuine work of this kind by Aboriginals. Aboriginal groups and communities may be assisted towards participation in service industries such as motels and shops. Because there is great interest in the traditional Aboriginal way of life the Government is examining the possibility of encouraging the establishment, at suitable places, of museums and displays presenting aspects of the traditional culture, possibly entailing live performances of various kinds. It is proposed that Aboriginals should be closely involved in both the planning and the management of such centres and that displays should be integrated on a national basis so that there is a minimum of duplication.
One of the Government’s major concerns in relation to sites where there are rock paintings or engravings, stone arrangements and the like is to ensure their preservation. Where there are living Aboriginal people with a continuing concern for such sites, their interests must remain paramount. Under legislation in the Northern Territory it is possible to declare sites to be prohibited or prescribed areas, and action has been taken to identify and protect a number of sites in particular areas where they may be exposed to the risk of damage or interference. Many such sites, especially within reserves, are presently protected by their remoteness and difficulty of access. The Government is alive to the need to protect and preserve such sites both inside and outside reserves and to consider the interests of the Aboriginal people in any planning for tourist development near such places. 1 conclude by again stressing that the Government is concerned to protect Aboriginal antiquities from deliberate and accidental damage and to preserve the interests and respect the wishes of Aboriginal communities and individuals in the development of their participation in the tourist industry, lt is concerned to ensure that Aboriginals should secure the maximum material benefit from their participation in the industry in ways which enhance their status as Australian citizens with uniquely interesting cultural traditions.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to face up to its responsibilities to the wheat growers of Australia as evidenced by its refusal to provide an opportunity for the House to debate the critical and chaotic situation which has developed in the wheat industry.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– On 30th April last the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) revealed to the Parliament that the Australian wheat industry was facing an economic crisis. The Minister indicated that drastic action would be necessary to limit the production of wheat. Since that date the wheat situation has been sliding downhill at a faster and faster rate. The International Grains Arrangement has for all practical purposes collapsed and is certainly being ignored by the major exporting countries. On the domestic front chaos faces the growers in New South Wains and Victoria because of the refusal of the Federal and State governments to provide additional storages to handle nonquota wheat and the complete absence of any constructive policy on how surplus wheat is to be sold. The refusal of the Government to face up to its responsibilities for the disposal of non-quota wheat surpluses only accelerates the serious threat of widespread black market selling and a breakdown of orderly marketing under the Wheat Stabilisation Act.
Since 30th April the Government has refused to allow the Parliament to debate the wheat crisis indicated by the Minister for Primary Industry in his statement on 30th April. If there is one place where a wheat crisis in Australia should have been debated it was this national Parliament. On three occasions a ministerial statement has appeared on the blue business sheet, but on every occasion the debate was mysteriously delayed. Months ago it became patently obvious to the Opposition that the Government was ducking for cover and in no circumstances wanted a debate on wheat in the Parliament. On 22nd May 1 was forced to use the debate on the Appropriation Bill as the only means we had of raising the problem of the wheat crisis and advancing the Opposition’s views on this matter. When the Parliament resumed in August the wheat situation had deteriorated alarmingly both domestically and overseas, and in view of the great importance of wheat to Australia a debate on the wheat crisis should have been facilitated without further delay. But again the Government put its head in the sand and refused to allow a debate in this Parliament. On 14th August the Opposition was forced to use the Grievance Day debate, again as the only forum available for it to put forward its arguments on the wheat situation. Still the Government refused to initiate any debate on the wheat crisis.
The Minister for Primary Industry made numerous statements outside the Parliament but was always most careful not to make any in the Parliament. The same attitude was taken by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). Incredible as it may seem, but nevertheless true, the Leader of the Australian Country Party has not made one ministerial statement in this Parliament this year on the wheat crisis or on the International Grains Arrangment so that a debate could be facilitated. Is it any wonder that the wheat growers are completely fed up with the complacency of this Government? Last week the Parliament was again treated with contempt. The Minister for Primary Industry, in answer to a prearranged question, gave the Government’s attitude on the proposed reduction in the price of wheat for stock feed and industrial use. The Minister was careful not to make a ministerial statement in the Parliament on this matter because this would have been immediately answered by the Opposition or by other Government speakers.
The Government’s overall approach to the wheat crisis, as evidenced by its refusal to allow a debate on this most important and explosive issue in the Parliament, is a national disgrace. It reveals starkly to the wheat industry that the Government is contemptuous of the problems of the wheat grower, and such an attitude of complacency should be condemned by wheat growers throughout Australia. The Government has become so power drunk that it believes it is electorally invincible, even to the degree that it can treat the wheat crisis and the problems of the wheat grower with detached indifference. Its approach to the problem has been superficial and void of responsibility. Even though the Government has the large majority that it has in this Parliament such a display of what might be called arrogance is electorally dangerous.
The Government, by its reluctance to assist in the provision of additional storages and by its failure to assert initiative in this matter, is taking the view that the industry is to blame for the mess today and that it is up to the industry to salvage the wreck that could follow this mounting crisis. It should accept the responsibility. It has been the Federal Government which has been consistently urging wheat growers to expand production in order to earn valuable export income. The wheat growers have responded so magnificently and with such enthusiasm that tremendous increases in production have been generated, but as soon as the crisis of over-production became evident the Government not only attempted to pass the buck but refused to take the initiative, claiming that the industry must solve its own problems. This is an inexcusable and a defeatist attitude and should not be tolerated.
For 5 months the Opposition has maintained in this Parliament and outside that the domestic price of wheat is far too high. In view of the huge quantity of unsalable surpluses after 5 months we have consistently argued that wheat should be sold to stock owners at drastically reduced prices, and to facilitate such an arrangement the equivalent of a second pool should be established. The Government, again outside the Parliament, has tried to ridicule the proposals of the Australian Labor Party, but now we see the Government endorsing the principle of the Labor plan, which is one further example of what might be called pinching the policy of the Labor Party. The difference between Labor’s proposals and those of the Government is that the Government intends to sell wheat for stock feed at a fixed price of approximately $1.40 a bushel. The Opposition believes that in view of the magnitude of the surpluses this year feed wheat should be sold at flexible prices on the basis of demand and supply, even if the price of feed wheat is reduced to, say, $1 per bushel.
Whereas Labor believes that adequate storages are an urgent requirement to preserve orderly marketing, the Federal Government in its indifference to the wheat industry apparently believes that surplus non-quota wheat should be stored on farms. Much of this wheat will rot and will be destroyed by vermin. The Government’s policy of refusing to provide additional storages to handle the surplus of wheat in the forthcoming season shows how out of touch the Government is with the problems of wheatgrowers. The proposal of the Government to sell wheat for stock feed and industrial use at a fixed price of approximately $1.40 per bushel is doomed to failure because the control of sales at this fixed price of $1.40 per bushel can be achieved only if all surplus wheat is stored in silos under the jurisdiction of the Australian. Wheat Board. The proposal will not succeed if large quantities of wheat are stored on farms where it will be susceptible to quick deterioration.
As well, farmers will be tempted to sell on the black market to the first or to the highest bidder. Does the Government believe that farmers will wait patiently and perhaps patrioticly in the forlorn hope while their wheat rots or is destroyed that someone may come along in 6 months time and offer them $1.40 per bushel for that wheat? This type of Government thinking ignores elementary principles of supply and demand. It ignores the fact that the wheat fanner has become increasingly aware that the Government, through its refusal to assist in the provision of additional storages, has encouraged the wheat grower in effect to find a market himself for his surplus wheat.
The wheat crisis has occurred because farmers have been encouraged to grow wheat at relatively high prices compared with other forms of alternative land use. On 23rd October last, the Opposition warned the Government that the two price stabilisation scheme - that is, the relatively artificial high price on the domestic market of $1.71 per bushel compared with the lower price for the guaranteed export preportion - was wrong in principle. It was wrong because, relative to the returns from other primary industries, particularly wool, the fixed domestic price for wheat was too high. It could only help to swing more and more farmers into wheat production. This of course is what has happened. But the Government apparently remained oblivious to the impending crisis. I have many times in this Parliament urged the differential rate which is needed obviously to alleviate the great problems in the drought areas of Queensland. This also has had the cold shoulder.
Coarse grain and high yield feed grains have been ignored consistently by the Government despite their solid future, if one can take notice of the constructive advice from authorities such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations on the world markets for feed grain. Japan, China and Europe offer long term and large markets for feed grains. But, despite the danger signs which have been evident for the last few years, the Government has adopted a single minded policy to grow more wheat. The refusal of the Victorian Government to reduce the price of wheat for stock feed on the domestic market is nothing more than grandstanding in an attempt to blackmail the Government. Does the Victorian Government believe that anyone would be foolish enough to pay $1.71 per bushel for wheat in Victoria when wheat of a similar quality is selling at a price at least 30c per bushel lower officially in New South Wales and South Australia? Does the Victorian Government think that the Victorian farmer will sit idly by as his wheat is destroyed in makeshift storage and while farmers in New South Wales and South Australia are given the prerogative to sell their wheat at cheaper prices or on supply and demand principles? The Victorian farmer will panic and he will sell his wheat to the first or to the highest bidder.
Tt must be clear to all that the Government is guilty of gross irresponsibility in continually encouraging wheat production in Australia, despite technically sound warnings from the United States of America and Canada in particular in recent months. The Government has turned a blind eye to consistent warnings by its own economic advisers and those with some experience in the Australian wheat industry. As far back as 5 years ago the Federal Treasury warned of impending advice available and now Australia’s wheat and of the serious economic consequences that could follow with respect to our problems in this country. The short term opportunistic politics adopted by the Country Party triumphed over the best technical advice available and now Australia’s wheatfarmers and taxpayers as well as the Australian economy are paying a heavy price for this bungling and inepitude. The Government still refuses to admit its errors in judgment.
Passing the buck and blaming the wheatgrowers for the shambles in which the industry is today is no way for a responsible Government to act. Urgent storage space is needed at least to give wheat growers, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, the right to remain under an orderly marketing system. It does not matter what is said: The temptations are there; the panic measures are there. If a farmer is in debt - particularly if he is a farmer who has a small quota and has had a good year - he will sell his wheat to the first or to the highest bidder. The Government must accept responsibility for its errors. The subterfuge must end. This expensive crisis demands that the national Government take the initiative to solve the greatest single crisis in Australian agriculture since the depression days of at least 40 years ago.
– I am most grateful to the Opposition for giving me the opportunity to enter this debate today and to be able to refute some of the wild accusations that have been made by honourable members opposite on this subject. The Opposition talks about no opportunity being provided to discuss this matter which it says is concerned with a real national crisis. Problems and difficulties do exist in the wheat industry. But the Opposition says that no opportunity has been available to discuss the matter and that it has been refused the opportunity to debate it. This is the first time this year that the Opposition has seen fit to propose for discussion as a matter of urgency in this House the subject of wheat. The Opposition has not even brought this matter forward on the adjournment debate on any night this year. It has had the opportunity to do so. If honourable members look at the long list of questions asked of me during the course of the whole of this year they will find that merely a handful of questions have been asked of me on wheat.
We recall the great furphy the Opposition started last year about the wheat stabilisation scheme. Opposition members went around the country trying to sabotage it. When the debate on that matter came on in this House, how many Labor Party men rose to speak on it? One! Honourable members opposite should not say that no opportunity has been available to discuss this matter. A number of opportunities has been available and there is an opportunity this morning. It is a good opportunity for me and for my colleagues on this side of the House to say something on this subject.
The amusing part about this debate is that apparently when arrangements were being made to have this discussion of a matter of public importance the understanding was that endeavours would be made to try to avoid such a debate as this. So much business was before the House that the Opposition was hoping that there would be only one speaker from each side on the matter.
– But, we want a debate on this matter. We demanded three speakers. Three speakers from the Government have been nominated. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is the only Opposition member with a prepared speech. Other Opposition members will have to speak ad lib. I was told at 10 a.m. today that this matter would be brought forward for discussion. Obviously the honourable member for Dawson had been working for a few days on the speech that he delivered. What did the Opposition do on the last occasion when it wanted to debate this matter? It did not propose the discussion of a matter of public importance. The Opposition used the forms of the House during the grievance day debate to try to discuss the wheat industry as an urgent matter for consideration. Without informing the Government of its intention, the Opposition put forward four speakers with prepared speeches on wheat during that grievance day debate hoping that no reply would be forthcoming from the Government. Well, I got the message. I returned to the House and I think that I gave the Opposition a pretty salient sort of reply to its attack.
The Opposition talks about the Government not doing anything regarding this. Let me mention a few of the things that this Government has done for the wheat industry. We have worked with the wheat industry organisation and leaders to try to maintain stability in this great industry for the benefit of Australia and to protect the income of wheat growers throughout Australia, particularly the people with small holdings, by having an orderly delivery scheme to the silos this year. This was a scheme that the wheat growers themselves put up. As a result of their proposal the Commonwealth has agreed to provide a guarantee of S440m through the rural credit scheme. We have done this at a time when $220m will be outstanding on the first advance from last year. We managed to get all State governments to join with us and to agree to bring down legislation to implement a quota scheme so that all growers throughout Australia would have some chance of sharing the storage space and finance that would be available. If this scheme was not operative there would be a free-for-all in the wheat industry with the strong winning and the weak going under. This would mean suffering for the small farmers.
What has the Labor Party been doing in the last few months? It has been repudiating the industry’s own scheme. This strikes at the difference between a Socialist and a non-Socialist government. It reeks of the doctrinaire philosophies of the Socialists who believe they know how to run the primary industries of Australia better than the primary producers themselves. The Labor Party has been undermining the industry leaders. It has been undermining the quota scheme. But the Labor Party is not putting forward a workable alternative scheme. Its alternative could only be chaos, which would be disastrous for thousands of small wheat growers throughout this nation. The Labor Party has no alternative scheme. The industry leaders themselves have rejected Labor’s proposal and it would not be accepted by the State governments.
It might be of interest to wheat growers to know that the only power that the Commonwealth has in controlling wheat production and wheat prices in Australia is that piece of legislation which gives us control in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. All the power is vested in the States. The industry is controlled legislatively by complementary legislation supported by all State governments. The Australian Labor Party has the audacity to say that it has a scheme that will work. Its scheme will not work because Labor cannot get the support of the States or the support of the industry itself. The Labor Party wants the present scheme to break down. Its alternative would represent absolute chaos and ruin for hundreds of thousands of people in Australia who are in a difficult situation.
There is a world problem with wheat. There is an over-supply of wheat. We have to face up to this situation and make the most of it. Let me not hear anybody say that I have been running away from the responsibility. I have been facing up to the wheat growers; I have not been worrying about the Opposition because it does not know the wheat industry. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) rose in this House and asked me a question about whether there would be a debate on the No. 2 pool. There is no No. 2 pool. No-one on the Opposition side understands the wheat industry. I would rather discuss this subject with the wheat growers themselves. I held two meetings last week and I shall be holding another big meeting at Gunnedah tomorrow at which I hope 1,000 people will be present. I shall tell them what this Government is doing.
What have we done so far? We are making up to S660m available so that growers can get a first advance on their crops. Is that being niggardly? We are making storage space available to them through the Australian Wheat Board and the Grain Elevator Boards to provide storage this year for an additional 110 million bushels of wheat. Of course that will not be sufficient space to meet the over-quota wheat this year. This is a problem that I have been examining very closely in conjunction with the Wheat Board. I have been having regular discussions with the Board and State Ministers for Agriculture on how we can face up to this problem and to the surges of production that will take place in different parts of Australia.
The wheat industry itself holds a view about storage. Three weeks ago industry leaders met to discuss it and decided that they would not support the construction of additional storage space. They thought that construction of additional storage for another 1 10 million bushels this year would tend to over-capitalise the industry. Last week they met again. At the request of the Victorian and New South Wales representatives, because of the abnormal seasonal conditions prevailing in those States, the tremendous crop and the inadequate storage space available at the moment, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation recommended that it would support any individual Stale in a request for more money for storage provided that the cost of the additional storage was charged against that State and not against the wheat growers as a whole. If it were charged against all wheat growers throughout Australia it would mean that those who were trying to abide by the quota scheme would be charged for the additional storage space required for those people who ignored the scheme and provided over-quota wheat. The objective of the Wheat Growers Federation scheme was to dampen down wheat production a little, or not permit it to increase, by penalising people who over-produce. This scheme would have a dampening effect. It would not be fair to provide more and more storage space and then make the entire industry pay for it.
I have been examining this question very closely. I have now managed to come to an arrangement with the Australian Wheat Board about the construction of storage space for an additional 60 million bushels for those States that require it provided arrangements can be made with the Grain Elevator Boards. If this can be done I have been given an assurance that if the present crop estimates come forward it should be possible to deliver into storage by the middle of next year all over-quota wheat that is produced. Do not let me hear anybody say that this Government has been negligent, irresponsible or unsympathetic in regard to the Australian Wheat industry.
We brought down a stabilisation scheme last year which did involve alterations. But fundamentally the stabilisation scheme and the guarantee of 200 million bushels of export wheat represents a guaranteed return to Australian wheat growers worth in the vicinity of $2,000m over a period of 5 years, which is $400m more than the return under the previous stabilisation scheme. We have been negotiating with the wheat growers themselves and their industry organisation, the Australian Wheat Board, which handles and markets their wheat, on how to overcome the difficulties of illegal trading and interstate trading in wheat. There have been long and continuous discussions on this matter. We have not been telling the industry what ought to be done. We have been pointing out the problems and have been letting the growers make recommendations to us on how to face up to them.
By this system of continual consultation and mutual agreement the wheat growers have brought forward a proposal aimed at protecting the domestic market for wheat, particularly wheat used for human consumption, and at overcoming some of the difficulties that might crop up in relation to stock feed wheat and the industrial users of wheat.
When we look into the question of stock feed wheat we must never forget that lowering the price without consideration of the effect on other cereal industries could have disastrous results. This is particularly so in Queensland, the State from which the honourable member for Dawson comes. The Queensland Grain Growers Association has been very concerned because it represents large growers of sorghum, maize, oats and barley. The honourable member for Dawson seems to forget that those people exist. One thing that we must do now is strike a balance as to how low the price of feed wheat can go without having a disastrous effect on the coarse grains. We want to see people growing more coarse grain as an alternative to wheat. As I said, there is need for a balance. Just to go ahead and make statements without considered judgment or consultation with the people involved in these industries is to adopt what I have called the doctrinaire attitude of the Labor Party which thinks that it knows better than the primary producers themselves. It was on this ground that the Labor Party was tossed out of office in 1949. For 3 years they had been going around the countryside and telling the dairy farmers, the meat producers, the wheat and wool growers what was good for their industries. Those people got the message on what was good for their industry. They got the message all right; they changed the government, and we have been in office ever since. We have kept good relations with primary industry because of the policy that we have adopted of consultation with the industry.
The Labor Party should be served with the greatest indictment that it has ever received if it intends to .continue to pursue a policy of trying to undermine and break down the quota delivery arrangements now operating in the States. If these arrangements do not work at this stage of this season’s crop - and they will not work if the Opposition panics the wheat growers in Australia, and this seems to me to be what it is doing in the hope that it might get some electoral advantage - then the whole stabilisation scheme will break down because there is nothing to be put in its place. The people who will be hurt most if these delivery arrangements fail will be the small wheat growers who have been depending on wheatgrowing for a livelihood. Apparently the Labor Party will permit the big operators, the men who have been expanding rapidly over recent years and who have been able to survive the difficult periods, to take over the industry. I think it is shocking behaviour on the part of the Labor Party to carry on in this way and to make accusations in this House today that they have not had an opportunity to debate this matter.
– Honourable members do not often see the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in the mood he is in today. Like the rest of the members of the Liberal-Country Party coalition in this House he is a very worried man. Just recently a by-election was held in Gwydir and the Country Party majority of 9,000 went down to 2,000. The swing to Labour was 9%. The Government is trying to say that it has an answer to the problems of the wheat industry. The wheat growers do not think so. There is no better way of finding out what the wheat and wool growers think of this Government than to have a by-election. If it had not been for the probing of the Labor Party in this Parliament the Minister could not have made the statement that he did today because he has been a long way behind in what he has tried to do for the wheat growers up to this time. Why will not the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) speak in this debate today? He is an exmember of the Australian Wheat Board. He is a most knowledgeable man. He is a wheat grower. I was hoping that he would be one of the three Government speakers on this matter today, but he has not been chosen. I think this is most significant because the honourable member for Moore does not go all the way with what this Government is trying to do for the wheat industry. I have been waiting for him to speak on every occasion when this matter has come up but he has not yet spoken. I wonder whether he has been muzzled.
When compared with the present wheat crisis all other crises in Australia in the past pale into insignificance.
– Who wrote that?
– I wrote it myself. I am an ex-wheat-grower myself and I was growing wheat long before you fellows on the Country Party side were even thought of as members of this Parliament. This crowd in the corner thinks they are the only people who grow wheat or wool or butter. They are the greatest no-hopers I have ever known. Many of them are not farmers anyway.
– Order! I remind the honourable member for Wilmot that he should address his remarks to the Chair.
– The present crisis in the wheat industry involves 56,000 wheat growers. Wheat is Australia’s biggest primary industry next to wool, and the strength of our economy depends on the very existence of hundreds of Australian towns and districts. If the wheat farmer suffers an economic setback the business people in the country towns will immediately be impoverished, as well as all the machinery firms, superphosphate firms and all the other suppliers of primary goods and services.
The stabilisation of the wheat industry, introduced by the Chifley Labor Government, has brought this industry-
Mr Deputy Speaker, will you please keep the Country Party corner quiet?
-Order! I call the honourable member for Hume to order.
– I appeal to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to give me a go as I only have 10 minutes in which to speak in this debate.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Wilmot that if he continued with his speech he would save himself a lot of time.
– Tell us a bit more about wheat.
– The honourable member for Wimmera might not be here after the 25th October so I think he should keep quiet. The stabilisation of this industry introduced by the Chifley Government has brought this industry out of chaos, darkness, insecurity, and virtual slavery to the banks. I was growing wheat when the industry was completely in the hands of the banks in the early 1930’s. Until this present crisis, largely caused by over-production, the stability and security through fixed prices had encouraged other primary producers to come into the wheat growing industry, as well as many so-called primary producers generally known as Collins Street farmers or Sussex Street farmers who never before grew wheat. Those people have been attracted to the industry because of stabilisation and the guaranteed price. The people T refer to are real estate agents, doctors, lawyers and chemists who have come into the wheat growing industry, and in doing so they have aggravated the problem. These people are not wheat growers in the true sense of the word. Every wheat grower should be registered. Every farmer should be registered. The real wheat grower is being embarrassed and outdone by people trying to get taxation deductions by entering primary industry, and the wheat industry has suffered probably more than any other. Some of those wealthy people have bought up thousands of acres of land for wheat growing on an unrestricted basis as there is no restriction on acreage. They have aggravated this present problem enormously.
– Do you believe in restrictions?
– Of course I do not. There should be registration of growers in the same way as doctors, lawyers and dentists are registered. What wheat grower could ever get away with operating on people as a surgeon without first being registered? What wheat grower or primary producer could ever get away with setting up a dentist’s surgery without first being registered? There is a law against doing those sorts of things and there ought to be a law against dentists, doctors, estate agents and other business people entering the wheat industry.
The Government should play this game tough. If it is played tough against the farmer then it ought to be played tough against the business people who are trying to become farmers. Last year the wheat growers planted 20 million acres and produced 466 million bushels of wheat. The 12 million people in Australia took 60 million bushels for home consumption and nearly 400 million bushels were exported, earning Australia about $394m in overseas credit, and this of course was badly needed. Any injury to this industry hurts everybody right along the line because the whole economy of Australia is affected. Many wheat growers are concerned at the present time because there is no adequate provision for surplus wheat or over-quota wheat. They are concerned about the principle of the quota system because it is over a 5 or 6 year average, and the small grower is hit hardest. Also he is worried because he will not be able to keep up his commitments on the quota given to him by the quota committees in the States. This is another angle that is worrying them because their commitments go on just the same. Even though their income is reduced their commitments still go on. If the grower is to be cut down by his quota to a non-economic income for a period of 12 months then he and the people to whom he owes money will be in trouble. I think that the quota system definitely favours the big wheat grower as against the small wheat grower. There are more small wheat growers in Australia than there are big wheat growers in all States except perhaps Western Australia.
The Opposition believes that there should be more Commonwealth finance available to wheat growers for the construction of storage facilities on the farms. The ordinary wheat grower with a surplus of several thousand bushels of wheat that he cannot sell cannot be expected to supply these storage facilities himself. Storages should be supplied by the Commonwealth because this problem will continue during the next 2 or 3 years and perhaps longer. Storages on the farms would help meet the problem and it would not be a wasted investment. I admit that it might sound like a waste of money to spend S20m on storages in one year but this problem is going to be with us for the next 2 or 3 years. If we cannot sell all the wheat that is presently stored for the next 2 years it would not be an outrageous investment by the Government to build farm storages.
– There has been reference to over-production.
– Over-production in a starving world is not a sin. The sin is that we cannot distribute the surplus to the starving world. This is where our system breaks down - the capitalist system about which we talk. We can grow the goods, but we cannot distribute them.
– What is Russia doing?
– That has nothing to do with us at the moment. We do not believe that we should restrict acreages or limit production. We could have a sudden and widespread drought in Australia and we would need all the wheat that we could grow to maintain our home consumption and our export commitments. It is wrong to restrict acreages or production. It is unchristian in this starving world. It is up to the Government to find ways and means of tiding the wheat farmers over this critical period. More storage and other facilities are required to hold the over quota wheat that cannot be sold.
We are worried about the black marketing that could go on. If flour millers can buy wheat at 60c a bushel they will not pay $1.71 for it. What is the Government going to do to stop the flour millers from breaking down the system? If one miller starts buying black market wheat other millers will follow suit. Let there be no mistake about that. The growers are concerned that there could be a black market in wheat and that wheat could be bought and stored by the millers for use during the next 2 years. They would not have to buy the wheat that they normally buy from the growers. They could store enough black market wheat to last them for years.
– Could we get rice bubbles cheaper?
– We might, but I would sooner pay an economic price.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has shown clearly how bereft the Opposition is of any knowledge of the wheat industry. He talked about the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) not participating in this debate. Most, if not all, Country Party members would be pleased to take part in the debate. They would have made valuable contributions to it because they are well versed in the subject and understand it thoroughly. I am reminded of the great contributions that have been made by members of the Country Party. I mention those made by the honourable members for Wimmera (Mr King) and Riverina (Mr Armstrong). I could go right through the whole Party and every member I named could speak of the current problems with knowledge and understanding. This is understandable, because most of us have had experience in the industry and are still concerned with it. We know the problems because we are experiencing the problems, but members of the Labor Party know nothing about the situation. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who led for the Opposition, might have some smattering of knowledge of the sugar industry, but even so he has been opposed to the organisations in that industry and has promoted parochial issues from which he hopes to secure support from those who are offside with the sugar industry in his own area.
Regarding the criticism that has been made of the Government by the Opposition I refer to what the Senior VicePresident of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, Mr Les Price, has said. I am proud that he is a Queenslander and President of the Queensland counterpart of that organisation - the Queensland Grain Growers Association. He said:
My organisation accepts full responsibility in originally assessing the need for wheat quotas and it was at our request that the Federal and Slate governments recognised the correctness of our attitude in endeavouring to come to grips with the current situation involving a surplus to sales potential of at least 250 million bushels of wheat.
The man who made that statement has the confidence of the wheat growers of Australia. If honourable members want evidence of that, I can say that I have been at meetings where he has addressed wheat growers on this subject and 90% of the interested wheat growers present - and if they were not interested they would not have been there - supported the Australian Wheat Growers Federation on this matter. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has emphasised that the Government will continue to consult with our primary producer organisations which are as expert as any authority in this field.
The one thing that has emerged from this debate - if there is anything to be gained from the debate - is that primary producer organisations will get scant respect if ever Australia has the misfortune to have another Labor government in office, because the Labor Party is opposed to what the Australian Wheat Growers Federation has done and is opposed to primary producer organisations. In fact, it is opposed to all organisations. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is now at the table, has had a struggle with the Australian Workers’ Union. I think he is still struggling with that union and he has been doing so from the time he supported Pat Mackie at Mt Isa. We, on the Government side, realise only too well that the wheat industry is having troubles, but at the same time it is only fair to recall that the Minister for Primary Industry warned of this position long ago. Certainly the scheme that was introduced probably did not come into operation until after preparations were made for the crop, but in dealing with this situation let me remind the House that wheat growers do not get established in wheat production without considerable expenditure. It costs money and they have commitments. The Government and the Wheat Growers Federation had to consider the position that these people would be placed in if they cut production below a reasonable level.
In facing up to this situation regard must be had to the unpredictability of crop results. Back in 1964 the Food and Agriculture Organisation - and this was quoted by the honourable member for Dawson - did not predict any world shortage of wheat. Indeed, the contrary was the situation. In my own area it is not a surplus of grain that is worrying us but the lack of grain. This illustrates the difficulties of the problem. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) informs me that he expects to lose some 70% to 80% of his own crop through frost damage. I ask honourable members to imagine what the situation will be right across the northern part of New South Wales. In Queensland the latest prediction that I have is that wheat production will be less than half of the quota. This could happen right across Australia, because no one knows what the crops will be. If there had been less production on the world scene the Government would have been criticised for hamstringing the fanners and preventing them from growing sufficient grain to enable them to meet their commitments. The Government had to take the middle course. It was guided by the best advice it could get. It took advice and it worked in consultation with the experts. I suggest that we could not get further away from experts than those Opposition members who took part in the debate and may take part in it, unless it is the rest of the Opposition who will not take part in the debate. We could not possibly get further away from knowledgeable people in the industry than to go to the Opposition.
Mir Duthie - I can see a halo forming round your head.
– The honourable member would know because he is an expert in that field. But he certainly is not an expert in the field of wheat. The position is that the wheat growers recognise the efforts that have been made by this Government. They recognise the efforts that have been made by the Minister for Primary Industry. They recognise the efforts that have been made by the Minister for Trade and Industry. Right across this country one will hear these remarks being made. It is no fault of the Government that there is overproduction in the world. This is the root cause of our trouble but coupled with it are the very big yield of wheat in Australia last year and the prospect of a very big harvest this year. Unfortunately, as far as growers in my area at any Tate are concerned personally, the crop will not be as big, but it might be a good thing in respect of the storage of wheat in Australia.
A lot has been said about storage and two pools. The two-pool system that is advocated by the Labor Party would only encourage further production of wheat. What could be done with it? Would Labor members bring in a third and fourth pool next year because, if this production is to go on, it is a matter of coping with the surplus wheat as economically as possible. This problem is actuating the mind of the Government; it is actuating the mind of the Minister. They are. trying to find the best and most economical method of handling this surplus production, and certainly, they will do so. But the Labor Opposition does not have a clue as to how this could best be done. Members of the Labor Party talk about pools for the handling of wheat. Pools can be used in handling sugar. But it is a different proposition altogether in relation to wheat. Sugar has no relationship to wheat in regard to the handling and storage of the commodity. We do not have peaks and that sort of thing in wheat production.
– Tell us what sort of thing. We would like to know.
– The honourable member says he would like to know but it would take too long to tell him. The honourable member would not understand when I finished anyway. The Government has done its very best and has done a very good job in protecting the wheat growers of Australia under the most difficult conditions that the industry has ever faced. I am sure, from my own knowledge of wheat growers that they will appreciate what the Government has done. I sincerely hope that the wheat growers of this country have listened in to this debate which shows just how little knowledge the Labor Party has of these problems and how bereft it is of any ideas to handle it. The Labor Party just could not do anything about the problems facing the wheat industry. The one bright feature of the whole situation is that we have in charge of the wheat industry men such as the Minister for Trade and Industry who is also the Deputy Prime Minister. With these men and with the assistance of the weather, as far as our crops are concerned, I am quite certain that the wheat grower in Australia will come out of this problem quite well.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the last speech that I made on the subject of wheat - it was on 14th August - I forecast long before the date of the coming election was known that the election would be held on 25th October.
I said that the election would be held before the farmers had an opportunity of delivering their wheat and discovering the awful truth that there was no place to store their wheat and that this year, millions of bushels of wheat would be wasted and farmers would be ruined. That prediction proved to be true. An election is to be held on 25th October. It is to be held on this date because the Government is hoping that it can have the election over before the farmers deliver their wheat and discover just how bad the situation really is.
The situation is far worse than anyone realises. More farmers are going to face bankruptcy than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth. Can anyone dismiss the statements made just recently by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr Crawford, that the Government of that State is to give consideration to the reintroduction of a depression type moratorium? Can anyone dismiss the statement by the Moree business men that incomes in that area will be down by 40% and that there will be a tightening of credit? Can anyone dismiss the report of offers of 70c a bushel that are being made on the black market for wheat in northern New South Wales and that 60c is being offered for South Australian wheat and wheat grown in other parts of New South Wales? Can anyone dismiss as of no importance the fact that farmers are threatening to sell their surplus wheat on the black market in Victoria? Are these things that can be dismissed? Of course not. They can only be dismissed by a government and by a party that does not have any regard for wheat farmers.
The Australian Labor Party is not prepared to dismiss these matters. It is not prepared to say: ‘Let the farmers stew in their own juice’ as members of the Country Party are saying. The Labor Party is prepared to stand by the farmers as we did during the war years when our Party established the wheat stabilisation scheme. Just as in periods of great crisis when there is a war on, when there is a crisis in industry the people affected have always had to tura to Labor. The wheat farmers will find that they will have to turn to Labor this time, even though they might only do it temporarily. But the wheat farmers will have to turn to Labor because the Labor Party is the only party that will get the country out of a crisis whenever it is in a crisis. Who will say that there is no crisis in the wheat industry? Who will dare to stand up and say that wheat farmers are not facing the worst and most disastrous crisis of its long history? It is a crisis. Only the other day it was reported that it was expected in New South Wales that there would be a surplus of 100 million bushels over the quota in that State alone.
Where does the Government think that wheat farmers are going to store their surplus if it sits idly by and does nothing to try to sell the wheat abroad? The Government has never tried to help the drought stricken areas of Queensland and Western Australia by arranging for this surplus to be bought and used as stock feed. The Government is doing nothing. It is no wonder that Mr Grassby, who is the State member for the Riverina area, complained in the New South Wales Parliament last night about the situation. It is no wonder that Mr Grassby called out to the Commonwealth Government and the State Liberal Government to do something for the farmer, lt is a wonder that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) walked into the chamber today and said that he would be happy to discuss in the Parliament the wheat situation. The Minister did not look happy and he did not sound happy - not to me anyhow.
He went on to complain that the Labor Party had not put up any speakers on the subject. The Minister said that the Opposition had only one speaker. This was utter nonsense, as will be proved in a moment. I am now the third speaker from the Opposition side. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) desperately wanted to speak on this subject but he could not get in because he wanted particularly to follow the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen), who is at the table. The Leader of the Australian Country Party knows full well that the Leader of the Opposition would literally slaughter him in a debate on this subject if he were given the opportunity to do so. But what did the Government do? It limited to three the number of speakers on each side of the House. As a result, other Labor Party speakers such as the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), who has a speech prepared and wants to deliver it because he represents an area that has been affected, have been denied the opportunity of talking.
The only thing that 1 believe ought to be noted here is that when the Minister for Primary Industry rose to speak only 4 members of the Liberal Party bothered to listen to him. At least the Country Party was fairly well represented when the Minister spoke. But the best spokesman from the Country Party, namely the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), who is the only one who has been fighting the Government’s apathy, has been muzzled and nobbled, if anyone knows what that means. That is what has happened to him. He has not been allowed to speak; he has not been allowed to utter a word. The Leader of the Australian Country Party attacked Maxwell Newton for publishing a book called ‘The Great Grains Scandal’ and ‘How the Country Party’s Grains and Shipping Policies have Undermined the Prosperity of Australian Farmers . . . ‘. The book has such headings as: ‘The Country Party Versus Australia’ and ‘Country Party Sabotages Rural Industries’.
The Country Party is doing nothing at all to meet the present crisis. The Minister went on - as is usual when he has no argument to support his case - to deliver a tirade of abuse. There is no-one better at this than the present Leader of the Country Party. I will be sorry when he vacates the field, as he proposes to do next year. This will be a good time for him to get out. I congratulate the Minister on his timing because the Country Party is now in demise - it is finished. The Minister is going to leave the poor little fellow from Lismore, who spoke a moment ago, to carry the burden. What burdens he will have to carry. There will not be too many on his back because if the farmers have any brains they will throw the Country Party members out of office. No wonder the Liberals who are left in the chamber are smiling. No-one would like better than they to see the Australian Country Party members thrown out of Parliament except, I hope, the farmers themselves.
The Deputy Prime Minister then insinuated that the cost of the Maxwell Newton publication was met by Liberal Party members associated with the Basic Industries Group.
– 1 never said that.
– The honourable member did. I could see the honourable member looking at the Treasurer when he said it. He knew that you were directing your barbed shafts in his direction because he looked more embarrassed than you looked angry. There is no doubt about this. The reason why there is trouble in the wheat industry is that the Country Party talked farmers into the two-price system and then blamed them for accepting its advice when the advice proved to be so disastrous. T only wish I had more time to speak. 1 have only 24 minutes in which to make a speech which I could continue for 1 hour.
The present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has blamed the wheat growers themselves for their present position. The Government is to blame because it has failed to take full advantage of the markets overseas. Only the Commonwealth Government can pay bounties to an industry; only the Commonwealth Government can negotiate directly with other governments; only the Commonwealth Government can negotiate with the States for the passing of legislation for orderly marketing and for stabilisation of the industry. Yet honourable members opposite have the audacity to stand up in this chamber and blame the poor old wheat farmers for their present position. For what reason are the wheat farmers voting Country Party members into the Parliament? Why have they sent Country party representatives into the Parliament which has powers to make laws to protect them, when those representatives do absolutely nothing for them? ls it not time that these Country Party members were thrown out? Is it any wonder that the former General Secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, Mr Stott, has criticised the Government for not recognising mainland China and has asked, very logically, how on earth can Australia, if it has not got an embassy in mainland China, expect to compete with the other marketing countries which have embassies in mainland China and which have commercial attaches to push sales of their products. Other producing nations are selling their wheat to countries to which we should be selling our wheat. Some of these sellers are offering 3 years’ credit. But we do not think of offering 3 years’ credit to the countries which possibly would buy wheat from us. We hear the old hackneyed phrase that there is over-production. Honourable members should go to India and to many other places and see the millions of people who are starving and then say, if they honestly can, that there is overproduction. What is wrong is that we have not a government that will sell the wheat that is produced. Is it any wonder, therefore, that 1,000 farmers, meeting at Bendigo on Tuesday last, unanimously decided to oust the present Government. Is it any wonder that farmers everywhere are meeting and deciding to throw the Government out of office? Is it any wonder that farmers are beginning to remember that always in time of crisis the Labor Party is the best party to get this country out of difficulty? I have a letter from farmers in the Swan Hill area. I only wish that I had time to read out the devastating remarks that are made against the Government. Yet we have the Deputy Prime Minister spending taxpayers’ money in order to send out 70,000 letters to try to excuse his dismal failure as a negotiator.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– What a pity. I could have talked for another hour.
– With more time the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) might have said something. He said that in a time of crisis the wheat farmers turn to Labor. The plain history of the matter is that whenever Labor is in office and has a responsibility for wheat, wheat growers turn on Labor. In 1931, when Labor was in office the time before last, when the general election came Labor lost every wheat seat that it held. In 1949, when Labor was last turned out of office, it lost every wheat seat in Australia. The truth of the matter is that nothing which wheat farmers have suffered is as bad as a Labor Government, and they have accepted this as fact every time they have voted. That is the state of affairs. I do not want to take a great deal of time in dealing with the speech of the honourable member for Hindmarsh. He made the outrageous statement that the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who is absent from the chamber at the moment, desperately wanted to speak on this matter. The truth of the matter is that the Government Whip tells me that the Leader of the Opposition’s name was on the list of speakers as the second Opposition speaker, but that he removed his name and substituted the name of a Tasmanian, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), who has not a grain of wheat grown in his electorate - he has only green peas and apples grown in it - and who knows nothing about the wheat industry.
So the Labor Party desperately wanted a debate on wheat? I think there are nine Labor members in the chamber at the present time. 1 have been keeping count, and that is the maximum number of Labor members who have been in the chamber at any time during this debate. There is not one Labor member in the chamber at the present time who represents a wheat growing electorate. This is the measure of Labor’s interest in wheat. It is a phoney interest. Wheat growers have troubles, but the Labor Party has nothing to suggest in order to overcome those troubles. Members of the Labor Party spend their time attacking my Party. The Labor Party has shown its real interest in this matter, which is nil; it has shown its real knowledge of this matter, which is nil. It has given us a glimpse of its policy, out of the mouth of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), and 1 will have a word to say on that shortly. I wish that members of the Labor Party would tell the truth when dealing with this matter. Time and time again it is being alleged that the Country Party and the Government have urged wheat growers to grow more wheat. There is not a vestige of truth in that. It is our constant policy never to urge people as to how they should invest. Our policy is to set a climate for investment and to leave it to the people concerned to make their own decision.
The great classic example of a government appealing to wheat growers to grow more wheat was in 1930 when the Labor Prime Minister, Mr Scullin, appealed and appealed and appealed to wheat growers to grow more wheat in order to help Australia to overcome a balance of payments problem. What happened? Wheat growers responded to the appeal by that Labor Government. They grew the greatest quantity of wheat that had ever been grown. Labor promised them 4s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. They received ls. 8d. a bushel. That is why Labor was put out of office. The wheat growers of Australia have not forgotten this. We have never appealed to wheat growers to grow more wheat. We make our policies in constant consultation with the elected representatives of the wheat growers of Australia. This has always been our practice and our policy. The wheat stabilisation scheme was worked out in consultation with the growers’ organisations. The wheat growers’ organisations asked the Government for a home consumption price and for a guaranteed price for 200 million bushels of export wheat, and we gave that to them. An international grains agreement was desired by the wheat growers. I negotiated with them. I took their representatives to Geneva, London or Washington, or wherever necessary. The Country Party and the Government have no record of ever saying to wheat growers: ‘This is what is good for wheat growers.’ Our record is to call wheat growers in and to say: ‘What do you really need for your industry?’ There is a long record of our responding to growers’ requests and giving them what they want.
If there is a crisis regarding world marketing of wheat, what do I do? First, I go to the Australian Wheat Board - and practically all the executives of the State wheat growers organisations have members on the Board - and discuss with it what ought to be done to try to preserve the International Grains Arrangement. Australia has received a very good deal under the International Grains Arrangement and has received more than its historic share of the available world market compared with other member exporting countries in the agreement. The Government said to the growers: “This agreement will go bust if we continue to get a greater proportionate share than Canada and the United States. Do you people think we should go a little quiet?’ The Wheat Board said: ‘Yes’, and withheld two tenders that it had proposed to make. This is not instructing the wheat growers. This is allowing them to make their own decision. Our whole history has shown that we work in close consultation with the wheat growers. Whenever negotiations are conducted outside Australia, we take representatives of the wheat growers with us. Did Labor ever do that? No, it did not. Members of Labor governments stood up in the Parliament full of their doctrinaire principles, and announced what was good for the wheat growers.
Now we have a glimpse of Labor policy on wheat from this debate. The honourable member for Dawson, who is the principal speaker for the Labor Party on this matter, and therefore to be taken as expressing Labor’s policy, says something which is of tremendous importance to wheat growers. He says: ‘The home consumption price was set too high.’ The home consumption price is, as no man in this Parliament knows better than the honourable member does, the ascertained average cost of production. Labor has now said that the Australian wheat growers ought to feed their fellow Australians, who get the benefit of having their wages set by arbitration awards, at less than the cost of production. What a devastating and outrageous statement that is. The wheat growers will have their views on it. Of course, the average cost of production is not the same cost of production for every grower. It is less than the cost of production for perhaps half the growers; it is more than the cost of production for the other half. The most efficient growers are the big company growers who have come into the wheat industry. What Labor is saying is that we ought to have a home consumption price for wheat that is profitable to the big growers and unprofitable to the small growers. That is precisely Labor’s policy as it has been stated here today, and it is outrageous.
The spokesman for the Australian Labor Party, the honourable member for Dawson, says that the price has been set too high and the crisis was created by a swing from wool, which is unprofitable, to wheat, which is profitable. Therefore Labor reasons that the price of wheat ought not to be such as to make wheat growing more profitable than wool growing. This is the policy of Labor. It says that if wheat growing is not made as unprofitable as wool growing, we will get too much wheat. That is Labor’s policy and it can never escape from it. Wool is not sold at a constant price. It is sold at auction; the price goes up and down. Labor contends that the price of wheat should be tailored to that market. No-one has ever heard such an outrageous and intolerable statement
Labor’s spokesman is saying that it would be a good, sound economic principle to have a price for wheat that would make it profitable only to the great company growers and the very big growers and unprofitable to the smaller growers. His argument is that in this situation we would not have too much wheat. There may be economists with ice in their veins instead of blood who would defend this approach and say that it is right. But I thought the Australian Labor Party was supposed to stand for human beings rather than for economic considerations. Speaking for the Government and for the Australian Country Party, I am proud to say that our policy is to stand for human beings and not for the abstract doctrines of the economists which have been propounded to us here today. We will be found at every point to be in line with the requests of wheat grower organisations. My colleague has shown what has been done to make adequate storage available.
-Order! the Minister’s time has expired.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) claimed that I had stated that Labors policy sought a lower price for wheat in Australia. I set out the position clearly on 14th August. It is quite clear that what 1 said is that for surplus wheat above quota there should be a flexible price but for wheat for human consumption the wheat stabilisation price of $1.71 was acceptable.
Mr McEWEN (Murray- Minister for Trade and Industry) - I wish to make a personal explanation. The statement of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has the effect of misrepresenting me by alleging that I misrepresented him. The honourable member said today that the price of wheat had been set at too high a level and I say that the price of wheat has been set at the found average cost of production. Those are the two statements that have been made. He said that the cost of production is too high a price for wheat. That is Labor’s policy.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! I think the honourable member for Dawson is now reaching the stage of debating the issue. An honourable member who claims that he has been misrepresented is given an opportunity to explain how he has been misrepresented, but he cannot debate the subject matter. In this circumstance, the honourable member for Dawson explained previously how he had been misrepresented. The Minister for Trade and Industry gave the reason for his statement. My feeling at the moment is that this is getting fairly close to becoming a debate on a statement that was made by an honourable member during the course of a debate in this House.
Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot)- I have been misrepresented and I want to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) claimed that not one grain of wheat was grown in my electorate of Wilmot. I inform him that hundreds of thousands of bushels are grown there every year. We produce wheat up to 30 bags to the acre.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2 p.m.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 1406), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this Bill. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) stated in his second reading speech, the Bill is designed to foster the development of the fishing industry throughout Australia. The Bill gives effect to the principle adopted in respect of other major primary industries - wheat, wool, dairying, meat and tobacco - whereby the growers contribute by way of levy to a research fund and the Commonwealth matches the amounts so contributed. The fund is then applied to research of various kinds, including biological research and technical research. The research account which the Bill will establish will operate in a similar manner to the research accounts which operate in other primary industries, the one difference in the case of the fishing industry being that the Commonwealth will not be responsible for the collection of the levy. Arrangements have been made for the levy to be collected by the States. As a result of these arrangements we are today dealing with only one Bill instead of three Bills which usually come before us in matters of this kind.
The Bill is the result of continuous negotiations between the Minister for Primary Industry, his predecessor, and State Ministers responsible for fishing. For many years there has been no organised effort in fishing to direct research to the area or areas from which the greatest benefit to the industry will flow. The research account will support projects that will benefit the fishing industry throughout the Commonwealth. When I first read the draft Bill given to me I could not see any reference to the Northern Territory but, as the Minister stated in his second reading speech, the Bill will apply to fishing off the coast of the Northern Territory.
The principal avenues of research are outlined in clause 10 of the Bill. I assume that biological research will be directed in the main towards providing more information about fish stocks and the conservation of those stocks in various grounds around Australia. As the Minister has pointed out, this information will put Australia in a better bargaining position as regards international negotiations on fisheries. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
Coastal countries claiming exclusive jurisdiction over fisheries have a responsibility to manage and conserve the resources which they claim.
The definition of Australian waters and the question of jurisdiction over them are matters that give rise to some concern. The Opposition believes that every encouragement should be given to biological research into fishing resources in Australian waters. I suppose we saw the best example last year of lack of fundamental research and applied research in the fishing industry. I refer to incidents in the Gulf of Carpentaria. In this House we had major debates about the virtual invasion of the Gulf and of Barrier Reef waters by foreign vessels - mother ships as well as catcher ships. This year there has been very little activity of that kind that we know of and certainly very little in the Gulf. The principal reason for this lack of activity is that the great prawning grounds have failed, lt is in this area that our lack of fundamental and applied research is most pronounced.
We need more knowledge of the breeding habits of prawns - where they migrate; whether they stay in the muddied shallow waters; whether they go into deeper waters; what is their life cycle. This Bill will encourage research into all these matters and because of this will be of great interest to all and warmly welcomed by the fishing industry. There are many theories about what has happened to the prawns in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I am sure that many people would like to know the answers, particularly those who have lost a lot of money in outfitting refrigerated boats for prawn fishing. Constructive legislation of this kind will allow the States and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, as well as the universities, I presume, to carry out research in this field. There is a theory in the north that if you do not have a wet season and the coastal rivers do not flood, there will not be a lot of prawn activity off the mouths of the rivers. This hypothesis has certainly not been disproved this year because there has been a failure in the wet season and a failure of the prawns in the Gulf. Biological research in these areas will give us more reliable information about stocks.
A vexed question which is relevant to a discussion of this Bill concerns the waters in which research will be carried out. It must be assumed that under the Fisheries Act research may be carried out only in waters under Commonwealth or State jurisdiction. The controversial areas in Australia today are the Gulf of Carpentaria and the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. In these areas we have seen in recent days renewed poaching activity and even the arrest of a Nationalist Chinese vessel. From time to time in this House questions are asked and we have debates about whether Australia should assert control over the waters in these areas. The Opposition has made it clear that if we become a Labor government we will have no hesitation in asserting control for fishing purposes over the Gulf of Carpentaria waters and the Great Barrier Reef waters. That is different from territorial control. We would be prepared to argue our case if necessary in the higher international courts.
The principal reason why the Opposition believes that the Commonwealth jurisdiction should be extended to cover areas like the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef is that in the first instance the Gulf of Carpentaria is an indentation in our continent. Tt is off the shipping lanes and is an area which can be claimed, to a large degree, historically on behalf of Australia. Of course there is no question about Australia’s historical claim to the Barrier Reef waters. Because of the myriad of cays and reefs which are not submerged at high tide and the small islands the definition of Australian waters in the Barrier Reef area must cause great concern to the authorities, particularly to the Royal Australian Navy which recently had to catch a foreign fishing vessel off our coast. The Navy must have experienced great concern about just what are Australian waters and what are not, particularly outside the 3-mile limit in areas which are in close proximity to the high seas. There are even differences of opinion about the definition of ‘high seas’.
Professor O’Connell, who is recognised as an authority on international law as it applies to Australian coastal jurisdiction, has said that considering both the unresolved ambiguities in Federal and State practice on the control of waters and the mosaic of jurisdiction it is difficult to see how a fisherman arrested for an offence committed within a complex of reefs and cays could be successfully prosecuted under either legal system without the strictest hydrographical and surveying evidence as to the position with respect to his offence. What he says illustrates the great problem that faces Australian legislators, and those who implement legislation, with respect to the definition of the high seas and in determining which are State waters and which are Commonwealth waters. Of course, we must take notice of a recent decision handed down by the High Court of Australia.
-Order! The honourable member is getting away from the contents and the purposes of the Bill. The matter he is now discussing is outside the scope of the measure. I suggest that he come back to the Bill.
– My main concern is the statement the Minister made in his second reading speech about the jurisdiction over fisheries and waters. But 1 accept your ruling, Mr Speaker. I will get back to the Bill. The Opposition supports the measure. It believes that it is a constructive Bill and that it will give the fishing industry a status equivalent to that of other major industries in relation to research. The Bill contains improvements in regard to the collection of the levy and the administration of the levy when compared to Acts relating to other primary industries, lt is hoped that the fishing industry will not be starved of funds, because after all it is quite different from the beef industry, the wool industry or the dairy industry where a tangible product is available all the time. In these industries there is tangible land and capital, and one knows that given grass and water one can expand the production of animals. But fish are an unknown quantity. For this reason there has to be a great deal of research in this field, and this Bill makes provision for this research. The Opposition supports the Bill.
– At the start of his speech the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) made reference to the prawning grounds in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I think I am correct in reporting him as saying that there had been a falling off in the catch this season and that if more knowledge of the biological habits of the prawns had been available it probably would have been possible to make a more accurate estimate of why this had happened. A theory has been put forward that the lack of prawns in the Gulf this season was due to the lack of rain to flush them out of coastal rivers. I am happy to bring the honourable member for Dawson up to date, because it so happens that I was discussing this matter a day or two ago with my friend and colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). I asked him about this theory and he said that following rains in the catchment areas of the coastal rivers there have been substantial catches of prawns. Honourable members may remember that in recent weeks the Kailis factory in the Gulf country was burnt down. At the time it was burnt down it was estimated that all the storage capacity was full. It was estimated that the prawns in storage were worth about half a million dollars. Mr Kailis was considering at that time putting on an extra fourteen boats. In addition the Northern Meat Co. project on the Roper River is now handling extremely good catches.
– It has been doing so for months.
– My colleague tells me that it has been doing so for months. It seems that in this case we do have some specific proof that the rains are required in the coastal areas to get good catches of prawns. I am pleased to be able to tell the honourable member for Dawson that this industry is once more in a healthy state.
I think it would be true to say that for many years the fishing industry has been the Cinderella of Australian primary industries. Several concessions available to other primary producers have in the past not been available to fishermen, and a further substantial handicap has been the lack of any comprehensive research programme. I am delighted to see that the latter defect has now been remedied and I am certain that the research in due course will provide clear proof of the wisdom of this legislation. One of the Government’s greatest contributions to primary industry is the series of joint Government-industry research programmes financed half by the industry concerned and half by a matching grant from the Commonwealth Government. Quite apart from the direct benefit which comes from the research, these programmes are a valuable avenue of communication between industry and government, who both gain from a discussion of industry problems and a mutual exchange of ideas.
Until the introduction of this legislation the only funds available to the fishing industry for research purposes came from the operation of the Fishing Industry Act 1956, which established the Fisheries Development Trust Account on the proceeds of the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets. Over the years this trust account has been of great assistance to the industry, despite the very limited amount of finance available. For example, research projects on the prawn fishing industry to which 1 have just referred and on the tuna fishing industry in southern waters were initiated from this Fund. But its scope, as I have said, was very limited, with an annual expenditure of round about $50,000. When the new scheme proposed in the Bill is in full operation it is expected that a total of approximately $lm per annum will be provided - a sum more in keeping with the importance of the industry. Indeed, fishing is one of the fastest growing of Australian primary industries and in spite of the handicaps that I have mentioned earlier, it has made impressive progress in recent years. I was particularly glad to hear the Minister say in his second reading speech that extension services will be provided from the Trust Fund and that, in addition, economic and market studies will be carried out. The former is an absolute necessity if the full benefit of knowledge obtained as a result of research is to be passed onto the producer, while neglect of the latter could nullify the whole object of this legislation. lt is now apparent - and I cannot stress this too strongly - that market studies must be part and parcel of any proposal or scheme to increase primary production.
It is an unfortunate fact that some sections of the Australian fishing industry have not been able to achieve the benefits of economies of scale reached by other primary industries and by the fishing industry in other parts of the world. No doubts exist in my mind that a significant factor in this situation has been the special disability under which this industry has operated for so long. Let us hope that this Bill will usher in a new era for the fishermen of Australia. Tremendous fishing resources are now known to exist around the Australian coast. These are resources sufficient not only for our own needs but also for the development of a large export industry. Until now, these resources have not been fully exploited by local fishermen and, in fact, sometimes have been exploited by fishermen from other countries such as Japan and Russia.
If these operations by these foreign fishermen are carried out beyond the 12 mile limit, we can do nothing to stop them but at least we should be in a position to utilise the resources ourselves. It seems quite wrong that these resources practically on our doorstep should not have been exploited fully by a local industry. The research which will result from the passage of this Bill should enable a much more accurate assessment to be made of our fishing grounds and should lead to valuable recommendations on the fishing techniques and equipment needed to ensure the most profitable utilisation of our fishing resources by our fishermen.
In one important respect the Fund to be established under this Bill will differ from other industry research funds. In this Fund, the industry contribution will be spent in the State in which the money is raised while the matching contribution from the Commonwealth can either supplement such projects or initiate new ones. Therefore, all members of the industry will be reassured to know that the money that they contribute to the research fund will be spent in their own areas on their own problems. Therefore they can expect that the research will be of direct benefit to them and not merely of general benefit to the industry, however desirable that may be. I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this measure. I am confident that it will not only prove an excellent investment for the Government but also give a tremendous encouragement to the Australian fishing industry. I feel sure that it will not be long before both the country and the industry are experiencing the benefits from this legislation which is a further example of this Government’s determination to assist primary industry. J also congratulate the industry on its decision to make every effort by contributing to this Fund to help itself. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I do not wish to spend too much time on this matter because I know that we are dragging our anchor a little and that the House wishes to proceed with other business. But I wish to say to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) that I am very glad to see that he is carrying on from the good foundation that was laid down by the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) who held the portfolio before the present Minister. I am glad to sec that the Minister is so enthusiastic and is doing all that he can in this respect. The Minister spoke this morning about the headaches caused by the wheat industry. It will be only a few years before he will have greater headaches, if he is still Minister for Primary Industry, caused by the fishing industry than he has suffered from the wheat industry.
As most of us know, the globe consists of two-thirds water and one-third land mass. The big countries of the world are spreading out. They are spreading out fast. Only a few days ago, I returned from the United Kingdom by ship. I asked the captain of that ship to have me called every time a fishing vessel was sighted. I was up out of bed every night between Las Palmas and Australia. I saw a whole line of vessels fishing from that area to the area we reached the night before we arrived in Fremantle. I would say that the ratio of those fishing vessels was 4 Japanese to 1 Russian. When the ship reached latitude 42° south in the Roaring Forties where the old sailing ships liked to go, I saw that fishermen were fishing there and they were fishing as many as 20 at a time in one area. It will not be very long before we will have this extension of fishing to our area. These fishermen will be closer to us before we realise it.
I hope that something will be done to show our fishermen that they must use the latest gear and the latest type of craft if they want to catch fish on the same seals as people do who travel 800 miles from their homelands to catch fish and then take that catch back home. If we do not show greater interest in this industry, these foreign fishermen will have the excuse and will be able to say to us that we have not been very interested in the industry. I am glad to see that we are doing what we can and I am sure that we will do more.
While I was in England, I saw the plans of the new Russian factory-cum-scientific ship of 43,000 tons. It was due to be commissioned this month, I think. That ship will rove the world and act as a processing factory for catches by Russian fishing ships. We must do something like that. I know that it is silly to say that we must have a ship of 43,000 tons, but I agree with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that we must carry out more research, especially more biological research, keep records and do all that we can to improve this industry. I am gratified to know that recently the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation discovered krill in our southern waters, that it has been able to process this krill and make a very nutrient paste. We will find more things such as this as we delve into research connected with the fishing industry.
Australia has a very extensive continental shelf. I know that a problem confronting us is what rights we have over our continental shelf. This is debatable. The continental shelf is that part of the land which runs from the coastline to what is usually known as the 100 fathom line, which is now being called the 200 metre line. In respect of Australia, this area stretches in some places for a very long way. Some other countries have practically no continental shelf. For instance in respect of New Guinea which is a very mountainous area water can be 100 fathoms deep only 100 yards off shore.
I wish to put on record just how big our continental shelf is. The facts which I will give are contained on an Australian publication which is Map No. NMP/65/139. The continental shelf at Cape York runs for 100 miles east. Off Mackay, it extends 270 miles to the east. Off Byron Bay, it runs 25 miles east. Its closest point to the coast is at Narooma where the continental shelf extends 15 miles east. I have figures for all of the points around the Australian coast but I have not time to read them to the House. I turn to Tasmania. The continental shelf extends 22 miles east from Eddystone Point. The continental shelf extends 50 miles south-south-west of Cape Otway. It extends 30 miles south-south-west of Cape du Couedic. From Neptune Island the continental shelf extends 45 miles south-south-west. It runs 130 miles south of the head of the Great Australian Bight and extends 150 miles west of Port Hedland. It runs 240 miles northwest of the Ashmore Reef which Australia now owns legally. It is doubtful whether it is legal even to proclaim a 12-mile fishing limit. Some people say you should not sign these agreements stating that the high seas exist 3 miles beyond the territorial sea. According to some people the territorial sea is that sea which lies 3 miles off the coast. We have extended our territorial sea to 12 miles in order to help fishermen. I hope the day will come when the world will agree - if we keep on putting it forward this must happen - that the whole of the continental shelf must belong to the country which owns the adjacent land.
I remember what happened when we debated the legislation covering off-shore petroleum. The Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on the exploration and exploitation of the resources of the continental shelf had this to say:
Whereas in accordance with international law Australia as a coastal state has sovereign rights over the continental shelf beyond the limits of Australian territorial waters for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources . . .
I suppose that statement is legal. But surely exploiting the natural fishing resources should be taken into account. I suppose we would then become mixed up with all these rules about swimming fish and whether they belong to those waters or not.
If we want to hang on to these areas we must do something about them. We do not want our neighbours saying: ‘Why are you being so pig-headed and greedy? You object when we want to do something.’ The fishing industry has operated for far too long under the trial and error system. Most of the fishing craft in Australia were built in people’s back yards. I pay great tribute to the people of northern New South Wales who seem to be so capable in this respect. People up in the northern rivers area build wooden trawlers as a family job and when launched they sail them up to the Gulf and even round to Western Australia. We must look at the fishing industry more thoroughly. I think we should take the advice offered in evidence given to the Tariff Board, which is sitting at the present time. We must build ships and operate them under the same terms and conditions as the stern-type trawlers that come to Australia from other countries. We must subsidise the people who want this type of vessel. We have to build the vessels. We should help the fishing industry just as we help other industries. If we do not do so I think we will be in trouble.
I hope that the Minister will press ahead with this work. In my opinion he has done very well so far. I hope he will keep up his work because it is important. There is a world surplus of wheat at present but who knows that in 1 year or 2 years time people will be crying out for wheat. The same thing could happen in regard to fish products. The world is expanding so fast that once people come here from other countries to fish we wilt never be able to stop them. The Government had a fishery research vessel operating a few years ago but I think it was sold - rightly so - because work carried out in the Great Australian Bight proved to bc not as good as was expected. In 1912 the Commonwealth had a ship known as the ‘Endeavour’ operating in the Great Australian Bight. She fished there and reported that it was a very good fishing area. But about 10 years ago when we tried again it was found that there were not so many fish in the Bight. I do not know whether it was a bad season; I do not know what happened.
I have gained a feeling, by flying over the Great Australian Bight and going to some of the ports there, that it is a natural fishing area. We will have to do this research work and do it at a government level. We cannot operate like some of the big and rich countries but must start with properly equipped research vessels. It is of no good having an old schooner fitted out as a research vessel. We had one called the Derwent Hunter’, I think. It did a marvellous job. It was taken up to the north and the prawns were discovered. But we need something better - a vessel fitted out with the latest electronic equipment. It will cost a lot of money but we have to do this if we want to hang on to what we have. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I just wish to add a few words to what was said earlier by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in support of this Bill. I have been concerned for some considerable time about the haphazard and loose manner in which the fishing industry off the Australian coast has been conducted. The Australian industry has been subject to poaching and the intrusion of operators from other countries. This intrusion is becoming even more pronounced day by day. The Japanese, the Chinese and even the Russians travel thousands of miles to fish off the Australian coast.
Another thing that concerns me is the amount of fish that we import. Despite the fact that we have 12,000 miles of coastline. we are still importing about $40m worth of fish annually. Obviously there is a need for some research and some re-organisation of the industry. To date the industry has been confined almost to family boats which are operated by father and son or not much more. On the other hand, special shipbuilding industries are created overseas. Overseas there are fairly large shipyards which are able to build ships not of the magnitude of 100,000-ton, 200,000-ton or 300,000-ton tankers and bulk ships but mother ships and trawlers of the 1,200-ton to 1,500-ton category. These shipyards represent a substantial industry and they advertise throughout the world to push sales of those types of vessel.
We had the example last year of Russian ships trawling for prawns in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Fishing is a liassez-faire industry - everyone comes and goes as he pleases. These people pull the bottoms out of the rivers and seas. We have seen this happening for years in the Hunter River. For a short time fishermen who were dependent upon the prawning industry for their livelihood were able to get a reasonable income, but later the prawns they caught were only about I inch or li inches in length and they were not worth heading and shelling. The New South Wales Government had the sense to try to do something about this. It adopted the heavy handed idea of closing the river from 30th May to 30th December. The result was that in the 6 months that fishing was restricted the men involved in the industry could go away and try to obtain employment in some of the heavy industries in Newcastle. Those men were fortunate in being able to do this. Fishermen operating on more remote rivers in localities where there is no heavy industry could not do this. When the restriction on fishing in the Hunter River was lifted there was an immediate influx of up to 250 boats from all along the coast. Fishermen would flock there because they knew that for 4 or 5 weeks they would be able to fill a boat. The result was that the local fishermen were probably in more trouble than before. They were able to get a decent living out of the river beforehand but now 250 boats have to share the fish - probably 200 boats more than were operating previously.
These are things that the Department of Primary Industry, and the Government, should look into. I hope that the Government, under the provisions of this Bill, will endeavour to do something about estuary fish. When there is a run of fish in our rivers an unnecessary number of fish are killed. This in turn restricts spawning and the building up of the industry generally. To date no-one has been prepared to tackle this problem. I have been associated with fishermen ever since I was a young fellow. Whenever you talk to groups of fishermen about closing rivers they want to string you up to the nearest tree or mast, whichever is the most convenient. But if you speak privately to the individual fishermen every one of them who has any interest in his livelihood will tell you that the best thing that could happen would be for some authority to be set up under a fair and equitable system, with power to close rivers, carry out research into fishing and to ensure that there was a continual flow of fish, and not to have the present haphazard, higgledypiggledy type of system.
I want to quote an example of how men can get together and organise things. Tamboy is a fishing village at the mouth of the Myall River, where the river, which is only 14 miles long, runs into Myall Lake. The men who were interested in this river got together and, instead of having fights and wars between themselves - and they used to have some decent old fights - as to who was to get the No. 1 shot or the No. 2 shot - decided on what they call the auction. At 4 o’clock every afternoon in the season the auction is conducted amongst themselves with the names of the men on a board just as the horses’ names appear on a bookmaker’s betting board at Flemington or at Randwick. At this auction each name is called - Anthony, Jones, Swartz, Smith, Brown, Turner, Aston, Crean and so on - and they indicate individually when they want to take their turn. This is one example of where men in an industry were able to organise themselves to their mutual advantage and benefit, instead of fighting and squabbling over who was to have the No. 1 shot.
I hope that this Bill will bring about research and organisation in the fishing industry. If ever there has been an industry which needs organising it is the fishing industry. At times hundreds of tons of fish are caught and are tipped back into the sea - but unfortunately they are dead. On other occasions holes are dug in the beach and, after the roe has been taken, the fish are bulldozed into the hole and covered over. The fish roe is sold for a matter of one or two cents. It is of no use for honourable members to say that these things do not happen because I know that they do.
Not only should the catching of the fish be organised; there should also be organised marketing of the product so that money will be available to the men in this industry. Basically the fishing industry is not a rich one. It is an industry made up of poor men who have not sufficient financial resources to establish large chilling works in which to place and store the fish when there is a run and they are able to catch them in large quantities. The Government should make available the finance to set up these facilities, not only in the interests of the industry itself but also in the interests of the consumers. The situation existing at present is that when fish are plentiful the consumer does not get any great benefit. When there is a mullet run on the east coast of Australia on numerous occasions the fishermen receive a bill instead of a cheque from the co-operatives or fish markets: This just does not happen on one or more occasions, it happens frequently.
I ask honourable members to throw their minds back to when fish have been plentiful and to ask themselves how often they could buy fish at reasonable prices. When I refer to fish at a reasonable price I include mullet. Some people do not like mullet but the old hardened fishermen still like it. While the fishermen are receiving bills from the markets for the mullet that they have caught the public still has to pay anything up to 15c or 20c per lb for mullet in the shops. The fishermen do not get anything at all; they have to pay for the privilege of catching the fish and sending it to the markets. These are the types of things that should be fully investigated by the Government.
The Government or the Department of Primary Industry must be prepared to carry out much more research of Australian waters. Over 2 years ago the Russians had ships operating off the Australian coast. If the facts were known I suppose that Russia would know more about the fishing resources of Australia than we know, because they have had ships here in our waters over the years examining and studying the movement of fish off the Australian coast. I regret to say that Australia has not had the same inclination as the Russians in this field and it has not been able to achieve what the Russians have.
As to co-operation between countries, some time ago I made a speech by leave about a statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry and I pointed out what had taken place in the United States of America. There has been antagonism between America and the Soviet Union but they have buried their differences although they disagree politically. Those countries agreed that they should work together in the matter of fishing. The Russians had been operating off the east coast of America and they were killing the industry. It was a case of dog eat dog, each getting in for his cut and pulling out as much fish as he could without worrying about tomorrow. Eventually the Americans came to terms with the Soviet Union. The two countries got together and drew up an agreement. In the last 12 months they have been taking an agreed amount of fish out of the Atlantic Ocean and the Russians are allowed to operate in American waters. At the time there was a strong protest by American fishermen but they soon realised that it was in their interests that such an agreement should be negotiated and entered into between their country and the Soviet Union.
As I said, those two countries now work together in the fishing industry. The agreement reached by those two countries is somewhat similar to that which not so long ago this Government reached with Japan to phase Japanese fishermen off the coast of Australia. Personally I do not think that this is happening fast enough, and that they were given too much time in which to move out of our waters, but at least this is a step in the right direction. As to the Gulf of Carpentaria, the bottom at these waters has really been torn out by overseas prawners who have gone in and taken out as much as they could. This is only one example of the boom and bust industries throughout Australia, with people going in and pulling out fish or minerals with no thought for tomorrow.
On that basis I support the Bill now before the House. It is a progressive Bill. I hope it will operate in the interests of the industry. 1 hope that the people interested in the industry will be given full opportunity to express their opinions and that the Department of Primary Industry will cooperate with the fishermen. At the same time we must not forget the fellow on the end of the line, the consumer who is interested in a plentiful supply of fish at a fair and reasonable price. Our aim should be to eliminate completely the import of overseas fish. This can be achieved only by research and orderly marketing and by giving financial assistance to this very poor industry. It should be organised so that when there is a glut of fish it can be frozen and stored in the correct manner for distribution to the consumer and the producer at fair and reasonable prices.
– in reply - 1 can well imagine that the listening audience of Australia often despairs at the discussions that take place in the Parliament, the cut and thrust debates with each political Party putting individual Party points of view on how best to develop the welfare of Australia as a whole. Those people who have listened to the debate on the Bill now before the House must have been impressed by the constructive remarks that were made by the various speakers, the honourable members for Dawson (Dr Patterson), Corangamite (Mr Street), Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and Batman (Mr Benson). All honourable members who have spoken in this debate referred to the great need for the development of Australia’s fisheries resources. Australia has an enormous shoreline. We have an enormous continental shelf. It is obvious that people from other countries are coming in and exploiting some of these resources that we ought to be doing more about.
The Bill aims to make money available for research into the many aspects of marine life and how best to harvest marine life. The honourable member for Batman mentioned the need for quick developments. He spoke of what other countries are doing and are likely to do. I concur that these things will happen. Last week I made an oration in Adelaide during which I referred to some facts and figures that had been prepared for me by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics from information obtained from the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The information revealed that although the world population will double between 1960 and the year 2000 there is a capacity for the world to provide the grain that will be required. Indeed, most of it can be grown in the developing countries where fourfifths of the population explosion will take place. However, there is little hope of providing the necessary protein, particularly animal protein, that will be required. This will have to come from the use of grain for developing animal products or from making the best use of marine resources. This will require a five-fold increase in the production of protein. lt is obvious that more will take place in the development of our marine resources. Australia should be trying to keep abreast of the world in this respect. The Bill is somewhat unique in respect of industry research funds in that the Commonwealth will be contributing on a $1 for Si basis to the amount collected by the States. With other research funds we actually collect money under Commonwealth statute. A levy is imposed on the production of whatever commodity is involved, whether it is wool, wheat or meat, but because the fishing industry is so diverse with so many forms of production - prawns, abalone. scallops, lobsters and crayfish - which vary from State to State, each State feels that it is best placed to levy its own industry. In some cases this may be by way of licence fee, a fee on registration of processing plants or a levy on actual production. The money the States collect will be matched on a $1 for $1 basis. Honourable members - particularly the honourable member for Newcastle - have regretted that more has not been done in the fishing industry, but the tragedy is that the industry is so dispersed and fragmented with individuals operating on their own and not operating on a collective basis. They spend many hours on their own and their capacity to earn a living in one place varies according to the seasons. Their rate of income fluctuates according to seasonal conditions and fishing circumstances and there has been little opportunity to weld the industry on either a State basis or a national basis. What we have endeavoured to do over a period of time - my immediate predecessor also- :nas been to encourage the States to get their fishermen together on an industry level and then for the Commonwealth to get the States together on a national basis. We have reached the acme of this desire by bringing forward the Bill which, I believe, has great significance and which I hope will grow into greater significance as more money can be diverted to research purposes in developing this important industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Motion (by Mr Anthony) proposed:
That the Bill be read a third time.
– Will the Minister give an assurance to us nigger and bream fishermen that he will include in a weekly report information as to where the niggers and bream are biting, at what time and what bait they are taking?
– I shall be happy to do that, being a keen fisherman myself. 1 will even be prepared to go out with the honourable member for Newcastle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I present a report together with minutes of proceedings from the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, being a report that the Committee has been unable to complete its inquiry. .
Ordered that the report be printed.
Mr BOSMAN (St George)- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise which I have just presented explains that, in view of the wide scope of the inquiry, the large number of witnesses which the Committee still wishes to call and the need for greater evaluation of material already received, the Committee will not complete its final report before the impending dissolution of the House. The report recommends that the Committee be reconstituted in the new Parliament.
One of the problems with which the Committee has been faced, and will be faced, when making its final recommendations to Parliament is the dynamic character of the aircraft industry and its relationship to the community. The Committee is most anxious to avoid making recommendations which may unduly restrain or inhibit developments in airport and urban planning, and in the air transport industry generally. At the same time the Committee is mindful that human comfort and dignity in our towns and cities should not be sacrificed to aircraft noise. In order for this to be achieved, a thorough-going appreciation of all aspects of the industry as they affect, or are affected, by aircraft noise is essential. The Committee at this stage is not in possession of all the material’ necessary to exercise such judgment.
A disquieting feature revealed in evidence given by local government and State planning authority representatives, regarding town planning in areas affected or likely to be affected by aircraft noise, has been the lack of liaison between themselves and the Department of Civil Aviation. The need for establishment of guiding principles regarding siting and operational use of airports and the need for a joint approach to planning in areas influenced by aircraft noise is the subject of specific reference in the Report. The Committee believes that a significant contribution towards the progressive reduction or control of noise would be achieved by greater co-operation between airline operators, the Department of Civil Aviation and affected communities. At the local level there is need for easy contact with the Department of Civil Aviation in order that individuals may be informed on aircraft operations and the means being taken to reduce or control noise nuisance and there is some elaboration of this issue in the report.
The Committee believes that before it can come forward with recommendations regarding noise abatement procedure, aircraft operational procedures and the like, it will be necessary to establish acceptable limits of noise to which people and structures can be reasonably submitted. Measurement of noise levels and the correlation of human and other response to these noise levels and sound vibration have yet to be completed.
Expert and other evidence has not yet reached agreement on these standards. The Committee hopes that criteria will emerge from the evidence to be placed before it and from other research currently in hand around the world. These criteria will1 enable clear definition of the standards of guiding regulations covering the air transport industry and those associated with it. The Committee would like to draw attention to that part of the report dealing with the situation of Royal Australian Air Force personnel and their families exposed to aircraft noise.
There has been frequent reference to the use of the curfew as a noise abatement procedure. It is a defensive and protective device. It offends some sectors of the industry and some groups associated with it.
Whilst the Committee has not made specific reference to the curfew in its report it is felt that in the absence of adequate planning controls, contingent on the standards criteria referred to earlier, the curfew should remain on those airports now subject to this restriction at least until your Committee has further defined the situation and submitted its final report.
– by leave - I would like to pay a tribute to members of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise for the work that they have done. We will be very interested to study the report which the Committee has submitted. There is one assurance that I can give at the moment: No action will be taken to change the existing restrictions which apply until the final report of the Committee has been received and studied. Of course, our action will be dependent upon the recommendations that are made by the Committee at that time and other actions taken throughout the world. The matter will be reconsidered at that time.
I would merely like to reiterate what 1 have said before in the House, that in the foreseeable future the Government has no. intention of changing the present restrictions, in the next Parliament I will strongly support the establishment of a committee to carry on the good work of the present Committee and we will look forward to the time when the final report is submitted.
– by leave - Unlike the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) I find it a little difficult to commend the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise on its work because I am a member of that Committee. However, 1 believe that the Committee has attempted to work as a committee and tried to find some solution to the problem of aircraft noise. After the election the Opposition likewise will be supporting the retention of the Committee. We believe that the Committee should be charged with the responsibility of completing the report now before us. I am hopeful that when the report is completed the recommendations will be of value to those people who at present are subjected to intense noise which has created many and varied problems for them. I hope that the Committee will be able to come up with some recommendations that will be of value to the aircraft industry itself.
One of the recommendations in the current report deals with planning, lt is obvious to members of the Committee that there is a long overdue need for planning on State, local government and Federal levels with regard to the aircraft industry. The aircraft industry started off with .small single engine aircraft that did not create a noise nuisance. The noise made by those aircraft was probably no more than the buzzing of a mosquito or the noise nuisance of a fly. Aircraft have now grown into veritable monsters. They will become even greater monsters in the not too distant future. Aircraft today are causing a great amount of inconvenience and discomfort to people. Fortunately, the industry is attempting to overcome the noise problem. We have been told that the new Jumbo jet type of aircraft will not make any more noise than the present Boeing 707. Boeing 727, DC9 or BACIII type of aircraft. I think that all of us look forward with a great deal of interest and hope to the realisation of the forecasts of the manufacturer so that people will not be subjected to any greater noise discomfort than they are subjected 10 at present.
Airports have grown and unfortunately clear evidence has been given to members of the Committee that State planning authorities and local government authorities do not have any real appreciation of the need to plan the suburbs and districts surrounding airports. On one occasion a statement was made to the Committee that when the attention of a government department was drawn to the fact that it was building a technical college close to an airport - admittedly this was only a general aviation airport - the department allegedly told the Department of Civil Aviation to shift its airport. To me, such an attitude is ridiculous in the extreme. The people concerned could just not realise what was happening. I understand that the authorities are now spending thousands of dollars on the provision in the school of soundproofing in an attempt to deaden the noise. This technical college should not have been placed in the position it is in today. I feel that even in the Department of Civil Aviation there is not a real appreciation of the problems of noise. There is clear evidence that the Department has not gone out of its way to approach State planning authorities and other authorities and individuals to point out to them the problems that are associated with aircraft noise. For example, the Administration of Papua and New Guinea built a hospital at Lae.
– It was warned about this.
– I appreciate that - I was coming to that point. I thank the Minister for his interjection. The hospital was built right alongside of Lae airport. In other words, a road runs between the airport and the hospital. The Committee held discussions while it was in Lae in a building alongside the hospital. We regularly had to discontinue our deliberations and the evidence that was being given because we could not hear the witnesses above the noise of aircraft and a helicopter when taking off at different times from this airstrip. Although the Minister for Civil Aviation said that the Administration had been warned, I do not think that there is any real appreciation of the problems associated with aircraft noise. It was not sufficient for the Department of Civil Aviation to warn the Department of Health in New Guinea of this problem. I believe - and I am not saying this at this stage because circumstances have changed - that greater pressure should have been exerted on the Administrator if need be to stop the construction of this hospital alongside of the Lae airstrip. These are just a few examples of what is happening.
There is a need to overcome this problem. I do not know the answer to it. I am pretty certain that the State authorities would not give authority to the Federal Department of Civil Aviation to take over the sole right to plan around airports. I am confident that the State authorities would not give the Department that right even though, under the Air Navigation Act, the Department has control over the height of buildings. This provision has been in the Act for many years. I came into contact with this provision when I was in local government. At that time television antennae were being introduced in Newcastle. Because Newcastle at that time did not have a local transmitter operated by a national or commercial station people who wanted a television service had to get it from Sydney. This meant that they had to put up antennae about 60 or 70 feet high. There really was some trouble around the old general aviation airport in the centre of Newcastle when people were told that they could not put up antennae which were 60 or 70 feet high. At that time people started to learn that there was some control exercised by the Department of Civil Aviation over the height of buildings and structures. But all told, I think quite a lot has to be done in the field of planning - the town planning around airports - and in the location of airports. I feel that this is a matter that has to be examined very closely. From my experience as a member of the Committee it is obvious to me that a number of established metropolitan airports have to be transferred from their present sites to one a little more remote from the cities. When they are transferred the necessary planning will have to be undertaken to ensure that people will not once again be subjected to the noise to which they are being subjected at the present time. In fact, people will have to be saved from themselves. Already there is evidence that people want to build, and in fact have built, alongside Tullamarine airport. Although the airport was placed in a rural setting it can no longer be said to be in a rural setting.
The other point I wish to raise concerns the Royal Australian Air Force. In this regard I think that the RAAF has been a little remiss in meeting its responsibilities, lt does not appear to have any great concern for anyone - whether it be residents living close to RAAF airports or whether it be even its own personnel. Probably the Mirage is one of the loudest aircraft in take-off. Regularly when I am standing in the weird and wonderful terminal at the Williamtown airport near Newcastle, the building really shakes when one or two Mirage aircraft roar down the strip in take-off. But RAAF personnel have to live adjacent to this airport. This does not apply only at the Williamtown airport. It also applies at the Pearce and Elizabeth airports. Wherever there is an RAAF base one finds RAAF personnel living nearby. The Committee has recommended - and I strongly support the recommendation - that the Department of Air should review immediately its planning proposals for the construction of accommodation for RAAF personnel, their wives and families, and also for the construction of buildings in which these people work. I have received a number of deputations, in a private capacity, from people at Williamtown who complain about the excessive noise to which workers at the base are subjected. I support the two recommendations which the Committee has made to the Parliament, and I also support what the Minister for Civil Aviation has said. After the forthcoming elections the Labor Party will support the reappointment of the Committee so that it can carry on the work it has been doing, But I hope that as a result of the election there will be a change of some sort in the membership of the Committee.
Mr DONALD CAMERON (Griffith)by leave - I commend the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft
Noise, a committee which was originally proposed by the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman). At the outset I express the opinion that 1 do not believe a sufficient number of people in Australia are concerned about and aware of the great problems which confront people who reside near airports. I carried out a survey in my own electorate. I circulated a few thousand letters inviting people, if they felt strongly about this particular subject, to write to me about it. i presented their views to the Committee when it met in Brisbane. A definite area pattern emerged from which replies were received. It is obvious that people are greatly disturbed about aircraft noise, to the extent that some of them were prepared to write a 3 or 4 page reply. 1 ask all honourable members to consider the number of issues which come before the people from time to time and the number of letters which honourable members receive dealing with these issues. I often smile when honourable members in this place state that they have received dozens or even hundreds of letters on a subject, because usually the statement is made without foundation. But the receipt of 60 or 70 letters on a particular subject is an indication that things are seriously wrong.
I know that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) is very sympathetic to representation concerning this question of aircraft noise, but he comes from the city of Toowoomba, which is away from Brisbane, and the Department of Civil Aviation officials live away from the Brisbane airport. I would dearly love to offer these officials billets, for a week, in certain sections of my electorate so that they could experience for themselves what is happening and gain a real appreciation of the situation. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) referred to the need to shift certain airports in Australia from their present locations. I would say - and the Minister is present in the chamber to hear me say it - that this is a most pertinent and real suggestion.
– Not for Brisbane.
– The honourable member for Perth says: ‘Not for Brisbane’. Brisbane has its problems. If we shift the site of the airport now, we will be able to avoid, in 20 years time, the problems which presently face the larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. I suggest to the Department of Civil Aviation that instead of spending millions of dollars on the Brisbane airport it should be giving consideration to shifting the airport to a position south of Brisbane, to an unused area between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. It would be half-way between the Gold Coast and Brisbane, and it would eliminate the need to have an airport at Coolangatta. An airport located in this area could give great service to Brisbane and to the Gold Coast in the years ahead.
I presented to the Committee, as did my friend the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), the view that the Brisbane airport should be shifted. 1 stick to my guns. Even though the situation at the Brisbane airport may not be as bad as that at the Sydney or Melbourne airports 1 suggest that we should do something now so that Brisbane will not be subjected to the noise nuisance and to all the other problems to which reference was made in evidence presented to the Committee. The Brisbane airport, if it remains where it is, will have to face these problems in the future. I thank the House for giving me an opportunity to make these comments. I trust that as soon as the Parliament is reconvened the Committee will get under way again so that something more tangible can be done and a report a little more comprehensive than the present one will be presented so that the Minister will have something more tangible to consider.
– by leave- I support the interim report that has been brought down by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. At the outset 1 point out that 1 do not think that any body of man has been set a more unenviable task than was the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. I think that arising out of its investigations it has been revealed that in matters of great international importance there has been a tremendous lack of liaison between the authorities concerned in great developments. lt would appear to me, from my observations at any rate, that if the manufacturers of aircraft are not prepared to do something about the elimination of noise - and 1 do not know whether or not they can do it - there is nothing much that the Committee can do, other than to recommend that the Department of Civil Aviation place restrictions on the operations of aircraft.
I come to the other question of buffer areas, which I think is an important one. In this regard we run into the question of the sovereign rights of the States and also of local government. From a national point of view it is a rather frightening matter, because in order to provide buffer areas, which we need to eliminate aircraft noise, the Commonwealth Government would have to acquire great areas of land all round airports, which would mean the spending of many millions of dollars. This situation arises from the fact that there has been no co-ordination between town planners, the Department of Works and possibly the Department of Civil Aviation when airports have been constructed.
This statement bears repeating, and other members of the Committee will confirm it. When the Committee heard evidence in Adelaide it was astonished to find that the city of Adelaide had no town plan. Even the local government bodies were just getting to the stage of talking about zoning into areas such as industrial and residential. This will create a big problem in Adelaide. In Hobart we saw a trend that could, if it is not halted in the very near future, create a problem. Although the Hobart terminal is a little remote from the city, private development could bring problems. When we took evidence at Canberra, I was alarmed to discover the same lack of liaison between the planners and other authorities on the location of an alternative aerodrome. At Perth the aerodrome is well away from the city but developments there could involve Perth in the same problems as exist at Mascot and could exist at Tullamarine in the future. Launceston is in the same situation.
I mention these facts only to emphasise the necessity for liaison and co-ordination between the town planners in the major cities and the State and local government bodies. The tremendous progress that has been made in aviation brings with it an urgent necessity for the authorities to discuss the problems, lt seems to mc that in all probability the States will have to be prepared to relinquish a little of their control and the Commonwealth Government will have to exercise some national control over development around airports. Huge buffer areas have been established right around the big munition and other Commonwealth complexes in my electorate. In this way, any trouble that may arise around the plant has been eliminated. I should think that this could also be done at air terminals. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) suggested that the aerodromes be shifted. This would present tremendous problems. If he goes more deeply into his suggestion, he will find that wages amounting to many thousands and probably millions of dollars are paid to people employed at or near aerodromes. If he suggests to these business interests that the airports be moved, the first thing that these people will say is: What about the result that the removal of the terminal will have on our economy?’ Whilst the residents near the airports have the greatest problem, they are not the only people to be considered. The business people and others who derive their living from the aerodrome should also be considered.
– The aerodrome in Melbourne has been shifted.
– We have not done that altogether in Melbourne. The honourable member does not know what he is talking about. There is no suggestion that the Essendon aerodrome will be closed. There are big business interests around Tullamarine. So we in Melbourne have not done as the honourable member suggested. He should get these facts clear in his mind before he offers criticisms.
My colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), spoke about Air Force establishments. These are a problem. I was aghast at the suggestion that the people there learned to live with the noise. I tlo not think I could ever learn to live with the noise at some of these establishments. At some places, military aircraft and civil aircraft use the same airport. This is the situation in Darwin. To put it in my vernacular, the people there are copping it both ways. This is all tied up with the question of economics. The people living adjacent to the big airports will face difficult problems in the future when further progress is made in aviation. I live some 5 miles away from Essendon. When aircraft using the north-south runway at Essendon fly over my home, we cannot get decent television reception because of the vibration that goes through the house. People in the Footscray hospital have been disturbed by aircraft flying overhead. Fortunately I was able to have the flight path changed a little. Most of the trouble was caused by cargo carrying aeroplanes which left Essendon early in the morning, say between 3 o’clock and about 6 o’clock, and flew low over the Footscray hospital, causing inconvenience to the people there. I am pleased to say that this has been remedied. However, as I say, 5 miles away from the aerodrome we get intense vibration that is caused by the other aircraft flying overhead.
The Committee has had only a short time to look into this problem. However, the evidence given to us shows that there is an urgent need for the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and even the local government bodies to get together and try to formulate a policy that will enable the Commonwealth Government to exercise greater control and perhaps establish buffer areas around aerodromes. If this is not done, we will be faced with the problems that now exist in London and in the major cities of America.
– by leave- I cannot commend the Government too highly for setting up this Committee. The need for it was great. Even though it has been meeting for only a short time, its first report shows that next year we should be able to get some positive action on the problem of aircraft noise. The choice of the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) as Chairman of the Committee was very wise. He has done more to assist civil aviation and has looked more clearly at its problems than anyone else in this House has. I represent an electorate that borders on Mascot aerodrome and naturally my constituents are very concerned about this problem.
I should like to draw attention, as nobody else has yet, to paragraph 11 of the report, lt reads:
There is evidence of the need for an effective and imaginative public relations policy aimed at dispelling doubt about the effort being directed towards alleviation of aircraft noise nuisance.
This is true. We must inform people that an inquiry such as this, and action consequent upon the inquiry, takes a long time. On a problem such as this it is not possible to jump in, take some ad hoc action and hope that it will be effective. I have not seen any evidence of these public relations in action and I hope some notice will be taken of the comment made by the Committee. It is essential that we make people aware that the Committee is meeting regularly and that it is composed of people who are very sincere, who have some knowledge of the subject and who are willing to work hard. We must also let people know that it will take time to do the job properly. Speaking for my electors of Barton, I am delighted that the report has been presented. I am delighted to know that such an expert committee is investigating this matter and doing such hard work on it. I hope that next year it will be possible for the Committee to present its report at the same time as the International Civil Aviation Organisation presents its report on aircraft noise. If this can be done I think nobody could have any doubts that the Chairman of our Committee, the honourable member for St George, has done a very fine job.
– by leave- I gave evidence before the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise when it met in Launceston. I commend the Committee on the thoroughness of its investigations and on its extensive travelling in the course of its inquiry. I commend it also for its dedication to solving a growing problem in this country, that of noise around airports. 1 would like to pay a tribute to Mr Len Reynolds, who entered the Parliament in 1958 as the member for Barton and who raised this matter of aircraft noise in our Party meetings from 1960 onwards.
– And Lionel Clay.
– Yes, as well as the late Lionel Clay. The honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) are, in expressing an interest in this subject, only following in the footsteps of their predecessors. Good luck to them, but they will have to make a great many representations if they are to break down the stubbornness of local government bodies. 1 warn the Parliament of this problem.
– If we go back to the horse and buggy days we will solve the problem.
– Of course. The tragedy is the sheer unadulterated greed of people who own land around airports. I heard enough during the hearings at Launceston to make me aware of what we are up against with respect to our beautiful airport. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) knows what I am talking about. A leading figure in municipal affairs in northern Tasmania told the Committee that land under the flight path in and out of the beautiful Launceston airport will be made available for home building. If this Parliament had some authority to stop such things happening it would be a great thing. These hungry land developers and the municipalities which want house rates at any cost should be prevented from selling to unsuspecting prospective home owners land situated under airport flight paths. These are the guilty men of the future. These are the men who will drive future residents of areas near airports into nervous disorders.
In its report the Committee deals with the matter of co-operation. The Committee will be aware of the stubbornness of land developers. It will be aware of their determination to defy the Committee, State governments and the Commonwealth Government if possible and to go ahead with plans to develop residential areas under flight paths. Such activities should bc prohibited by law, even if it means granting subsidies to local government authorities to compensate them for loss of rate revenue. This is a matter which must be considered if we are to prevent developers from building homes under the noisy flight paths at our airports.
– by leave- I endorse wholeheartedly the remarks of the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr
Duthie). It is true that the late Lionel Clay, who was formerly the member for St George, and Mr Len Reynolds, who was formerly the member for Barton, were deeply interested in this increasing problem. I have a relative who is studying at Sydney University. He lives at Sydenham under one of Mascot’s flight paths. He cannot study with the windows open because the noise of the aricraft flying overhead is too distressing. I concede that the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) has concerned himself deeply with this problem but I regret to say that he will be fighting a losing battle. Big business has more power in our society than any politician. The time is not far distant when the major airline operator will force a semi-reluctant government to lift the curfew at Mascot and allow operations 24 hours a day. The use of the airport at night by cargo aircraft will aggravate an already dreadful menace, despite the protests of honourable members on this side of the House. To overcome the problem of aircraft noise in Sydney cargo aircraft might use the Williamtown RAAF base near Newcastle at all hours of the night. I do not think the people of the Hunter region would mind. They are already accustomed to the blasts of big business - the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and other major industries. If this were done, more business might be encouraged to the region and those citizens of Sydney who live under Mascot’s flight paths might gain some relief from the horror of the excessive noise to which they have been subjected for some time.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a speech on the same subject.
-Is leave granted?
– No, leave is not granted.
– Leave is not granted.
Debate resumed from 28 August (vide page 825), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– In addressing myself to these two measures, which deal with the rates of tax which shall be imposed upon individuals and on companies, I want to say something about the tax structure in Australia. If we look at the details at page 23 of the statistics that were attached to the Budget Speech for 1969-70 we see that a sum of $6,953 m is to be raised in this current year and that $6,236m of that sum will come from direct and indirect taxation imposed by the Commonwealth. Income tax on individuals is estimated to yield $2,842m and taxation on companies, which also is called income tax, is estimated to be $1,1 78m, making a total income tax assessment this year of $4,020m. Other forms of taxation such as customs and excise duty, sales tax, pay-roll tax and estate duty will yield a further $2,2 17m. So the ratio of direct taxation to indirect taxation at the Commonwealth level is roughly 2:1 or $4,020m to $2,2 17m.
Again if one accepts the rather easy theory that direct taxes are equitable and progressive and that indirect taxes are unfair and regressive, the Commonwealth Budget does not seem to do a bad job. But as far as the whole of Australia is concerned that is not quite the overall picture, because in addition to taxes being collected by the Commonwealth taxes are levied at State and local levels as well. This year it is estimated that the yield to States and local authorities will be in the region of $ 1,300m. Of course the States and local authorities do not have access to direct taxes; they resort to indirect taxes. So when State and local authority taxes are added to Commonwealth taxes the balance between direct and indirect taxes is not as favourable as it appears at first blush.
It is not very easy to assess the impact of taxation on a community. I am a bit intrigued in these late days before the forthcoming election that the air should be wild with suggestions about tax reform as though there was only one tax and only one thing to look at. That is a very foolish sort of way in which to begin this kind of examination. I doubt whether in the ultimate elections can be fought around income tax schedules, or any other taxation schedule for that matter, but at least these are subjects that deserve some examination I would like to quote for the benefit of the House from an interesting study by Joseph A. Pechman, a United States authority. The book was published by the Brookings Institution in 1966 and is entitled ‘Federal Tax Policy’. After all, the problems in the United States are not entirely dissimilar from our own. The United States has a federal system and has, as we do, three levels of taxation, although it has a better internal arrangement for the sharing of revenue. On the question of tax reform Pechman says:
These issues involve difficult, technical question; of law, accounting and economics. They are often obscured by lack of information, misunderstanding and even misrepresentation. Yet they have important implications for the welfare of every citizen and for the vitality of the economy. This volume attempts to provide factual and analytical information that will help the reader make up his own mind. It was prepared in the belief- 1 ask honourable members to observe these words - that tax policy is too important to be left solely to the experts, and that taxation can and should be understood by the interested citizen.
This afternoon 1 want to say one or two things, perhaps very broadly, about the impact of taxation in Australia. 1 have consulted with the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) and have sought bis concurrence in incorporating, a little later, two tables in Hansard. One of these tables deals with a comparison of taxation in about 15 or 18 countries including the United States, Canada, Sweden, France and Australia. The table is based on an article which appeared in a British financial publication called Economic Trends’ in May 1969, which in turn was based on figures collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a body associated with the European Common Market. It shows the weight of taxation in various countries in relation to a figure described as the gross national product at factor cost. The gross national product at factor cost is a term of art or. if you like, a piece of economic jargon; it means the sum total of goods and services produced in the community in the course of a year minus indirect taxes and subsidies, lt has an economic concept that these are costs at market rates rather than costs that have been arbitrarily altered by the impact of indirect taxation.
As far as Australia is concerned, gross national product at factor cost would be the gross national product of $27, 000m minus something over $2,000m, which is the net impact of indirect taxes, minus subsidies. So it is a somewhat lower figure, it is about 10% lower than the gross national product. But since these figures have been produced on that basis I have to use them for comparison. The figures show that contrary to what many people might think Australia is not one of the most heavily taxed countries in the world. Our percentage of total taxation - that is at the Commonwealth, State or local levels - in relation to gross national product at factor cost for the year 1 967 was 27.9%. In order to make a comparison with the other examples, let us take the United States of America. In that country total taxation in relation to gross national product of factor is 30.8% and in Canada it is 34.8%. So we have about 3%, or some $700m in Australian terms, less taxation than the United States of America and considerably less than Canada. After all, I suppose it is pleasant to find that we are not as heavily taxed as some other places are. Nevertheless, people do groan about the taxes that are imposed in this country. At the moment, most of the groaning seems to be about what is taxed, how it is taxed, the rate of tax and so on. It is about those matters that 1 wish to say something in a moment. T refer again to the table which I indicated earlier T wish to incorporate in Hansard.
– Is that of total tax or total income?
– It is of taxation at all levels in the countries in question. In the case of a federation, the table includes taxes for commonwealth, state and local government levels while two levels of taxation are included for countries like the United Kingdom which has only two levels of taxation. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate that table in Hansard.
The figures shown are in relation to gross national product, as I have described that term, at factor cost
Now, in order that we might have a better assessment of the picture, what I wish to do also is to compare our taxation system in aggregate with the taxation system in the United States of America which seems to me to be the best one for purpose of comparison. To do that, I have taken out some figures, again based on the same tables, which show the total amount of tax that is collected in one country as against the other country, how that taxation is broken up as between personal income tax, company taxation, taxes on expenditure - which is another word for indirect taxes - and, finally, the system of taxation that applies in some of these other countries in which separate payments are made into national superannuation schemes described as social welfare payments in the statistics. These figures are for 1967.
Of the total taxation collected in the United States of America, 35.4% of it was collected as personal income tax. In Australia, the figure is 39%. So, in Australia a much heavier burden of the total tax collected is borne by personal income tax than is the case in the United States. I repeat that the figure is 39% in Australia as against 35.4% in the United States. Company taxation in the United States in 1967 represented 14.6% of all taxation collected. In Australia, it was 14% of all taxation collected. So, companies are taxed more heavily in the United States than is the case here.
I turn to taxation on expenditure which is indirect taxation. In the United States this represented 31.5% of total taxation while in Australia it represented 43.8%. We see a considerable difference. Indirect taxation is much heavier in Australia than it is in the United States. Finally, we find that social security payments in the United States account for 18.5% of all revenue raised by the Government while in Australia the figure is 3.2% only. For these purposes, I have counted as a social welfare payment the Australian payroll tax which was imposed originally to finance child endowment. I think that, this financial year, this tax aims to yield $184m, which is some 3.2% of our total taxation collection.
Again, looking at these figures, we may say at first glance that Australia has heavier recourse to progressive income tax, the equitable tax. than does the United States. We have an adverse picture also in that Australia has a higher recourse to indirect taxation than the United States. One could say that one tax cancels out the other, as it were. We do better on the personal income tax side but we are worse off in regard to indirect taxation. But what 1 think that we should ponder is a comparison of the position in Australia with those countries with which we wish to be compared and which have this social security contribution system. These countries are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. All of these countries have this social security contribution system.
It is a payment directly by employers and employees. The percentages as to how much recourse is had to employers as contributors rather than to employees vary from country to country. A considerable difference is to be found also in the proportion of the gross national product given over to this sort of tax. In France, nearly 18% of the gross national product goes in social security contributions. In the case of the United States the figure is about 6.5%, a much smaller percentage. In the Netherlands the figure is about 15%. These comparisons at least are of some interest regarding the whole logic of this kind of thing.
For the most part, this system provides in retirement a payment as a right rather than a payment hedged around the qualifications of income. This system pays to people in retirement an income that has some relation to the income that they were earning in the last several years of their working lives. 1 believe that we must make this jump in Australia in the next several years. A lot of difficulty in this regard revolves around the question of the means test. This is a problem that must be solved separately because, once the national superannuation scheme is started, it will cover only people who have been contributors per medium of that fund. The Australian community which has been used now to approximately 30 years or more of full employment will not accept as a satisfactory arrangement a pension that is little better than a pittance or a situation in which the day a person stops work his income drops from $70 per week, which is the average wage at the moment, to a combined pension for a married couple of S26.50 per week which is the present level of that pension.
I believe that, if such a scheme is properly explained the Australian community will accept it. Many details must be worked out before such a scheme is introduced. I imagine that it would take anything from 18 months to 2 years, from the time that an examination of the detail’s of such a scheme began, to work out how much should be contributed and what the various shares should be as between employer and employee, the Government and so on. It requires a great deal of systematic examination. 1 believe that, ultimately, the Australian community, in common with these other places that I have mentioned, will accept this scheme as a necessary form of providing for social security in the future.
This scheme does not provide for people in retirement only. It provides for anybody who is incapacitated permanently during the course of his lifetime. Instead of being dependent on a fairly miserable sum under such a scheme, such a person will be guaranteed a sum related to what he was earning at the time when he sustained his injury. I believe that this sort of thing needs explanation. That is why earlier I quoted from that book. I think that the public as a whole should be interested in this proposition and that it ought to be explained to them in such a way, without misrepresentation, that they understand it.
– How long would full benefits take to become available?
– There again, I think that these are the sorts of details which must be worked out.
– The White Paper on this in the United Kingdom said 20 years.
– I think that that is too long. I think that what we would need to do in Australia is what the Canadian Government has done. Under that scheme, we would work out a sum that we would call the guaranteed minimum income. Anybody who at retirement had not been long enough in the fund, whose income one way or another, whether directly by pension, part pension, part superannuation or full superannuation, did not come up to some sum that was regarded as a minimum, would be entitled to that minimum payment. Roughly, at the moment, I would say that the minimum ought to be approximately $42 to §45 per week for a married couple.
– Would you apply a means test?
– No. 1 think I would do away with it.
– Canada has a means test.
– Canada does not have a means test so far as the original pension is concerned. It is operated on the contributory basis. The only means test that applies operates in this way: If you say that you are entirely dependent upon the pension - that at the moment is some $30 a month below the guaranteed minimum - you can apply separately to have your pension built up to the minimum. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) asked me the question and I have told him what I think would have to be done in the interim until people were in the scheme long enough to qualify in full for the national superannuation scheme.
These are all matters of considerable administrative detail. That is why T think honourable members on the Government side in particular are being foolish. I think that in their hearts they would agree that there should have been a national superannuation scheme some years ago. Apparently because they have not done anything about it, now that the Labor Party is proposing to do something some of them are disposed to pour cold water over the scheme. I think honourable members on the Government side are running contrary to their essential beliefs. All I am saying is that nearly every other country with which we like to compare ourselves has such a scheme. I do not know why the Australian Government should want to continue with unsatisfactory arrangements. Honourable members opposite who have been interjecting have been the greatest critics of the operation of the means test as we know it. After all, a means test operates in a community on the very real economic circumstance that not everybody in the community is rich and able in the course of a working life to provide adequately for an income when they retire.
Two things are happening at the moment of which T am sure all of us are aware. Firstly, our children remain longer at school than they did previously. I submit that in the future nearly every person will remain at school until he is about 20 years of age. At least more will remain until that age than will leave. Secondly - I think this will happen with increasing force in Australia within the next several years - the job one sets out to do may not last all one’s life. One may be trained to do a particular thing and then, due to technological circumstances, the job no longer will be available and one will have to be retrained.
If we order our society properly it should be possible not to need to work as long. Earlier retirement may be possible. But even if one does not retire until 65 years of age there is a life expectancy, in many cases, of another 20 years. If one considers a person’s life span to be 80 or 85 years, that person is dependent for nearly half of the time. A person is dependent as a child and is dependent when work is no longer possible. I ask honourable members opposite whether they believe it is possible for most people in half a lifetime to save enough money, considering the economic nature of their jobs, to keep them for an entire lifetime? I do not believe it is possible. That is why I think there will have to be systems of this kind which will guarantee to people, upon retirement, an income that has some relationship to what they earned while they were working. 1 do not think there is anything revolutionary about that sort of proposition. However it cannot operate on a voluntary basis.
– Maintained at that purchasing power?
– Yes. It would be adjusted in accordance with variations in prices and productivity increases. Most of these schemes operate in that way, and why not? Surely it is the problem of social distribution. If we are a humane society we do not say to a person upon retirement that he or she is on the scrap heap. Surely, it there is an improvement in the average per capita income, those in retirement are entitled to some share. I find it very difficult to accept the fact that allowance cannot bc made for some inflation in the future. I do not think it is realistic to do any real postulating on the basis of constant prices.
I think that prices will increase, on the average, by more than 2% per annum. I do not think we are economically clever enough to avoid a system that does this. Even if the price increases were kept at 2% a year, at the end of 10 or 15 years the increase would make a mockery of what were regarded as savings and what could be done with that money. This idea applies to everybody in the community.
I want to return, as I should, to income tax as it operates in Australia. Income tax is still the principal tax. it is imposed only at one level of government - by the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth, as I indicated earlier to the House, will collect this year some $4,000m in income tax - $2,842ra from individuals and $1,1 78m from companies. Well over half of all taxation in Australia is in the form of income tax. As I said earlier, there has been a lot of talk about reforming the tax structure, in particular income tax on individuals. It is mainly about the impact of income tax on individuals that I want to talk for the remainder of my time this afternoon.
The income tax charged to any particular individual is determined by a number of factors. It is determined by the actual income of the individual. 1 refer the House to the statistics presented with the Budget, particularly the booklet entitled ‘Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics. Honourable members will find that the statistics are based on what is called actual income, not taxable income. But that is not where things start. I refer to the statistics at pages 4 and 5 of this document and to the words Grade of actual income. It is the grade of actual income that first determines liability to pay tax. If people receive over $41 6 a year they have to pay some income tax. If they receive less than $416 they pay no tax. The actual income is the starting point.
Every individual is circumstantially different from nearly everybody else. The taxation law acknowledges this by allowing concessions for dependants. Rightly, it sets out that if one is married there ought to be some sort of deduction for a wife and any children. At the moment the amount allowed for a wife is $312 per annum; that comes off the actual income. In the case of the first child the allowance is, I think, $208. The allowance for subsequent children is $156.
I am grateful to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) for supplying me with a document entitled ‘Background Notes on Incidence of Taxation in Australia’ which contains a table showing the history of these deductions over a period of nearly 20 years. In 1952-53, 16 or 17 years ago, the amount allowed for a spouse - that is the term used in the taxation law - was $208. The figure is now S3 12. I think that in 1969-70 the allowance ought to be more than $312. I am not sure of the logic behind these sorts of things. The only logic 1 can find in the sums is that they are divisible by 52. Presumably it is worked out on a weekly basis. Apparently the thinking behind it is that you can keep a wife on $6 a week. I do not know if anybody can keep a wife on $6 a week. I hope my wife is not listening, but I know that I cannot. What is the logic of such a deduction? The same remarks could be applied to the allowance of $208 per annum, or $4 a week, for the first child. My children must be very different from other children because one of mine takes nearly that much each week to buy his lunch at school. But I suppose that is simply a reflection of the rising cost of living. Nevertheless, those amounts do not seem to me to have much logic in them.
In the United States of America there is an entirely different taxation system. In the United States nobody pays any taxation on the first $600 of his income.
– How is that figure worked out?
– Again fairly arbitrarily, but all I am saying is that this is a better starting point than what we have in our system. After the first $600 there is a further concession of $600. The single man would pay no tax unless his income was $1,200 or more. A married man is then allowed $600 for his wife and $600 for every child. These amounts are taken straight off the income at the bottom. I simply state those facts to give an example of another way of taxing people. I am not propounding any solution this afternoon. I am not going to fall into the trap which I earlier suggested. I do not think that anyone can propound an ideal tax system. However, the position should be examined and if this is done it will be found that the system is wanting.
– It has been stagnant for so long.
– Would you conduct an investigation into the status quo?
– The status quo has to be changed. The Government has been in a position to change it for the last 20 years but it did not do so. It did not do so even in the last Budget which was brought down a few weeks ago. Now the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) intends to do something about this in the middle of the forthcoming election campaign. This is something that the Government could have done a long time ago. lt has been looking into it for the last 20 years; now it will be brought forward as an issue in the next election. To do things in this way is a dereliction of duty. It is my duty to point out this afternoon the threadbare system that this Government has accepted for so long.
– What alternative are you offering?
– The alternative I offer is that an allowance should be made for circumstantial differences in the community. Firstly, we must recognise what the economists call vertical equity; that is, the fellow earning $10,000 a year has a different sort of economic destiny from that of the chap earning $5,000 a year, and there is a further difference as between married and single persons. Secondly, there is the horizontal equity; that is, we should treat equally or evenly people who appear to be in the same circumstances. In the Australian pattern I submit that neither of those principles is observed. What we have done in Australia in recent years has been to finance the effects of the Budget on the inbuilt injustices of the income tax on individuals. Honourable members on this side will later quote figures to show that when the Labor Party went out of office there was an entirely different ratio between the total income tax on companies and on individuals than that which exists under the present system under which there are the greatest inequalities in respect of personal income tax. This has come about for these two reasons: Family concessions deductions have not kept pace with rises in the cost of living or with acceptable standards, and a married person in Australia, and in particular a married person with children, is being taxed more than he should be. I regard this as a fundamental alteration to make instead of trying to take some line that might be described by honourable members opposite as the middle income level. Presumably there is supposed to be more virtue in the people above the line than the people below. 1 do not accept that theory in a democratic society such as ours and I believe that it is the responsibility of a democratic community to do justice to all sections of the community and to recognise adequately the circumstantial differences of the various sections of that community.
– Those deductions will help the higher income bracket rather than the lower.
– The honourable member is trying to get into a technical argument. If we allow taxation deductions at all they must mean more to the person on a higher income than to a person receiving a lower income. But that does not prevent our having a tax system, surely; otherwise we would have a poll tax for everybody. There is supposed to be some logic and some progressive ideas behind income tax. That is the reason for this so-called curve, but that curve has been left entirely unaltered from 1954 to 1969. If honourable members opposite ask the Treasurer he will supply to them the same document that he gave lo me, and according to that document there has been in that period a deterioration of about 80%, taking the average wage as an index. That document shows quite starkly that the increase in tax has been dramatic. But honourable members opposite pride themselves, saying: ‘We have not altered the tax system at all’. That is the thimble and the pea trick. What the Government does is alter the nominal level of people’s income and put those people on to a higher part of the scale. This is what is stated quite starkly in this document. I was astonished to read only recently that the Government is going to alter the tax on incomes above $100 a week. How can this be done? If there is an alteration above the $100 mark there must be an alteration below that mark. If you take one of those steps only then you will do a gross injustice to the other people. I should think that no government should, would or could do that.
WhatI am trying to point out is that the greatest sufferers are those in the lower income groups, particularly those who have a family to support.
– According to your argument, the more deductions are increased the more you help the man in the higher income bracket.
– Not if you have a system that is adequate. I would not tax a man with a wife and two children if his income were less than $50 a week. But this Government taxes him on anything over $2 a week. I would have a system which would allow for an adequate amount, perhaps $600, as a statutory exemption, and another $600 for each individual to support himself. On that basis a married man with a wife and two dependants would not pay tax unless his income was above about $50 a week. Are there any honourable members prepared to argue with that proposition?
I suggest that honourable members should look at what that man pays in tax now. I submit that he pays far too much in terms of the living costs of today but he is paying it because he has got further up the mathematical scale and there is a higher proportion of his income - which has less purchasing power - which is taken in taxation. This is what should be altered. If there is inflation at the rate of 2% per annum the tax scale must be changed every 5 years because in that time income tax has altered by roughly 10% as between nominal and real values. Yet the scale has remained unaltered since 1954.
Apart from that, the concessional deductions have not kept up with rising costs. It would not have been so bad if the allowable amounts for concessions had been doubled. I will later seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table based entirely on this document to which I have referred. I have taken three income levels. The first is from $417 to $2,600. That is an income range from $8 a week to $50 a week. The second level is $601 to $3,600, which is nearly $70 a week and the final bracket is all incomes over $3,600. Of course, there are many working wives, but the married taxpayers referred to in the table relate only to those who claim for a spouse. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the table in Hansard.
An examination of the table indicates that of the married taxpayers who claimed for 1,346,000 spouses - and that is actually not quite correct because the figure includes housekeepers of which there are not very many, but for the purposes of this argument the figure is good enough - 784,000, or just over 60%, had incomes below $3,600 per annum. They were in the $69 to $70 a week category. I call that a middle income, if middle indicates a line below which there are as many as there are above. It does not seem to me to be the sort of middle some people talk about when obviously they are referring to persons with incomes of $10,000 a year, which is the income that some of us receive. Again, this is not very typical and I ask the Government to look at the statistics in the document. Statistics show that only about 9% of the population are in that category. It is a curious sort of justice that will look after 9% as though they are the culture bearers of society and need special protection against the ravages of the 90% of the proletariat. I do not regard that as an acceptable attitude in an enlightened community.
Nevertheless this is what has happened to the income structure in Australia during the period that the Government has been in office. I should think that its proposal to reform it a few weeks before an election had something to do with political opportunism. The Government has not before taken the opportunity that it has had during its period in office to alter the structure. It has let the real worth of the concessions run out through not jacking them up as inflation took away their value. It has done nothing to alter the logic of the curve of progression. Honourable members opposite should ask themselves whether if this mathematical curve had any meaning in 1954 it still has meaning in 1969, when the entire income structure is different. This seems to me to be patent.
Another thing that is indicated by the table is that of the total concessional deductions of $2,588m, only $884m relate to concessions for dependants. The remainder, some $1.600m to $ 1,700m, is for other deductions, including education allowances, medical expenses and life assurance. Of the total concessions allowed, $ 1,239m apply to fewer than one-quarter of the taxpayers. They are worth more at the high level of income than at the lower levels. This is another piece of inbuilt injustice within the existing structure. These are the aspects that I have chosen to point out this afternoon, not to say: ‘Here is a revised income tax schedule which will operate after 25th October’. I cannot do that and I would be foolish to try. At least honourable members can look at the distribution of total taxation in Australia and say that it is wrong because of the attitude that the Government adopts to the States in respect of reimbursements. However, that is a different question. When we examine this measure and look at one particular tax we should consider what ought to be the crown of the system - the income tax on individuals. This tax structure has become a shabby document and an inequitable document.
– You want to get on the band wagon.
– I have spoken about tax reform ever since I have been a member of this House, and that is since 1951.
– Tax reform on a Socialist basis.
– No, not on a Socialist basis but on the basis of equity and of treating people decently. I submit that the present taxation schedule does violence both to vertical and horizontal equity. On this ground it is in need of radical revision. Even if the Government still wants to collect the same amount of taxation it ought to collect it very much differently.
Debate (on motion by Mr Garland) adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which 1 have just tabled, relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff Act 1966-1969. The amendments, which will operate from tomorrow morning, incorporate changes consequent on the adoption by the Government of a report by the Tariff Board on gang slitting machines. The Board recommended that protective duties of 30% general and 20% preferential apply to the whole range of gang slitting machines. At present, duties of 40% general and 27i% preferential apply to smaller gang slitting machines but the larger types are subject to non-protective duties. The Board considers the proposed duties represent the lowest level of protection consistent with ensuring adequate market access to the local industry, and recognise the fact that any undue increase in duties could cause a reduction in market demand.
In accepting the report it was decided that consideration should be given to a review of the duties on these machines in three years time. Following the completion of international negotiations necessary to fully implement earlier recommendations of the Tariff Board, changes have been made in respect of wooden rollers for blinds and certain cutlery items. Also included are some additions to the hand-made traditional products of cottage industries concessions. A summary of all the changes made by the Proposals is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Gang slitting machines. Citrus fruit juices.
The Tariff Board’s report on citrus fruit juices does not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– by leave - I move:
That Customs Tariff proposals Nos 5, 6 and 7 (1969) and Excise Tariff Proposal No. 1 (1969), constituting part of Order of the Day No. 43, Government Business, be discharged.
These proposals were incorporated in the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1969 and the Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1969 which have now been assented to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1602).
– I must commend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) for looking at the large issues of this matter and for having criticised the loose election propaganda that we have heard particularly on the question of income tax rates. But I thought that the propositions that the honourable member put to the House were all delightfully vague and easy on the mind. The honourable member put forward some circular arguments which did rather surprise me. However, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned one or two points that I would like to take up. I think the honourable member said that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was intruding into the election the question of income tax rates. That surely cannot be accepted because it has been in the main from the Opposition benches that we have had this matter mentioned often in this House and in the Press.
The honourable member, when speaking generally - and I commend him for looking at the question as a whole because it is a very large and complex one - went into the matter briefly of direct and indirect taxation. The honourable member made some reference to the fact that by and large the States taxes were indirect taxes and these added to the general indirect taxes of the whole country. However, I think we ought to make the point, because it is important in this context: As far as one can generalise about the attitudes of the Australian Labor Party to the States and their revenue-raising capacity, it seems rather that Labor would wish to restrict their capacity to tax or perhaps to swamp it with greatly increased Commonwealth taxes.
After all, with the promises that have been made for this election, which add up to vast sums, certainly a substantial increase in income tax and other Commonwealth taxes would be necessary. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports made the point - and again I thought it was a rare one to hear from a member of the Opposition - that Australia was not one of the most heavily taxed countries. He went on to quote certain figures. To me it is a novel argument to hear from a representative - in fact, in the case of finance, the representative - of the Labor Party.
The honourable member went on to say in that context that Canada was taxed far more highly. Later in his speech he made certain proposals in relation to social security in which he advocated an increase. I think it would be a fair inference to make that if social security payments were to be increased to the level of those in Canada Australian taxes would also have to be increased to about the same level. I do not know how else we could finance an increase in social security. Such an increase would be a substantial cost to the Australian economy. If a rise of about 5% were made - 1 record that the rise would be from 27.9% to about 34% - the increase in total would be substantial, whatever the base is. Therefore, if we regard Australian taxes at present as being low the inference is that they can go up for social security reasons.
I put it to the House that although Canada and other countries have the social security base we are finding with the passage of time that there are several disadvantages which have emerged. These disadvantages have largely arisen from world wide steady inflation and are becoming increasingly apparent with the passage of time. We find that in many countries where, for instance, old age pensions are being paid without a means test, the amounts received are nowhere near enough and so some other pensions have to be paid to which a means test is applied. Such increases in social security in Australia would mean that less funds would be available for investment. This developing country sorely needs invest ment. Of course, these increases would also mean that less funds would be available in the hands of the wage earners themselves.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned and looked at large matters. We have heard a good deal about middle income tax rates and I can safely predict that we will hear in this debate a good deal more criticism along the lines that the honourable member avoided. I just want to make the point that in any system of taxation there are always anomalies that can be pointed out. These are anomalies in the sense that if we accept comparisons of figures from two different sources they can be made to look unfavourable to the individual. This applies to economies that are comparable with our own. The economies of the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada would be in this position.
One can adopt different cri tieri a and value judgments can be applied which will show a superficial injustice to an individual. We do rather get a lot of crying poor from members of the Opposition when it is quite clear and can be shown statistically that the gross national product is rising strongly, that there is a strong expansion through the whole Australian economy and that there are significant increases and steady increases in the Australian standard of living. Perhaps more significantly, for the purposes of this debate, the real disposable net income is rising each year. I refer here to the figure that is left after payment of tax. I would just conclude this section on the note that we do hear, particularly at this time, a good deal of political electioneering nonsense.
The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has promised a review of taxation. I think that we have to see this move in the proper context and recognise some facts, lt is a basic fact that the total amount of taxes received from income tax has to be raised in order to make expenditures necessary in this country. I think the figure in the Budget for income tax receipts is about $4,000m for the current year. It is no use advocating a reduction without making some proposal about where such a reduction is to be made up. After all, we would have had to increase tax rates, if the scale had not resulted in an increase in rates automatically, in order to answer the many demands made in this country for social services, health, education, developmental works and payments to the States, all of which are built into this Budget.
Payments to these sources were essential and the increases in the Budget were by and large only possible because of this. So, I would like to pose a question which is germane to this debate: ff we advocate a reduction to any sector, where does the load go on? That question has to be answered. The load must go onto someone else. It is right if someone advocates a reduction that he should tell us of this. The alternative, of course, which is to be faced would be a reduction of government expenditure. I do not think the Opposition is seriously advocating this. Indeed, Opposition members’ advocacy seems to be rather to increase expenditure on all sides. Economically, of course, the position is, briefly, that we must maintain our balance in the supply of goods and services on the one hand and the demand for them on the other. The rate of increase in tax has been only sufficient to subtract from private spending enough to ensure government spending continues without a serious imbalance between supply and demand which in current economic conditions would result in shortages, rising costs and a rising demand for imports which would upset our balance of payments. In spite of the tax rate rises that we have seen, consumer spending has increased - by 6.7% in the last year. The increase in expenditure on dwellings was 16%; on buildings and construction, 15%; and on plant and equipment, 10%. These very substantial increases speak highly of the expansion that has taken place in this country.
As I mentioned previously, the increase in real disposable income after tax - what is called loosely the ‘take home pay’ - has been very strong. Indeed, while this particular taxation scale has been in existence since 1954-55, in the period from 1954-55 to 1968-69 there has been an increase of 29% in the disposable income of the wage earner at average wage with two children, which incidentally is a rate of approximately 2% per annum. So there is no need to be gloomy on the subject. Indeed, the overall position is a favourable one. In addition, of course, Government spending, which has been brought about by taxation, has resulted in a number of benefits to individuals in the community. I think this puts the overall position into context.
But we would agree that there must be a review made at this stage. Any progressive scale must be reviewed at intervals, because of rises in salaries, and salaries have risen dramatically in this country. But it is a major problem to revise the tax system and to maintain income at a level consistent with economic stability. As I have said, the tendency is to suggest reductions without a compensating increase. I would urge that in this examination of taxes the Government give particular attention to an overall simplification of tax gathering and tax laws. I know that this is a big problem. But a problem which may be big in management - because that is what it means - should not be ignored. One should not hesitate to tackle a problem because it is big. I believe that we in this country have a great capacity for solving problems, if we put ourselves to the task. I ask that these matters be considered during the review. I am a registered taxation agent, and I have prepared hundreds of taxation returns. I have seen the position from the taxpayers’ point of view. I claim to know their problems. I say that it is to everyone’s advantage that this simplification should be made, although it may need a transitional period of several years. Whether the tax level itself is reduced, I think is a political question which I would like to put aside for the moment. But I repeat that the level of tax in the aggregate is something which is independent of general simplification.
A great number of papers have been prepared and a great number of addresses have been made from time to time about relevant details, and I might choose a more appropriate debate in which to go into those matters in some detail. Most of them are not new, but for all that, they need to be put, I think, at this stage. It is right that taxpayers themselves should have a basic knowledge of income tax law. I think we can take it for granted that such an understanding at present is quite out of the question. Indeed, as a tax agent and accountant 1 freely admit not understanding large sections of the income tax law. One needs to make a very detailed examination of the law in order to go into a number of questions that arise. I presume that if able to do so, certain tax officials would make a similar admission. 1 think, too, that there is uncertainty in the minds of business men as to where the law stands in many questions, and I think that the existence of that uncertainty in the law is a bad thing.
In saying all these things 1 fully recognise the evolution of the tax law to its present complex position. After all, that complex structure applies in all the Western countries of which we have spoken, and even though originally we derived our law from the English common law, the significant point is that each of these tax structures is remarkably different from the others, lt only goes to show that this evolution is taking tax structures in different directions. The only thing in common is that they are all extremely complex. As many, or most, of the complexities which exist, 1 believe, have been made largely in order to try to create an equitable situation among taxpayers, 1 ask whether in fact the cost that we are paying to achieve this equitable situation, if it is that, is worth it. The plain facts are that most taxpayers do not believe they are being dealt with equitably. Nobody likes to pay tax. A taxpayer does not agree that his tax burden is fair. I think that in the past we have tried too hard to bring equity into the situation and to provide perhaps encouragement through the income tax law instead of through separate laws.
As ] have said, it is essential for taxpayers, by and large, to employ taxation agents, but I do not think that should be essential. I think that an overall simplification of the law would cut out a great deal of what I call taxation gymnastics - the schemes and cleverness in which businessmen feel bound to engage in order to minimise the burden which their firms have to carry. By and large they would see this money as money which could otherwise be used for reinvestment. Because of this position, they are put into the situation of implementing a number of rearrangements - some of them quite simple ones. Indeed, there is case law, or comment in cases at any rate, which tells people that they ought to do this. I think that I ought to remind the House that some years ago the Parliament really gave up the attempt at trying to amend the law to cover all circumstances, when it gave the Commissioner of Taxation a number of discretionary powers. I do not want to argue the point as to whether that is a good thing. I merely make the point that the Parliament gave up trying to define all the situations and said that the Commissioner could decide whether something was to be accepted or not. I do not think that helps. As I said earlier, it adds to the uncertainly of the law.
I think that in urging this matter I should point out that there are a lot of people in our community - officers of the Taxation Branch, accountants, solicitors and others - who are engaged in the work of minim.mising the tax, in the case of accountants, and of making assessments and appeals and in the case of departmental officers of administering a very complex tax law, who could be engaged in more productive work in this economy. I am aware that the cost of the collection of taxes in this country as a percentage of the amount that is collected is a relatively small one, but I. still urge that we try to make it smaller. Since we have an economy in which the work force is fully employed we should be seeking all ways and means of releasing public servants and private individuals for work in other fields because, after all, the tax system is a structure of our own making; it is not something that has been forced upon us. Therefore, if we are to make the structure simpler, we need a new tax system which will do the basic job of raising the money which we need to run this country, in this way we could collect taxes more efficiently and at less cost to our overall economy.
There is one aspect of many that I could give. These matters come under State jurisdiction. But we have in this country a tremendous number of registered business names of partnerships and private companies which have been entered into purely for the purpose of minimising income tax. 1 may not have the figure exactly right, but it is near enough. I understand that in Western Australia last year the number of these registrations was 70% higher than in the previous year. We have registrations in Norfolk Island and in all sorts of outlandish places. Whilst there may be other reasons for many of these registrations, this is not a development that adds anything to our economy and the extent of it is only now becoming fully apparent. The aspects that 1 am criticising now have not, I believe, been as apparent in previous years as they are now. That means that this is the time for us to look at them and we can do so in conjunction with the general review. As I say, ways can be found to overcome registrations of the type I have mentioned, although some would present more difficulties than others.
That is the overall case that I want to put, but I would like to make one or two suggestions. They are not new and they are not part of a simplification of the System. They touch on various points in this very complex structure and, for the reasons I will give, I believe it would be an advantage if they were reviewed. The taxation relief for families, compared with the relief given to single people, is not large enough. A taxpayer with children should get significantly more relief than a childless taxpayer does. I understand that this aspect has been examined before, but ] advocate a re-examination of the proposal for a joint taxation return to be submitted by a man and his wife. I have in mind a procedure similar to that in the United States. Briefly the system is that taxation is double the tax on 50% of the combined income. In other words, if a man and his wife both work in this country, they now pay tax collectively at a lower rate than the husband would if he earned the equivalent of the two incomes. If a wife earns nothing, some compensation should be allowed.
In addition, the deduction allowed for dependants should be far larger. I would suggest something of the order of $500. We should, of course, always bear in mind that, having made these very large scale concessions, it would be necessary to redraw the tax scale completely. The result would be to put a heavier burden of tax on the single person. This is only fair in our present economy. Although I have not had time to undertake the necessary research, I think a case could be made out to show that young single people make a demand above the average on our imports.
Then I come to a separate point altogether. As there are a tremendous number of salary and wage earners in Australia, we should ask ourselves whether people whose sole income is derived from salary and wages and nothing else should be required to submit a taxation return at all. They may have some minor income, such as bank interest or interest from building societies, which could be made exempt up to a level of $100 per annum. This would eliminate the need for some millions of assessments to be made. Those assessments are complicated by the fact that we have a number of concessional deductions of varying amounts which are subject to all1 sorts of conditions. One wonders whether the American idea of a standard deduction for taxpayers could bc implemented. I know that this presents difficulties, but I wonder whether the difficulties would outweigh the cost of the present system of making assessments. For those not familiar with the scheme in the United States, let me explain it briefly. One gets a standard deduction of $1,000 or 10%, whichever is the lower. If one has large medical expenses, for instance, of an unusually heavy nature, one can submit a taxation return and claim the deductions in detail. Only a very smal’l proportion of taxpayers would do this, and the number of assessments would be decreased accordingly.
Next we should look at the minimum taxable income. I think it has been $416 since 1954-55. It has been stationary for a very long time. I see from the taxation statistics prepared by the Taxation Branch, that, if we were to raise the minimum to $1,000, the loss would be $12m, which is 0.6% of the total amount collected in income tax. However, we would be saved the cost of assessing 500,000 income tax returns. It seems to me that the administrative cost of assessing that number of returns would be very large. We could well look at this proposal in terms of the relief it would afford. T understand that my colleague, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), will mention that those earning less than $1,000 are in a worse tax position than are pensioners tinder our tapered means test.
I said that these are complicated matters. I could go on and make other suggestions. They have previously been made by many people, but I believe that this is the time to review them. I urge that we do not adopt the attitude that we can plug a few gaps. 1 come back to my major argument and that is the simplification of the law.
If we were to do a lot of work on simplifying the law, we would sweep away many of the gaps. We should get back to first principles. We are trying to raise money to finance the Government’s activities and we should be able to do that if we use our capacity to solve problems, make our work more effective and avoid the waste that is inherent in the administration of our present system. I repeat that it is good law to have a widely understood law that is simple, consistent and logical. That will come only from a most thorough review - a review that will sweep away many features that can be criticised. I have referred, for instance, to taxation gymnastics, to the difficulty of reading the Act as it is now worded, to the extremely complex superannuation provisions and to the Commissioner’s discretion.
We have all experienced the satisfaction that comes from solving a complex problem. Some problems seem to be so complex that we feel we will never reach a solution, but then suddenly the solution becomes clear and obvious. That could well happen here, after a very deep and thorough investigation. As I have said, the adoption of all the suggestions would result in big taxation reductions on the existing scale and a new, progressive tax scale would need to be drawn to maintain the Government’s receipts at the same level. That cannot be avoided, but we cannot go on increasing the rate of taxes. As I said in my maiden speech, it will become more and more necessary to find ways and means of getting more value for the money we are spending at present levels. I think we have reached the stage now where we can look at the whole question in retrospect. In the light of economic conditions in the last few years and the evolution of the law, which has really become fully apparent only in the last few months, it is idle to say that this should have been done earlier. It is not helpful now to indulge in hindsight and in cliches.
– The House is debating two income tax measures. I want to deal with the Income Tax Bill. In a very thoughtful contribution the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) referred to the present tax structure. Before going further into this aspect I would like to say a few words about the speech made by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland). He said that to give effect to Labor’s policy would increase expenditure on all sides. It is not unusual for any political party at election time to promise to do things. We remember that for a number of years prior to the last Senate elections the Labor Party had advocated water conservation schemes in many parts of the north but the Government had given the excuse that to implement such schemes would cost too much money. But suddenly, on the eve of the Senate elections, the Government announced water conservation schemes and other public works to be undertaken in Western Australia and Queensland at a cost of $1 10m. It is not unusual to have rash promises. On that occasion a couple of years ago the promises were not honoured; little has been heard of these proposals since the Senate elections.
There has been no alteration to the income tax scale since 1954. In many respects it is no longer a progressive tax structure but regressive. The honourable member for Curtin was a little hesitant to be too critical of the Government. He referred to certain economic conditions. Certainly the Government has enjoyed remarkable economic conditions in the past 8 or 9 years. There has been very great unplanned and uncontrolled inflow of foreign investment. Since 1960 the economy of this country has been buoyant. The Government has had ample opportunity to do something about our regressive tax scales as well as in other fields of income tax. The Budget papers reveal that in the last financial year receipts from personal income tax increased by $462m and from income tax on companies by $133m. So in the last financial year the Government got an extra $600m in income tax without increasing tax rates. I have no doubt that this financial year revenue from income tax will increase by $700m or even $800m compared with this financial year.
Let me give a few figures to show how regressive income tax rates are. In 1951 the basic wage paid to a worker with a wife and two children was $18 a week or $936 a year. His deduction for income tax purposes in respect of his wife and two children amounted to $468 leaving a taxable income of $468 on which he paid income tax of $12.40 or 1.32% of his annual income. In making these calculations I have not allowed for the fact that the taxpayer may have had other deductions. In 1969 the minimum wage, again taking the case of Sydney, is $39.60. There has been an increase of 120% compared with the basic wage of 1951. Expressed as yearly income the minimum wage is S2.059.20. A worker with a wife and two children would enjoy a deduction of $676 if he was earning the minimum wage, leaving him with taxable income of $1,383.20, on which he would pay income tax of $107.09 or 5.2% of his annual income. As honourable members will . see, the amount of income tax paid by a worker on the minimum wage has increased substantially from $12.40 in 1951 to $107.09 in 1969. It has increased from 1.32% of yearly earnings to 5.2%. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the research service of the Parliamentary Library. It is as follows:
In 1950-51 average weekly earnings amounted to $23.20 or $1,206.40 a year. Deductions for income tax purposes in respect of a wife and two children would amount to $468, leaving taxable income of $738.40, on which tax of $38.30 would be payable - 3.17% of annual income. Average weekly earnings in 1968-69 amounted to $68.90 or $3,582.80 a year, representing an increase of 197% over the figure for 1950-51. Deductions for a wife and two children would amount to $676, leaving taxable income of $2,906.80. On this sum tax of $436.67 would be payable, representing 12.18% of annual income.
From these figures the substantial manner in which income tax has increased over the years is apparent. A person earning the basic wage in 1951 would have paid virtually no income tax. If he had a few deductions other than those for his wife and two children he would pay no tax. Today the person earning the minimum wage pays more than $100 in income tax. People earning the average wage in 1950-51 paid only $38.30 in income tax but today people earning the average weekly wage pay $436.67 in income tax. As the honourable member for Curtin has said, these regressive tax scales need overhauling. With the increase of inflation during these years, there has been no change in the tax scale since 1954. Without altering the tax scales the Government will earn over $432m this year in increased taxation from individuals. 1 turn to the inequity between the treatment of an individual and the treatment of a company. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table which has been provided by the Library Research Service.
In 1949-50 $39 1.9m was paid in income tax by individuals. That was 23.3% of all Budget revenue. The amount of tax paid by companies was $ 167.3m or 14.4% of the Budget revenue. This year it is estimated that $2,84 1m or 40.9% of Budget revenue will be raised in income tax from individuals. Revenue from company income tax will be SI, 178m or 16.9% of the Budget revenue. Let us examine these figures more closely. In 1949-50, the last year of the Chifley administration, the amount of taxation collected from individuals was 23.3% of Budget revenue; it is estimated that this year it will be 40.9% of Budget revenue.
We come next to income tax paid by companies. We know that this country is controlled by monopolies probably more than any other capitalist country in the Western world with the exception of Japan. In 1949-50 the amount of income tax paid by companies was 14.4% of Budget revenue. This percentage has risen to only 16.9%, which is the estimate for this year. This illustrates the type of government that we are represented by. A company is taxed very little compared to an individual. The amount of income tax paid by companies has more or less maintained its level, whereas the amount of income tax paid by individuals as a percentage of Budget revenue has increased considerably.
We on this side of the House believe that a change in the tax scale is long overdue. Let us look at the huge profits that are being made by companies in this country. Last year they had a combined income before tax of $2,689m; in 1967-68, $2,382m; in 1966-67 $2,09 lm; and in 1965-66, $ 1,924m. The report of the Commissioner of Taxation discloses that onefifth of 1% of the 50,000-odd companies making a profit account for 37% of the profit of all companies. One per cent of all companies account for 55% of the profit of all companies, which is $2,689m, and the other 99% of all companies account for the other 45% of the total profit.
– The monopolies are making the big profits.
– Of course it is the monopolies and oligopolies in this country that are making the huge profits, but there seems to be a reluctance to tax the large companies in this country. The Government heavily taxes the individuals in the lower and middle income brackets. This sector of the community has to pay a huge amount of taxation.
I refer now to the Commonwealth taxation scale. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table from the report of the Commissioner of Taxation showing the incidence of income tax.
If one examines the scale one sees that there are 4,925,985 taxpayers within Australia. Of those 64.06% earn less than $3,000 a year. That means that 64% of people earn less than $59 a week, yet average weekly earnings in this country are $68.91 a week. So 64% of taxpayers earn less than the average weekly earnings. It can be seen that the great bulk of people pay the great burden of taxation. It is those in the lower and middle income brackets who seem to pay this huge tax slug year after year.
I refer now to an article that appeared in the Sydney ‘Sun’ on 16th September this year which contained a report on the proposals to be announced in the forthcoming policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It reads:
Prime Minister Mr Gorton’s policy speech will include income tax relief for people in the $5,000 to $10,000 a year wage bracket.
The headline reads: $100 a Week- That’s Where Tax Cuts Start.
The article goes on.
Me will not offer a flat reduction to apply to all taxpayers. lt is believed the offer will be -to taper the progressive rates to bring them more into line with other Western countries’ tax systems.
At present, the progressive rate of tax cuts out at 68c in the $1 for people on $32,000 a year.
If income tax on incomes between $6,000 and $30,000 a year were reduced by 10%, it would cost the Treasury $S0m a year, according to a private estimate.
Tax relief to be promised by Mr Gorton will apply from the Federal Budget to be introduced in August next year.
Any changes to taxation scales before then would disrupt the Government’s 1969-70 budgeting.
The present scales have not been altered since 1954.
Mr Gorton will base his taxation promises on a report he will receive from the Federal Treasurer, Mr McMahon, in the next few days.
If one examines the number of taxpayers in the $5,000 to $10,000 a year wage bracket, one finds that of the 4.9 million taxpayers only 373,000, or 7.78%- of all taxpayers - come within this bracket. People in this wealthy sector in the community need assistance so much less than those people in the lower and middle class income group. It is this sector that really needs relief. It is those in the lower and middle income brackets, as I have pointed out, who need relief. Therefore, 1 hope that, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said earlier, this is not an example of political gimmickry which has been brought out at this stage as a sop to get people to vote for the Government at the coming election. If it is, this is an example of further dishonest action by this Government.
Earlier 1 pointed out the inequities that exist within our taxation scale. I indicated that during the last years of the Chifley administration a husband on the basic wage with a wife and two children paid no taxation at all. People on lower incomes did not pay tax. As the inflationary trend has continued, these people have moved further and further into higher income tax brackets. Because of this, the people in the lower and middle income brackets are the people who have been hurt most by these inequities in our taxation scale. The document that I have incorporated in Hansard clearly shows not only that 64% of our population earns less than $59 per week but also that 76.91% of our people earn either the average wage or less than the average wage. Yet we are told that it is the sector of the community which earns more than the average wage of $70 per week for which we must show some concern. Instead of reducing taxation at that level, we should be considering this 76.91% of taxpayers because it is these people who have to bear the greater proportion of indirect taxation also. We know that they are being charged by these hidden taxes which exist because of the inflationary trend in our budgetary system. We know that it is these people who must face the great burden year in and year out. It is people in this sector who really need taxation relief. I believe that relief is long overdue.
This Government should have acted long ago in respect of these people. The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) intimated that this action should have been taken years ago. He did not want to say so because he felt that there had been difficult economic circumstances. But this Government has had 8 years without any real economic problems. We know that economic problems could be on the horizon. We know that our overseas reserves have fallen. For the first time in years we have seen a fall in overseas reserves. For the first time we are seeing a drying up in the unlimited flow of foreign investment’ to these shores. It will probably be more difficult in this coming year to be able to grant tax relief than it would have been to provide this relief over the past 8 years. This is the difficulty. These are the problems that we must confront. I hope that this is the last year in which this Government will have control of the treasury bench and that after 25th October a change of government will take place. I hope that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports who made a thoughtful contribution to the debate this afternoon will have the authority to redraw the tax structure so that the taxation scale will be equitable and progressive.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, this evening we are debating two income taxation Bills. We have heard the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) advance circular arguments in the same way as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) advanced them a little earlier today. Both honourable members have talked of review and of the need to give tax relief to the lower and middle income groups. Already the Government has announced that it is making such a review. But the Opposition speakers who talk of the need for review in one breath put forward in the next breath proposals which involve levying special purpose taxes over the whole range of income earners. It would seem to me that all that the Australian Labor Party is doing in advancing its views is endeavouring to create a situation where it, given the opportunity, could undertake a review resulting in upward tendencies in tax scales and tax liabilities.
I have been interested in the comments that have been made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports concerning the tax effect on the Labor Party’s superannuation proposals. I recall that earlier in this session, on 26th August, in answer to a question the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said:
I think there is no doubt at all that the scheme proposed by Professor Downing would in fact require a very considerable increase in taxation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) interjected:
That has not been adopted by the Labor Party.
The Prime Minister later in his answer said:
But whether or not this scheme has in fact been accepted by the Labor Party is by no means clear.
Another interjection came from the Leader of the Opposition: lt has noL
Yet, yesterday, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), leading for the Opposition in the debate in Committee on the Social Services Bill 1969 said: a principle which we think is worthy or consideration and which could be given effect to. The principle is that recently announced by Professor Downing. The principle is strongly recommended as the only way in the current circumstances of raising social welfare standards.
The honourable member later went on to say:
A policy such as we have announced could be discussed, elaborated and probably given effect to.
He said later:
This is a practical way by which our scheme-
That is the Labor Party’s scheme - . . could be given effect to.
One cannot but wonder at the contradiction here. The Leader of the Opposition says: No, the Downing scheme has not been accepted by the Labor Party’, and the leading spokesman for the Labor Party on social service matters states: ‘This is a practical way whereby our scheme could be given effect to’.
Let us from a taxation point of view examine for a few moments the tax implications of the scheme which the honourable member for Grayndler advanced on behalf of the Labor Party as being a practical way whereby its retirement benefit proposals could be given effect to. The benefits would be financed, according to the paper incorporated in Hansard by leave of this House, by a charge on employers at about 6% of total pay-rolls. This would meet half the cost of the scheme. Now, pay-roll tax is running at 2i%. It should be noted that ray-roll tax as a tax includes not only a tax on salaries and wages paid but on other allowances that are in the hands of the taxpayer and the income earner treated as allowances. In addition, contributions from wage earners would meet a quarter of the cost and would be graduated in relation to income.
Those receiving approximately the average weekly earnings would be liable to a special purpose tax, camouflaged presumably as a contribution, at the rate of 3.8% of taxable income. Now, 3.8% of taxable income would involve a considerable increase in the current rates of tax. This increase undoubtedly would be necessary, for the remaining quarter of the cost of this practical way of introducing a Labor scheme for retirement benefit proposals would be met by the Government allocating as much to the fund as it now allocates towards the payment of social service benefits. So when one hears Opposition speakers talking of the need to review tax scales and talking as though they would have in mind reducing liability, we must be careful not to have the wool pulled over our eyes. Maybe general rates of tax would be reduced. How I do not know, because as I mentioned they seem to require the same amount of government revenue for the Government to be able to put in its share of the cost of these proposals. But even if they did reduce, somehow, the general taxes, those taxes would be replaced by special purpose taxes under the guise of contribution and special purpose taxes which would be levied on both salary and wage earners and the employers of salary and wage earners. Taxes imposed upon employers must affect the capacity of employers to increase the remuneration that they can pay to their employees. So to suggest that imposition of the tax on an employer is not going to affect the employee is an acknowledgement of a blindness to the realities of the situation.
If, then, we turn for a moment from the Labor Party’s proposals for a retirement benefit plan, whichever it is - that which is denied by the Leader of the Opposition or that which is accepted by the honourable member for Grayndler - to the Labor Party’s health proposals we find that these proposals are to be financed by a special purpose tax under the guise of contribution. The evidence is overwhelming that the special purpose tax of 1 J%, representing an increase in income tax of 8%, would be far more expensive to the Australian taxpayer than the present voluntary health scheme.
We find, by looking at these two planks of the Labor Party’s social welfare programme, the retirement benefit plan and the health plan, that both involve considerable increases in taxation. An examination of its proposals tends to support the contention that there will be no room to manoeuvre to reduce general levels of tax. Therefore, in addition to those general levels, a Labor government, if perchance one was to be elected, would impose upon the Australian taxpayer, would impose upon the Australian family man, added burdens far in excess of the tax burden that now applies. Those burdens would be imposed and the taxpayer and the family man would be invited to accept them on the basis that they are special purpose taxes and as such are something which should be willingly and voluntarily paid, somewhat differently to the payment of ordinary tax liability.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports did enlarge in this debate on Labor’s retirement benefit plan and spoke of the need for people to be given the opportunity to provide earnings related pensions for retirement. He seemed to suggest that the only way to achieve this was by following the Canadian pattern - by establishing a nationalised superannuation fund. The whole success, if there has been success, of the Canadian pension plan has come from the fact that employer based occupational superannuation schemes have been integrated with those schemes provided by the Government. Because they have been integrated, because employers have established good and satisfactory pension plans for their employees the Canadian scheme is one that can be looked to in order to see whether there is anything that we can learn from it.
But I believe that our social service programme, under the tapered means test, will do for Australia’s retirees all that three programmes in Canada will do. The three programmes to which I refer are the income supplement scheme, the Canada pension plan and an old age security programme. The Australian social service programme will do more than the three Canadian plans put together. As a consequence of the Social Services Bill 1969 which was passed by this House yesterday and which included a provision to abolish the old knock-out means test and to replace it by an incentive based tapered means test, we will have a situation where a climate will develop in which private employer based superannuation schemes will be able to provide benefits tailored to suit the employees of the industries for which those schemes are set up. lt is interesting to observe that in recent years, indeed in recent months, there has been an increasing recognition in industry of a responsibility to establish for employees schemes tailored to suit the needs of those employees. I believe that if our tax laws are examined in an objective fashion to ensure that any remaining obstacles to the establishment of privately based and employer based superannuation schemes are removed, the time will come more rapidly under this scheme than under any proposal that the Labor Party has advanced when every employee will be a member of a superannuation scheme which is tailored to suit his requirements, to which the employee makes contributions, to which the employer makes contributions, and to which the Government makes a substantial contribution through the tax concessions allowable on contributions to those schemes and the exemption from income tax of the income of the funds to which those contributions are paid. 1 was extremely interested to read a report in the Adelaide ‘News’ of 6th August in which the Public Service union, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, was reported as expressing concern about the Labor Party’s proposal for a compulsory national superannuation scheme. The Association’s concern was that such a scheme might replace existing private schemes and mean lower benefits to the contributor. I believe that that concern was well justified. I am sure that through employer based schemes the workers and employees of Australia will be able to provide more adequately for their retirement than they would under any nationalised scheme.
I believe that the diversity which is available as a consequence of the establishment and encouragement of employer based schemes has many advantages that could not operate under one unified nationalised scheme. The employer based schemes give flexibility so that they can be tailored to suit the requirements of a particular industry. The flexibility will ensure, for example, that the employees of large outback mining towns can provide through their pension schemes for the type of benefits that they will need. In many cases the benefits that they will require will be an adequate provision, not only in terms of income during retirement, but a capital sum with which to purchase a house, they having spent most of their working lives living in companyand mine-provided accommodation. As a result of the tapered means test and the encouragement that will now obviously flow in the development of proper and occupation superannuation schemes it will no longer be necessary for us to contemplate the need to establish a nationalised superannuation scheme. Through the development of industry-based schemes I believe that every employee should have an opportunity and will have an opportunity to provide for retirement at rates above that minimum level which governments must necessarily provide to ensure that no-one falls below an acceptable minimum standard. It is the tapered means test that will enable this to be done.
As to taxation, as far as superannuation funds are concerned, I hope that the Government in its total review will pay particular attention to the special problems that now exist in relation to the tax burden imposed upon those who seek to contribute for retirement benefits through various superannuation fund schemes. I have on previous occasions drawn the attention of honourable members, both in speeches and in questions, to the need for the removal of certain anomalies, and I ask that those questions and speeches be examined when this review takes place.
This legislation contains a major proposal to extend the age tax allowance.- The extension on this occasion is not merely an automatic progression of the allowance as a consequence of a lift in general pension rates. The structure of the age tax allowance is being altered. It is being liberalised in a quite remarkable and generous way. As a consequence of the legislation now under discussion any married person in receipt of a taxable retirement income of $80 a week or less will pay less tax than he did formerly. If he is single and his taxable retirement income is less than $43 a week he also will pay less tax than he did previously. In each case those figures are the taxable figures after deducting all concessional deductions.
To give some idea of the effect that this extension will have I have made an analysis of some figures which 1 believe are extremely interesting. At the present time there are 26,012 beneficiaries receiving pensions from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. Assuming - and one must make this assumption to draw these comparisons - that these pensioners have no income other than an income sufficient to cover what would be their concessional deductions, so that the remaining taxable income is represented by the pension they receive from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, a very high proportion of the pensioners of the Fund will receive deductions of tax liability as a consequence pf the introduction of this liberalised proposal in respect to the age tax allowance. Certainly some of them will in addition to that receive benefits as a result of the introduction of the tapered means test.
At the present time there are 7,227 married pensioners over the age of 65 receiving pensions from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. Of these nearly 92%, or 6,639, are receiving pensions of less than $80 a week. Making the assumption that any other income is sufficient to cover their concessional deductions, and no more, 90% of the married pensioners of 65 or more in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund will receive some benefit under the age tax allowance if they are paying tax at the present time. Of single pensioners, both male and female, there are 10,128 of pensionable age; 8,731 have superannuation incomes of less than $40 a week. All of these could, benefit under the age tax allowance legislation now under discussion.
I note from a statement made by the Treasurer that those members of superannuation funds, the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and no doubt all other government, semi-government and private superannuation funds, who have put in the age allowance claim form will have the deductions in respect of their tax payments automatically adjusted but any who believe that they will now bc eligible, and eligible for the first time as a result of a liberalisa tion of the age tax allowance, should immediately make a claim to those administering the superannuation funds so that they can benefit from the reduced tax liability. The combination of the tapered means test and the age tax allowance will be of very great assistance to many people who have been on fixed incomes and who, quite rightly, have drawn the attention of members on this side of the House and of the Government to the need for some tax relief. They will, as a result of what I believe to be a very generous concession, have a much higher disposable income than was formerly the case.
In the time that is left to me in this debate I want to draw the attention of the House to a point which I emphasised in detail when the Income Tax Bill was under discussion last year. I am concerned at the impact of taxation on the family man. The liberalisation of the age tax allowance, whilst helping those of pensionable age - and quite rightly helping those of pensionable age - exaggerates and accentuates the need to do something for the family taxpayer. Last year I quoted from an article - and I believe that it is worth repeating - by Mr J. K. Connor which appeared in the August 1968 edition of the ‘Taxpayers’ Bulletin’. The article stated:
The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) in his very fine speech earlier this afternoon drew attention to this particular problem and I support his remarks, particularly on this point.
I believe, and 1 hope, that the review now being undertaken will take account of the problem that faces the single income family. As I see it, such families fall into two categories, one containing those in the low income bracket and the other those in the middle income bracket. Those in the low income bracket are affected by the fact that the threshold of tax liability for the family man is too low. In fact, the income at which tax liability commences is much lower for the family man with three children than it now is to be for the married aged person. The position is such that a married taxpayer who is eligible for the age tax allowance can receive a taxable income of $43.50 a week and an assessable income, after all concessional deductions have been taken off - except for the wife’s allowance - of $49.50 a week and pay no tax. Living next door to him can be a young family with one breadwinner who has an income of $49.50 a week after meeting all concessional deductions for medical expenses, education and whatever else can be claimed, other than the family deduction, and he pays tax at the rate of $3.30 a week. So it is my belief that in any review of the tax structure account must be taken of the point at which tax liability commences for these single income families with young children, particularly for the single income families where lbc mother of children is required to be at home or should be at home for the benefit and in the best interests of the children.
If we look at those in the middle income groups we find single income families where the mother could be at work because her children are of school-going age and the circumstances are such that she could, without in any way harming the welfare of her children, supplement the family income; but because of the codes of behaviour and the traditions when she was a younger person she has not the skills to enable her to seek employment. If she has the skills there are, very often, not the opportunities available for her in employment which will enable her, in effect, to indulge in a luxury which others can indulge in. and that is the luxury of income splitting. So I come back to the point that was first raised in this debate by the honourable member for Curtin - the need for there to be a close examination of the question as to whether or not tax liability should be viewed from the point of view of the liability of a family, so that families where the mother, because of the number or ages of her children, should not be disadvantaged as a consequence of her staying at home to provide the best opportunities for those children, who are the future citizens of this country.
– I should like to commend the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) for drawing attention to some important phases of our income tax revisions this year. 1 do not believe these have sunk into the general public. When people do appreciate them they will realise just what generous moves have been taken by the Government to see to the welfare of a section of the people who have had a fair grouse in recent years because they have been just outside the limits imposed by the means test and by the application of income tax provisions relating to aged people. When they realise that the Government has taken action to taper out the means test, that this will enable them to increase their disposable money - their cash in hand for the things that they need - and thai income tax has been scaled oh an extended basis so that it does not cut off abruptly, they will realise the importance which this Government has attached to making the taxation requirements as equitable as possible.
The honourable member for Sturt and the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) have drawn attention to one phase of our income tax provisions which needs great consideration in any review that is undertaken. There seems to be much speculation concerning the taxation review and I hope that the Government will give great thought to providing for a much more generous allowance for a family man with a wife and children. I should hope that the Government would enable the people on lower incomes, for whom this is a vital matter, to get some relief from the taxation rates that have been applied because of increases in salaries and wages which have been growing at an alarming rate. People now complain that because they have been granted substantial increases in their wages they have gone into a new tax bracket which involves them in heavier taxation. People have the extraordinary idea that they should not do more work because although it will earn them a little more money they will pay a lot more taxation. But I point out that the people who need to earn extra money are not adversely affected. If they work a little longer and contribute more to their job they will get more money, but they will pay extra taxation. Even if they pay a 10% tax they will get 90c for every SI extra that they earn. Most people get paid at time and a half rates for overtime and if they get 90c for every additional $1 they earn that is not a bad addition to their weekly earnings.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– I would like to draw the attention of the House to one particular phase of the taxation proposals in the two Bills that we have before us at the moment. I refer to the amount of taxation that is applied to share subscriptions - mainly the moneys that have been put into oil exploration in recent months. 1 am very pleased to find that sections 77a and 77aa of the Act are now to be combined. This will save a lot of confusion and will enable a lot of the companies concerned to go ahead with their plans instead of having to form separate companies in order to operate in minerals as distinct from oil. However we find that the Treasury has seen fit to make some change in the deductions that are allowed under these particular sections. The sections I have mentioned, in conjunction with section 82, have offered an inducement for many years to the investor who puts his money into oil shares or mining shares, which we can now regard perhaps as one. This is one of the inducements that has been held out as an attraction to people to invest so that companies can go ahead with their oil exploration programmes to ensure that the oil which we desperately need and which is so vital to us can be discovered. An inducement for people to invest in these companies has been offered over the years by way of tax concessions.
The Government members mining committee has been very active in putting forward the suggestion that through tax concession we should be able to help people to channel their money in this direction perhaps in favour of some other direction. But over the last year there has been unfortunately a great spate of new floats, many of which had hardly anything to commend them except that, because they went on the stock exchange, there was an opportunity for someone to make some money. I do not mind admitting that I myself have fallen for this little trap. It is quite an interesting exercise to feel, by putting money into oil exploration, that one is able to obtain some tax concession. If a person invests, for instance, 50c - or multiples of 50c - he is entitled to receive a deduction in taxable income of that amount. If he is taxed at a rate of 50% or, say, 33£%, he is able to effect an economy. He does not actually make a profit. He has a saving by way of taxation of anything up to 25c. This is the attraction.
At the same time as many thousands of people like myself were attracted to this as a means of investing some savings, there are people who deal in shares as a business. It has been found that these people have been able to make some pretty considerable profits as distinct from savings. This is because they could subscribe very much larger sums than I or so many other people who were involved in this practice were able to do. Those people could subscribe their money to some particular oil float and when it went on to the market they expected to make a considerable profit. This was so badly overdone that the whole market collapsed. We all know how very sick the oil market is at present. Even the shares of companies which have very good prospects and are holding territories which are likely to produce oil are now down to about half price. The value of the shares has been forced down by the absurd number of floats that appeared last year. Some dealers appear to have been able to make a very big profit. This is why the Treasury has now decided that it will prevent these dealers from obtaining what it calls a double benefit.
At present dealers can buy a share for, say, 50c and according to the rates of tax they pay they are able to make savings. Under section 82 they also have been able to claim a deduction for the cost of the share when they sold it. But people involved in this operation are dealers and this is their business. They maintain the ordinary set of books that one would expect a businessman to maintain. They expect to take the rough with the smooth. However, dealers would not expect to find that having made, say, a saving of 25c on the purchase of a share, they would be taxed when they sold that share the same 25c because the double concession has been withdrawn. 1 cannot say that I have a great deal of sympathy with dealers that would be caught up in this trap. When I say trap I mean that the double concession is to be denied them in the future. I might point out that this legislation is not retrospective. The change will not apply to business that was done over the last year, and particularly during this year. In future this avenue of profit will be denied to them.
There are two ways of looking at this. One is from the point of view of the genuine exploration company which feels that it is quite safe, if it has a good proposition, in going to the public and saying that it needs more money and wants to float a new company to encourage some particular activity. Genuine people have no difficulty in persuading a large section of the community to put money into such a venture. However, there is also a section that is very much more speculative. These are the professionals - the dealers - who operate on the stock exchange every day. These people watch the activities of the stock exchange. Because they happen to have a close affinity with this body they are able to juggle a little bit more than the ordinary person. However, every cent that goes into an oil exploration company is used for the purpose of helping the discovery of oil which this country so badly needs.
-Order! I think the honourable gentleman is dealing with a BUI that is not before the House at the moment. The honourable gentleman is dealing with the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2).
– I thought we were dealing with the Bills conjointly.
– No, this Bill is not before the House. The honourable member is dealing with rates of income tax and that Bill is not before the House at the moment. I have allowed the honourable member some latitude on this.
– Mr Speaker, if 1 could bc sure that these Bills are not being discussed conjointly, well and good. I understood that it was the wish of the House to deal with the Bills in this way.
– No, the honourable member is speaking to another Bill. The Bill which the House is discussing fixes the general rates of income tax. The Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2), which is the Bill to which the honourable member is speaking, deals with questions in relation to companies and the discovery of petroleum and minerals in Australia.
– I am sorry if I have transgressed. I apologise to the House for taking up its time. But as 1 read the blue notice paper I understood that order of the day No. 3, the Income Tax Bill, and order of the day No. 4, the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill were to be the subject of a cognate debate. 1 apologise for having wasted the time of the House. 1 am very sorry. I really understood that the Bills were being considered together. Next week I hope to have an opportunity to raise this particular matter.
To round off my remarks, there are one or two points that I want to make regarding rates of income tax. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had mentioned that certain things ought to be done to tidy up some of the rates which it is said act as a deterrent to people earning more money. One of the points that was made by two of the speakers on the Opposition side was that the Government will propose new rates of taxation in its policy in the forthcoming election. I was amazed by this statement because I understood that that was to be one of the main points on which the Opposition would base its policy. I thought that honourable members on both sides of the House shared the view that the question of rates of taxation should become an issue to be discussed during the election campaign. As the main point which I wanted to raise referred to deductions for income tax purposes by oil companies which are the subject of another Bill, I apologise for having raised it tonight and I indicate that I will continue on another occasion the remarks I was making.
– I wish to speak only briefly to the Bill and to reinforce the remarks made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I wish to deal with only one section of the rates which are levied under the Income Tax Act and with the section of the community which, it is alleged, is carrying a greater income tax burden each year. It is becoming obvious that the present Income Tax Act, as it relates to the imposition of actual rates of income tax, is a very ancient document and is possibly best designed for the economy and the wage structure of some 15 years ago. It is not applicable today. This fact has been recognised by the Opposition for some time, and apparently at last it has been recognised by the Government. There has been a lot of talk about the so-called middle income group. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports asked: ‘What is the middle income group?’ When one speaks about the middle income group, one needs to define it. Who are the people in the middle income group?
I am concerned with a selected group, rather than with a particular defined group, of taxpayers in the $3,000 to $9,000 a year range. Today this group of taxpayers is becoming more and more dominant in the economy. Fifteen years ago this group of taxpayers, earning between $3,000 and $9,000 per year, constituted approximately 6% of the total number of taxpayers. Today this same group constitutes well over 30% of the total number of taxpayers. This is a very steep increase. If one takes the progression further, it is fair to hypothesise that in, say, 10 years this group of taxpayers will be the most dominant within the taxation structure, because of inflation, which is continuously increasing wages, and because also of increased award rates granted through reclassification and through conciliation and arbitration. In the last 15 years national income has increased by 250%. Over the same period total Commonwealth income tax has increased by 150%. Bearing those two figures in mind and also the fact that taxation paid by this group of taxpayers about which I am speaking - the pay as they earn group - has increased by 380%, one sees the stark, telling nature of the problem which has been caused by this very steep increase in the amount of income tax paid by this group of taxpayers. As I have said, this group of taxpayers in the $3,000 to $9,000 a year range now constitutes 30% of the total number of taxpayers in Australia, and the group is getting larger.
It also seems very obvious that the constant demand for higher wages is closely correlated to our ancient type of tax structure, because as inflation takes its toll and as a person’s job is reclassified, from a relative point of view he pays additional tax. This state of affairs is continuing progressively. It would seem that if the Government undertakes a revision of the tax structure it could have some sort of a dampening effect on this constant clamour for increased wages caused by a deterioration in the real net income. Let me compare the amount of tax paid in Australia with the amount paid overseas to see whether the charge is correct that this particular sector of taxpayers in Australia to which I have referred is paying a greater amount of tax than a similar sector of the community in other countries. I do not know whether it is true that this group of Australian taxpayers is paying more tax than similar groups in other countries, but at least I have not been able to find figures to disprove that hypothesis. Let me quote a few figures based on an average income of $10,000 a year. A person in Australia would pay 32% of that income in taxation, a person in the United States would pay 12% of it in taxation, a person in Germany would pay 21% of it in taxation and a person in France would pay 10% of it in taxation.
– You are making no allowance for purchasing power.
– I am talking about relativity, and I think it would still be right. If we take an income of $40,000 a year we find that a person in Australia would pay 56% of that income in taxation, a person in the United States would pay 29% of it in taxation, a person in Germany would pay 40% of it in taxation, and a person in France would pay 26% of it in taxation. From those figures it would seem that there is a very high incidence of taxation in the group of taxpayers earning between $3,000 and $9,000 a year. Of course, one could ask what would happen if we reduced the taxation rate for this socalled middle income group. Somebody would have to pay for it. I think that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) or somebody has worked it out that if there were a 10% reduction in the rate of tax for this income group, there would be a total reduction of $250m in revenue. If the rates of tax are reduced, who will replace the $250m that will be lost to revenue? This would seem to be the exercise that is now closely engaging the attention of the Taxation Branch and the Treasury.
It is obvious that when the revised tax rates are implemented, the holiday that has been enjoyed by the relatively wealthier people will, to some extent, be over. They will have to provide a bigger share of the receipts from taxation. Perhaps the amount will be raised by specific taxes, such as a tax on certain capital gains. Clearly, the handouts that have become part and parcel of the Budget each year will have to be examined more closely. The so-called Collins Street farmers - the professional men who seek to reduce the amount of tax they pay by buying a piece of land and developing it - may find that they- will have to pay a higher rate of tax. 1 throw those thoughts into the ring because it does seem from the evidence that is available that the incidence of taxation each year is falling more harshly on the group with the smaller income, and in a properous economy like ours this should not happen.
– I want to take up some of the interesting remarks that were made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). He outlined the Australian tax structure and commented on the disposition between indirect and direct taxation. He gave the House some very useful and helpful figures which showed how indirect taxation has been increasing and how the desirable preponderance of the less regressive form of taxation, such as income tax, was being disturbed. He said that, from his own study, it would appear that, speaking broadly about taxation, it was not true to say that Australia was one of the highest taxed countries in the world. He pointed out that the North American countries, the United States and especially Canada, were very much more highly taxed than Australia was.
The honourable member went on to discuss the types of indirect taxes that were levied in other countries and compared them with indirect taxes in Australia. He mentioned particularly the provisions for social security. He showed that in the United States 18.5% of total taxation was directed towards social security whilst in Australia the figure was as low as 3.2%, even includ ing pay-roll tax which was introduced to provide principally for child endowment and similar social amenities, though more recently other motivations have come into a consideration of pay-roll tax. Then the honourable member spoke about the ways in which social security could be provided. He spoke at length about retirement provisions and the necessity for a better form of superannuation, which the pension as we know it today is rapidly becoming. There is an ever-growing sector in the community which regards the pension not in its traditional form as a means of augmenting savings or of providing mere sustenance for the unfortunate but as the amount on which they expect to retire when they finish their earning life. He brought in the question of some form of compulsory saving to provide an adequate income for people at the end of their earning life. In response to an interjection from me, the honourable member said that he thought some provision should be made to adjust this rate from time to time according to the purchasing power of money.
I give that outline of the honourable member’s speech because, with him, 1 believe that governments will have to give new attention to indirect taxation and to the provision of social services or social security by means of compulsory insurance against retirement. But other forms of insurance and indirect taxation are also under scrutiny. For instance, the Government recently brought down income tax concessions for aged persons in the lower income brackets who have income from their own earnings or from property and now. because of the introduction of the tapered means test, quite significant adjustments ha%’e been made to the income tax concessions for aged persons.
But there is another form of taxation that Labor intends to bring down should it by some misfortune come to occupy the treasury bench after 25th October. This is a compulsory health scheme which would provide hospital and medical care for everyone. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has made several statements about this new form of indirect taxation. For instance, on 4th August last he said:
In most cases contributions to the commission would be lower.
He was referring to the health commission that Labor would establish. He also said:
People who earn average income would in fact be obliged to pay the commission about half as much as they now pay the funds.
This was a reference to the voluntary hospital and medical benefit funds that now exist in Australia.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The measures before the House deal with income tax and not indirect taxes. 1 would like to know how the matter being discussed by the honourable member is related to the Bills before the House.
– I think the honourable member is just making a passing reference.
– No, Sir, on the contrary. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports spent half his time talking on this subject.
– Order! The Chair has been rather lenient. As I said to the honourable member for Reid, I thought the honourable member for Evans was making a passing reference to this point.I have been looking at the Treasurer’s second reading speech and I am satisfied that the honourable member is getting away from the subject matter of the Bills.
– Sir, with respect, 1 am replying to at least half of the speech made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I am not concerned with whether the honourable member is replying to another speech. I have given him my interpretation. The honourable member is getting away from the subject matter of the Bills.
– I am directing my attention to the fact that direct taxation, as we have it at present in Australia, is augmented by other forms of taxation which are described by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports as indirect taxes. He made the point that these were an undesirable increment to direct taxation.
– Order! I am not concerned with what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports had to say when I was not in the chair.
Br MACKAY- Sir, if I cannot reply to his speech, 1 will not go on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 3. (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - co-operative company’ has the same meaning as in Division 9 of Pan Ml. of the Assessment Act; tax’ means income tax referred to in sub-section (1.) of section 5 of this Act; the Assessment Act’ means the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1969.
Clause 9. (3.) Where the taxable income of a taxpayer to whom this section applies does not exceed Four thousand one hundred and twenty-one dollars and during the year of income the ‘a:;payer contributes to the maintenance of his spouse, being a person who is a resident of Australia during the whole of the year of income, the amount of tax payable by the taxpayer by reason of the last three preceding sections shall not exceed the amount calculated in relation to the sum of the taxable incomes of the taxpayer and his spouse or, where bis spouse has no taxable income, in relation to the taxable income of the taxpayer (in this Act referred to as ‘the combined taxable income’) in accordance with the rates prescribed for the purposes of this subsection by the Seventh Schedule, less any rebate or credit to which he is entitled, or, if the combined taxable income does not exceed Two thousand two hundred and sixty-two dollars, no tax is payable by the taxpayer.
– by leave - I move:
In clause 3, at the end of sub-clause (I.), insert the following definition: - “the combined taxable income”, in relation to a taxpayer and his spouse, means -
In clause 9, omit sub-clause (3.), insert the following sub-clause: - (3.) Where the taxable income of a taxpayer to whom this section applies does net exceed Four thousand one hundred and twenty-one dollars and during the year of income the taxpayer contributes to the maintenance of his spouse, being a person who is a resident of Australia during the whole of the year of income -
Since the amendments are related one to the other I propose to speak to both amendments now. The amendments relate to the married couple provisions of the age allowance which, under clause 9 of the Bill, will be provided for persons of pensionable age deriving income within specified ranges.
As clause 9 of this Bill stands at present the situation is that, in a limited range of cases where the taxpayer and his spouse each has a taxable income, and tax is limited by reference to ‘combined taxable income’, an extra $1 of income of the spouse can result in an increase in the taxpayer’s tax, as limited by the age allowance, of 90c or $1.33, depending upon whether the 45% or 661% ‘shading-in’ rate applies. The explanation of this lies in the fact that in certain circumstances the concessional deduction allowable to the taxpayer for maintenance of his spouse reduces, under the general provisions of the income tax law, by $1 for each $1 of additional income of the spouse. It is therefore possible for an extra $1 of income of the spouse to result in an increase of $2 in ‘combined taxable income*.
By way of illustration, a taxpayer and his wife whose taxable incomes are $3,800 and $130 respectively would have a combined taxable income of $3,930 and the taxpayer’s tax would be limited to $687.65. If the wife’s taxable income were to increase by $10 to $140, the combined taxable income would be increased by $20, represented by the wife’s additional income of $10 and the reduction of $10 in the con cessional deduction allowable to the taxpayer for her maintenance. The combined taxable income would then be $3,950 and the taxpayer’s lax would be limited to $700.98, representing an increase of 661% of $20, although the additional income received was only $10. The amendments I propose are designed to eliminate this possible doubling-up’ effect.
The first amendment that has been moved will insert a new definition of ‘combined taxable income’ which, in technical effect, will mean that, for the purpose of limiting tax payable by an aged person, the combined taxable income of a married couple is to be reduced by the amount by which the taxpayer’s taxable income would be reduced if, -in calculating the concessional deduction available to him for the maintenance of his spouse, an amount of the spouse’s income equal to her taxable income were disregarded. In the example I gave earlier the effect of the amendment will be that combined taxable income is increased by $10 instead of $20.
The second amendment, as I have said, complements the first amendment. It will omit the indirect definition of ‘combined taxable income’ contained in sub-clause (3.) of clause 9 of the Bill, under which the doubling-up’ effect I have mentioned could have occurred. The amendments are wholly in harmony with the concept of the age allowances. They do not require any change in the tables which have been circulated and incorporated in Hansard to illustrate the combined effects of the age allowance and the pension measures. I ask the Committee to approve the amendments.
– The Opposition does not oppose the amendments but it is interesting to note that here we have another example of how, despite the combined wisdom of experts, the obvious is neglected. The necessity for these amendments at this stage reflects the complexity of our tax system. I was interested this afternoon to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), who has not long been a member of Parliament. For quite a number of years he has been a practitioner in taxation matters. He may not be aware that many of the things he said today in what was only his second speech in this place I have been saying for nearly 18 years. Apparently only now are people beginning to talk about altering the tax structure. It is not a simple thing to alter.
I would agree with arguments that have been advanced from both sides of the chamber. I do not think receipts from taxes in Australia will get any less than they are now. They will increase, as they must in a community whose population and income standards are rising - in a community which expects also to have a greater provision of services at the government level. It is meaningless to compare tax statistics for 1969 with those for 1954. There may be some useful overtones in such an exercise but surely the essential thing is to ask what is expected of governments in 1969. I submit that everybody expects more of them. The public collectively seems to think less of politicians than ever before but expects more of them. We are engaged on a serious exercise.
The amendments which the Minister for Civil Aviation and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Swartz) has introduced relate to the tapered means test and the age allowance. Again, critically, 1 ask: Is there any reason why a person receiving $70 a week and having only himself and his wife to support should pay less tax than a person receiving $70 a week and having a wife and a couple of children to support? Matters such as this are being overlooked in this great rush to abolish the means test. If we have accepted abolition of the means test as a proposal 1 hope that we will go ahead with it, but I submit that the needs of two persons 65 years of age, with no dependants, are less than the needs of a growing young family on the same income level. As the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) pointed out this afternoon, the taxation statistics show that more people in Australia -mainly young people - receive less than $70 a week than receive more than $70 a week. I find it hard to justify special tax concessions to those of a certain age receiving a certain income when other people with the same income do not enjoy those concessions. This isone of the things that has to be tidied up when we get around to what seems to be an accepted principle today, namely abolition of the means test. When we reach that stage we must again look at the rates of tax being paid by people on varying incomes. This seems to me to be a kind of halfway house. It is an anomalous circumstance, but nevertheless it is consistent with what we have done in the past. As I say, we offer no objection to the Bill at this stage, but I think this is one of the problems that we will have to think through much better than we have.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments: report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 August (vide page 825).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 September (vide page 1547), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
In some respects this is a rather interesting measure. It proposes to allow a bounty to be paid up to the level of 25% of the cost of manufacturing a book in Australia.If honourable members read the Bill that we are contemplating they will find a number of definitions. Clause 3 states: manufacturer’ means a person who carries out all or any of the production processes in relation to books and, in relation to a particular book, means -
In recent times we have been producing, fortunately for the cultural life of Australia, books that are described as having literary or educational value. They do not include pulp comics. A publication has to be of a certain level to be described as a book. We are now producing more books in Australia. So we should because we are a nation that has very good writers. We have an education system whereby we are all literate or supposed to be literate and need a great number of text books. It was not unnatural or surprising that the production of books actually made in Australia should have increased. But apparently an anomalous situation has existed. I think it was very well described by Mr Owens of Griffin Press, which I understand is a branch of the ‘Advertiser’ newspaper in South Australia. He said that the book industry is probably unique in Australia because it is the only industry which has to pay a duty on its raw materials but in which end products are imported duty free. The point he was making was that paper that is imported to produce a book has to have a duty paid on it but that, in the name of not taxing knowledge, we allow a printed book which would have used the same paper to be imported duty free. In other words, because the book is imported the paper does not enter into Australian trade statistics and the completed book can be imported without a duty being paid on the paper.
I struck a rather curious example of this the other day. I am sure that some of the members of the Australian Country Party will be interested in it. Apparently by reason of the Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement it is possible for sugar exported from Australia to New Zealand to be landed in New Zealand at a price cheaper than the price the Australian consumer pays. I think that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) understands this. We have a guaranteed home price but we sell any exports at a lower price. Apparently what has happened is that certain enterprising characters in New Zealand have found that they can manufacture jam in New Zealand and export the jam from, say, Auckland to Sydney and sell it at a price cheaper than the price of jam made in a Sydney or Melbourne factory mainly because of the fact that no duty is paid on the jam from New Zealand. If trade is supposed to be free and conducted on equal terms, I think there is a case to add to the New Zealand price the equivalent of the Australian duty on imported sugar. In some respects this seems to me to be what the book bounty will do. To some extent it is an attempt to equilibrate the disadvantage which the Australian book producer suffers by reason of the fact that his paper is dearer because he has to pay a duty on it. The other thing that my side of the House supports particularly is the fact that we have a higher wage standard in Australia than that in Hong Kong where many of the books imported into Australia come from.
In an article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 18th September 1968 Mr Owens was reported as having said that the main item in 1966-67 in book manufacturing costs was the cost of materials, which accounted for 33% of the total cost. The preponderant material in making a book, as most people would understand, is paper. Paper accounts for two-thirds of the onethird of the total cost of a book that is embraced in the term ‘materials’. Labour is the next significant cost. A third of the cost of a book in Australia is due to labour costs. I understand that in some countries the figure is as low as 10% or 15% by reason of cheaper labour. Overhead items account for 18% of the cost and blocks and plates account for a further 11%. Those items make up about 95% of the total cost of book manufacturing in Australia. We are at two distinct disadvantages. Firstly, the principal material, paper, is dearer in Australia and, secondly, our labour standard in Australia is higher than in Hong Kong or Singapore. Basically the second problem is the reason for this measure. At least the Government is to be commended for approaching this problem on the basis of a bounty rather than by putting a tariff or a duty on all paper that comes into Australia. As the trade itself recognised, if a duty was imposed on the paper content of every book that came into Australia the majority of those engaged in the Australian book trade would be affected.
Anyway, I do not think that anybody in Australia believes that we are such a cultural enclave that we can do without the printed word from anywhere else in the world. I am thankful that in the field of television we have the blessings of the British Broadcasting Commission as well as the blessings of the Australian Broadcasting Commission as far as the quality of programmes is concerned. I think the same remark may be applied to the printed word. A great deal of the best book material, whether it is in the form of a novel, poetry, an autobiography, or authoritative writings on economics, sociology or anything else, comes from overseas. Many of the best works are not written by Australians in Australia. These works are written outside Australia.
The situation would be unfortunate if every book that came into Australia had to bear a duty by reason of this difficulty faced by book manufacturers in Australia. It would be, as the trade recognised, a tax on knowledge. It would be something like the window tax and other devices that were adopted 100 years ago in less enlightened days in countries which now are more enlightened. For this reason, we support the way in which action is being taken by way of a bounty rather than through a tariff duty.
The level of the bounty is 25% of the cost of production. Again I rely on the statements of Mr Peter Owens. He said: A book which retails at $7.50 would normally cost about $2 to manufacture.’ That means that the remaining $5.50 includes provision for the living of the author of the book, the profits of the seller of the book and an allowance for the risks run by a publisher who may bring out an edition of 1.0,000 books. If the book is a good seller he will be able to reprint it quickly and sell a number of editions. But with many books in Australia it may take several years before a publisher recovers his costs and sells all the first edition. 1 think that the margin between the actual manufacturing cost of a book and the retail price of a book is an understandable one although I think that there is considerable ground in Australia for thinking sometimes that the book retailers receive a better margin than they are entitled to. But this is not a matter for discussion this evening.
I understand that this bounty is to be administered by a board or committee of some kind. The details of this body are not contained in the second reading speech of the Minister. I do not intend at this stage to move any amendments to the Bill. I think that amendments are futile at this time because, in a few weeks, we will be able to rewrite the Act to appoint the sort of committee that we would like. So, we shall not be proposing any amendments tonight. What we do suggest is that some consideration should have been given to appointing a member of the printing industry, on the employee’s side, to the body that will administer this bounty. 1 hope that the Minister will bear that suggestion in mind.
Wc do commend the measure. We think that those in the printing industry in Australia, particularly book producers, need this sort of protection. In fact, in some way what was being done in the book trade was possible only because of the improvements in communications. Apparently, a book written in Australia could be sent to Hong Kong or Singapore by special air delivery and somebody in Hong Kong or Singapore then would set t! ; type and so on and print the book. This was considerably cheaper; I think that the margin was as large as 30% of the final cost of the book. This was the saving if the book was printed in this fashion.
This sort of practice could well be an advantage in certain fields. If one wished to distribute a large number of copies of a textbook in areas in the world where low living standards prevailed, the cheaper one could make that book available the better it would be. I understand that the printing of textbooks on quite a considerable scale is carried out now in Japan. This practice enables the books to be sold much cheaper in Australia. Nobody is arguing about that sort of practice. What is being argued is this curious device of simply looking at market factors only without regard to the continuance of a basic Australian industry which resulted in books that otherwise would have been printed in Australia being forced out of this country to be printed overseas.
I think that general agreement was reached with many of the book publishers and many of the printing trade unions - some thousands of members of these unions are employed in this industry - that what was being done was unfair economically. I am one who believes that the fewer restrictions there are with regard to international trade the better it is. Nevertheless, anomalous situations can be brought into existence of which rather shrewd people sometimes take advantage.
If everybody looked at the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law no problems would arise. This applies in the field of taxation, which we were discussing earlier today, more than in any other field. I think my friend, the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes), would agree with me on this subject of the spirit of the law although, no doubt, he has profited greatly sometimes by trying to interpret the letter of the law as against the spirit of the law. Nevertheless, as a community we should observe the spirit of the law. One of the earliest books that I was required to read in my studies was ‘De L’Esprit dcs Lois’ which was written by Montesquieu, a great authority in jurisprudence in his day. Sometimes the spirit of the law is not observed. I think that in this matter a breach of the spirit of things has occurred. This breach has been blocked by this measure providing for a bounty.
I say on behalf of the Opposition that we support the Bill. I hope that it will lead to a reflowering of the industry. Somebody said that the bloom was going off in the printing of books in Australia by reason of this sleight-of-hand involving the printing of books in Hong Kong and Singapore which were then shipped to Australia and sold at lower prices here than was possible legitimately in relation to books printed in Australia. We support the measure. We hope that the Bill will put the bloom back into the Australian publishing industry.
– The Book Bounty Bill will be welcomed by the Federated Book Manufacturers Branch of the Printing and Allied Trade Employers
Federation of Australia. Representatives of that Branch of the Federation spoke to the Government members trade committee, of which I am secretary, on 24th October 1968 about this problem. I expect that those representatives will be thinking that it has taken a little time for this legislation to be introduced. However, no doubt the results will please them greatly.
While I am on this matter of the meeting of these representatives with the Government members trade committee, I mention that it was through the initiative of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes), who is chairman of the committee, that those representatives had the opportunity of talking with us. They, submitted to us a very well documented case in the form of a booklet in which they outlined the fundamental problems of the industry which are repeated in broad terms in the second reading speech on this Bill delivered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon).
The major problem that book manufacturers face is competition from Hong Kong and Japan. That fact underlines the problem that a lot of other Australian industries face now and will face in the future. The Government, assisted by officers in the various departments concerned, obviously is concerned about competition from those countries which have fundamental advantages over Australia, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said, particularly in regard to the cost of material and labour. The industry representatives submitted to us last year that the labour cost in Hong Kong for a 57-hour week is up to $10 a week. Everybody knows that that is entirely different from the wage structure in Australia. I am sure that most of us want to see the developing countries progressing but I am afraid that we cannot encourage them at the expense of our own industry and at the expense of jobs for our people. Even though Australians enjoy a pretty high standard of living we stilt have to maintain our development. We have to provide more jobs week after week and also have to maintain the skills of our people. Therefore not only our book manufacturers but many of our other industries are affected or are threatened.
There is one major problem that I would like to put on record. In countries like Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan it is not necessarily their own capital that is causing the problem; it is capital from places like the United States of America. Companies with huge capital resources at their disposal can set up plants in these areas and get the benefit of the various wage and material cost advantages to whichI referred earlier. We like to see the standard of living rising in Asian countries because it gives us a chance to export to them foodstuffs and other goods manufactured in Australia. In this way our economy and our export income will be assisted.
It is interesting to note that in the case submitted to the Government Members Trade Committee the industry representatives asked for the very form of protection or assistance that the Government is providing in this Bill. The industry representatives agreed that it was a difficult problem because of the traditionally free flow of literature, books and so on into Australia as well as to other countries. It would have been a problem for the Government to restrict book imports or to impose duties on books coming into Australia when they bad originated here but had been sent overseas to be printed.
If I remember correctly, some copyright proposal was put forward by the industry on the lines of a scheme which operated in the United States. However we were informed that the Americans were thinking of dropping this principle. Therefore the Government and its advisers considered that Australia might be turning back the clock if it introduced that form of protection for local manufacturers. I shall quote a short passage from the case submitted to the Government Members Trade Committee. It is as follows:
This unusual problem requires an extremely urgent solution by Government assistance, probably in the form of bounty, to enable the Australian book manufacturers to compete on near to equal terms with Asia.
This bounty is at the rate of 25% of the cost of production of each book. There could be some argument about the scale of the bounty but I have not received any representations from the Federated Book
Manufacturers Branch. Therefore I assume it is satisfied now that the Government is taking this action.
There is one final point that I recall the representatives of the Branch making to the Government Members Trade Committee. 1 admit that I have not checked on it and perhaps I should have done so. IfI remember rightly the deputation which met the Government Members Trade Committee mentioned that even some government departments and education departments were having books printed overseas. As I read the Bill it does not deal with this matter. It seems to me that it would be reasonable that the State and Federal governments, who represent the people of Australia, should not regard sheer economy as the overriding criterion when deciding where government books oughtto be printed. If this has not been corrected in this Bill - I do not think it has - I would like the Government to look into the matter and to see that at least a certain proportion of government printing, whether it be education books, State or Federal, or other publications, is done in Australia even if it costs a bit more.
– A bounty is not to be paid on government books, of course, whether they be printed for the Commonwealth or for the States.
– Is the honourable member referring to education books?
– I think that what I said gives more force to your argument that these publications should be looked at separately.
– I thank the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. This is so: the Bill does not provide for a bounty in respect of government publications.
– The Government is relying on the honour of the various governments.
– I think that is so. This Parliament has control only over what the Commonwealth Government does, although I suppose (hat that statement could be a matter of opinion at times. We do not have control over State governments. I urge the various advisers to the Government to try to persuade State governments to look sympathetically at this matter and to support local manufacturers. I am sure that the deputation from the book manufacturers which came to the Government Members Trade Committee is very happy that it did not waste its time and that its idea was adopted eventually.
– The crisis in the Australian book manufacturing industry exploded into the public gaze exactly 12 months ago today. It has taken the Government a year to come up with this solution. The Opposition fully supports this Bill. We believe it will save this industry from collapse. Representatives of the industry also came to see members of the Labor Party during September and October of last year and they met one or two of our committees. So they certainly applied pressure to the Government, through its own committee and through Opposition committees, to do something to assist the book manufacturing industry.
T want to explain tonight how critical the situation was in this industry 12 months ago and why the Government yielded to the pressures applied and did something about this industry. It is one of Australia’s newest post-war industries. No books of any note were published in Australia before the second World War. The Australian book manufacturing industry has had nothing short of a dramatic rise to fame, stability and success. The funds invested in this industry amount to about $8m, and it has provided employment, directly and indirectly, for about 1,000 people, most of whom are skilled tradesmen. The industry is one segment of the printing industry which has 103,000 employees. This new legislation is a pioneering piece of legislation and it is nice to see the Government assisting a struggling industry in this country.
– There is not enough of this kind of legislation.
– No, there is not. The normal practice in dealing with situations such as existed in the book manufacturing industry is for a request for immediate and urgent assistance to be made to the Special Advisory Authority, who is empowered to recommend protection by way of increased import duties or a restriction on imports. The Special Advisory Authority is not empowered to recommend assistance by way of bounty, and this problem had to be tackled from another angle quite outside the ambit of the Special Advisory Authority and the Tariff Board. It is, however, a long-standing Government policy that there should be no tariff or licensing restrictions on the free flow of books into Australia. After many months of investigation the Government decided to bring in an interim bounty of 25% to protect this industry. That means that for a book costing $5 the Government will advance $1.25. Many Australian authors will benefit as a result of this bounty. It is essential that Australian authors be encouraged. This country is flooded with American television films, books and songs, and the people of Australia know more about the backwoods of Kansas, Alabama, Ontario and Texas than about then- own country.
– What about the Beatles?
– The Beatles have given us a run-down on Great Britain. We do not have anything like this in Australia. The book manufacturing industry in this country encourages Australian authors to tell the Australian story, and tonight I want to pay a tribute to Australian authors. We have a wonderful band of Australian authors at present and it is growing all the time. Some splendid books are coming from their pens and are being published in a way that is equal to any in the world. One has only to look at some of the beautifully bound Australian made books which are available in the Parliamentary Library, to see the colour pictures therein, the layout, the quality of the paper and the printing work to see that a really first class job is being done. I cannot but pay tribute tonight to the tremendous improvement in Australian book manufacturing.
Up to the time of the crisis when the Australian book manufacturing industry was on the verge of collapse the story of the industry is briefly this: The low cost competition from Hong Kong, Japan and Formosa was so keen that the Asian countries were undercutting Australian book companies by 50%. In other words, a book that could be published in Hong Kong for $2.50 would cost an Australian company $5 to publish. The Australian industry could not carry on very long with this type of competition without being destroyed, and that is what was happening.
The core of the dilemma which is plaguing the Government more and more each year is how best to reconcile the expansion of trade with Asian countries - which is a two-way business - with the protection of local industries from seemingly unfair competition from Asian countries. Asia has cheap labour, cheap raw materials because of dumping, and the technical know-how that Japan has gleaned from the USA and is passing on to other Asian lands. The wages paid in Asia are only 13% of Australian wages. How can we compete with bookbinding and book manufacturing industries in Asian countries while labouring under these disadvantages?
The Government decided to try to do something to save the industry because until 12 months ago the future of the Australian book manufacturing industry appeared very uncertain. Prior to World War 2 there was virtually no book manufacturing industry in Australia. As I have said, it has come into being since that time. From the inception it continued to progress until 1966. In thai year the value of books manufactured in Australia was $9m. The total value of imported books is about $34m per annum. When one considers that the Australian industry is producing about a fifth of the total value of books sold in this country one can see that it has indeed a very good record. There are forty-nine companies in Australia producing books, pamphlets or booklets of some kind and of this number twenty-three are major companies. However, the industry in Australia could not compete with the vicious competition from Asian countries. The Australian industry was holding its own in this battle until about 1965 but from then on there was considerable trouble. The manufacturers in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Formosa offered rates well below what Australian companies could offer. In the financial year ended 30th June 1968 Australian manufacturers’ sales feil by 8%. That was the first sign of serious trouble. But in the 6 months between January and June 1968 Australian manufacturers’ sales were down 24% and the plant input of most local concerns was less than half what it was in 1967. Hong Kong’s share of the market had risen from $83,188 in 1964-65 to $983,439 in 1967-68. Japan’s went up from $442,108 to $1,023,418.
The Government set up a six-man working party to look into the problem. That party consisted of major book manufacturers and two representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry. The party investigated the industry from about December 1967 until September last year. It recommended several ways of tackling the problem which faced the industry. These were: Firstly, the removal of all duties, both normal tariff and dumping duties, on the import to Australia of all raw materials used in book manufacturing; secondly, an increased preference in the postage rates for books printed in Australia, for which there is a precedent of very long standing; thirdly, taxation concessions in the form of increased depreciation allowance; and, fourthly, additional export allowances to enable the industry to provide the additional print runs for Asian and Pacific requirements of Australian books. The party also looked at what is happening in America. The Americans have a most unusual way of coping with this problem. In America the copyright of a book is withdrawn if the company prints the book outside the United States of America.
– That is clever.
– It is clever, ruthless and vicious because once a copyright is withdrawn that is the end of a book. However, that is the way they stop American writers and publishers from having books printed in some other country. In Canada textbooks must be published in that country. That is the law, and it restricts publishers and book manufacturers to a certain extent. Our industry did not want total protection, lt insisted, when it met members of the Australian Labor Party, as it did when it met a Government Party committee, that it wanted a bounty and not total protection. The industry thought that this was the fairest and simplest method of dealing with the problem. It suggested that a 30% bounty would be realistic. The Government decided on a 25% bounty so the industry got almost what it asked for in its battle with the Government to get protection.
A year ago much of our book manufacturing plant was idle. Although no company had been forced out of business, one firm reduced its work force from 310 to 269 and another from 132 to 103. Further retrenchment would have occurred if the Government had not promised an investigation and ultimate assistance. I admire the representatives of this industry for their restraint. For nearly 3 years they battled on their own with their sales dwindling before they sought Government assistance. They must be congratulated on their restraint and fairness. The industry was being so eroded by overseas manufacturers who were printing books written in Australia that of the 49 companies 1 mentioned 46 were having their books manufactured in Singapore, Hong Kong or Japan. I ask honourable members to think about that. The three companies which refused to print their books overseas were the Readers Digest Association Pty Ltd, Angus & Robertson Ltd and the Oxford University Press. It is no wonder that Asian manufacturers can undercut us. They obtain paper, binding and other materials at about 60% of the Australian cost, inks at 70%, blocks and plates at 50% and labour at 13%. If Government assistance had not been forthcoming, our Australian book manufacturers were going to transfer their plants to South East Asian countries. We would have lost this new, thriving and important industry. The Asians were hoping that this would happen.
The Opposition is glad to be associated with a Bill of this nature. It will play an important and decisive part in preserving for Australia one of our best up and coming industries, the manufacture of books of Australian authors. The Government is to be commended for its foresight and its assistance to a vital and worthwhile industry even though the decision took so long.
– This Bill provides for the payment of a bounty to book manufacturers at the rate of 25% of the cost of production of each book. The bounty will be retrospective to 1st June 1969. I am supplied with a copy of each issue of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union journal and it was in this journal that I first read of the threat to this particular section of the industry from the printing of books in Hong Kong. I strongly support the remarks of the honourable members for Indi (Mr Holten), Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and Melbourne Ports (Mr
Crean). It was stated that the wage paid to employees in the industry in Hong Kong was the equivalent of $A10 a week for a 57-hour week. In addition we must take into account that workers in Hong Kong enjoy only three or four public holidays a year, they have no annual leave, no long service leave, no workers’ compensation, no child endowment, widows’ pension or other social service benefits which add to Australian costs. These social and industry benefits that we enjoy are now part of our national economy so it would be impossible for Australian book manufacturers to compete fairly with the printed books from Hong Kong. I congratulate Messrs Bennett, Childs and Colborne of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union for their efforts in assisting to make this bounty possible.
– I only hope that the optimism of my honourable friend from Wilmot (Mr Duthie) that the provision of this bounty is going to save the Australian book publishing industry is justified, but I have my doubts. I am not too sure that it is not just another rather haphazard and unplanned approach to a problem which is going to increase in intensity. It would have been appropriate had we had a little more information about the whole situation. We have heard arguments from both sides of the fence about the threat to book publishing from books published in Hong Kong and the reasons whyAsian manufacturers can publish books more cheaply than our Australian manufacturers. 1 support the Bill but I do not know that it is going to have any long term result because I do not believe we are attacking some of the fundamental problems that are facing the Australian book publishing industry. It is true, as my friends say, that labour conditions in Hong Kong are extremely poor. There was a time in this House when anybody who attacked the Hong Kong situation was regarded as being subversive but now apparently we are all awake-up to the fact that working and industrial conditions in Hong Kong are far from good. Now we are trying to reverse a process which we might regard as inevitable unless we take fundamental steps about the Australia book publishing, printing and paper manufacturing aspects of the industry. Some figures have been quoted tonight. I think that of the 13 million books that are bought in Australia each year 4i million are printed overseas. We want to remember that the Australian book publishing industry already has been taken over by overseas interests, principally British, and that 80% of our capacity is now in the hands of British publishers. Quite a struggle is going on in the industry. Personal relationships are involved. Many of the men engaged in the Australian book publishing industry have built the industry up from scratch during the last quarter of a century. When men like Dr Fabinyi leave the industry or the firms with which they have been associated one begins to wonder about the state of the art, as we might say. As Dr Fabinyi himself said: ‘The Australian book has become as Australian as the Holden’. In other words, the ownership of it is all in overseas hands, or almost all of it. To maintain the book publishing industry we are going to pay a bounty towards its continued ownership by overseas interests.
It is worth while to examine the Australian publishing industry. I wonder whether some of its problems are not selfinflicted but government-inflicted. For instance, the tariff system is involved. The honourable member for Wilmot pointed out that there are tariffs on materials that book publishers use. A tariff of 30% is applied to imported paper and imported wood pulp. This adds substantially to costs. If a publisher is paying $450 a ton for paper the tariff adds another $150 or thereabouts, and this results in a large increase in costs. Some of our rates of duty ate much higher than that. So, in fact, the book publishing industry is placed in an impossible position by Government policies. I know that, inside Australian tariff protection and manufacturing policy and all the rest of it, this is not easy to resolve. I hope that the Tariff Board or the appropriate authorities when they consider this position in depth will do something about this. If we are to admit books duty free - and I believe we should - we should also admit duty free the material from which they are manufactured.
The Australian manufacturing industry has so far, I understand, failed to produce any really indigenous printing machinery. It is almost impossible to buy any printing machinery that has been manufactured in
Australia. I think this even applies to such simple things as type. This is reasonable enough. The large concerns in Europe, particularly in Britain and Germany, and also in America have been in this business for a long time. The manufacture of printing machinery is a highly specialised business that requires very advanced engineering techniques to ensure that good machinery is produced. So, the Australian field is unable to produce anything in competition.
The Australian book publishing industry is inflicted with costs of transport and the import costs on various things. Even ink is subject to an import duty. Therefore, to this extent, the problems of the book publishing industry can be laid partly at the door of the Australian Government. It may well be that we should be taking a good look at the cost of Australian paper. . Is there anything that we can do about this? The production of paper is in the hands of very large concerns. We have no evidence before us and no one here, I assume, would have the expertise to know all about the Australian paper manufacturing industry. But the people who control the Australian paper manufacturing industry do not do too badly at all. I think that we ought to be scrutinising this problem a little more carefully.
I hope that the bounty proposed by the Bill will go through. The granting of this bounty will give a temporary respite, I believe, to the book publishing industry from its problems. The treatment given to this industry is another example of the Government’s financial policy - the imposition of payroll tax, the interest rates that have to be paid on money and so on. These are wounds that are inflicted on the industry by the Australian Government. They are wounds that probably do not apply to Japan and Hong Kong. Some Australian industries are able to compete on successful terms with industries in other countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore. For various reasons I have had contact with people who make suits in Singapore and Hong Kong. To my astonishment I find that the suits that people had dashed off to get at $27 or $28 can be produced probably in Melbourne and of better quality for almost the same price. I know of one concern in Preston that produces suits of a much better quality than those from Hong Kong or Singapore. This concern pays all the standard Australian award rates and competes for everything else in the same way as any other Australian industry. Yet, it can produce an article as cheap as one manufactured in Hong Kong and Singapore. So, perhaps there is something that ought to be done for the management side of the Australian publishing industry.
In an address some time ago, Mr Farley, who was the Chairman of the Printing Industry Employers Federation at the time, said that a great deal more emphasis should be placed on the training of managers. Therefore, I hope that this will prompt a thorough examination of all the aspects of the Australian book publishing industry, the printing industry and the costs behind these industries, which have been inflicted by the Government and control over perhaps the inordinate profits received by the people who, for instance, make paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders De suspended as would prevent the Bill being further proceeded with.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Erwin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 September (vide page 1548), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition welcomes proposals for the more equitable price structure in Australia of petroleum products and of all other products and services required by the people of our country. We believe that people in remote areas should not be penalised by unfair costs. Those who live away from big cities should win rewards and not penalties. At the present time, quite frequently people in the country who are pioneers producing the wealth of this nation find that they are handicapped in many ways and particularly in regard to the prices paid for goods and services. Invariably prices are higher in country districts where much of our wealth is won. This often is accepted as the normal condition.
We should endeavour to implement policies designed to establish uniform prices throughout the nation. This Bill, which seeks to amend the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act of 1965 has for its purpose the continuation of principles of the 1965 Act so that the wholesale prices of petroleum products used for transport purposes in country areas do not exceed the relevant capital city wholesale prices by more than 3.3c. Products eligible for subsidy are those generally used in transport - motor spirit, power kerosene, automotive distillate, aviation gasoline and aviation turbine fuel. Payment to the States for the legislation that we seek to amend totals 86 1.9m. Of this $19.3m was paid to finance the year 1968-69. i raise the question here: Is this the most satisfactory way of achieving the objective that we have in mind to try to reduce costs in the country, to make the prices of petrol and automotive fuel more in Keeping with the prices in the great metropolises? Should the taxpayers be called upon to pay this cost?
In this legislation the Commonwealth pays to a State the amount of money required by the petrol companies to carry out the intentions of the legislation. There are other ways, of course, that this matter could be tackled. It could be dealt with by making a slight increase in the price of petroleum products in our great capital cities and industrial centres. By a simple device the price of petroleum products could be levelled out throughout the nation and there could be uniformity.
In addition, there is the other course that might well be followed - the possibility that the petroleum companies, with their vast profits, their great investments and their extensive world organisations could make a contribution themselves so that the amount required to be paid by the taxpayers of this country could be substantially reduced. What could be done by the oil companies in a voluntary way to reduce the price? They could make some small sacrifice of the profits that they have won - profits that are hard to discern because it is most difficult to obtain information from the oil companies. A fractional increase, of course, as I have said, could be imposed upon the people. I would reject that because I believe that the tax system or alternatively the oil companies making their contribution, or the oil companies and the taxpayer should present the most suitable way of dealing with the situation.
When we think of using the taxpayers’ money 1 believe we ought to look at the overall picture of the petroleum industry and the ramifications of the oil comanies to see what can be done in matters of this kind. I believe that there should be a searching inquiry into all of the ramifications of oil companies, their operations, their price policy and their profits. The question of the pattern of production was adversely reported upon by the Tariff Board some years ago when it was made clear that oil companies, instead of cracking all of the petrol that could be obtained from crudes were cracking only a percentage of the petrols that could be obtained and were using the rest as fuel oil in order to deal a blow to the coal industry. Of course, oil companies maintain the utmost secrecy in their business. It is extremely difficult to obtain facts But the government of a nation, which has a responsibility to the people - to the taxpayers - should see what oil companies are capable of doing and should ask them to pull their weight in matters of this kind.
Some time ago the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made a statement to the Parliament dealing with the question of oil price policy. That statement was of some significance. It was presented to the Parliament on 10th October 1968. It altered, to some extent, the situation which had existed regarding the price of oil from the Bass Strait and other fields. This statement of policy presented by the Prime Minister does not go far enough. It still allows oil companies an abundant area in which to manoeuvre. What shocks the majority of Australian taxpayers and people using petroleum products is the fact that whilst we have been able to locate substantial supplies of petroleum products from the flow oil in Bass Strait, in the continental shelf and elsewhere, people should be compelled to pay more for petrol today than they paid when all our petrol was being imported. I mention this fact in passing merely to illustrate the point that we should be concerning ouselves with the overall question. We cannot logically, reasonably and sensibly deal with a matter of this kind unless we look at the overall question.
It is true that oil companies, particularly those which have been fortunate to find flow oil in Australia, along our coastline and on the continental shelf, have done remarkably well. They have profited from subsidies, from tax concessions, from help by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and from the allocation of vast graticular blocks. All of these matters have presented vast and wonderful advantages to oil companies. When we try to answer this current question of what taxpayers should pay in order to bring about, in country centres, the differential of 3.3c a gallon above the price of petrol in capital cities we should look at what happens with regard to oil companies and the prices at which they sell their petrol in capital cities. I note that the retailers’ margin for standard grade petrol is 5.7c a gallon in Sydney, 6.5c a gallon in Melbourne, 6.3c a gallon in Brisbane, 5.3c a gallon in Adelaide. 5.8c a gallon in Perth and 6.5c a gallon in Hobart. For super grade petrol the retailers’ margin is 5.7c a gallon in Sydney, 6.6c a gallon in Melbourne. 6.4c a gallon in Brisbane, 5.7c a gallon in Adelaide, 5.8c a gallon in Perth and 6.3c a gallon in Hobart. There is no uniformity; there is no standard; there is no basis upon which the Government could look at this question and say: “This is the standard that we might well adopt in trying to equate prices in country centres to achieve this differential which obviously must be a very great benefit to people in country centres’.
Before the original legislation was introduced there was a vast difference in the price of petrol in country centres. Whilst this legislation deals only with the wholesale price of petrol in country centres, I think it is necssary that we should look beyond that. The utmost care should be observed, and the utmost scrutiny should be exercised, by Commonwealth officers and by State officers too, in order to see that petrol is sold to the people at the right price. It is all very well to say that petrol will be made available to the large distributors at a certain price, but we must go beyond this sort of. conception. I ask the House: Are the prices that are presently being charged to consumers the just and correct prices? I think that we should watch the situation more closely in order to see what is happening and to ascertain whether corrective legislation is required to police this type of approach to the sale of petrol in country centres.
– You seem to have a bias in favour of the country centres.
– As the honourable member for Hindmarsh has pointed out, I am interested in country centres. Obviously the Labor Party is interested in country centres because mainly from the country centres we derive the great wealth which helps to stimulate this nation, promote development and maintain our balance of payments position overseas. 1 think the honourable member will readily agree that that is a correct assessment of the situation. Petrol is distributed at some 5,000 locations in Australia. This number might well increase as a result of this legislation, which provides that this differential of 3.3c a gallon will apply regularly in these centres. I want to put to the Parliament that while this differential of 3.3c a gallon may seem to be a reasonable one, we ought to take a further step. If we can establish the situation in which the wholesale price of petrol at various locations does not exceed the capital city price by more than 3.3c a gallon, there is no reason in the world why we cannot have a uniform petrol price throughout the country. If it is good enough to have a uniform price for postage stamps and for other facilities then for the sake of development and decentralisation in Australia we ought to aim for the objective of achieving a uniform price for petrol throughout the Commonwealth of Australia. This is necessary.
– You are a country member.
– I am a country member, but I believe that I speak for most Australians who view this situation as a national question and not as a parochial one, I think we ought to face the reality that it is necessary to try to achieve a uniform price for petrol for all people in Australia. If this aim can be achieved by the oil com panies, which have done remarkably well, making some sacrifice, 1 think it would be well worth while. The profits of oil companies are well known to most honourable members. They are substantial; they are massive. Over the years oil companies have made tremendous profits. 1 should like to think that honourable members will give some consideration to the needs of the people of Australia, particularly those in the country who are suffering great hardship because of the burden of increased costs and prices which affect primary industry, secondary industry and many aspects of the private home life of people who live in remote areas. We owe this to the people, and I believe that the Parliament will do something worth while if, in the future, it can implement progressive policies along the lines which 1 have indicated. I am confident that an incoming Labor Government with thoughts of decentralisation and development will build on this type of legislation to make an effective contribution to the nation.
The legislation is all right as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Freights, which may be altered from lime to time, can hardly be covered effectively in legislation of this kind. Those who distribute petrol may claim that their costs have increased. This benefit is then denied to people in country centres, and they deserve to be protected from such an occurrence. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), in his second reading speech, said:
As there have been some changes in freight and other distribution costs since the scheme was introduced it is proposed to update the subsidy rates to take these changes into account.
But the legislation cannot deal with what is happening now. It can deal with problems that arise over a period of 3 years or a longer period, but it cannot deal with the constant changes that are occurring. I would like to know what is happening today in many of the remote, outback parts of Australia where the people do not profit fully from legislation of this kind.
The Minister also said:
The legislation now before the House proposes to amend the Act to allow the Government to update the schedule of subsidies using the latest available freight differentials. These new schedules using the updated differentials are now being compiled.
I would like to think that we had something positive before the Parliament, some yardstick that would enable us to determine just what is taking place and the amount of money that the Commonwealth is required to provide. This is not stated. The legislation is vague and indefinite. There will, of course, be reviews. They are necessary to try, even belatedly, to check anomalies and the sins of omission and commission that may occur. Perhaps the remote questions of the profits made by oil companies and the need for a national fuel policy are not directly related to this legislation, but I submit to the Parliament that we cannot deal effectively with all these matters until we measure the whole of the fuel requirements of the nation and its resources and apply our potential in the best interests of the people.
The Opposition welcomes the legislation in the form in which it is submitted and to the extent that it has gone. We consider that more could be done, but for the present we accept it. We wish the Bill a speedy passage.
– I do not want to go into the fine details of this legislation, but I would like to make one or two observations. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) has gone into fine detail and quoted worthwhile passages from the second reading speech of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). I will not quote from the Minister’s speech, but I would remind the House that we have before us the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill 1969. I say that because many people have completely forgotten about this subsidy, which assists people in isolated areas to run their motor cars and machines at lower costs. I have used the illustration of a person who has lived on a farm perhaps for most of his life. Let us say that he is about 40 years of age. During this time he has driven over a very rough road to the town. Suddenly the shire council puts down a bitumen road. It is a beautiful road like many other roads in Australia. Only a few years later the new road is taken for granted.
If we spoke to a lot of people about the purpose of this legislation, I am sure we would find that they had completely forgotten about it. Some people do not even know about it. The honourable member for Macquarie suggested that the oil companies should pay the subsidy. I do not agree with him. If the profits of the oil companies are too large and if the Government wants to deal with them, it can increase their taxes. However, once the Government receives money it should have the right to spend it as it thinks fit. We should not have a middleman between the Government and the people running this scheme. I do not say whether the taxes paid by oil companies should be higher or lower, but I do say that the companies should not be involved in the scheme that this legislation presents to the nation. That would be completely wrong.
I have not yet heard any Opposition member say that the idea for this scheme was stolen from the Australian Labor Party. Of course, if that was said, it would not be true. The idea for this scheme came from the Government and the man who was mainly responsible for bringing it forward was the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). It took a long time to get the scheme working, but now the Government says it is working satisfactorily and it should be continued in the best interests of people in isolated areas. The Minister for the Interior has referred to the people it will help. The honourable member for Macquarie mentioned this. Many people in country areas are covered by the scheme and, as the Minister for the Interior said, farmers, businessmen, motorists and other users in country areas have all benefited from the scheme. Of course, the cost of petrol and other products increases as we go further away from the capital cities. So the legislation has most impact in the areas that are furthest from the capital cities and I know that country people appreciate the benefits they have received. The only point I really wanted to make is that not many people remember how the scheme came to be introduced.
The honourable member for Macquarie often refers to decentralisation. I do not like using that word because it has become a catchcry for politicians.
– YOU do not believe in it.
– The moment I mentioned decentralisation, the honourable member for Hindmarsh says that I do not believe in it. What kind of attitude is that for an honourable member to take? I certainly do believe in it, but I believe that the only way to encourage decentralisation is to make life in country areas better, more congenial and more economical. When that is done some people may be attracted to the areas that are far removed from the metropolitan areas. But even if this does not happen we would have a better chance of holding in those areas the people who are living there now, and that is important. The proposition that I have put to the Parliament since 1 have been here - I coined the phrase - is that the only way to get decentralisation or to get it started is to decentralise political representation. After all, the money and population go where the votes are and snowball.
– Do you believe in one man one vole?
– I believe in one man one vote just as much as the honourable member believes in equal representation in the Senate for Tasmania and New South Wales. That is the way it operates. The people will be pleased with this Bill, because some changes have taken place in freight and distribution charges. This measure will take those changes into account and will ensure that the people in the areas far away from the main cities will get the very best deal possible as a result of the payment of the subsidy. Since the scheme came into operation late in 196S, payments under it have totalled $6 1.9m. As the honourable member for Macquarie pointed out, $ 1 9.3m of this was paid in the last financial year. This is a lot of money and it is only right that I should remind the people who benefit from the scheme that it was brought forward by this Government after nobody, except perhaps one man, had thought of it. The honourable member for Macquarie has paid the Minister for Trade and Industry a great compliment in saying that this is the kind of action on which you can build to give a better deal to people living in isolated areas. Of course it is. This is a foundation. lt is not always possible to increase benefits as soon as the system has been introduced.
We believe that the country districts are the lifeblood of this country. Notwithstanding all the discoveries of mineral deposits, I have always believed that Australia is dependent on it primary industries. Australia’s future growth depends on our primary industries. This nation cannot develop satisfactorily unless proper attention is given to the residents of our isolated areas and to the productive areas they develop.
– 1 intend to be clear and positive about my submissions in this debate. In my opinion this legislation would never have been introduced but for the fact that in 1965 the Government had election jitters, lt was looking for a vote catching gimmick. If anybody would seek to deny my claim I would ask: Why has the Government not extended this legislation to the Territories?
– lt operates in the Northern Territory.
– Are the benefits of this legislation available to the unfortunate people of Norfolk Island, Cocos Island or Thursday Island? The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) has said that the legislation applies in the Northern Territory, but that is not enough. I have shot him down already. The legislation applies to the Northern Territory because the people of the Northern Territory are represented in this Parliament. But the people of Norfolk Island and other Territories who do not have a voice in this Parliament do not enjoy the benefits of this legislation. So I repeat: This legislation was a piece of political gimmickry, designed to win votes and ensure the Government’s return to power.
– The member for the Northern Territory did not have a vote when the original legislation was introduced.
– But the people of the Territory were represented in this Parliament. The 900 or 1,000 people of Norfolk Island did not benefit from the legislation when it was introduced and they still do not benefit from it because they have no voice in this Parliament. The people of Norfolk Island have a rather low standard of living. In the main their sole source of employment is the Commonwealth Department of Works. The honourable member for Mallee is still interjecting. 1 am sorry if I hurt him, but he stuck his neck out and he got it. Norfolk Island is regarded as having some of the best fishing in the world. If the benefits of this legislation are enjoyed by anybody they should be enjoyed by the people of Norfolk Island so that they might earn a decent living and not be forced to depend on handouts from the Commonwealth for the development of the Island. On Norfolk Island petrol costs between 60c and 70c a gallon. The failure of the islanders to develop the fishing potential of the Island is due mainly to the poor price received for the fish they catch and the high price they are forced to pay for the petrol they use in their boats. If the Government is sincere in wanting to help people in remote parts of the Commonwealth it should see that this legislation is extended to cover the people of Norfolk Island and Cocos Island, even if initially the benefits of the legislation are available only to those people who engage in fishing as a commercial undertaking.
I do not have a great deal of sympathy for international oil cartels. In recent times we have seen garages shoot up all over New South Wales like mushrooms. Notwithstanding the shortage of housing, even large blocks of flats have been demolished to make way for ultra modern garages. No expense was spared in building these garages. As the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) reminds me, even historic homes were bowled over in order to build ultra modern garages. I could not understand why the oil companies were buying properties, knocking over historic old homes and disregarding expense to build modern garages on every street corner where it was thought they would be profitable, until I read a Press report relating to several conservative councils in the Parramatta area. It is some time since I read the report, but I understand that the Parramatta Council is controlled by conservatives.
– It was at that time, but it is no longer.
– I thank the honourable member. Parramatta Council joined with several other councils in the area to tell the ratepayers, through the Press, that the councils could save a lot of money if they banded together to import petrol from the
Soviet Union. It was said that Russian petrol could be landed in Sydney for 10c a gallon. It would be used in council vehicles only. I think I raised this matter on another occasion in the Parliament. It was considered to be political suicide to suggest that the Soviet Union be allowed to export petroleum products to Australia. But I guess a politician would not be looked upon in this Parliament today as harshly as he would have been if he had mentioned this matter when it was first raised by the Parramatta Council. When this matter was raised by the Parramatta Council the Minister for National Development, the late Sir William Spooner, said that the Government would not allow Russian petrol to be imported. Now that the Liberal Government has its arm around the Russian bear in the Indian Ocean-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member is now getting rather wide of the Bill.
– I have a wide view of this subject.
-I remind the honourable member that the Bill deals with the updating of subsidy rates to take account of certain changes since the original legislation was introduced. The honourable member should relate his remarks to the Bill.
– I am grateful for your advice, Sir, and will endeavour to comply with your request. The argument that I am endeavouring to develop is that if we had imported petrol from Russia it would not have been necessary for the Australian taxpayer to pay $6 1.9m in subsidies to the States since this scheme was inaugurated. The Minister also pointed out that during the financial year 1968-69 $19.3m of the Australian taxpayers money was paid out in subsidies to the States to implement this scheme. What I was trying to suggest by the remarks 1 was making is that the Australian taxpayer would be saved considerable money if there was a quota on petrol. It would have a double ended purpose. The prices of the oil companies could be kept at a minimum so that they would make less profit, and fewer historical homes and decent places would be knocked over for the purpose of putting up service stations, particularly in my own State of New South
Wales, to tie up the avenues of outlet should Soviet petrol be admitted into Australia. If the Australian people studied this point of view and were more educated on the matter they would agree to Soviet petrol being allowed into the country. This Government is a private enterprise Government. It has a two-airline policy. We agree with this. Why does it not permit a twin policy on petroleum and allow petroleum products to come in from East and West?
– Is the honourable member suggesting that we use surplus wheat to pay for Soviet petrol?
– Yes, I believe that it could well be as the honourable member for Hindmarsh submits, because we know that Australia’s balance of trade with the Soviet Union is about 5 : 1 or 6 : 1 in Australia’s favour.
-Order! I must ask the honourable member to keep his remarks to the Bill. We are dealing with an increase in the subsidy to take account of the changes since the original legislation was introduced. We are not discussing the importation of petrol from the USSR or any other country. I ask the honourable member to relate his remarks to the Bill.
– The advice I had was that I would be able to point out that the oil companies, particularly in the United States, are now moving into the coal industry and are buying coal mines for the purpose of extracting oil from coal because it is thought by world experts that the oil resources of the world could be limited.
– You are still off the subject.
– I am not off the subject. I have had much better advice than the honourable member who has interjected, but I will not disclose my source. Apparently this Government has not done all that it can to develop oil from coal; otherwise the oil monopolies of the world would not be moving into the coal industry in the United States. If oil was developed from coal, particularly in the remote areas of the country, it would eliminate the heavy costs of transporting petroleum to these areas. This legislation is designed to reduce the cost of the transport of petroleum products to the outback. The oil companies are moving into the coal industry in the United States, and they will eventually have all the thermal and oil power tied up. I again emphasise, in conclusion, that I would like to see the Government extend this legislation to the distant territories of the Commonwealth so as to prove that it is sincere and is not introducing this legislation for the purpose of catching votes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being further proceeded with.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Erwin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 September (vide page 954), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a Bill to grant to the States $25m over a period of 5 years to enable them to erect self contained accommodation for single age pensioners and for those who qualify for service pensions by reason of age. The legislation limits the application of the provisions of the Bill’ to age pensioners who are entitled to receive the supplementary allowance, that is, people who have very little income and very few assets. At the same time it differs from the original Aged Persons Homes Act in that instead of giving a subsidy of $2 for every $1 raised by the States, the subsidy will be only SI for each Si raised by the States. The Bill stipulates that if any State does not take the share allocated to it under the Bill in any particular year that State can use up its allocation in a subsequent year. It goes on to provide also that in the event of a State deciding not to avail itself of the moneys provided the amount may be transferred to other States.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) slated that everybody would agree that persons most in need of housing assistance include single elderly pensioners living in miserable accommodation or paying too high a proportion of their pension in rent. He went on to point out that these pensioners are independent people who are capable of looking after themselves. They are mobile; they arc not bedridden. They are able to cook for themselves and able to look after their homes and keep them clean. They include people who, because they live in deplorable conditions, sometimes suffer an untimely breakdown in health. He went on to say that experience has demonstrated that when these people can be moved into adequate and modern accommodation their health frequently improves and their life expectation is increased. He said that if these people are required to pay only a reasonable rent their financial worries are reduced and more of their pension is available to provide them with a modest standard of living. He said that too often rent is the killer.
The Parliament would have to agree with those sentiments. I agree with them. The public will agree with them. Too often age pensioners, after paying exorbitant rent for accommodation, do not have enough left to buy adequate food and to provide themselves with adequate clothing and proper heating. Too often these elderly people with very little money are called upon by rapacious landlords to pay too much for too little. If we can all agree that this is a fair assessment of the position, it only remains for us to examine the Bill to see whether, having agreed that these are the facts, the Government has fully recognised the need to correct them. That is the only thing that remains at issue. But when one examines the Bill and compares what is proposed with what is already operating under the Aged Persons Homes Act, one cannot come down with the conclusion that the Government, having recognised the need, has fully met that need.
This Bill provides that instead of giving $2 for every $1 the Commonwealth will give the States only $1 for every $1 raised by the States. This provision will handicap seriously the capacity of the States to avail themselves of this proposition. It ought to be remembered that this Bill will apply only to States that are able to find the money to match the $1 grant provided by the Commonwealth. Unless the States can find the $1 for $1 from the Commonwealth as proposed in this Bill, the States will not be able to match in some circumstances the Commonwealth grant and therefore will become ineligible to receive that grant.
What sometimes determines whether the States can match the grant is what will be the return to the States on their portion of the deal. We know that building costs for an average house have risen from $2,300 in J 948 to $9,400 today. Some of us realise that interest rates have risen under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement from 3-J% to 5i%. Other interest rates have risen also. The interest rate of the savings banks has risen to 6i%, of the trading banks to 74%, and of life assurance offices to 8i% and we know that some finance companies are charging as much as 13% interest on loans. Interest is a very big factor. If the amount of capital to be outlaid for the provision of a home measured against the rent that can be expected for that home is too great, the proposition is one that will not attract any State support.
Let us never forget that the States have not money from their own resources to provide the amount that is necessary for them to avail themselves of these grams. The States must borrow the money. They must pay interest on that money. If the amount of interest that they must pay on the money that they need to borrow in order to attract the $1 for $1 grant provided by the Commonwealth is more than the return that they can reasonably expect from the elderly people who will occupy the units, the States will not be interested in building those homes.
As the Commonwealth Government determines whether the charge made is reasonable or not before it determines whether a particular building will be eligible for the grant, it is quite possible that the situation may arise in which a State would tell the Commonwealth that the minimum charge that it can make as the rental for these homes is a figure which the Commonwealth says is too much when measured against the income of the people who will be occupying them. Therefore the Opposition believes that one serious defect in this Bill is that we are departing here from the well-established principle that, when building homes for the aged, the Commonwealth ought to bear two-thirds of the cost and that the State or the charitable organisation - whatever it is that might be building the home - should bear only one-third of that cost. This would produce a vast difference on the score of interest.
If a State had to find only one-third instead of one-half of the cost of a building, the interest charge on one-third of the cost of a cottage would not be so great as to deprive a State of the opportunity to meet the reasonable rental requirements which the Commonwealth lays down. I do not criticise the Commonwealth for laying down in this piece of legislation the stipulation that the States must satisfy the Minister that the charges to be made for rent for these homes are reasonable. I think that this is very proper. It is a very welcome departure from past practice. My criticism of the Commonwealth in the past has always been that, so far as homes for the aged are concerned, it will pay out millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money to church organisations and to other organisations which are designated as charitable organisations without exercising any control at all over the rental charges.
We have- the situation in South Australia that two organisations there - the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia Incorporated and the Cottage Homes Incorporated - have amassed a huge amount of assets at the expense of those who are required to pay key money for cottages. These payments immediately attract a $2 for each $1 paid grant from the Commonwealth. Therefore, these organisations, without finding any money at all themselves, have been able to amass assets in the form of homes and cottages worth millions of dollars which have been provided either by the occupants themselves or by the Commonwealth in its matching grant of $2 for each $1 provided.
This in itself, at first blush, is nothing to cavil at. But when we examine more closely the practices of these organisations this is what we find is happening: Key money amounting to as much as $3,000 for a married couple to go into an elderly citizens home - very rarely is this amount less than $2,000- immediately attracts the $2 for $1 grant from the Commonwealth which is more than sufficient to meet the total cost of building the units. The conditions under which these people are given possession of their home units, having paid an amount of $2,000 or $3,000 to the organisation concerned, is that they also have a weekly sum to meet in respect of overhead costs, rates, taxes and repairs. Perhaps one could even accept this as fair enough provided the rate per week was reasonable. But the rates which started off at approximately $1.75 per week now have crept up to approximately $2.50 per week. This, mark you, Sir, is the amount which is being paid by people who already have paid up to $3,000 in a lump sum to get into one of these homes.
Remember this: When the person who has paid $3,000 to get into one of these homes dies, the new occupant of that home or unit must pay another $2,000 or $3,000 to get into that same home or unit which already has attracted from the Commonwealth perhaps as much as $6,000 by way of subsidy. This is not right. It is quite wrong. The Commonwealth Government however has never attempted to control this sort of thing. It has washed its hands of the matter completely. It has said: ‘It has nothing to do with us’. T am pleased to see therefore that, in this Bill, a half hearted attempt is being made to see that what happens after these homes are built is made a matter of some concern to the Commonwealth.
Regrettably, the Bill does not go beyond what happens with respect to the original occupant of one of these units. Once the original occupant has occupied a cottage, a home, a unit or whatever it might be called - self-contained accommodation, I see here - and the Commonwealth has decided that the charge is fair, the Commonwealth takes no continuing interest in the matter to see that subsequent charges remain fair. We criticise the Government for its failure to do this. If we were introducing a Bill of this kind, we would stipulate quite clearly that the Commonwealth must maintain an interest in the supervision and the administration of any approved scheme.
In Committee, I will be moving an amendment along these lines. The same kind of thing should apply to homes for the aged.
Frankly. 1 cannot understand why it is necessary to have a special Bill to cover this matter. Why could the money not be made available to these organisations under the existing Aged Persons Homes Act? I do not see why the Government must have a special Bill. I cannot see why the Commonwealth should not make more money available for the provision of homes for the aged so that not only single persons but also married persons might be eligible to occupy these homes.
One serious defect in both the Homes for the Aged Act and this legislation, which is really an off-shoot of that Act, is that still nothing is done for invalid pensioners. The emphasis is only on age pensioners. Some invalid pensioners are just as much in need of help in regard to housing as are age pensioners. The reason why invalid pensioners have nor been covered is that such a person may become an invalid at an early age. He may become an invalid at 22 or 23 years of agc. The Government, and those interested in the provision of homes for the aged, say: ‘Look, provision of homes for the aged is one thing. An aged person does not have an expectation of life beyond 9 years. In the case of men it may be even less than that. Wc are not interested in providing homes for invalids because some people become invalids when quite young.’
But let us suppose that a person was invalided at middle age. Instead of having a life expectation of 9 years, as in the case of an agc pensioner, an invalid very often lives to a ripe old age. The mere fact that people are invalid and have the opportunity to stop work often results in their living to a ripe old agc. That is certainly so in the case of some heart conditions. In fact some people live much longer than they would have lived had they gone on working without discovering their ailment early in life.
At the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving to postpone two clauses. There is a clause which states that the only aged persons who can qualify for eligibility to a home under this Bill are those who are entitled to the supplementary pension. We believe (hat this clause limits this legislation far too much. The present Homes for the Aged Act attracts a $2 for $1 subsidy from the Commonwealth Government and the homes are open to people who have too much money to be able to get a pension. If it is right for the Commonwealth to give a $2 for $1 subsidy for one set of aged people - this could include people who have too much money or whose independent income is too great to get a pension - why on earth should it reduce the subsidy to $1 for Sl for people who have absolutely nothing beside their pension? The Opposition believes that this is quite wrong. We will move for the postponement in order to record our opposition to clause 6 which limits the subsidy from the Commonwealth to equal amounts provided by the States. 1 do not want to say much more about the Bill. Even though its amendment is defeated the Opposition will vote for the Bill because at least it is a step - although a short step - in the right direction. We regret that it does not go further. When the Labor Party becomes the government we will take the thing much further, lt is the policy of the Labor Party for the Commonwealth to exercise its constitutional right to undertake directly the construction and financing of homes for social service beneficiaries. When we become the government we will erect homes for the aged without relying upon matching grants from the States or from charitable organisations. Once the homes for the aged people are erected by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, wc will have an asset that can be used over and over again. Once you pick up the backlog in housing requirements for aged people who are in poor circumstances, all that is needed from that point onwards is to cater for the increasing number, whatever it may be from year to year, of additional pensioners who come into the field.
Once we have established good, modern healthy homes for the aged in our society, the cost will never be a recurring one. It is now a recurring cost that wc have to avoid. Money spent in meeting this need for the people will do far more good than doubling the amount spent on increasing the age pension rate. That increase can be skimmed off by rapacious landlords. Pensioners are no better off at the end of the year, even when there has been an increase of $2 or $3 a week in the pension, if the Government allows greedy landlords to take the money from them. It is far better, surely, to use that money to provide housing accommodation for those people, to minister to them, to look after them and to keep their homes in repair.
The Minister for Labour and National Service was right when he said that rent is the killer today. If we can find some means of reducing this killer so that the amount left to the pensioners for food and clothing is greater, then the money will be of far more benefit. This would be a more effective way of giving help to pensioners than increasing the pension year by year. In the ultimate it would cost the Government less because once the backlog was overtaken the number of homes required to be built from year to year would be very small. The ultimate cost to the Commonwealth would be small. This is something that has never been tackled by the Commonwealth Government. It has been content always to pass the buck to charitable and church organisations. In this case the Government is passing the buck to the States.
I also believe that until such time as the Commonwealth exercises its authority to construct homes for the aged in its own right we ought to extend the provisions of the Homes for the Aged Act to local government bodies and to State housing instrumentalities. This is not done at the present time. The backlog in housing for the aged is due to the fact that the Government has told the only bodies that could really tackle this problem effectively - namely, the State housing authorities - that it will not give them the $2 for $1 subsidy unless they use funds other than those raised by way of Commonwealth loan or under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
The South Australian Housing Trust could avail itself of the $2 for $1 subsidy only if it could prove that it had money that was raised other than by the means I have indicated. This it cannot do. It cannot get enough money for its normal housing requirements. Mr Alex Ramsay, the General Manager of the South Australian Housing Trust, has told me that if the Commonwealth would match Housing Trust expenditure on homes for the aged on the basis of $2 for Si, as in the case of the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia Inc. and the Cottage Homes Inc., then the Trust, in a relatively short time, could not only catch up with the backlog but could meet the year by year thereafter increases in demand that might occur. He said that the State Housing Trust, if it only had to meet one-third of the cost of these homes, could provide them and make them available to age and invalid pensioners at a reasonable rate. This would really achieve two objectives which this Government has set out to achieve by this Bill.
I will not delay the House much longer. The Opposition, as I indicated, will not vote against this Bill. We will be moving one amendment. We will formally move for the postponement of two clauses in order to register our opposition to what those clauses contain. We hope that the day is not too distant when there will be a government in charge of affairs in Canberra which will fully recognise the needs of the age and invalid people.
– We have it now.
– The learned and honourable gentleman who interrupted will agree that the measure of the standard of a country’s civilisation is the way in which it treats its old people. The oldest and most cultured peoples of the world are those which give due respect to their aged. The more primitive people knock them off when they cease to be of any value as hunters. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) who is carefully reading Mr MacKerras’s assessment of his prospects at the forthcoming election, should remember that unless he faces up to this problem, and does so quickly, he will have to read that book outside the Parliament instead of sitting here in the Government Whip’s chair in the full comfort of this august chamber. Having said that I will conclude my remarks and hope that the Bill is passed quickly and that when the election is held on 25th October the Labor Party will reassemble as the Government and if that does occur I can assure the people of Australia that this is one matter that we will deal with, probably early in the new year.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Bill which contains provision for self-contained dwellings for certain aged people. Before proceeding 1 would like to say a few words about something which was said by the previous speaker in this debate, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). The honourable member suggested that the efforts of the Government in this field were not very effective and he stated that the problem of providing homes for the aged would perhaps be better handled in another way, for instance by the State housing commissions. From my own knowledge and observations of the Aged Persons Homes Act, the effect that it is having and the work that is being done by the organisations handling the finance within the States, it is indeed an excellent Act and I think that honourable members in general would agree that the most important point is that the Commonwealth does assist with its policy of providing $2 for every $1 for the supply of homes for the aged, and the building, care and maintenance are in the hands of the organisations, which are in fact on the spot within the States and are closer to the immediate problems. This is how it ought to be done because Canberra is a long way from some of the remote areas of Australia. Those people who are doing this work and who are in the immediate vicinity are in a position to see that the homes are run in the way that the Commonwealth Government would like them to be nin. From my own observations 1 know that they are in fact being nin very satisfactorily.
The Bill now before the House is in line with the policy of the Government in making provision for those people within the States who do need assistance. This is just another measure of assistance. An amount of $25m will be made available to the States for the building or purchase of buildings or of land for the erection of buildings. It is interesting to note what has been happening in Australia in recent times in relation to the ownership of homes by individuals or families, lt is a well known fact in Australia that Australians like to own their own homes. They like to own either a piece of land with a home on it or perhaps the more modern type of home which is called a home unit. But in the main home ownership in Australia is increasing. I have had a look at the census figures between 1933 and 1966 to see what the position is and what the trend has been over the years. In 1933 53% of the people in Australia owned their own homes; 41% rented homes, and 6% had other types of occupancy. In 1 966 7 1 % owned their own homes. This represented an increase of about 18%, which is quite considerable. At that time 26% rented homes and 3% had some other form of occupancy. Those percentages indicate that 1 was correct when I said that increasing numbers of the people of Australia are wishing to own their own homes. It is interesting to note in the figures for 1966 that out of a total of, in round figures, 3.1 million dwellings in Australia just over 2.6 million were private houses. In the same year self-contained flats, in round figures, numbered 345,000, and other private dwellings numbered 66,000. The balance, which is fewer than 60,000, were other forms of dwellings. Again the trend is or has been over the years for individuals to own their own homes.
This Bill will, in a sense, give elderly people their own accommodation which will be of a good standard as Australian standards are today, and it will give them the independence which they deserve. If it is thought in the early stage of a scheme such as this that $25m is not enough then 1 would like to say that it is a good grounding. lt is a good start with any scheme of this nature to provide $25m in the first Bill on the programme. It will lay good groundwork and, as we have seen over the years with other Bills of this nature which have come into this House, the activities increase from time to time and the amounts of money provided will increase. 1 want to refer to the cost of land because this Bill does provide for the purchase of land for the erection of buildings and the purchase of buildings and land. One docs note that in Australia today, more than in some other countries, there is a tendency to cram people together and especially in areas as referred to by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) m his second reading speech. The words he used were, I think, ‘older inner suburbs’. I would very much regret it if these circumstances were to continue in this country. If buildings of this nature are in fact erected then let us have some space around the buildings. Surely in Australia of all countries we have sufficient space in which to build these sorts of units or homes and leave enough space around them for certain recreational activities, especially for the aged people who live in the buildings. This is an important part of the planning of these homes and it is the responsibility to some extent of the States. I appeal to them to follow this line which is being followed in some other countries - countries much smaller than Australia - where I have seen new dwellings erected and ample space left around them.
Another important factor is the price of land. Again referring to what the Minister said in his second reading speech, most of these aged people would wish to continue to live in the inner older suburbs of the capital cities, and if they had been living in those areas and if they wished to continue to live there then it is right that they should. But land prices are important in a Bill of this nature. In my own State of Western Australia perhaps land prices at present are somewhat higher than those in other States. This is of grave concern to me and I know that many other people in Western Australia are watching this very closely. Land in the metropolitan areas of Western Australia is far too dear and in studying how this has come about I found that although ait times land has been offered for sale by auction the interpretation of auction is often stretched. Auction sales held in Western Australia are not real auction sales at all in the true meaning of the word. They are in fact auction sales with upset prices. An auction sale with an upset price is simply an endeavour to obtain more than the upset price. A real auction sale is in fact a sale at which the land is sold to the highest bidder. This is not what is being done in Western Australia. What the situation is in other States I do not know, but I believe it is time to find the right price of land, which a real auction system would reveal. The effect of this is that many couples and young families are being forced to pay far too much for land on which to build their homes. It is obviously the wish of Australian couples to own their homes and I hope that the responsible State governments will examine the situation and ensure that if the auction system is used to establish right prices for rand the system is used correctly and that the land is sold to the highest bidder, because at present with floor prices or reserve prices - which is not an auction system at all - the correct value for land for building blocks is not determined. Once the upset price is reached or exceeded the blocks are sold.
The Bill enables money to be made available to the States for the purpose of building self-contained units. I would hope that the Commonwealth, acting in conjunction with the States, would enable the money to be spent not only in the metropolitan areas but in country towns and cities where there is a need for this type of accommodation. It is interesting to note that according to the State census of 1966, of dwellings occupied 59.67% were in the metropolitan area, 24.72% in areas outside the urban area and 15.16% in rural areas. I hope that those in charge of this scheme will survey the requirements of the States and not neglect towns in country areas where people who come within the scope of the Bill are overlooked at present. They are entitled to the same consideration as people who live in the metropolitan areas.
– The Bill seeks parliamentary approval to pay grants amounting to $25m over 5 years to the States for the erection of self-contained accommodation for single aged pensioners and those who qualify for service pensions by reason of age. From the distribution of this $25m over the 5 year period New South Wales will receive $10,750,000; Victoria, $6,500,000; Queensland, $3,350,000; South Australia, $2m; Western Australia, $1,750,000 and Tasmania, $650,000. Each year for the next 5 years New South Wales will be entitled to $2,150,000. One might say that that is a considerable sum, but what a giant task has to be faced. We must put the situation in perspective. The Government has been in power for 20 years. We welcome this legislation, because it is a step in the right direction, but it has taken the Government 20 years to introduce it. Later, at the Committee stage, the Opposition intends to move amendments to try to strengthen the legislation. In his second reading speech the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) said:
These pensioners are independent people who are capable of looking after themselves and include those who, because they live in deplorable conditions, sometimes suffer an untimely breakdown in their health. Experience has shown that, when they can be moved into adequate modern housing, their health frequently improves and their life expectation is increased. If they are required to pay only a reasonable rent, their financial worries are reduced and more of their pension is available to provide them with a modest standard of -living. Too often rent is the killer.
I agree with every word he said, but there are problems that appear from a study of figures that are available. The New South Wales Housing Commission has been doing a particularly good job in building homes for the aged - units that are referred to as Darby and Joans’. Not only does the Commission build units for single pensioners but it builds accommodation for married couples. Since 1958, when its scheme commenced, the Commission has built 4,550 units - 3,723 single units and 827 married units. The first group of six homes was built in the 1957-58 financial year. In the next year 39 were built and in the following year 62. I have seen the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) and have obtained his approval to seek leave for the inclusion of a table in Hansard. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table relating to the number of units built and the funds allocated.
The table indicates that there was a gradual increase in the number of units built annually until 1964-65 when 831 were constructed. There was then a gradual decline until 1966-67 when only 332 units were built. In 1967-68 there was an increase to 714 but last year only 454 were built. Last year $2.1m was expended. This money was made available to the Housing Commission by the State Government. This expenditure will now attract a subsidy on a $1 for $1 basis from the Commonwealth, so next year the Commission should be able to build approximately 900 units provided costs remain constant. Land is becoming dearer and more difficult to secure so it is likely that fewer than 900 units will be built. I ask the Government to take this factor into consideration.
At present there are 7.260 people on the waiting list for age unit homes in New South Wales. Even if 900 homes a year are built with the $1 for $1 subsidy and values remain constant, it will take over 8 years to provide for the waiting list alone. The Government must know that the grant it is making will be inadequate to cater even for the present waiting list. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard tables relating to the number and category of pensioners who are receiving supplementary assistance in the respective States.
1 thank the House. If one examines the position one will note that in New South Wales alone in 1967 the number of age pensioners who were receiving supplementary assistance is 40,705. However, this number had risen in 1969 to 43,539 persons. In New South Wales alone there were 14,935 invalid pensioners receiving supplementary assistance in 1967. The number in 1969 is 19,586. In 1967 7,651 widows received supplementary assistance and in 1969 8,110 receive this benefit.
In respect of the Commonwealth as a whole 94,310 age pensioners received supplementary assistance in 1967 and this figure has risen to 102,642 in 1969. This is an increase of 9% in the period. Surely the Minister who represents the Government understands the position. If this trend continues there would be an increase of 25% in a 5-year period. Does the Government realise this position? It is growing more difficult and more inadequate each year.
The New South Wales Housing Commission has given some leadership in the provision of homes for the aged. How does the Commission finance the homes? The Commission finances them by way of a special subsidy that is derived by the State from poker machine revenue. Imagine that. To look after our community should be a national responsibility and it is now beginning to be accepted as a national responsibility yet we in New South Wales have been financing the provision of homes for the aged from poker machine revenue. In this year 1969 we can spend $250m on
Fill aircraft although we do not know whether these aircraft will exist for very long. Yet we have to finance the erection of homes for the aged from poker machine revenue. I have already said that the building of aged persons’ homes is progress, but everyone should realise - and I hope that the people who are listening to this broadcast realise - that this Government has been in administration for 20 years. During this time the Government has allowed many thousands of people to get into these difficult and unfortunate circumstances. The Minister, whom I have quoted, talked about the terrible conditions under which many pensioners are living. Any honourable member’s wife who has worked for Meals on Wheels organisations knows the terrible conditions under which pensioners are living. The social conscience of this Government has allowed this deterioration in their conditions in this so-called affluent society. Pensioners live in a society in which people are absorbed with their personal, selfish conditions instead of making sure that in this so-called affluent, so-called Christian society people do not live under such conditions. 1 desire to give credit particularly to the State of New South Wales and to the New South Wales Housing Commission. Even under the anti-Labor Government in New South Wales the policy that was laid down by the Labor administration that started this wonderful homes scheme has been continued. The Housing Commission builds homes for aged pensioners. When these homes are built pensioners are charged only $2 for a single unit and S3 for a married unit. There are many hundreds of these homes in my electorate. Unlike other Housing Commission dwellings the homes for pensioners, when completed, have the lawns laid out and planned plantings of trees and shrubs. The Commission attaches importance to aesthetic features, and tries to add beauty and serenity tor the old people living there. I believe that this consideration should be shown not only to old people living in the homes but also to the occupants of all Housing Commission homes. The Commonwealth should give the leadership in this regard. But in fairness. I must point out that the New South Wales Housing Commission is providing such features when building aged people’s homes. I give the Commission credit for this. The Commission also considers the aspect of transport facilities. It tries to place the homes near a bus stop, railway station or some other appropriate form of transport so that old people do not have to walk too far. Surely this has been as difficult for my State to do as it has been for other States.
As I have said, homes for aged people in New South Wales are financed from poker machine revenue. Of a total amount of the grants amounting to $25m New South Wales will receive only S2.1 50,000. Last year 454 homes were built at a cost of $2,100,000. Surely this year land will be dearer. Surely this year housing costs and labour costs will be dearer. Surely New South Wales will not be able to build as many homes. At present the names of over 7,000 people are on the Housing Commission’s waiting list.
The Commonwealth Government is to provide a subsidy of $1 for every Sl provided by a State whereas under the homes savings scheme the Commonwealth subsidy is on a $2 for $1 basis. I query why the Government has not made the subsidy on a $2 for $1 basis in this case. I query why the Commonwealth does not allow married couples to be included in this proposal. The provision of housing for age pensioners is beginning to arouse the conscience of our national Parliament after 20 long dreary years. Surely in this day and age when we are spending enormous amounts of money on various things, and even in this year when defence expenditure is down to
S 1,100m, the Government can afford to offer only $25m over 5 years to house the people who are hard up in this community. The Minister says he knows that the rents are high. A person very dear and close to me with no other private income has been paying rent of S13 a week out of a single person’s pension. Luckily, this person has three sons who assist. It is about time this Government did something more substantial for the pensioners and pioneers of this country.
I have welcomed the legislation. I am grateful for any crumb that falls from the Government’s table. But I hope that the remarks I have made and the figures I have put before the House are given some consideration. I hope that in Committee when amendments are moved by the Labor Party, they will be accepted.
– in reply - I would like to correct some misunderstanding which seems to be in th: mind of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). The provision which is being made under this Bill is not a matching grant. It is something that is quite distinct, and is supplementary to what the States are now doing. We are not asking the States to reduce the amount of money that they have been spending for this purpose in recent times. However, there is no question of matching grants. This provision should not be confused with the matching grant system that applies to the Aged Persons Homes Act under which there is a matching grant of $2 for every Sl contributed by charitable and religious organisations. I think it would remove some of the misunderstanding, particularly in the mind of the honourable member for Reid, to point this out. This is, in fact, a very vital measure. It moves the Commonwealth into this particular sphere of activity for the first time. It is directed specifically towards those people whose need is greatest. I deduce from what the honourable member for Reid said that he wants to spread the provision all over the place, which could only mean that the people really in need would benefit to a lesser extent. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to make some comments on the state of decentralisation in Australia. This is a very vital issue to me because I represent an electorate which is both urban and rural, and the people of that electorate are particularly concerned about the way in which the Commonwealth’s talk about decentralisation remains empty words. There is very little action. For 20 years this Government has been saying it is going to decentralise, but in 20 years very little has been done. Its record in decentralisation has been appalling. There are some things 1 would like to mention specifically, but I cannot deal with them ali. One point I would like to bring to the attention of honourable members is a factor which concerns the people-the lack of employment opportunities, especially for young people, in country areas and in provincial cities. This refers to the fact that so many of our young people are leaving country towns and provincial centres to go to the metropolitan areas, where they are lost for ever. It refers also to the fact that for certain categories of people it is extremely difficult to find employment opportunities. This is especially the case with widows, pensioners, people living on superannuation, deserted wives, physically handicapped people and young girls. These people living in country towns are placed at a severe disadvantage because quite often it is very difficult for them to get employment. I could cite many cases like this of people who are often well qualified for work but who, living as they do in country areas and in provincial cities, find that employment opportunities are not as good as they should be. I could cite one example of a very well qualified man who served some 40 years in the service of Her Majesty in the United Kingdom. He is a very well qualified man; a man who would make a good employee for almost anyone. This man, in the city in which I live, has not been able to find employment for months. This sort of situation is revealed over and over again in provincial cities. It is something about which I am particularly concerned.
At the root of the problem is, of course, the Government’s attitude towards decentralisation. Its attitude is one of nineteenth century laissez-faire liberalism - refusal to intervene with the power and the economic resources of the state to ensure that there is balanced development throughout Australia. Too often we hear the archaic argument that power and responsibility really belong with the State government. So the Commonwealth passes the buck back to the State government. Even when the State government makes suggestions on how the Commonwealth could help it in matters of decentralisation, the Commonwealth turns a deaf ear. It is a rather interesting aspect of relationships between Liberals in Melbourne and Liberals in Canberra that they spend so much of their time bickering with each other, lt was not long ago that the M alison report was brought down in Victoria. It offered some very moderate suggestions on decentralisation. The Commonwealth Government refused point blank to give any aid whatsoever. Since then the Victorian Government has been involved in a lengthy wrangle with the Commonwealth Government over this refusal. The sort of situation which we are facing .is the Commonwealth Government’s refusal, on archaic grounds, to support State government and local governments in the task of developing employment opportunities.
Liberal Party members especially turn their minds with abhorrence from the very thought of government industry. We want employment in country towns. We do not have hard line ideological outlooks on industry, if it provides employment and the people will accept it. Government industry in particular is one way in which we can increase employment opportunities. One sorry tale that honourable members should remember from last year is the fact that the Government Clothing Factory, which finally ended up in Coburg, was not built in a country area. It should have been built in a provincial city, and Bendigo was one place which had a good claim to it, but the Government was not interested. I believe that the Government should be doing more to ensure- that its facilities, utilities and industries are located, as much as possible, in regional areas. I suggest that in Victoria there is already a pressing need for a fourth university. I think it should be established in a regional area and, if possible, I .certainly will work to ensure that it is placed within my electorate. Bendigo, I think, has a very good claim to a university. There are many other ways in which the Government can use its resources and influence to increase employment opportunities in country areas. One way is to ensure that public servants and the headquarters of public departments are in country towns. This is a proposition which the Government could consider.
There is one other aspect of decentralisation about which I am particularly concerned. I am talking particularly of the sort of facilities which are available to people in country towns. Most honourable members in this House who represent rural electorates would know how difficult it is in many cases to get doctors, veterinary scientists, chemists and psychiatrists. The whole spectrum of professional people is in very short supply in country towns. This is a situation of which the Government should be well aware. But if one cares to examine page 19 of the report of the Australian Universities Commission, which deals with the quotas that have been imposed upon positions in universities for such professionals, one sees how poorly this Government provides for the needs of country towns. I could mention, for example, that at the University of Melbourne only fifty veterinary science students were admitted in 1964, and 4 years later, in 1968, still only fifty were admitted. There is a constant pattern. There is a tremendous demand in my electorate, and I dare say in every country electorate, for veterinary scientists.
Let us look at medicine. Again doctors are not in ample supply anywhere; there is a shortage especially in country areas. In 1964 only 180 entrants were admitted to the faculty of medicine at the University of Melbourne and 4 years later, despite a general increase of population throughout Australia, only 220 were admitted. Bachelors of agriculture also are in great demand in rural areas. In 1964 the University of Melbourne admitted only seventy; in 1968 the University of Melbourne still admitted only seventy. This is the situation that confronts us in country areas. The Government should be doing more to ensure that professional people are trained and encouraged to serve in rural areas.
One final point I would like to make concerns the relationship between primary industry and decentralisation. Over recent years some 6,000 people, farmers and their families, have been leaving the land each year. We all know the reasons for this. They include the cost-price squeeze, increasing debt and inflation. The Government in all its 20 years of office has refused to check these trends. An electorate such as mine is vitally dependent on primary producers, such as the poultry men, the pork producers, the wheat men and the cattle men. Yet these people are leaving the land under a threat of extinction. As they go, so does the economic support for the provincial city in my electorate. The explosive wheat situation creates an additional threat to people in my electorate. Perhaps the threat in other electorates is even more serious, but I am concerned about the wheat growers in my electorate. I am sure that a number of them will be forced to leave the land.
Another situation with which the Government is not dealing effectively is created by the Collins Street cocky, the pseudofarmer. These men have taken to the land for purely financial reasons and primarily to evade taxation. In all the long period that this Government has been in office, the activities of the Collins Street cockies have been increasing, but the Government has neither the will nor the courage to examine the taxation structure. It has not examined the financial and economic situation in Australia with the object of ensuring that these people who evade taxation do not take positions that have long been held by the traditional farmers. As the result of these threats to the rural population, from 1933 until 1966 the rural population of Victoria outside the Port Phillip area has remained pretty well stagnant while the population of the metropolis has been skyrocketing. I direct the attention of the House to these matters which affect decentralisation, particularly to the failure to train professional people in adequate numbers.
– I wish to speak tonight about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I shall refer particularly to the salaries paid to officers of that Organisation. Disputes concerning the quantum of those salaries have been continuing for some years. The annual report of the Organisation for 1968-69 is, as usual, a very informative document. It tells us that some $50m, or less than 0.2% of our gross national product, is spent annually on the diverse research activities of the Organisation. And the report highlights also some of the research projects that are aiding our national development and productivity in a significant way.
However, some of the things it does not tell us are equally important. All of us in this House, I imagine, know something of and have a high regard for the work of the CSIRO. But how many in the community realise just how unique the Organisation is and the scope and degree of success it has attained? Its international standing is equal to that of the best research institutes in the world. In many of its research projects it is the acknowledged world leader. The success and international standing of the CSIRO are due to a combination of factors. The principal ones are, firstly, the calibre and foresight of its leaders, secondly, the organisations and methods it has evolved; and thirdly, but not least, the calibre of its professional staff. Its some 1,000 research scientists, ably supported by about a further 1,000 graduate experimental officers, scientists and engineers, constitute one of Australia’s most valuable assets, the worth of which could scarcely be valued in monetary terms.
This brings me to a further fact that is not disclosed by the annual report and that is the increasing unrest amongst the staff. This has been worsening since the beginning of this year. It has arisen because of the great dissatisfaction of the professional staff at the decrease in real value of their salaries and with the ineffectiveness of the available methods for securing prompt and fair salary adjustments. I am told that their research effort has already been seriously affected. This at least is the opinion of several of my constituents who are CSIRO research scientists. It is also the considered judgment of the Council of the CSIRO Officers Association. That Association is a highly responsible and respected body and is recognised as such, I understand, by the Executive of the CSIRO. Members of the Association do not normally seek publicity on matters such as those I am now raising, but they surely have reason to do so in the present circumstances. The reward for their professional work has become devalued to a progressively greater extent than that of union members who have taken industrial action, such as the postal workers. But far less consideration has been given to the claims of these officers than to the claims of unions such as the one I have mentioned. It is in these circumstances that this matter has been brought to my, attention by the Council of the Association.
It is not possible for me tonight to trace the full history of this unfortunate dispute, but it is after all a matter of public record. I shall content myself with giving the salient points only. First and foremost, a request for a review of CSIRO salaries, first made in 1965 and formally lodged as a memorial in April 1966, still remains undetermined some 3i years later. Secondly, there have been substantial increases in the meantime for the Second Division of the Public Service and indeed recently for the Third Division also, for academics in the universities and for scientists in the Public Service. Meantime CSIRO salaries for research scientists have increased by only 5% to 6%, far less than the community average of some 20%. Chief research scientists have fared somewhat better. But in the Association’s view they have still not received a fair increment, having regard to what has occurred in the meantime.
Thirdly, the authorities have refused to grant even interim increases, which are clearly warranted to re-establish what are called the relativities between CSIRO salaries and the salaries paid to persons in the other categories I have mentioned. And this despite the fact that postal workers and others have in the meantime received increased payments without prejudice to existing claims. It is said that these increased payments to postal workers and others are not interim increases. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Whatever the proper name for these increased payments may be, the CSIRO officers would like to have them also.
There are three main reasons for the problem reaching the crisis stage that I mentioned. Firstly, the previous mechanism for adjusting margins for skill due to economic changes - namely, the flow-on from metal trades margins determinations - has not operated since early 1967 as a result of a decision by the Arbitration Commission. Secondly, the Public Service Arbitrator, despite the appointment of two Deputy Arbitrators at the end of last year, has simply not been able to cope with the backlog of claims. The recent appointment of the two Deputy Arbitrators is a step that should have been taken at an earlier point of time. An interim adjustment, by that or any other name, is the only thing that can now alleviate the present unhappy situation, pending the final determination of the matters now being heard or awaiting hearing.
The third and most important reason for the present crisis situation - or so I am told - is the process of negotiation between the employing authority, the Executive of the Organisation, and the Officers Association. This is said to have become a sham because of the dominating role of the Public Service Board. The Science and Industry Research Act 1949 clearly left the initiative in salary matters to the Executive of the Organisation but gave the Public Service Board the responsibility of final approval. This is prescribed by section 22 (1.). The professional staff now believe that the degree of autonomy on salary matters apparently left to the Executive by this provision in the 1949 Act has long since disappeared in practice. When the scientific staff sees that its leadership no longer has a sufficient degree of independence in this area of incentives it begins to lose confidence in that leadership generally.
First and most important of the remedies it should effect, the Executive should, I suggest, assume the full responsibility given to it by the statute - the responsibility, that is, to determine the terms and conditions of employment of its officers, subject only to the approval of the Public Service Board, which it should seek after it has made its own decision. One suspects that instead of doing so it has been going to the Public Service Board first. It then proceeds only, apparently, if it receives the green light from the Board. If indeed the Executive is acting in this way it is abdicating the function vested in it by the Act. If it believes a change in salaries should be made it should have the courage to say so, leaving it to the Public Service Board for its part to refuse approval if it must. The Public Service Board for its part should recognise that the primary responsibility in this matter is that of the CSIRO Executive, which is in a much better position to determine what is appropriate for its scientific staff than is the Public Service Board. The Public Service Board should not refuse approval of determinations by the Executive unless it is satisfied that they are irresponsible determinations.
One appreciates that these are not strictly matters for the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who has, I believe, no power to intervene. Nontheless, he has the general responsibility for the CSIRO. If the Executive and the Public Service Board are not able or willing to revise their attitudes and their practice along the lines I have suggested, and the. Minister is satisfied that this is a major cause of the present unhappy situation, as I believe it is, the remedy might best lie in an amendment to the Act to remove the requirement of Public Service Board approval of determinations by the CSIRO Executive. The second matter requiring remedy is the proposals for regular review of scientists’ salaries. This recommendation has recently been turned down by the Minister. I suggest that this should be reconsidered. Justice delayed is, after all, justice denied. Thirdly, in fairness to the CSIRO professional staff, action should be taken by the Executive of the CSIRO without waiting for a final determination of existing claims either to grant of its own motion salary increases effective from the beginning of this year, sufficient to compensate for the erosion of what is called their relativities, or to support an equivalent measure of retrospectivity before the Public Service Arbitrator.
I have studied some of the statements made in the House by the Minister and other material which he has kindly supplied to me on this subject. I am by no means satisfied that it provides an adequate reply to the grievances of these officers, particularly the delay and the failure to make provision even for some interim increase, whether by that or any other name. I believe the complaints of these officers are justified and I commend the matter to the Minister.
– Tonight I rise in a state of great alarm. It seems to me that as a result of certain developments today my very virtue may be in jeopardy. I look to you, Mr Speaker, to give me the succour, protection and guidance that a back bench member might reasonably expect from a person holding the office of dignity and elevation that you hold with such decorum. 1 have said that I feel that my virtue is in jeopardy. It is a most amazing and distressing experience which I. have had today. I have been importuned to cast off my moral standards. Pressures in this direction are coming from the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. I refer to what might be called the celebrated case of the cornish pasties - to the celebrated battle which engaged the intellectual resources of myself and various members of the Refreshment Rooms staff today. Before 1 launch into an explanation of how I became involved in this celebrated battle let me make it clear that 1 am not concerned so much with the amount of money involved - some 60c - as with the principle of the thing. I am concerned also that my virtue is imperilled. I am renowned in this Parliament for my virtuous standard.
The facts are that when I entered the dining room today I discovered that cornish pasties were on the menu. I wanted only one of these delicious morsels - no potato or cabbage or any of the other embellishments that go with this delightful relish. I ordered one small pasty and that is what I got. It was delicious, so I ordered a second, without antacid powder. I was prepared to take the risk. I ate the second. I had various other foods as well and the total bill came to a little over $1. But on the bill I was charged the extravagant amount of 60c for the two pasties - 30c each for a little piece of pastry.
– They were beautiful.
– They were.
– What are you grizzling about?
– That well known gourmet from Newcastle may well ask in delicate tones what I am grizzling about. 1 was not grizzling. This is where my virtue comes into the picture. It is well known that I am a teetotaller of some years standing. I have spoken to some of the people in this place who adjourn to the bar from time to time. I had not thought of complaining about the matter of the pasties until I discovered that if I threw aside my virtue and began to imbibe I could have a pasty served on a silver platter in the bar for 15c.I know that it is sometimes said that champions train on beer. I also know that in the Victorian era it was claimed that drink was the downfall of the working class. In my position 1 do not think I should do anything to undermine the people of whom I am a part. Clearly I am being penalised for my virtuous standards. If I were a drinker I could have had two pasties for 30c. Because I am not a drinker I am told that I must pay 30c for each pasty. I oppose this. Who would disagree in this matter with a man of firm principle like myself? Who would deny this charge of exploitation brought to their notice? Who would say that it was right to charge me an extra 30c? I have been informed that one must expect to pay more if one is served at the table. Good Lord, the pasties do not walk into the bar on their own legs. They have to be carried in by one of the staff.
The honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) has just handed me 30c. If anyone thinks that I will return 30c to the Country Party he has another think coining. If anyone thinks that I will return 30c to the former Presbyterian minister he is delirious. I intend to keep the money and pass it on to my grandchildren. This extravagant charge cannot be justified. If the man operating the pie and peas caravan in South Brisbane were to charge 30c for a pasty he would soon be wealthy or collect a couple of black eyes on a Friday night.
I mention this matter purely as an illustration. As one who has been eating in the dining room of this Parliament for 8 years it seems to me that a little more imagination in the presentation of the meals put before us would not go astray. During the last session I wrote to the Manager of the Refreshment Rooms complaining about the monotony of the dinner menu. I am not talking about lunch time. Could we nol brighten up dinner in the evening and have a bit of variation? After all, members are away from home and get tired of the same old joints and the same old roast potatoes - or some of us do, anyway. Why can we not have some imagination or some appreciation of what good cooking is like?
Mr Speaker, do you know what the response was? Do you know how incredibly the imagination of the managerial section of the dining room works? I got about forty pages of the menus for the previous 3 months and, to boot, soup stains and gravy stains as well, if I have to make a choice when I go to bed at night between reading thirty-odd pages of lapsed menus for the last 3 months and reading ‘In Praise of Older Women’ I rather regret that the menus will not have much of a chance of attracting my attention. Surely we need a little bit. of imagination from the dining room in the menu which we have in the evening. I will not go into the details, but when I look at the Press gallery I see all those long suffering souls up there who have even worse conditions than we have to endure. These are really the front line troops, the commandos, when it comes to facing up to the meals in this establishment. Surely to goodness we could have a little bit of imagination in the presentation of these menus.
Let me get back to this matter of the principle of my being exploited and the threat to my virtue. Mr Speaker, I am asking you where you stand. Do you want to see me lapse into a life of drink - and goodness knows what might happen - in order that I might in future have a pasty at 15c, or will you take action to see that we teetotallers who keep ourselves to the dining hall will not be discriminated against and that we will receive equal treatment with the drinkers of this place?
– In a brief reply I would like to put the record as I know it straight. I understand that when the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) complained earlier about meals in the dining room he made two appointments with the manager of the refreshment room to discuss this matter and did not keep either appointment. Secondly, I understand that the honourable member, as a drinker or non-drinker, today had three glasses of orange juice with his meal. If he had wanted to save the additional expense he could have had them at the bar. Thirdly, I want to say that the honourable member was under-charged. If he looks at the price list he will find that an entree costs 40c. He had two entrees and was charged a cut price of 60c because of the quality of the pasties. He wants me to protect his virtue, and he asked me a very pertinent question. I would feel that the dining room staff of this Parliament, the waitresses and the cooks do an excellent job on behalf of the staff. I would further say that when the honourable member can have soup, entree, sweets, two pasties and three glasses of orange juice for $1.21 he is not doing too badly.
– I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, I do. lt is not true lo say that I did not keep those two appointments. I realise that these are crucial issues in the case that I am trying to establish. In fact, on each occasion that the appointments were to be kept I was entering the House to speak, and the manager failed to come and keep a third appointment with me in my office.
– Last night in the debate on the education Bills I used two sets of figures which were given me by officers who are supporting me. On further investigation today it has appeared that there was an error in the figures I used and I want to correct them. Last night I said that 6,819 external students were taking undergraduate, that is first degree, courses and that 171 external students were taking post-graduate courses. In fact the numbers should have been 6,092 students taking undergraduate courses and 898 taking post-graduate courses. The correct figures still show an overwhelming preponderance iti favour of those taking or wishing to take undergraduate courses, and I am quite certain they do not alter the tenor and validity of the argument I was using last night.
– I think it is deplorable that in the 5 days remaining in the life of this Parliament the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) should waste 10 minutes of its time with a very dull speech, full of quite unconscious humour, making what I regard as unfair attacks upon the staff of this place. I believe that the food in the members’ dining room is very good and that the prices are very reasonable. It is unfortunate that he should have chosen tonight to say something about this subject because I have chosen a similar subject and I would not want to have his remarks mixed with mine.
I want to refer to the conditions which exist in this building. They are so unbelievably crude that I hope the most urgent steps possible will be taken to effect a remedy. I have been here for 3 years and I hope to be here for many more. Tonight for the first time I was invited to dine in the non-members dining room with a group of people I have come to regard as friends. They are Commonwealth public servants working on the staff of one of the Ministers. I am sure that few, if any, members or senators are aware of the disgusting pig-sty conditions and facilities that exist in the non-members area. There is a boarding school atmosphere about the area which makes the conditions that I endured as a boarder in the 1930s seem like a period of loose living.
The ladies lounge is probably the best example of the facilities that non-members may enjoy here. It is called the snake pit. It is the only area in Parliament House where a mixed party of non-members may enjoy a drink before dinner. The snake pit is a bare room about 20 feet square, relatively uncluttered with such items as furniture and such benefits as ventilation. I counted 11 chairs and 3 tables. The twelfth chair which looks very much the worse for wear is used to prop open the outside door. There were 12 people in the room which meant that 2 were forced to double up on one chair. The heating system was not working but a single bar radiator combined with body heat and a drastically high reading of air pollution kept the room tolerably warm. There are twenty-six Ministers as well as leaders of various political parties with staff in this place. I would estimate, although I cannot be sure about this, that together with attendants, journalists, Library staff, police and so on, at least 300 people must be entitled, or condemned, to use this area.
The bar which is adjacent to the snake pit is known as 279 which, presumably, is the telephone extension number on the PABX. It is shockingly overcrowded even by the 6 o’clock swill standards which we all remember. Apparently this bar turns over an average of 50 gallons of beer each day. It employs only two highly efficient but overworked barmen, and by any standards in any Australian city that bar must be classed as one of the most uncomfortable and sloppy bars in the country. In a blue collar area or under conditions where competition exists, the proprietor of a place like that would have been out of business years ago. It is worse than the gunners canteen at Woodside back in the 1940s, and that was pretty bad.
Wine service in the non-members dining room is non-existent. Wines are available but you must collect them via the snake pit servery and carry them uncorked outside, down a few steps, up a few steps and through into the non-members dining room. Heaven help you if you are late. There is an hour and a quarter for dinner, and in our party we had the audacity to wish to sit together - almost as big a sin as being late. I have a son in boarding school. He often describes the duties of the slush man and the indescribable horrors, as he puts it, of putting up with boarding school slush. I am sure that is tremendously exaggerated. I regret to say that the food put before us tonight was not only slush but, even worse, it was cold slush. Any honourable member who wants a taste of the fruits of Socialism should try this dining room for himself. At 10 past 7 we were told: “You have 4 minutes’. I am told that if one wants a meat pie one must order it at the bar the day before. This place is called the sheltered workshop. No wonder it is called that.
The men’s toilets are interesting from an architectural point of view. No-one can deny that they are functional. But any man over the height of 5 feet can expect to suffer from both claustrophobia and a bruised skull from excessive use of this facility. This area set aside for nonmembers provides the strongest argument for knocking down at least the old part of this building. I am not in favour of knocking down this section of the building.
– Outside that area, it is all right.
– Outside that area it is first class. In the meantime, I urge the appropriate committee to inspect the facilities while they are in operation. It is no good going down there when they are not working. The staff employed in the kitchens and in other areas, in spite of what the honourable member for Oxley had to say, do a wonderful job under the most primitive conditions. I am not criticising the staff at all, only the system. I urge the committee responsible to clean up this dreary prison which most of us never hear about and apparently none cares about.
No Parliament would ever refuse an allocation of funds to make this area both attractive and efficient. With a small amount of imagination and a moderate sum of money, the non-members’ dining and bar facilities might actually run at a profit. We could take down the sign at the entrance to the dining room which proclaims sternly, like the housemaster’s general order: ‘Guests are not permitted’. This admonition includes members of this Parliament. One day some less respectful person than myself or my colleague, the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur), will add the postscript: ‘You are joking’! 1 trust that these remarks will be accepted as an attempt at constructive criticism, not of the Government, the Opposition or the Presiding Officers; nor would I wish to be associated with the irresponsible statements of the person in another place who advocated strike action. It is not the job of this Government or of the next Government to move in this matter. It is the responsibility of the members of this Parliament and, in particular, the members who will be elected to the next Parliament and especially those who are elected as members of the Joint House Committee. I do urge any and every honourable member who is returned here as a member of the new Parliament to do something about cleaning up this dreadful mess.
- Mr Speaker, I did not rise to speak on the matters that have been raised but rather on a more important matter. But I say to my colleague, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), if I may - he is not here at the moment - that the heart-rending story that he told of the case of the Cornish pasty is probably the most distressing tale that I have heard of any event in this Parliament since the time when the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) some years ago spoke of the case of the shrunken sausage in the Parliamentary Dining Room. Consequently, I am not exactly moved on this occasion by the question of the Cornish pasty and the high level to which the honourable member brought it.
I may say also to the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) that I listened with interest to his statement. Probably there is some substance in what he said. But 1 think that the honourable member should remember that his father was Speaker of this Parliament for 11 years. This tragic state of affairs occurred and was permitted to continue in that time.
– Do not be nasty.
– I am not being nasty. 1 am just saying that, when the honourable member gets home at the weekend, he might ask Dad why he let this state of affairs continue for so long. I think he might ask Dad why the snakepit was allowed to exist during the 11 years that he held the office of Speaker. He might ask why the snakepit and bar ‘279’ were allowed to continue and why we had the 6 o’clock swill.
When all is said and done, his father was a very reputable Speaker of this Parliament. He was a nian whom I admired. He was a very good Speaker. But he knew that these things were there. The honourable member should have a yarn to Dad at the weekend and ask: ‘Dad, why did you let it go? It was not right, you know. They are living in dreadful circumstances. You should have fixed it’. Let us know what his answer is and probably we can tell Mr Speaker.
I just mention these things. I do not say that everything there is right. Probably facilities can be improved tremendously. My information is that this Parliament has seen 20 years of Liberal government. So, if there is a snakepit there, the Liberals are responsible for that snakepit. I note that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) from the Opposition benches, a place where he ought always to be, says: Quite right’. I understand that you, Mr Speaker, with your diligence of approach and concern for the staff of this Parliament and those who wine and dine with them, have submitted to the Government proposals for an enlargement of the facilities and for expenditure which will improve conditions for those who desire to drink in the snake pit and in the other places mentioned. I congratulate you on the proposals that I understand you have made already to improve the existing conditions which have been so roundly condemned by the son of a former Speaker of this Parliament. I am sorry that the honourable gentleman did not have the knowledge to bring these matters to the attention of his father when he held the office of Speaker.
My information is that the Government is considering these matters. I do not say that it will do this speedily. It takes a long time to move. But at least you, Mr Speaker, are endeavouring to do the right thing by those concerned. I was most interested tonight to hear the son of the former Speaker say that there is a snake pit in Parliament House. Is there sex there also, I wonder? If so, the honourable member should not forget that his father may be responsible on that score. If there is a 6 o’clock swill it is not your fault, Mr Speaker. You have been in this position for only 3 years and under a Liberal Government who could do anything in 3 years? The Government takes that long to think something out. I say to the honourable member for Boothby: Have a chat to Dad at the weekend. Say: ‘Things are shocking over there, Dad. You should have improved them, you know. I am certain Speaker Aston will do it but I am sorry that you did not do it because you would have got the credit for it’.
I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on what I understand is to be a very progressive, long overdue reform that is necessary because of conditions left by previous Speakers. The honourable member for Boothby should study more carefully the predecessors of Mr Speaker before condemning him for what his predecessors have done and for something which, as the honourable member commendably said, should not be allowed to exist in Parliament House. I do not wish to say more. I mention the matter just in passing in quite a friendly way to the honourable member. He can tell Dad a few things that Dad did not know. Let us hope that he tells him next weekend and at the same time pays tribute to the present occupant of the Speaker’s chair for the work that he is doing to see that those who drink and dine in that part of Parliament House and who are entitled to good facilities get their due. I congratulate you again, Mr Speaker. I hope that you will remember these few words at some later stage and at a more appropriate time.
What I rose to say tonight concerns me greatly. I am interested to see that the Liberal Government is now printing $1 notes with the letters ALP on them. I have two of these notes in front of me. Each has a beautiful impression of Her Majesty the Queen. Each bears the letters ALP. One is numbered 43562 and the other is numbered 43563. Mr Speaker, do you think that this is a sign of things to come? I wonder whether it is a tribute from the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to the future Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). If it is, it is a lovely gesture. What could be better, on the approach of a Labor Government, than to see the letters ALP on $1 bills? The only thing, of course, is that these bills have not ALP value. They have Liberal value and that is not much at all. Perhaps, as the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) says, the Government is in this way putting real value back into the $1 bills. It is lovely to think that this is the shape of things to come, the letters ALP on Commonwealth currency. I am wondering whether the elephant has seen the light in getting with the strength at this stage. That might be the case. When I got these two bills today - they are so rare in the hands of politicians and with the letters ALP on them they are particularly rare - I thought 1 would keep them as a reminder of the wisdom that the Treasurer has shown on the eve of a change of government in printing not spurious currency but real currency with the name of the new government on it.
Honourable members opposite can see the bills. I think it is a series that was duc because of the effluxion of time. But is it not appropriate that 1 month before the Government is defeated we have our own currency with ALP on it? None of this currency has been given away. J suppose that if we gave the notes away at election time people would think they were a gimmick. But when all is said and done the notes are really currency, printed by a Liberal Government, showing the letters ALP and the picture of Her Majesty the Queen. What a glorious event. Honourable members on the Government side can see the trend of things. Even the bank officials know that Labor is on the way in. They can see it. Those who print the notes know that a change of government is imminent. That is why today we see the letters ALP and the photograph of Her Majesty the Queen on these notes.
I wonder how many countries would have currency showing the name of the Australian Labor Party and the photograph of Her Majesty the Queen. The only thing that is not printed on the notes is ‘Vote V. Mr Speaker, already we can see that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) is worried. Fraser is enough trouble to him without having a photograph of the Queen and the title of the Australian Labor Party appearing on currency. The point I make is that this really indicates the trend of the times. Never have I been happier to receive two $1 bills than I am now. I think they are worth a fiver each. I think I will keep them for all time.
I am sorry that the Treasurer is not here tonight. Evidently he sees the winds of change. Whatever happens he is trying to keep on side with the new Treasurer. He will be able to say: T brought in the series just as you were due to get in, Frank, so remember me kindly when you are making appointments here, there and everywhere later on.’ Mr Speaker, I do not expect you to agree with all that I have said but you would agree it is opportune that I should mention tonight, in keeping with your desire to improve the conditions of those who dine in the staff refreshment room in this House, that the Government also thinks that the currency should signal the arrival of a Labor government by putting the letters ALP on $1 bills. Tonight, therefore, at this late stage, I congratulate the Government on its foresight. I am sorry that honourable members on the Government side look so glum about this matter. However, whatever else they might think, the Treasurer is a man of wisdom. He knows where his interests lie; they lie with the new Treasurer and the new government That is why tonight we see $1 bills depicting the Queen’s photograph and the letters ALP. The only thing I am sorry about is that the printers did not put ‘Vote 1’, because this would have helped.
Having said so much let me, Mr Speaker, join tonight in your silent condemnation, I know, of the honourable member for Bothby. I congratulate you, Sir, on the approach you are making about the facilities and other things required for those on the non-parliamentary level who wine and dine in Parliament House. I believe you will do the best thing possible for the people concerned. Again I congratulate the Treasurer for the $1 bills with the letters ALP printed on them.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
has raised in this House the matter of the conditions under which the parliamentary staff and the Press have to take their meals and use the other facilities provided for them. I think that the designers of Parliament House catered for a smaller number of members than is present at this time. I think the building was designed for 120-odd members and I think there are probably more odd members here now. The staff also has increased. We have come to expect excellent service from the public servants working in this place. The experience of Government members as well as Opposition members is that the public servants working here are dedicated people. They do not worry about the time they spend in helping us in our duties.
I commend the honourable member for Boothby for his remarks about the amenities provided for the staff. I experienced the same claustrophobic trauma when I inspected the toilet facilities provided for the male members of the Public Service and the Press working here. I think that the Press has also demonstrated its feeling about this question. Today an urgency motion was proposed in the Press Gallery. It stated:
As a matter of urgency, this meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery requests the Gallery Committee to take such action as it sees fit to inform relevant authorities of the conditions which prevail in the non-members’ dining room and bar with a view to seeking improvements in standards in this area and, in particular, a simplification of the multitude of rules which have proliferated to the point of alarming complexity and confusion.
I think this was a fairly sensible motion to be put forward at that meeting. 1 believe that Mr Speaker has in mind certain improvements for office accommodation and other facilities in this place. I ask him to take note of this debate and to take action to provide more adequate accommodation for the staff and the Press who work in this House.
– As secretary of the Government Members Transport Committee I rise to defend its Chairman, the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) who has been very busy on another subject tonight but who was attacked by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) on an occasion when he was paired on leave and not in this chamber to speak on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport. The honourable member for Grey has spoken more than a dozen times on this subject in respect of which he was accused of not being present. He has, with me and other Government supporters, approached the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) concerning road and rail transport in his electorate and from his electorate to the west and to the north towards my electorate. Since coming into this place I have spoken about twenty-five times about road and rail communications between the Northern Territory and South Australia.
In the matter of transport, the Northern Territory has had a real disadvantage compared with more closely settled areas. I know that the Government is considering proposals as to the economics of one system against the other - road or rail - but of great concern to the people of the Northern Territory at present is the very poor state of the north-south road from Alice Springs to Port Augusta when, after driving up it earlier this year, I described as a ‘motoring hazard’. No doubt the passengers and operators of the thirty tourist buses recently stranded in Coober Pedy would readily agree with me. On the credit side regarding this road, there are two bridges and one concrete crossing north of the South Australian and Northern Territory border. These have been completed recently. The Finke River and Palmer River bridges, built at a cost of $290,000, are being officially opened on Sunday.
– Will the honourable member be present?
– No, I do not think 1 will be able to attend this function. I ask the South Australian Government, with its 50% increase in its Commonwealth roads grant, plus an extra $9m for special projects, to take steps to improve the deplorable road south of the border and, with Commonwealth assistance, to expedite the sealing of the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Port Augusta. The only real solution to the problem of the railway between Alice Springs and Port Augusta is to build a standard gauge line which would be quite some miles west of the present line which runs along Lake Eyre and the low-lying country. If this line is constructed, I urge the Government to maintain fully the present line from Marree to Alice Springs while the new one is under construction. In this regard I note that the Commonwealth Railways estimates for this year included S2m for capital works on the Central Australia Railway and S3m for capital works on the north Australia line from Larrimah to Darwin.
I now turn to the port at the other end of the line in the north. There must be access by sea. The Australian National Line is to launch a 12,000-ton container bulk cargo ship from the New South Wales State Dockyard early next year. I am concerned that the ANL should maintain its service to the Port of Darwin while the new ship is being built, and also that freight rates should be kept as low as possible. I hope that the Government will take action on the Maunsell report so that the Port of Darwin is not strangled. There should be berthing and loading facilities for overseas ships, ANL and other coastal vessels, and also for small vessels - barges, prawners, rig servicing vessels and the like. The Port of Darwin, with its growing city, should have facilities to service these types of vessels in large numbers because they are sailing into the Port of Darwin in great numbers. I regard the improvement of these facilities as being critical to the development of Darwin and the Top End generally. I see constantly the present lack of them at Francis Bay, where most of the small vessels operate from. Hence I urge the Government to take an early decision on the Maunsell report so that the citizens in the north of Australia may enjoy similar conditions to those enjoyed by the people in the south.
Another point which is of great importance concerns the carriage of freight on Northern Territory highways. For many years, over a road built to light specifications during the war years, road transport operators have been carrying loads of 16 tons per bogie, that is, a 16-ton axle gross limit. The Australian Transport Advisory Council has adopted a national standard of 13 tons. The implementation of this standard on Northern Territory roads will greatly raise freights and hit the transport operators very hard; in fact it could break many of them financially. Some States, including South Australia, provide an exemption on certain roads, and I believe Western Australia does the same thing. Most of the containers entering Alice Springs from the south are loaded to comply with a 16-ton limit. I strongly urge the Government to give special dispensation to continue loads of 16 tons gross axle weight. If it does not, great hardship will be imposed on most of the Northern Territory communities.
I turn to airport facilities and aircraft schedules in the Northern Territory. Darwin and Alice Springs are served by jet aircraft. Traffic at both these airports is increasing rapidly. Although the terminal at Alice Springs is of modern design it is rapidly becoming overcrowded. Only standing room is available on many occasions and there are no light refreshment facilities. Tennant Creek has a lopsided air service and really needs runway extensions or a different type of aeroplane to service the town. Further up the Track, Katherine has a jet airport at Tindal but it is still served by several F27 flights per week. This quickly growing town desperately needs a far better air service. An aerodrome is available there and all that is required is the jet service.
In conclusion, I regret that at this late hour the time of the House was utterly wasted by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden).
– For the information of honourable members I would like to say something about the remarks of the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) and the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) and to thank them for drawing a certain matter to my attention. I inform them that this particular matter was brought to my attention some 6 or 8 weeks ago, that since then plans have been prepared by the Department of Works and that arrangements are in train for some alterations to be made in the area mentioned. This matter was brought to my attention by a member of another place, who happens to be a female, and who was rather perturbed as were the honourable members for Boothby and Grey about the facilities available to some of the female staff. Immediately the matter was brought to my attention investigations were put in train. Two estimates for the work required have now been received from the Department of Works. I assure honourable members that the matter is receiving consideration.
It should be realised that space in Parliament House is at a premium. I appreciate that some honourable members are working under most difficult conditions. The Joint House Committee has, in conjunction with the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of Works, considered the matter over a period of time. Three alternative plans have now been prepared for internal alterations to Parliament House. When the alterations are approved by the Government I feel sure that not only will the conditions which have been complained about tonight be alleviated but also the conditions for honourable members will be more satisfactory than they are at present.
– I take the opportunity to address to the House tonight, at an earlier hour than I could have last night, a few remarks concerning universities and technical colleges. Universities were largely undergraduate institutions prior to the Second World War, but higher degree students now number some 10,000, which is about 10% of all students. The amount spent on equipment for postgraduate research has increased enormously, as has the cost, of books and equipment. The increase has been truly remarkable. There has been a heavy reliance upon the Commonwealth and State governments to meet this expenditure. In the next triennium $540m will be provided to the universities by governments. This figure is of the order of 80% of the total expenditure of universities. Prior to the Second World War approximately 30% of the receipts of universities was derived from fees, but that figure is now as low as 10%. Expenditure by the governments on universities in the last 10 years has amounted to the considerable sum of $l,300m.
In recent years the Federal Government has come a long way in its contribution to education. By far its largest contribution is in the tertiary education field. It is interesting to note that the percentage of the gross national product which has gone to education has risen from 2.8% in 1958 to more than 4% in 1969. This has been achieved in the face of the competing demands of our vigorously expanding economy. I believe that the present rate of increase will continue. There is a strain on universities and other education institutions to provide facilities. In our economic growth there will be a demand for more and more funds for education, and quite rightly so. I believe that the Government will meet this demand because it has proved that it has a deep interest in education and appreciates the value of expenditure in that field.
I am pleased with the Government’s announcement in regard to the setting up of a second university in Western Australia. It shows a recognition on the part of the Commonwealth Government of the economic and population growth of Western Australia and the demands for education in that State. It is also an indication of the vision that the Government has shown in providing for investment in youth and the future of Australia. The existing university at Crawley is known for its beauty. It is a place of which Western Australians are proud. I believe that visitors to the State speak highly of it. I would like to acknowledge the work of the many people who have literally spent a lifetime to make it a university where learning is of the highest degree. By painstaking care buildings, old and new, have been designed and laid out efficiently and, I believe, aesthetically. The Government also contributes substantially towards education in other fields. It provides libraries and science blocks as well as contributing to technical training colleges and teacher training colleges. An amount of $30m has been allocated in the Budget for these provisions. It is a contribution to the state schools system of Australia.
It was very pleasing for me to be present at the opening ceremony of the Western Australian Secondary Teachers College which was opened last Saturday by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). This is the first such institution to be completed and it was opened at a cost of S2.7m which was provided by this Government. In addition substantial funds are budgeted for as payment of state aid, as all honourable members are aware. The Western Australian Secondary Teachers College has, because of the payment by this Government, been provided much sooner than otherwise would have been the case. It is indicative of a courageous acceptance by the Government of responsibility. It has taken a tremendous load from the shoulders of the Western Australian Government. The Government has gone further and has provided substantial funds for scholarships, which have a vast scope, and in setting up the colleges of advanced education the Government has provided broader opportunities within a twin system of universities and colleges, for boys and girls who qualify from secondary schools. The relationship of universities and colleges, one to the other, is not easy to define, but the colleges are intended to be of equal status, neither inferior nor superior to universities but different from them. The Minister referred to the difficulty of strict definition of their respective roles. There is a place for these colleges for the many students who do not want the analytical education that a university offers. Modern industry, commerce and most modern places of employment require skills at a level that can be taught in these days only at places of higher education. This is education much closer to the immediate requirements and demands of employers, the developing needs of industry and of the community in general, which must be met in the short term. The colleges should develop for themselves a separate role from that of the universities and should make fully identifiable the difference that should exist between them.
- Mr Speaker, I make my remarks with some diffidence after your eloquent explanation of what is planned for the future of the House, but I feel that I must speak on this subject and support my good friend, the worthy honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), in his criticism of the facilities that are available to the staff of Parliament House, a group of over 400 people. When I talk about people I am not talking about cyphers; I am talking about people like us and like my friend opposite who are warm, intelligent and lovable human beings who possess all our prejudices, ideas, ideals, loves and hates and who are entitled to the same facilities for physical and social amenities as we have. Let us face this fact - the judgment of a human being is not the salary he gets or the position he holds in life or in this Parliament, it is the way he fulfils his destiny as a human and spiritual being. So an attendant or cleaner at Parliament House who is a good attendant or cleaner is a far better man than an honourable member of the Parliament who is not a good member.
Following on this, I believe that they should have facilities as good as have honourable members of this chamber and of the other place. But what is the position? It is just the opposite. Last night and again tonight I went with the honourable member for Boothby to share a drink and a meal with my good friends. I may first of all deal with the bar area. 1 must begin with a plea for those who serve behind the bar. In my opinion they do a terrific job but under considerable difficulty. The floor behind this small bar is of concrete covered by a board floor. In the chill winter of Canberra this is akin to torture and results in the barmen getting all manner of circulatory troubles. Surely this area could be covered by linoleum at least. The general bar area is daggy, if I may use a colloquialism. It has inadequate seating facilities and is poorly furnished. More importantly, it has only one telephone on the wall. This is not a telephone in a soundproof booth, so eminent journalists and Ministers’ secretaries have to conduct telephone calls, which should be essentially private calls, amidst a torrent of noise and with a minimum of privacy. This is bad and I think it could be remedied very easily. My good friend the honourable member for Boothby has described the cramped quarters in the ladies’ bar or lounge as it may be called euphemistically. Cramped it was, certainly, but I think I can see a distinct advantage in having to share a seat with some of the delightful young ladies whom I saw down there.
As my colleague has dealt more than adequately with the staff dining room, I shall just make some general comments on it. Firstly, I would like to say that the staff down there do their best, but they are so circumscribed by rules and regulations that their job is a hopeless one. For example, let me read from the notice outside the dining room. It says: -
Stores - Tea, Coffee, Sugar, Biscuits 9-10 am
Milk- 9-11 am
Cakes and Biscuits- ONLY 9.30-10 am
Pantry - Toast, Scones, Cake, Fruit - 10.15-11 am
Morning Tea - 10.15-11 am
Morning Tea - Thursday only - when House sits early 10-11 am
Sandwiches - Orders only - 9-11 am
Sandwiches- Take away- 11.30 am-12 pm
Lunch 1-2 pm
Milk 3-4 pm
Pantry- Toast, Scones etc 3-4 pm
Afternoon Tea 3-4 pm
Dinner 5.45-7.15 pm
Surely no private enterprise organisation running a restaurant would have outside it a list as long and as complicated as that merely to say when people can buy biscuits or sandwiches or have a meal. I think the list is complicated enough to be the product of a Socialist state. One can appreciate why the staff members of this House call the dining room ‘the sheltered workshop’ and also refer to it somewhat disrespectfully as ‘hepatitis hall’. Quite frankly, I found one great virtue in dining there. Certainly there is a greater selection of really beautiful girls than we have in our dining room. But seriously, it is not adequate for the large and talented staff that we have in this House. If one wishes to drink wine with one’s meal, one has to grab a handful of middy goblets. If one wants a meat pie one has to order it at the bar the day before. This I found to be quite incredible. But what is even more incredible, if one wishes to have a sandwich with mustard, outside of the prescribed hours, and one wishes to take it away, one cannot get it. One can order a sandwich and it will be placed on a plate and a pot of mustard will be placed near the plate, accompanied by a paper bag so one can put the mustard on the sandwich and place the lot in the bag, take it away and justice has been done. But what an extraordinary situation for a dining room which caters for some of the top professional men and women in our country.
But this is not all. If you want to go to lunch with a staff friend who only wishes to have sandwiches while you want to have a knife and fork meal, you must sit at one table while your friend sits at another. Of course, if your friend is not a staff member you are not allowed to take him to the dining room at all. This, I say with great respect, is quite a Gilbertian situation and one that should not have been allowed.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. Is the honourable gentleman entitled to say things like this about the Hotel Kurrajong?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have a lot of friends who stay at the Kurrajong because it is a very cheap place, so I would not like to comment about that. I have the greatest respect for the staff and also for the Press employed in this House, many of whom have better qualifications than I and a lot of other honourable members have. I think it is shocking that Pressmen and officers of the Parliament do not have recreation and dining facilities appropriate to the dignity and consideration to which I think any human being is entitled. I appeal to the Joint House Committee to investigate the conditions which the honourable member for Boothby, the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) and I have spoken about tonight and to ensure that the facilities available to the more than 400 pressmen and staff who work in this place are at least equal to those available to honourable members and honourable senators.
– I propose to speak briefly about the manufacture of certain pharmaceuticals. Today medical practitioners have at their disposal a magnificent choice of therapeutic substances which will actively cure many diseases. They will cut short many illnesses and transform the lives of many people who would otherwise be condemned to lives of pain and misery. This has happened in an amazingly short time. I can personally remember the time when few, if any, diseases could be cured by therapeutics. The best one would hope for was to make the patient suffer less while the healing power of nature either cured or failed to cure. The phenomenal advances result from intensive research. Some of this is done in universities. This is usually basic research. A great proportion of the research - especially the discovery of the practical application of the basic principles - is performed by pharmaceutical manufacturers. The cost of this research is enormously high, so much so that only a relative handful of firms - a few in Switzerland, a few in Germany, others in the United Kingdom and the United States and one or two elsewhere - engage in really meaningful research. Even these firms specialise in certain restricted aspects. One will concentrate on antibiotics, another on certain aspects of the central nervous system and so on.
The incentive to do the research, of course, is profit, and to secure this profit in the face of high costs of production and high costs of research, products must be marketed worldwide because a very large volume of sates is essential. These firms take great pride in their products and take great pains to see that their potent products are safe, pure and available in an effective form. Mr Speaker, do you think you could call your House to order? There is a great deal of conversation which is interfering with my concentration.
– Order! The Chair will make that decision. I suggest that the honourable member continue.
– The Australian Labor Party, and especially the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), have repeatedly criticised the use of brand names in prescribing. They want, and in fact, if they were the government, they would coerce the medical profession to use generic prescribing. This is the prescribing of a substance rather than using its brand name. For example, they would require the medical profession to prescribe oxytetracycline instead of Terramycin. This may be cheaper from one point of view. The actual cost of an unbranded drug is cheaper but this procedure must be resisted.
A powerful argument for the retention of brand names is the following article which is headed: ‘16 drugs failed human trial’. The article says:
In tests on 16 different lots of oxytetracycline capsules (an antibiotic) from 13 different suppliers, seven produced blood levels in human volunteers below the usually accepted minimum for therapeutic effectiveness.
None of the 16 produced overall blood levels as high as oxytetracycline manufactured and supplied under the brand name Terramycin by the Pfizer company.
This was reported by Dr George Brice and Dr Henry Hammer of New York in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
I could quote many such examples. A well recognised brand implies that the manufacturer - a prestige firm whose reputation depends on its product - stands by this product. The use of a cheaper brand could result in serious trouble for the patient.
The Leader of the Opposition in a recent speech in which he criticised the use of brands also attempted to make political capital by the extraordinary statement that the Liberal Government has done nothing to promote the development of industries which Australians require. He then said, as though to provide some sort of proof to back this fantastic statement, that wholly owned Australian companies supplied only 10.4% of the ready prepared prescriptions which doctors specify by brand, representing 7.35% of the value of all the scripts prescribed by brand.
It must be obvious from what I have said before that it would be utterly absurd to expect many new discoveries in this field which would lead to the widespread use of wholly owned Australian brands in this complex and expensive field. The markets up to now have not been large enough. Also, this field has involved financial risks so great that Australian capital has not been forthcoming in large amounts. The surprising thing is that wholly owned Australian firms have done so remarkably well that slightly more than 10% of ready prepared prescriptions were prescribed by doctors here and filled by wholly owned Australian firms. Obviously this must be misleading. In the light of this, it is obvious that Australian drug manufacturing firms have been greatly encouraged.
The Leader of the Opposition also chooses to forget that a very large number of these overseas firms are actually manufacturing drugs in Australia. These firms are creating added prosperity. They are employing a considerable number of people. Moreover, they are earning export income by exporting their products overseas in greatly increasing quantities.
He also chooses to forget that companies with wholly owned overseas capital or mixed Australian and overseas capital are actually now performing very valuable research work in Australia on certain aspects of pharmaceutical improvements. They are doing very fine work and are encouraging the return of scientists who had previously been going overseas to secure employment. These scientists are now returning to Australia because of the actions of overseas drug firms. I wanted to enlighten the House to the fact that these remarks by the Leader of the Opposition are extremely misleading. They are in a rather sophisticated field, but I hope I have made plain the true state of affairs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.37 a.m. (Friday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
What has been the cost of travel to the United States and of training and accommodation there for personnel intended to fly and service the F111 and to operate and service the support and training equipment required for it.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The cost of travel to the United States and of training and accommodation there for personnel intended to fly and service the F111 and to operate and service the support and training equipment required is $2.299m for training and $1.1 82m covering fares and accommodation.
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Commonwealth allocations to New South Wales are:
The allocation for recurrent expenditure includes an additional $465,980 which would be provided under the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill (No. 2) 1969 which I introduced in the House on 28th August 1969.
On the basis of information supplied by the State, expenditure from Commonwealth allocations to 30th September 1969 is estimated to be: (a)Recurrent expenditure- $1,767,392
Details of expenditure on capital works from Commonwealth allocations are as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
What percentage of migrants who have been refused naturalisation were rejected on grounds of security based on the political persuasions of the applicant.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is the policy of the Government not to grant citizenship to Communists or to extremists of the Right. Refusals on these grounds have been recorded as refusals or deferrals on security grounds.
During the period 1st January 1949 to 30th June 1969 the total number of persons whose applications for naturalisation were deferred or rejected on all grounds was 20,669.
During the same period 529 applications were deferred or rejected on security grounds, but of these 124 were subsequently approved, leaving a nett figure of 405.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690918_reps_26_hor65/>.